The issue of plastic water bottles on safari and our need to protect wildlife from human impact


We at Jenman African Safaris host thousands of safari tourists every year.  We love bringing people to this amazing continent to experience the beauty of Africa and helping them turn their African dream into reality.

But we realize that during some of the long hot days on safari, people consume lots of water, most of which is from plastic, throw-away bottles.

Why is it a problem?  Because of the sheer enormity of numbers of plastic bottles in the system.  If we look at one country, Tanzania has an average of nearly 800,000 international visitors every year; if each of those visitors stays an average of one week, and consumes 2 liters of bottled water per day, approximately 11 million plastic bottles will be discarded annually in Tanzania.  If we then multiply that to cover the numbers in all the other African countries where tourists visit regularly, then the problem of plastic water bottles becomes very clear indeed.

We need to remember that recycling programs in Africa have limitations, and plastic is non-biodegradable material. It does not disappear into the ground when it is buried, and it does not replenish the earth.  In fact, the earth is harmed when plastic gets discarded, because it breaks up into small pieces, gets battered by the elements over time (sun, wind, rain) and leaches toxins into the environment, damaging the soil and water. Animals and ocean creatures eat the debris or get ensnared by it, often with disastrous results.  Every plastic bottle that gets used, every plastic bag we carry, every straw we drink through, unless it can be recycled sensibly and repeatedly, has a negative impact, which lasts for hundreds of years on the planet.

It is hard to take responsibility and to think about the impact of what we do for our own convenience.  We are so accustomed to buying bottled water, especially when we travel, because we rely on the safety and convenience of clean drinking water.  Many people believe there are no other options, or at least, do not think of alternatives.  So here are a few things to think about:

  • Think before you drink.  Carry your own metal reusable bottle and use it daily.
  • Encourage your friends and family members to do the same, to stop using plastic bottles and support the environment.
  • While travelling and staying at various establishments, ask for safe water (either filtered or boiled) in bulk, refillable containers.  Lodges, hotels, camps and restaurants will respond if enough people keep asking
  • If you see ways that hotels and camps could reduce water usage and waste, let them know on feedback forms; people listen to customer requests
  • Reduce your need for plastic: take your own baskets to the shops, say ‘no’ to straws in your drinks, buy washing powders in boxes not bottles, take your own containers when collecting take-away foods, use matches and not disposable lighters, and avoid purchasing prepared or frozen foods as they have excessive packaging
  • Recycle what you can at all times.  Always ask how, where and for what purpose are the products being recycled;  some processes are not as eco friendly as they make out to be
  • In hotels, ask that your towels and sheets be changed every two days instead of daily.
  • At home, install a water filter, if the tap water is not to your taste
  • Think of easy ways to save water in your home and office, such as using an aerator on taps, washing dishes in a bowl and not under a running tap, fixing leaks quickly, dual-flush systems on toilets, watering the garden at night, using grey water for the garden, planting drought-resistant plants and grass in your garden, plant indigenous trees suited to your soil and climate, only using washing machine and dishwasher with a full load. Don’t wash your car more than strictly necessary, wipe dust off instead. While you are waiting for the hot water to come through on your shower, collect the cold in a bucket and use it to water pot plants, water for pets or general washing etc.

There is so much we can do to cut down on our use of water, and to eliminate the use of plastic as a matter of convenience.  This is our planet, our Africa.  We need to preserve what we have and make sure we do so for generations to come.  Think about it!!