Great Plains is the company, founded by Dereck and Beverly Joubert, promoting "conservation tourism" and creating inspiring and entirely sustainable safari experiences. Both Derek and Beverly have a background in wildlife film-making, having produced over 40 films, and share their passion for the wilderness that is becoming increasingly threatened by human development, hunting and poaching. Together they founded Great Plains to offer an alternative to destructive tourism practices and foster a new philosophy that integrates local communities, governments and the private sector. The couple now owns 16 safari properties in Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe and runs the company's charity; The Great Plains Foundation which contributes to ongoing conservation efforts. We chat to the couple on sustainable travel basics, with your burning questions, answered.
1) What practices do you deploy when travelling?
Personally, we travel with our own water canteens (made by Kleen Kanteen), we never use straws and always travel with our own biodegradable shampoos, conditioner and soap.
2) What do you suggest to your guests when travelling to you?
Oh… come with an open mind! The very first thing you can do is give yourself a challenge or a gift each week, one that may seem like a challenge but will in fact be a gift to you and the planet: give yourself a meat and fish-free diet from Monday and Friday. Two days a week. Of the planet’s land biomass, livestock makes up 60% (humans 36% and wildlife only 4%). So, if we have fewer livestock, we may have more wildlife. At Great Plains, we serve stunning plant-based options. Good food that is healthy plus helps reduce the damage to the environment. In camp, we have everything covered, from green power to your own water bottles so you can make your own for your next journey.
Think about which items of clothing need to be put in the washing each day, the further away from the body, the less frequent the washing. Although we don’t encourage slothful habits, ‘over washing’ places an excess of detergent into the ecosystem, wastes water, and destroys the fabrics that themselves have taken a lot of water to produce. A T-shirt takes over 2,000 litres of water to produce so hanging on to your favourite items for longer is helping the planet. Plant a tree with us to offset the carbon damage your flights create but for the rest, leave it to us. We will give you reusable fast masks (can you imagine the landfill impact of disposable masks). If you wish to buy more, all profits go to Project Ranger to support those rangers and get them back in the field if they were laid off at any point throughout the pandemic.
3) What do you recommend looking for?
Travel can be a big offender but I’m a huge supporter of responsible travel because, as we’ve learned from the pandemic, without tourism or conservation stops, communities get poorer and have to look to the forests and wildlife and the environmental impact of that is devastating and by far outweighs the carbon footprint. Look for companies and places that do have strong environmental and suitability practices and if possible those that are smart about including the communities around them.
4) What are the best ways to travel sustainably?
Ask about the destinations’ sustainability initiatives. If they aren’t up to scratch, move on. There are great options with wonderful experiences and good sustainability practices. Work with a Safari Designer to plan your itinerary for the least number of flights. Not only is it less pleasant to go from New York to Copenhagen to Dubai to Victoria Fall to Maun to start your safari but just imagine the exhaust trails. Then in country, in Botswana for example, plan so that you aren’t flying back and forth over your next camp, and actually plan it so you pick two camps, settle in for a week at each, slow down, get to know it and don’t chase what you have not seen. It's not the Amazing Race. It’s the best gift you can give yourself. As filmmakers, we only know one thing for sure; we will always miss incredible moments because something is happening somewhere else all the time. Enjoy the moment.
5) What to avoid
Do you really want to stay at a 5-star lodge that offers the ability to fly in food, like strawberries, from around the world? Instead, It is kinder to our planet to eat fresh local herbs and fruits and equally kinder to the wildlife to view, photograph and enjoy them running free instead of staying at lodges that kill for the pot or offer safari hunting as this is no longer a form of conservation when all wildlife in Africa has had a drastic decline over the last 50 years by 95%. If you are against hunting, ask if they hunt on the property because it won’t be in the brochure! I say this because protecting all these areas is no longer through killing. That was 60 years ago, so we have to change our mindset and protect these areas and all wildlife that is left. With global warming on the horizon, we need to protect every living creature as they help us protect forests, savannahs and scrubland.