Environmentally Friendly Camping Tips

South Africa has some of the best camping spots in the world. Follow these tips to make your experience safe, eco-friendly and enjoyable.

eco friendly camping

  • If you are camping in a Big 5 area, make sure you know how to deal with dangerous animals. Confrontations can end unhappily for one or both sides- this is not eco-friendly!  Avoid confrontations by learning about the habits of potentially dangerous animals that you may encounter.
  • Don’t camp near waterholes or on game paths.
  • Try to camp in an area that is naturally open (especially to see approaching predators at night) and take a powerful torch with you.
  • Store fresh meat out of reach.
  • Limit noise pollution- sound carries incredibly far at night; a noisy camping party can spoil the camping experience for other people, even if they are a few kilometres away.
  • Light pollution- don’t light up your camp with more lights than necessary; rather use small LED headlights.  Be mindful when shining torches skywards and toward camping neighbours.
  • Excessive noise and light at night can also attract unwanted attention from two-legged predators.
  • Be aware and prepared to defend yourself at all times without being paranoid.
  • Take the necessary precautions in Malaria areas.

Fires

  • Use existing fireplaces if possible and make small fires.
  • Make sure there is no fire hazard.
  • Use dead wood that has fallen to the ground; dead trees that are still upright provide habitat and homes to many species of wildlife.
  • If camping near water courses be careful not to burn Tamboti (Spirostachys africana)- the smoke is poisonous.
  • Do not burn plastics as they pollute the air.
  • Make sure the fire is completely extinguished and cleared before you leave.

Disposal of Waste

  • The first rule of camping is never leave anything behind. This includes food packaging, bottles, tissues, paper, or any other material no matter how biodegradable it may seem.
  • All food and foreign substances must be removed as they can have a negative impact on a fragile ecosystem.
  • Human waste: if there are no facilities available on site, the simple solution is to dig a hole about 30cm deep and as far way from any water source or camp area as possible (at least 50m). Cover with soil when finished.
  • Another solution is to use a camping toilet that hygienically contains the waste for easy transport and later proper disposal.
  • For dental hygiene, bring a container for toothpaste and mouthwash refuse.
  • For cleaning utensils, use water and do not introduce any harmful cleaning products into the ecosystem.
  • Boil or filter water before drinking.
  • Use soap that is 100% biodegradable. Conventional soap may contaminate open water bodies and groundwater.
  • Avoid using insecticides and use natural products instead.
  • Deter flies and mosquitoes by using citronella candles, covering food and using mosquito nets.

Water & Washing

  • Water can be limited on a camping trip; ‘waterless ‘ hand cleaners are useful. There are also certain plants that can be used as soap, e.g. the Dune Soap-berry (Deinbollia oblongifolia) commonly found in Mozambique and the eastern parts of Mpumalanga.
  • Be very careful of washing in rivers and dams as crocodiles, hippos and waterborne diseases may be present.
  • Do not pollute water courses with soap and shampoo.
  • For dental hygiene, bring a container for toothpaste and mouthwash refuse.
  • For cleaning utensils, use water and do not introduce any harmful cleaning products into the ecosystem.
  • Boil or filter water before drinking.

Eco-Friendly Products

  • Use soap that is 100% biodegradable. Conventional soap may contaminate open water bodies and groundwater.
  • Avoid using insecticides and use natural products instead.
  • Deter flies and mosquitoes by using citronella candles, covering food and using mosquito nets.

Wild Animals

  • Never feed wild animals. Feeding habituates wild animals to human contact causing them to lose their natural fear.  These animals may become problem animals which may lead them to being killed.
  • Consider leaving pets such as dogs at home; if you do bring them, make sure they are kept under control at all times.land rover series 2

Off Road Driving

  • Limit driving off road unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use established tracks rather than making new ones if at all possible (and limit ‘bundu bashing’).
  • Only drive on the beach where allowed and avoid damaging local fauna and flora.
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Trees & Plants

  • Don’t drive stakes into trees or damage them unnecessarily; small wounds can lead to borer and other infections that may kill the tree.
  • Be aware that it is an offence to harvest any part of wild plants in certain conservation areas such as proclaimed nature reserves and national parks.

Camping in the wilds brings alive senses that have long lain dormant.  Follow these tips, respect Nature and she’ll respect you.

Source: Alistair Haig (Environmental Scientist & Ecologist) www.rainharvest.co.za

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