The Regenerative Travel Impact Awards celebrate people and projects that embody the spirit of regeneration—improving people’s lives, our communities, and the world around us. We are searching the globe for inspiring changemakers working to solve our biggest challenges and inspiring positive action, both inside and outside of travel.
View the winner & finalists for the Conservation category initiatives that restore and regenerate ecosystems, biodiversity, or critical species.
Winner: Gamewatchers, Adopt an Acre
The global pandemic and closing down of international tourism very quickly had a serious and potentially permanent impact on the community conservancies in Kenya, which Gamewatchers helped pioneer. Its model was based on using small-scale tourism to protect habitat in partnership with communities.
Almost immediately when the pandemic started, cancellations, refunds, and negative revenues meant there wasn’t enough income from tourism to pay the lease to the Maasai families in order to support their livelihoods and also protect the wildlife habitat, or to pay the wages to the community rangers in the conservancies.
In April 2020 Gamewatchers came up with an innovative “Adopt and Acre” program, raising almost US$400,000, with the figures continuing to grow. As a sustainable conservation tourism business, it was also important to Gamewatchers that it had a model that was not just seeking for ‘handouts’ but also offered something tangible of value to those that supported this critical and important work.
With the 42,500 acres of community land leased by Gamewatchers Safaris providing an income of almost US$1.5 million to the community, this means that in a year, every acre of conservancy land it supports is creating a protected habitat for wildlife and also generates US$35 going straight to the local people, with US$20 going to payments for land rents and US$15 to wages.
In Kenya space formerly available for wildlife is disappearing rapidly as the land becomes densely settled and sub-divided with fences, which are excluding wildlife and changing migration patterns, and so Adopt an Acre was an innovative success preventing further biodiversity collapse.
“What a marvelous example of how people and wildlife can live alongside one another,” remarked Sir David Attenborough after visiting Porini Amboseli Camp.
Fragments of Hope
Fragments of Hope (FoH) is a non-profit, community-based organization, founded and managed by Lisa Carne. This organization is dedicated to re-seeding devastated reefs with genetically robust, diverse, and resilient corals. It is based in Placencia, Belize, and works closely with nearby communities through education, outreach, and its SandWatch program (a UNESCO program that focuses on volunteers working to monitor changes in beach environments). FoH also has various other national and international partnerships, which include the Southern Environmental Association (SEA), Healthy Reefs Initiative, Oceana, World Wildlife Fund, Belize Fisheries Department, and other international researchers.
FoH believes that its organization’s work is very much in line with regeneration. It actively works to improve the marine environment that has been devastated by natural and anthropogenic factors. It has successfully out-planted more than 49,000 nursery-grown coral fragments since 2006. In an era where coral reefs are dying faster than they can regenerate, the trailblazing work FoH is doing greatly supports the regeneration of this degrading environment and has fostered a reef where coral survivorship is considered to be the best in the Caribbean.
The marine environment (including the coral reef that supports it) is one of the major attractions in Belize. The tourism industry in Belize is largely dependent on the coral reef ecosystem, and the work FoH is doing allows stakeholders to continue reaping the ecological and financial benefits of the reef.
Dazzle Africa, Adopt a Scout Program
Dazzle Africa is a US-based NGO planning safaris to Zambia, donating all the money from safaris back to Zambian wildlife and communities to help with education, conservation, and clean water. With conservation funding heavily tied to tourism in Zambia, the pandemic had a huge ripple effect on the protection of wildlife, leading Dazzle Africa to step up in collaboration with Conservation South Luangwa to bridge the gap with their ‘Adopt a Scout Program’. Dazzle recruited donors, many previous travelers to the region, to sponsor anti-poaching scouts in South Luangwa National Park. Food and water security can’t be taken for granted in Zambia, and these sponsorships kept food on the table for many scouts, being able to stay on patrol especially at a time when poaching numbers were on the rise. The sponsorships funded rations while on patrol, training, fuel to help them get to the most remote areas of the parks, and any necessary equipment like boots, jackets or socks.
The results were inspiring: 55 scouts were sponsored because of a donation match from Tusk. Zero snared lions in 2020, 722 snares recovered from the field saving thousands of animal lives, 165 poaching arrests made in 2020 (more than double from the previous year), 87 firearms confiscated in 2020 (also more than double the number in 2019), elephant poaching decreased 66% from 2018 to 2020, and 4,347 days on patrol in 2020 alone.
The hardest part of 2020 was the lack of connection. The “Adopt a Scout Program” bridged the gap between donors in the US and the people and animals in need in Zambia, bringing people together from across continents to solve a problem that seemed insurmountable without connection.
Dazzle Africa was able to keep its scouts connected to donors by holding regular virtual events featuring scouts on the ground to discuss the state of conservation in South Luangwa and keep donors engaged in the project. Donors also received monthly emails, including stories and photos from the field showing how much impact the sponsorship was having.
Six Senses Maldives, Maldives Underwater Initiative
The Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI), a marine conservation initiative based at Six Senses Laamu, is a collaboration of resort marine biologists in partnership with three NGOs: The Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE), and The Olive Ridley Project (ORP). The team pursues marine conservation goals through research, guest education, and community outreach, with the overarching aim of protecting Laamu’s natural resources. MUI’s approach of collaboration and knowledge sharing, funded by the resort, has continuously proven successful in not only driving change locally, but also inspiring others in the industry and visiting tourists.
Alongside monitoring coral spawning to an extent never studied before in the Maldives and installing the world’s first-ever underwater contactless ultra-scanner to investigate manta ray pregnancies, in 2020 the team developed the first-ever seagrass monitoring protocol in the Maldives, which was adopted by the Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture as the national monitoring method. The 116,695m² of seagrass meadows at the resort are fully protected and, as a result of the #ProtectMaldivesSeagrasss campaign launched by Six Senses Laamu and BLUE, over 25% of the country’s resorts have been inspired to do the same.
MUI believes every guest interaction is an opportunity to inspire others, which is why they offer activities, workshops, presentations, guided snorkels, reef cleanups, and more. The Junior Marine Biology program is a sought-after guest experience for budding conservationists. In 2020, the team transformed the course into a free online program for kids worldwide who were battling lockdowns. MUI received 328 pieces of homework from kids in 21 different countries.
To date, 97 water filtration systems have been donated to Laamu’s community, meaning the entire local population has access to safe drinking water, eliminating the need for approximately 6.8 million plastic bottles each year.