The newly discovered COVID-19 “Omicron” variant in South Africa has once again put the world on high alert.
The strongly mutated strain is closely watched by scientists around the world. The United Kingdom reacted by putting South Africa back on their red list and a growing list of European countries have banned flights to and from the region.
Although South Africa’s borders currently remain open, it is likely that many public holidays will be canceled.
So if you are planning a trip to South Africa in the coming months and still want to see some unique animals, nature or ecosystems, where can you go instead?
We’ve rounded up some of the best and most sustainable vacations we could find so you can always immerse yourself in nature.
Nature holidays in Europe
Track winter bison in the mountains of Tarcu, Romania
If the cold doesn’t bother you, then following the bison in the Tarcu Mountains offers a wild experience like no other. In small groups led by expert guides, you’ll set off in search of these hairy creatures and learn to identify their signs and tracks.
The European bison – otherwise known as Wisent – disappeared from Romania 200 years ago but was reintroduced to Tarcu in 2014. Three years later there were already 30 bison living in the mountainous region.
All follow-up experiences end at a local guesthouse with a hot meal by the fire. By going on a bison hike, you will also help establish a nature-based economy in the area. This ecotourism has already led to the renovation of the Armenis visitor center where people can be made aware of the importance of ensuring the survival of bison in the mountain region.
You can find out more about this adventure at European safari company.
Help Rewild the Apennines
If you want to have a positive impact on European biodiversity, consider a trip to the Italian Central Apennines with Exodus Travels. Stretching 1,200 km in central Italy, the Apennine mountains are undergoing a rewilding process to protect their precious animals and ecosystems.
This includes the introduction of “Bear Smart Communities,” set up to reduce bear damage in human-populated areas and improve local acceptance of the Marsican Brown Bear.
The rugged mountains are also home to wolves, golden eagles, and deer. During a six-day tour, your expert guide will help you track wildlife and explain how humans and animals learn to coexist in this unique habitat. And of course, this being Italy, there will also be plenty of delicious food and wine.
To make your vacation even greener, Exodus Travels can also help you get there. by train. Visits are currently scheduled for July and September 2022.
Marine conservation in Portugal
If you love diving then this Portuguese conservation vacation with Responsible travel could be for you. You will work with local experts to help restore and protect valuable marine ecosystems along the country’s Atlantic coast.
This six-day trip will allow you to identify varieties of fish and algae while clearing out the litter you find while diving. If you are an experienced diver, you will also have the chance to see extraordinary networks of underwater caves and local wrecks.
The trip is not, however, reserved for experienced divers. If you’ve never done it before, you can enroll in the local diving school and earn your open water diving certificate before exploring Portugal’s diverse marine world.
The trip involves staying at a sustainable hostel in Lisbon and all meals are included as well.
Nature holidays in the UK
Knepp Wildland, West Sussex
Knepp in West Sussex is an environmentalist’s dream. This approximately 1,400 hectare estate was once intensively cultivated, but is now being rescued through a combination of grazing animals and the restoration of natural streams.
As a result, rare species such as nightingales, peregrine falcons and turtledoves now live on the land.
You can stay on the estate from Easter through November, and there are a range of options available, including shepherd’s huts, bell tents and three houses.
Animal safaris are also an option, with butterfly, bat, and owl tours depending on the time of year you visit.
Sheepdrove Organic Farm, West Berkshire
Sheepdrove is an 809 hectare organic farm in West Berkshire, made up of wildflower meadows, old growth forests and heirloom grain fields. Created by the founders of the Dorling Kindersley Publishing House, the estate hosts weddings and events as well as a range of vacation rentals.
These include an off-grid boathouse and Woodend, a charming converted barn, perfect for groups. Both buildings are carbon neutral as they are heated by aerothermal heat pumps and the farm generates its own energy via two wind turbines and solar panels.
And if you love it so much that you want to stay there definitely someday, there is a natural funeral wood too much.
Rewilding Coombeshead, Devon
Not far from Dartmoor National Park, Rewilding Coombeshead is 60 hectares of former farmland which has now been returned to nature. The area is also used to breed wild cats and white storks, with the aim of reintroducing them to the local landscape. The last pair of white storks recorded in the UK was found in Edinburgh in 1416.
Visitors can stay in a shepherd’s hut or set up camp in one of the meadows bordering the rewilding area – giving you plenty of opportunities to see nature in action. Animals to look out for include water buffalo, wild pigs, and Exmoor ponies.
The campsite is open from May to October and visitors can also take a guided tour, watch the beavers or discuss with environmentalists of the project.
Rewilding in South America
Help rewild Brazil
If you’re planning to visit South America in 2022, you can help leave its ecosystems better than you found them by participating in a local rewilding project.
Niarra trip offers conservation trips around the world, and their two-week trip to Brazil will give you the chance to help restore three diverse habitats.
These include the wetlands of the Pantanal, where you can see giant anteaters and capybaras. While helping the ecological refuge Caiman to rewild the region.
You will also stay in the Cerrado savannah and help local experts track down maned wolves and discover brightly colored macaws, in this delicate and endangered environment.