We’ll begin our series on purposeful travel with a focus on two of our most popular destinations this summer – Alaska and Kenya. While in literally polar opposite geographic parts of the globe, these two destinations share a common thread of pristine natural environments that are under constant threat. Whether it’s human development or climate change, a proactive approach is necessary to ensure that these unique ecosystems & their native species last generations to come.
Our partnerships on both of these programs are designed to expose our travelers to some of the more innovative solutions out there addressing these pressing issues. They are also designed to educate and raise awareness via behind-the-scenes interactions and meetings with thought leaders in both the environment and wildlife conservation. We’ll start with Kenya, an East African nation that boasts some of the strongest and most well-regarded conservation efforts on the continent. We’ll then move to Alaska, America’s Last Frontier, where glaciers meet a rugged natural coastline.
Kenya – Conservation through Community Partnerships
Kenya has one of the most unique landscapes in all of Africa. From the tropical Indian Ocean beaches to the bustling capital of Nairobi all the way to the plains of the Maasai Mara, this is a nation of extremes. Our impact is centered around several wildlife reserves in Kenya and encompasses issues ranging from lion conservation to women’s empowerment. Below are some of the organizations and projects that we team up with on our 10-day trip:
- Exploring Lions Project – The Exploring Lions Project is a non-profit organization that connects the world’s top scientists and volunteers to places like Ol Pejeta Wildlife Reserve, to help conduct vital research for a sustainable planet. The African lion population has declined by 30-50% in just over two decades largely due to habitat loss and conflict with humans. Our travelers help the rangers track and collect data on Ol Pejeta’s lion population.
- Ol Pejeta Anti Poaching Unit – Our groups partner with one of the most well-regarded wildlife protection teams in East Africa. We’ll join these rangers on a patrol and see firsthand how their K-9 unit is used for anti-poaching efforts. Under their watch, the number of black rhinos have increased from 86 in 2011 to 113 today.
- Ol Pejeta Chimpanzee Sanctuary – Over the last decade, the Sanctuary has provided a safe haven for the recovery and rehabilitation of chimpanzees rescued from traumatic situations; all victims of the illegal pet trade. The Sanctuary is now home to 39 chimps and is supported by a visit from our groups where we see the chimps and learn firsthand what is being done to preserve these populations.
- The Giraffe Center – The Giraffe Center located in Nairobi is a project of The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Kenya (A.F.E.W. Kenya), a non-governmental and non-profit organization. At the center, travelers engage with environmental educators as they learn about the Rothschild Giraffe, one of the most endangered giraffe subspecies, with only a few hundred members left in the wild.
- The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage – The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, established in 1977, operates a project that rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephants and rhinos and returns them to the wild. At the orphanage, our groups learn about these initiatives, as well as meet with the caregivers to learn about the process of rehabilitation, its challenges, and successes.
- Kazuri Bead Factory – Kazuri is a Kiswahili word which means “small and beautiful”. The Kazuri Bead Factory is located in Nairobi’s wooded suburb of Karen and supports a skilled workforce of over 300 women, particularly single mothers, in hand-crafting of ceramic beads and artistically produced jewelry. We experience the entire bead making process while seeing the unique bead crafting and pottery skills and interact with the women to hear about the impact this has had on their lives.
- The Maa Trust – The Maa Trust is a non-profit organization that supports conservation in the Maasai Mara. They achieve this through the sustainable development of the land-owning Maasai communities and foster respect for wildlife and the environment by encouraging harmonious human-wildlife relationships. We engage in a range of projects that the Trust supports as well as meets with the communities impacted by the work of this pioneering organization.
Alaska – Impact through Education and Awareness
Alaska is truly the last frontier and a place of natural splendour. From its towering glaciers to its snow capped mountains, Alaska has a wealth of beauty that is unrivaled in the Lower 48. Alaska is also a bastion for wildlife boasting a spectrum of wild critters from colorful puffins to playful sea otters. Who knows, you might even see a moose crossing the road as you descend through the Alaskan wilderness.
Our purpose in Alaska is centered largely around wildlife and the natural environment. We partner with some of Alaska’s leading organizations who are working to protect Alaska’s wildlife while also educating the population and raising awareness on some of the most pertinent issues at hand. Below are a few of the organizations that we partner with and who our groups support during our time in the 49th state:
- The Alaska Sea Life Center – A leader in marine research & education in Alaska, the nonprofit center is the only permanent marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation facility in the state. With a mission to “share scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems”, we get a first-hand window to the sea going behind the scenes to learn more about the work of this organization and the wildlife they are caring for including puffins and sea lions.
- Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies – Founded in 1982, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies works to foster responsible interaction and generate knowledge of the unique marine and coastal ecosystems of stunning Kachemak Bay. We partner with this grassroots organization to learn more about the fascinating creatures that inhabit this pristine ecosystem including a “belly biology” session where we explore invertebrate life living around the harbor.
- The Wynn Nature Center & Peterson Bay Field Station – Overseen by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, these two centers are visited and supported by our groups. The Wynn Nature Center includes a series of trails as well as a wildlife refuge for some of Alaska’s iconic wildlife including moose and black bears. The Peterson Bay Field Station is a living laboratory that serves as a base to explore the coastal forest of Kachemak Bay (and is accessible only by boat!).
While these two destinations are indeed at polar opposite ends of the spectrum, they share in the Discover Corps mission to use travel as a force for good in the world.