Travelling responsibly is the tourists’ way of ensuring that they support sustainable tourism – tourism that accounts for and manages its economic, social and environmental impacts.

In simple terms it implies that travellers are willing to go the extra mile to protect people’s sources of livelihoods (including landscapes and wildlife), which is one of tourism’s biggest roles.

People travel to Kenya for one or more of these reasons: wildlife, culture and landscapes (including pristine beaches). Therefore, it is very important that these same reasons be protected through responsible travel.

Here are six ways you can help practice responsible travel in Kenya.

1. Bring Your Own Bottle

On 5th June 2020 Kenya banned the use of single use plastic bottles in protected areas, which include the parks and reserves visited by tourists. This came 3 years after the ban on plastic carrier bags was enforced effectively. Anyone visiting Kenya is required to follow these rules strictly.

Tour operators help ease any inconveniences that may befall their clients by branding refillable bottles. In cases where bottles are not provided for, tourists are encouraged to carry their own refillable water bottle.

Single-use plastic bottles are banned in Kenya’s protected areas.

2. Choose responsible tour operators

Responsible Travel is a concept that is catching on, especially with the realisation of the immense threat posed by tourism. Accommodation facilities and tour agents are putting together travel plans that have very minimal negative impact on the planet.

These efforts go towards protecting the natural environment, performing activities that sustain communities economically, and celebrating and preserving the same cultures that tourists come to experience. 

Travellers are encouraged to compliment these efforts by choosing operators who have put measures in place to support responsible travel. Visit Ecotourism Kenya’s website for details of which companies to pick from (both agents and accommodations). Ecotourism Kenya offers a voluntary certification to champion responsible tourism practices in Kenya.

3. Observe park rules and laws of the land

It goes without saying: a house is kept in order by a set of rules and regulations. Similarly, drivers in Kenya keep left, and parks open and close at a particular time unless you have a local arrangement with the management. Feel free to caution your driver guide to keep to the designated routes while driving through parks. Keeping your distance from wild animals as well as decongesting a sighting is critical in ensuring the wildlife are not overwhelmed.

It is important to ensure your tour agent brings you up to speed on all the key rules to be followed. Visit useful sites that will enlighten you on all the local laws and entry restrictions you need to know about during your stay in Kenya.

These wildebeest seem to know the rules of the road…

4. Learn your magic words

Interpersonal skills are something every human being needs to survive on this planet of nearly 8 billion people.

Mastering these few Swahili words for your time in Kenya will take your stay to a different level.

You are welcome to learn more if you wish. However, the basic four are: pole (sorry), asante (thank you), karibu (welcome) and habari yako (how are you?) Tourists are allowed jambo (hello).

You’re sure to meet many warm, curious and friendly people while exploring Kenya.

Greetings are very important if you wish to make acquaintances with any service provider. Followed closely by a show of gratitude, you will be thanked as well, and it is only polite to be receptive of gratitude; a give and take kind of situation.

Finally, in case of a misunderstanding, be the bigger person and say pole without being asked to. The pronunciation of these words can easily be found on Google.

Whether you’re on a guided safari or well off the tourist track in a local market, a few simple words in Swahili can go a long way.

5. Take the less travelled routes

Our understanding of the finite nature of natural resources is fast taking root. One of the causes of the depletion is overconsumption. In tourism, the popularization of certain destinations is the leading cause of landscape degradation and wildlife disturbance. While this is happening, other interesting (and less harmful) activities are often overlooked.

To strike the balance and allow for the regeneration of the already deteriorating sites, travellers are encouraged to participate more in activities that involve cultural immersion instead. Kenya has more to offer than what was previously popularised – like the viewing of the ‘Big 5’ (elephants, lions, buffalos, rhinos and leopards).

Kenya is home to an incredible diversity of birds.

There are over 42 tribes to learn from, and beautiful bird species to watch. According to the Kenya Tourism Board, “It is not unusual for birding trips to record 300-600 different varieties on a short trip or to record more than 120 at a particular site on a single day!”

There is also a wide range of habitats like the mountains, deserts, forests, oceans and coasts, rivers and the beloved savannahs that we know and love. Just recently, the Ministry of Tourism highlighted other signature experiences well distributed around the country for your enjoyment.

This scene might not be what you picture when you think of Kenya, but it’s very characteristic of Lamu, on the country’s north coast.

6. Participate

Apart from doing what is right, ensure you fully immerse yourself in the good things surrounding you. The great thing about coming here is, you will be warmly received with Kenyans. We are known the world over for being very polite and sociable, especially to our guests.

When we are finally free to traverse the planet, make Kenya your first stop. Follow travel updates from the Kenya Tourism Board official website and on social media @magicalkenya.

Kenya’s stunning landscapes, vibrant cultures, friendly and lively people and unforgettable wildlife have a way of getting into your soul…

To find ethical ecotourism options in Kenya, visit the Ecotourism Kenya website or explore Terra Incognita’s Ethical Ecotours.

For more tips on becoming a responsible traveller, check out these 6 easy ways to be an ecotourist.

If you need a little travel inspiration, check our wildlife and travel stories from Kenya.

About the Author

Sarah Anupi Kutahi is an environmental scientist, who champions responsible tourism through information sharing. She is a birder, a natural hair coach and a creative writer. She is undertaking a postgraduate diploma in Mass Communications with the hope of becoming a features writer – to tell the often overlooked stories of our time in an upbeat way. She is the founder of the Mau Forest Restoration project She aspires to run a hair salon that is eco-friendly by using products that are packaged in reusable containers and incorporate organic ingredients in the manufacture. She loves writing and hopes to better her craft by volunteering with Terra Incognita.