Image: Steve Bloom

Conservation in Action, meaning client participation and giving something back – as well as taking something away – is paramount  for Steppes Discovery

At no extra cost to a conventional African Safari, there is the opportunity to join anti-poaching units, help notch endangered rhinos, dart elephants and join AfriCat vets at work – very real and very important projects led by experts and leading conservationists with a wealth of knowledge and a passion for what they do.  These inspirational journeys give privileged insights into cultures and the natural world whilst supporting conservation and local communities worldwide, which make for incredibly rewarding and insightful experiences.

The following is a selection of African tours which focus on expert-led trips and Conservation in Action:

SOUTH AFRICA: Rhino Conservation Tour, 25-31 May and 21-27 August – The White Rhino Conservation Project is committed to notching and inserting microchips into a population of approximately 130 White Rhinos in the Greater Kruger National Park. This trip allows clients to accompany the chief vet and rangers from Klaserie Nature Reserve as they locate a rhino and undertake the task of notching and micro chipping. The trip also looks at the conservation efforts being made to protect the prolific and diverse wildlife that calls the Greater Kruger National Park home, and the chance to learn about tracking and spoor identification with daily interactive game walks.

Cheetah - Mike Cowton

NAMIBIA: Cheetah Kingdom, 27June-6 July – Working exclusively with AfriCat, this is a unique conservation tour with the opportunity to work with AfriCat’s vets on the Annual Big Cat Health Examination weekend that takes place at Okonjima.  Clients help vets to ensure all cheetahs are vaccinated and given a thorough health examination. While the first part of the trip focuses on

Cheetah at Okonjima (Michael Cowton)

big cats, the second part of the journey concentrates on local people. Based in western Etosha and expertly guided by Tammy Hoth, head of Africat North, there is the opportunity to meet with local community leaders to gain an insight into what it really means to live side-by-side with lions and other predators.

Elephant collaringTANZANIA: Elephant Collaring Project, 20-28 September – As a member of the project team, clients play an integral role in collaring wild elephant. This involves accompanying the helicopter crew as they scan 430 square miles of reserve looking for suitable elephants to dart and collar. The objective is to collar three elephants, so while you may be up in the helicopter one day, the next day clients will be part of a ground team, tracking elephants and calling in their GPS coordinates to the helicopter team. They will also be on the ground to help fit the collars, and responsible for keeping the elephant free from stress during the process.

CONGO: Lowland Gorillas and Forest Elephants, 17-26 October – Proud to be one of the very few tour operators running their own Congo tour, Steppes Discovery introduces a challenging new tour to Congo’s Nouabale Ndoki, following in the footsteps of Africa’s most illustrious explorers in the wilds of the Congo basin and virgin rainforests. Guided by highly knowledgeable Ba’Aka locals, travellers will track the elusive Lowland Gorillas and endangered Forest Elephants, as well as meet researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society. A particular highlight includes paddling to the Mbeli Bai feeding spot, which, in the past, has attracted up to 150 Western Lowland Gorillas in one sitting.

Zebra stallions fighting, Masai Mara, Kenya. Burchell's zebra (Equus burchelli)

Lioness carrying  cub to safety, Masai Mara, Kenya. African Lion (panthera leo)

Zebra and lioness with cub images: Steve Bloom

TANZANIA & UGANDA: Migration and Gorilla Trekking with Steve Bloom, 10-18 December – Here is an opportunity to travel with one of the world’s most innovative and accomplished photographers to witness two of the world’s most phenomenal wildlife spectacles. Steve will be on hand to advise on best angles, exposure and composition so clients can capture both the frenetic wildebeest migration making their treacherous journey north and, at the other end of the spectrum, one of the most humbling and serene wildlife encounters in the world – the endangered mountain gorilla.

Other hands-on expert led wildlife trips from around the world include Borneo Orangutans in exclusive co-operation with the Orangutan Foundation UK, a Photographic Tour in Madagascar with Sue Flood looking at ring tailed lemurs, chameleons and humpback whales whilst exploring the remotest parts of the country, and their Responsible Travel Award winning tour In Search of the Snow Leopard.