On Wednesday, April 23rd Absolute Travel and The Culture-ist were proud to co-host an evening at the lovely infini-T Café and Spice Souk in Princeton for a travel reading featuring writers, David Farley, Charu Suri, Tom Downey, and Absolute! In case you weren’t able to make it, here are Katie Losey’s words read that evening by Jessica Weeman.
This evening I am the minority in the room as I am not an acclaimed author, but I am a storyteller. Tonight I’m sharing that what’s in your mug could be saving the world’s last mountain gorillas. Africa’s elephants, too.
A little background for those who don’t know me or Absolute Travel; our team creates life-changing journeys. Most of the time they are not your park-yourself-by-the-pool type of trips. Our travelers are curious and adventurous and seek out the world’s most inspirational experiences: perfecting your sun salutation in India’s abandoned temples and tracking elephants on foot in Namibia are a couple.
We recognize that there is nothing more powerful than a personal experience to inspire others to care about our planet. This is key to our work. We want to live in a world worth exploring—and we are invested in protecting it and sharing that ethos with others through transformative inspirational journeys.
For me that transformative trip was to Uganda. After watching a program on East Africa’s last gorillas, I realized I didn’t want to wait until it was too late to see these majestic creatures in the wild. And off to Uganda I went.
Even before I reached the gorillas, I was moved. The hikes can be vigorous, so I hired a porter to carry my backpack. On that hike I learned that my porter was formerly a poacher; he made the career switch when he realized this job was a safe, stable and legal line of work that enabled him to provide for his family. He transformed from someone taking away from his country into someone contributing to it. My presence proved to him that people will travel across the globe to experience his backyard. My presence proved that my fellow trekkers and I were willing to pay $500 for one hour to witness these creatures, and to my porter that meant that these creatures were worth more alive than as trophies.
But what does this have to do with my morning cup of tea and honey?
Travel plays a role in conservation and saving these gorillas, and funny enough, tea may too. Tea has been proven to be a very useful buffer when planted between forest areas with protected wildlife and local human communities. Tea doesn’t lure gorillas like bananas do, so they don’t feel compelled to venture out from the forest and raid the locals’ crops. The tea is actually saving lives, and not only that, it’s creating a livelihood for many of the locals.
How honey bees are making their contribution to conservation is even more brilliant. This time it relates to Africa’s elephants—who funny enough are petrified of teeny-tiny honey bees.
The communities surrounding some of Uganda’s most visited national parks are some of the most densely human populated rural areas in Uganda and have been listed as “hot zones” for human-wildlife conflicts. Elephants are hungry, will cruise into local communities for something to eat, and their size and caloric needs can wipe out local communities. This is where the bees come in—elephants are deathly afraid of honeybees and avoid them at all costs. In certain areas, a beehive fence is created on a section of land that borders the park that is a known outlet where animals leave the park to enter human communities. This unique and natural conservation approach uses beehives to prevent elephants from crop raiding, therefore reducing the human-wildlife conflict and keeping elephants out of danger from local farmers. The fence also serves as a demonstration apiary for local and international visitors. Visitors learn how to replicate the fence on their own as well as learn about bee husbandry and honey processing. Sales of honey and fees paid by international visitors help make the project sustainable and increase the livelihood of local people.
They say travel is transformative, and it’s true—that afternoon I had changed too. I challenge you to lose a staring contest to a silverback mountain gorilla or witness a herd of elephants in their own African backyard and leave without being compelled to protect them. Obviously I’m still talking about them years later, and my experience filled me with stories I am proud to tell.
So cheers to that. Your daily cup of tea and honey could be saving the world!
Learn more about Absolute Travel’s strides towards responsible tourism on Absolute Awareness.