Traveljar designs luxurious travel itineraries tailored to guests’ interests and led by industry experts such as scientists, Olympic medalists and award-winning photographers. Chloe Frost-Smith speaks to Libby White, Director of Experiences, and Andrew White, Director of Conservation, about responsible travel, wildlife encounters, and far-flung destinations
1. Conservation is at the heart of your business. What are your top tips on how to travel more sustainably?
Libby: We really try to help our guests to become responsible travellers and learn how their trips can benefit conservation, communities and the environment. My number one tip would be to think about what kind of impact you want to leave behind from your travels. At Traveljar, we have partnered with suppliers who provide ethical and sustainable destinations so our guests are having a positive impact no matter where they choose to stay.
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Another top tip is to get involved! We love to help our guests find meaningful ways to give back during their trip. We can arrange a day of learning about rhino conservation in South Africa, visit an elephant orphanage in Zambia, spend the day reading to kids in a rural school in Zambia at our library project or take a tour around your accommodation and the local community to learn more about the sustainable practices that are in place to benefit the area. Traveljar also donates to one of our four NGO partners for every trip booked with us and all of our itineraries show guests how their trip is giving back.
2. Where would you send travellers asking for the most off-the-beaten-track destinations?
Andrew: Two places immediately come to mind for me, the first one being Busanga Plains in Zambia. Located in the northern part of the Kafue National Park, this grassy seasonal floodplain is known for some of the best lion viewings in Africa. Because there are only a few lodges operating here and less visitors, you will get a more intimate safari experience, giving you a true remote bush safari away from the crowds.
The other destination I would recommend is Virunga National Park in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is one of only three places in the world to see mountain gorillas and is very much off the beaten track when it comes to a holiday. Responsible tourism has the chance to make a difference to the communities living here. As well as support the conservation efforts in the park like the Senkwekwe Centre for orphaned gorillas and their ranger program which has over 700 male and female rangers who are protecting the park’s wildlife. For the adventurous, you can hike up Mount Nyiragongo, an active volcano, to one of the world’s largest lava lakes.
3. What has been your most memorable wildlife encounter to date?
Libby: Without a doubt for me it was seeing my very first rhino in Pilanesberg National Park (in South Africa) and then taking to the air in a helicopter for an anti-poaching patrol with our partner, Rhino 911. Seeing these gentle giants in their natural habitat for the first time was incredible but then to also get the chance to learn more about the dangers facing rhinos and the people try to protect them, made the experience one I will never forget. It has made me even more committed to doing what I can through Traveljar to try and help Rhino 911 in saving this endangered species.
Andrew: There is something very exciting about getting the opportunity to watch animal behaviour on a safari. One of my most memorable wildlife moments was in South Luangwa National park with two clients, both of whom had never seen African Wild Dogs before. After picking up their tracks, we found the pack sleeping in the long grass. Wild dogs are very playful and social and we got to watch them splashing around in the pools of water. Strengthening social bonds and listening to the chatter between them highlights their intelligence and our guests were amazed by their actions. That afternoon we followed the pack as they moved along the river in search of Impala and watched with interest as the dogs chased the impala across the plans, using incredible teamwork in the diminishing light.
4. How do you define experiential travel, and do you have a favourite moment from one of your expeditions?
Libby: For us, experiential travel is travelling with purpose and the ability to show our guest that you can combine a relaxing, luxury holiday while giving back. We believe that when people travel with purpose, that they have the potential to positively impact the communities and wildlife they encounter along their travels, as well as to come home feeling inspired themselves.
My favourite moment so far has been taking guests to help set up a library in a rural school in Zambia as part of our community engagement commitment. It was amazing to be able to watch my clients read and interact with the kids, to see the positive impact it was having on them as well and to know that, together, we had all been a part of providing books for over 600 children to continue developing their reading skills for their future.
Andrew: My favourite moment from our expeditions is always the chance to take clients on a morning walk with the orphaned elephants at the Lilayi Elephant Orphanage in Zambia. I have personally been involved with Game Rangers International for the last 10 years and being able to help others learn about the work this incredible NGO is doing to rescue, rehabilitate and release these elephants back to the wild is always very special to me.
5. What makes your itineraries ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trips?
Libby: All of our itineraries are 100% bespoke, making them completely tailored to the client’s travel wishes. We decided to do our trips this way because we felt like what equals the “perfect” trip for one person is not the same for the next. We take the time to really get to know our clients and understand what they are hoping for from their trip. Guests can choose every aspect of their adventure, along with our expert guidance, from the type of accommodation they stay in, to the activities they participate in, down to which partner we make a donation to from their trip. In planning a trip this way, we can create the “perfect” and “once-in-a-lifetime” adventure for each individual.
6. What is your favourite image from your photographic safari masterclasses and why?
Andrew: For me, the photographic masterclass is all about helping our clients get their dream photo. By travelling with Nelis Wolmarans or myself, our guests will visit beautiful destinations with incredible wildlife, leading to a number of opportunities to either learn more about wildlife photography for the first time or to work on perfecting their skills or trying out new techniques. One of my favourite pictures from a photographic masterclass trip was a beautiful elephant at sunset photo by our client Barbara Eidel, taken in the Chobe National Park. I had the chance to take her on her first African safari last summer and help her in developing her wildlife photography skills, building confidence and creativity in her work . Having a client at the end of the trip enthusiastically share their photos with you and ask when the next trip is going to be, makes it a very memorable adventure together.
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