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Unicorn Trails Responsible Travel

 

Responsible Travel and Horse Riding Holidays with Unicorn Trails

The beauty of horse riding holidays is that you travel in small groups and are in very close contact with your environment. This means close and personal contact with nature and the people who live there too enabling us to both learn about and contribute to the communities we visit.

As tourists visiting other cultures on a riding holiday we should ensure:

Oromo Tribe Ethiopia

1. We do no harm to local environment or communities
Unicorn Trails has produced an ethical travel charter with guidelines on travelling with minimal impact. Click here to read more about the complex subject of how we interact on our travels.

2. We leave sustainable economic benefits to local communities

As an operator, almost without exception, Unicorn Trails uses local hotels rather than state or foreign hotel chains, local transport, paid services of the local population (guides, cooks, mule drivers, porters, cleaners, etc.) as the best way of ensuring money from tourism benefits local communities directly. Please click here to read about additional projects supported by your booking with Unicorn Trails.

3. Our visit generates improvements in the conditions of local horses
As a veterinary based company we feel particularly strongly on this point. Most riding holiday take place in an existing horse culture. Where necessary we work to improve the lot of horses by amongst others:
- educating tourists and locals on what is acceptable and not acceptable (read our leaflet on the condition of horses in tourism)
- putting our money where our mouth is and paying top dollar for good horses
- actively checking horses every day and refusing to tolerate unacceptable conditions
- paying directly for imported equipment and feed etc etc
Booking with Unicorn Trails directly channels money from equine tourism into improving the condition of the horses used in tourism. Read more on our efforts to improve the lot of horses through community tourism.

 

 

 

 


Unicorn and many of our local partners are involved with schemes which help the local community and conservation efforts. Below we list a few of these initiatives and the rides they are linked to. When you book a holiday to these places, a portion of your money goes to these initiatives.

If you have booked any of our horse riding holidays and would like to give something extra towards the projects that they currently support then please let us know and we will add your donation to your ride payment.

Below are details of some of the projects supported by booking the holidays listed:

 

Ant's Nest


Ant's Reserve TeamAnt's Reserve, comprising Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill lodges, work through ACO (African Community Outreach) to support the local population in their area. They donate cash and meat directly for the soup kitchen as well as over 100 blankets for impoverished families. Various guests, staff etc have also donated old clothing. Should you wish to make any form of contribution they would be most grateful. You can specify how these funds should be spent e.g. food, clothing etc.
In addition Ant's Reserve as part of the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve and Waterberg Nature Conservancy, support a variety of conservancy projects detailed below.

About African Community Outreach:
They are a husband and wife team from the farming community surrounding Vaalwater who run a ministry based on solid Christian principles.
Vaalwater is situated on the central plateau of the Waterberg Mountains within the Limpopo Province of South Africa. The adjacent residential suburb of Lesideng is a large and extremely impoverished community.

Current Projects:

They help run a “soup kitchen" feeding scheme which feeds about 850 people per week.

One of the main focuses is looking after the many widows and orphans that have been left by the terrible Aids Crisis in Vaalwater. In some cases they are able to help the youngsters get registered to qualify them for the government grant, but even then the income is seldom sufficient to feed a family of between 6 to 12 people.

They support 11 farm schools and crèches in the area. The school feeding schemes do not provide enough fruit or vegetables so they supplement their feeding by providing bread, peanut butter, fruit and vegetables and other food items.

They supply school supplies such as pencils, rulers, erasers, glue, crayons, paints and paper as the children only receive 2 pencils per year from government shcools.

They provide housing for desperate families living in very basic shelters. Many families have benefited from new homes with proper long drop toilets.

They teach them to make use of waste water to water basic vegetable gardens to be able to sustain themselves with basic veggetable gardens.

Needs:

Funding for food supplies for the soup kitchens and food parcels for orphans and needy families.

Funding for school fees and school uniforms for the orphans. The school fees range from R40 to R400 per year.

A medical emergency fund which is used for paying doctors bills for those who need emergency treatment and have no means to pay for this.

Blankets and old clothes

School supplies and toiletries.

They also need a vehicle which would be suitable for moving personnel and goods. The distances covered between the farm schools and Lesideng are considerable and the cost of this is currently being carried by their volunteers.

Educational Toys for the schools and crèches

Improved housing for families in the informal settlement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funding:
They rely totally on donations from the general public, businesses and the commercial sector. It costs R10.00 (£0.80) per day to feed a child. They receive some food donations. They have received food donations from Nestle SA like milk powder and porridge. These kinds of donations enable them to add value to our food parcels. They therefore appreciate any food donations of a non perishable nature such as tinned food etc.

About Ant's Reserve Conservation projects and eco management:

The Waterberg Nature Conservancy reserves span 150 000 ha of diverse topography and vegetation ranging from wide-open plains to beautiful mountainous areas, enabling us to naturally sustain the widest variety of game possible. They boast over 40 species of game including Sable Antelope, Nyala, Oryx, Eland, Giraffe, (disease free) Buffalo, White Rhino and well over 300 species of resident and migrant birds.
This all falls within the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve which promotes conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources within it’s boundaries. Ant's Reserve's properties are managed by utilizing the following management tools where necessary:
Controlled burning
Alien plant control
Game population control
Bush encroachment
Road maintenance
Erosion control

Some of Ant's Reserve's current conservations projects:

Sable Breeding project:
South Africa is the southern most limit of the Common/Southern African Sable Antelope, with marginal prime habitat available. They are presently described as a conservation dependant species. Their numbers have noticeably dropped from an estimated 36 000 in the 60’s to 3 500 in the 90’s.
Our objectives of breeding Sable Antelope are:
- Breeding of a conservation dependant species
- Increase the numbers of a conservation dependant species for the
general well being and future of the species
- Prevent inbreeding of a conservation dependant species
- To run the project in an ecological sound manner taking into
consideration the natural behavior and habitat of the species and to
promote an understanding to visitors of the importance of such a
project
- To gather information on their behavior to gain a better understanding
of these animals
Ant's Reserve started this project in the 2001 with a core breeding herd of 5 animals. They now have a viable breeding herd of 19 (8 calves expected in 2008) and a bachelor herd of 7.

Leopard conservation:
Ant's Reserve support the conservation of Leopard in the Waterberg area. Lourens Swanepoel, through the Centre for Wildlife Management, University of Pretoria, has been doing research in this area for the past 2½ years. His main objectives have been to determine home ranges, diet and the attitudes of farmers towards leopard conservation. His work continues in this area and Ant's Reserve collect information for him on leopard sightings, leopard spoor, leopard kills as well as any other predator or local information they may attain.

Birds in Reserves Project (BIRP):
Ant's Reserve properties are both registered with the Avian Demographic Unit (University of Cape Town) for BIRP. This is a project which aims to gather information to improve conservation efforts and knowledge of birdlife. Bird species and behavior are recorded and submitted on a monthly basis.

Disease free Buffalo:
Tuberculosis, as well as other diseases, have had an impact on buffalo numbers in South Africa. Due to this there has been a drive to breed “disease free” buffalo. Often called “project buffalo” these animals tend to be habituated and become unreasonably dangerous. The breeding often takes place in unnatural conditions or in superficial settings. To avoid this Ant's Reserve put tracking devices on their disease free buffalo bulls so that they can monitor herd and solitary bull daily movements and behavior. Because of this technology made available by Agricultural and Wildlife Electronics (AWE), this small herd, once in a fenced area, are now able to roam free in their natural habitat and breed under natural circumstances where they can be can monitored from a distance.

Waste disposal:
Ant's Reserve is very aware of the amount of waste that they produce. As a lodge they recycle all their waste products. All rubbish is divided into plastics, paper, bottles, cans and compost.

Natural Fuel:
There is an on going pressure on all natural resources. Ant's Reserve has a single briquette maker which they have experimented with by making briquettes out of horse manure to utilize their constant supply of manure as a source of fuel for the cold winter months. These briquettes burn slowly and provide warmth. In addition a large percentage of horse manure is added to their compost heaps.

Biological Fly control:
The horses are constantly bothered by flies, particularly in the moist warm summers. Ant's Reserve control the fly populations by using an environmentally friendly control (BioFly) which breaks the life-cycle of the flies. One fly produces 900 eggs per life cycle. The cycle is broken by introducing 2 wasp species (Muscifurax spp. and Nasonia spp.) These wasps are natural predators of the flies and naturally occur in South Africa. On hatching, the wasps mutilate fly eggs, larvae and pupae. As the fly numbers drop the wasps, host specific to these flies, die off too. Ant's Reserve has introduced these wasps into their stable yard and around their compost heaps.

Wetlands:
Ant's Reserve is in the process of creating wetlands for the recycling of all their grey water. Water is a problem during the dry winter months. By recycling the grey (bath and shower) water they will be able to continue growing vegetables as well as keeping the lodge gardens intact during these dry months. The grey water will be treated by running through a system of small stones and wetland plants. The water will then run into a storage tank from where it will be pumped to the irrigation systems in the gardens.

If you are interested in booking a riding holiday at Ant's Reserve your holiday funds will support all the above projects. Any additional donations will be much appreciated.

 

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Horizon Ranch


Although Horizon is a ranch holiday situated in South Africa they have always felt it important to involve their guests in the cultural aspects of their local Waterberg community.

Over the years Horizon has committed itself to various projects of upliftment within the broader community. They began on the ranch itself where there was a crèche facility and a farm school of about 95 primary aged children, funding resources and providing clothes etc to the poorer children. There are now many other programmes of upliftment within the area and they attempt to help these projects by contributing where they can as well as making guests aware of the needs of the African community. Over the years they have been able to affect these areas considerably through donations of money, educational tools, medicines and manpower. Many of the guests have become involved in these projects, for instance, on one occasion through a corporate teambuilding exercise they were able to renovate an old farm building into a youth and community center which is now a core of activity on the ranch.  Below is a list of the many outreach activities that are going on quietly within their area that Horizon are involved with.

The Waterberg Welfare Society
The Waterberg welfare society was formed in 2000 primarily to provide help and support to those individuals in the Waterberg who are infected and effected by HIV/AIDS.
WWS provides educational prevention and awareness workshops, home community based care, hospice, respite, palliative care, voluntary counseling and testing, orphans and vulnerable children programme, support groups for people living with HIV/AIDS, prevention of mother to child transmission. For more informations see www.waterbergwelfaresociety.org.za

St John The Baptist Soup Kitchen
Run by members of St John the Baptist community church, the soup kitchen feeds between 400 to 900 children each Wednesday morning and afternoon from a tent within the Lesideng township.  The operation is voluntarily manned and all foods are donated by the local community or funded by donations from churches and businesses in the local community.

African Community Outreach 
Terry and Hamish Rodgers run an NGO also within the township area of the Waterberg. Grown from the weekly soup kitchen they found many residents merely subsisting within our community, some surviving from foraging the unofficial dump sites. From various donations they are able to provide cheap housing, food and clothes to individuals and families living in the desperation of poverty. Projects such as craftwork, tower gardens and rain water collection points are also aimed at providing self-help schemes to the unemployed.

Limpopo Educational Services  
John and Sue Goodwin have been regular visitors to the Waterberg region for many years. Both in teaching in the UK they saw early on the need for educational support in the various crèche and primary schools in the region. Beginning at first by providing teaching resources donated by colleagues in the UK they have expanded the project to full charity status and now bring teams of English student teachers on an annual basis to assist within the crèche and primary schools here.

Waterberg Academy
Recently, a private English speaking school was started in the town of Vaalwater. Aware of being a school of privilege it has attempted to place outreach high on its list of priorities. Bursary positions have been well funded and the goal of the school is to increase the numbers considerably. In trying to identify children suitable for bursary positions it was found that children coming from a crèche background within the township were already several years behind in their development and would be worse off for moving to a private school. The school then made available on a monthly basis, the head of department of the pre prep age group to teach township crèche teachers how to motivate themselves and their children. Together with collections of educational toys, writing materials and paints these crèches have improved considerably in the years in which this has been running. The academy also needed assistants for pre prep classes so an outreach was implemented whereby an assistant was sponsored by a local business to help in pre prep classes, to be paid to become qualified as a teacher and assisted in this by the very teachers they would be helping..

Xtreme Soccer Team 
In an attempt to mentor young African men in the community a project was started in 2006 to run a local 16 – 19 soccer team. Coached and led by a young man from Vaalwater, Xander Labuschagne, the team has a strong bond of loyalty and upholds within itself an integrity that is recognizable by their peers. Players are not allowed to drink alcohol, they have to do chores for their homes ( many of the players are orphans) and they have to pass their school work in order to play matches. This year sees an expansion whereby the players will now live at a hostel run by Xander and be coached in further life skills. The boys will go home for holidays and every other weekend.

If you are interested in booking a riding holiday at Horizon Ranch you can visit any of these projects and your holiday funds will support all the above projects. Any additional donations will be much appreciated and you are able to specify which projects they should support.

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Somogy Nature Trail

 

HUNGARY

The Somogy Nature Trail is organised and run by the Somogy Provincial Association for Nature Conservation – SPANC. Employment and nature conservation go hand-in-hand in the wetlands of southwest Hungary by preserving species and at the same time creating jobs.
Somogy is a sparsely-populated county of some 330,000 people in the southwest of Hungary, to the south of Lake Balaton. Its diverse landscape, a mix of oak forests, alder swamps, ponds, sandy grasslands and woody pasture, provides habitats for many endangered species of plants and animals. Its ponds and swamps provide a habitat for waterfowl, and form the westernmost breeding area of the ferruginous duck. The biggest Hungarian pond tortoise populations can be found.

Founded in 1980 as a traditional conservation organisation, more specifically to protect species such as the European otter and the white-tailed eagle, SPANC has evolved into a complex sustainable development programme. To protect the threatened species required their habitats to be protected, not just as separate tiles in a mosaic, but as a whole chain of habitats. This has gradually led to SPANC undertaking the sustainable development of the whole region, encompassing thousands of hectares extending from south of Lake Balaton to the River Dráva. This involves land acquisition, habitat management and protection, job training, preservation of historic buildings and traditions, education and ecotourism. Its sustainable farming and visitor services now also support 15 much-needed jobs.

Below is a description of the history and scope of the project. If you choose to ride on our Somogy Nature Trail, your money goes directly to SPANC and you are accompanied by a nature guide along the entire route. The projects are explained in detail including a slide presentation one night.

History and Developemnt of SPANC

Following the political, economical and social changes of the 1970s, the Hungarian government agreed in 1974 to the establishment of the country’s first conservation NGO, the Hungarian Ornithological Society. Its popularity quickly grew, and in 1980 a local group was founded in Somogy County. A turning point came when, as a result of research on wetlands, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) decided to hold its conference on otter conservation in Kaposvár, the county town, and the Somogy group of the Hungarian Ornithological Society was one of the hosts. One of the conclusions of the conference was that the otter population of Somogy was of key importance for the species’ survival, and the government and NGOs should work together to ensure its protection.

Parallel with the otter protection activity, SPANC developed a ‘Black Stork and White-tailed Eagle Protection Programme’. From the beginning, one of the most important tasks was to protect the breeding sites of birds and other animals threatened by extinction in Europe. Artificial nests were constructed to encourage these endangered species to breed.

As time went on, the association realised that the only way to protect breeding sites from invasive agriculture was to buy them. And it became obvious that without the support of the local villagers no successful conservation work could be carried out. In order to secure their support, SPANC knew it would have to demonstrate the value of its work as a farmer and employer.

The association turns landowner:
In 1989, as a necessary first step, the group registered as an independent legal entity – Somogy Provincial Association for Nature Conservation. Later in the year, with the help of the Austrian WWF, the Swiss Ornithological Society, Euronatur and the Ministry of Environment and Water Policy, the association was able to buy the 180 hectares of fishponds in the valley of the Boronka Creek. SPANC was the first organisation in Hungary to buy land for nature conservation purposes, so that practical conservation work could be performed.

With the purchase, the protection of some very important habitats – the fishponds between Nagybajom and Mesztegnyo – became possible. Then in 1991 the Boronka Landscape Protection Area was established and, in another first for Hungary, the ministry gave the association the task of managing it for conservation.

The association contacted the local authorities of the surrounding villages and explained the economic potential of ecotourism in the area. As a result a union of the villages surrounding the Landscape Protection Area was formed under the name of ‘Bridge over Boronka’. This was the start of the Somogy Wild Water Programme. The Boronka Landscape Protection Area now covers 8,000 hectares.

SPANC showed good political judgement, and survived political changes. In 1993,
during the privatisation of state property, and again with significant help from foreign partner organisations and individuals, the organisation bought another 300 hectares or so of ponds in Mike, Petesmalom and Csokonyavisonta.

By buying land during the process of privatisation, SPANC became the owner of the most significant wetland areas in Inner Somogy that connect Lake Balaton with the Dráva River. This chain of habitats functions as an ecological corridor between the two basins, providing the flow of genetic information needed to sustain biological diversity.
The association spoke up against the construction of a barrage and pleaded for the establishment of a Croatian-Hungarian National Park, and was successful in its lobbying.

Fish, cattle and cultural heritage:
Inner Somogy is an economically disadvantaged region, with high unemployment,
including many gypsies. The association created new jobs by started fish farming, the grazing of rare breeds of domestic animals and the operation of the central office. It also developed plans for ecotourism and rural development to provide additional income for local families.
The fish farming is extensive, and yields up to 300 kilograms of fish per hectare. The income generated is used to cover the management expenses and otherwise reinvested into nature conservation. This project illustrates that fish farming and nature conservation are not necessarily in conflict. By using nature-friendly fish farming practices, the association can manage the ponds for nature conservation and protect the habitats. Furthermore, it is able to offer work to local inhabitants and provide the local markets with healthy fish.

In 1996, to manage the meadows around Somogyfajsz that are the last remnants of the Hungarian acid sandy grasslands, SPANC bought nine Hungarian grey cattle, an
ancient domestic breed of cattle, and started its programme with them and their calves. By 2005, the herd had multiplied to 99.
SPANC has also rescued three historic buildings from dereliction: the manor-house of Somogyfajsz which was built in 1872, a 200-year-old school building in Somogyfajsz, and a century-old school building in Csokonyavisonta.
The colourful life of a herdsman has generated a rich culture of traditions and art. SPANC works to preserve the cultural heritage, and thereby also provide its guests with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the traditional shepherds’ way of life.

Sustainability means job creation:
In order to share and gain experience on site conservation and management, the
association organises international conferences on agriculture, nature conservation, ecotourism and other topics, as well as workcamps for volunteers from abroad. In parallel, by involving local people in managing the SPANC sites, the organisation has become a significant employer in the area. The natural values of its reserves, the diversity of species, the country itself, and the extensive, traditional farming offer unique programmes for the visitors. SPANC teaches visitors the values of nature as well as conservation management practices. It thus enhances its guests' knowledge of nature and nature conservation and gives them a closer understanding of the ecological problems humans cause.

The jobs it creates are important for local people, as the county of Somogy is one of the least populated parts of Hungary and from an economic standpoint is a very poor and disadvantaged region. In Somogyfajsz, 28% of the able-bodied population is unemployed. Given the fact that most of the local population is unskilled, in 1996 SPANC started the “Gypsies as land managers” project, supported by the PHARE-LIEN programme. The project had two objectives:
• sustainable land use
• improved integration of an ethnic group (gypsies) into society

Through the extensive management of the fishponds owned by the organisation, the project created new and permanent jobs for gypsies and other economically deprived families. The project has reduced the gypsies’ social isolation and improved their economic situation. The nearly 500 hectares of fishponds provide work for 15 people, while conservation and livestock management jobs on the 250 hectares of grazing land also require a steady workforce. Today there are 25 families in the area, who earn their living while helping to protect nature.

All the association’s properties belong to the NATURA 2000 network. After the finalisation of the development projects, farming and ecotourism will make the operation totally self-sustaining. SPANC has thus managed to combine ecological sustainability with responsible land management:

• In the ponds, extensive fishing provides a food base and habitat for species which are connected to the ponds. The income from the fish farming covers the expenses of the management of the area, provides employment, and is reinvested in nature conservation;

• The acid sandy grassland is managed by grazing ancient Hungarian domestic
breeds of cattle and sheep, which provides a moderate income which is also
reinvested in conservation;

• The association introduces its visitors to the natural and cultural values of its reserves. Ecotourism creates employment possibilities for the local people, adding to their interest in the protection of the nature.

For the future, the association plans to install mini-hydro and solar energy plants, not only to generate renewable power but to demonstrate to the public that nuclear energy can be replaced with environmentally friendly methods.

If you choose to ride on our Somogy Nature Trail, your money goes directly to SPANC and you are accompanied by a nature guide along the entire route. The projects are explained in detail including a slide presentation one night.

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Wild Coast Beach Trail


- On this ride all riders visit the ‘Kamanga’ community project, which is a self help development village.  Here riders are able to see and expereince traditional methods of living, food preparation and rituals such as witch doctor readings.

villagevillage

R10 per rideris donated to visit the project and take part in the cultural activities. Guests are also encouraged to buy from the craft shop and also to leave a tip of between R50 and R100 per rider.

local life local life

local life

 

- On the route riders visit a local ‘trading store’ and are shown how this works for the community.

- The local community adjacent to Trennery's Hotel overnight stop is paid R10.00 per horse per night for use of their paddocks and the local community is paid R5.00 per horse to ride through ‘The Gates’.

- At Wavecrest Hotel overnight stop donations are made to the local Church.

churchchurch

 

church church

- On the farm where the horses are based between rides, two self employment opportunities have been opened for people who live on the farm. 
One person has been allocated teh wood resource free of charge. He chops wood, mainly invasive thorn trees which need to be controlled, Wild Coast Trails then supply him with the bags to pack it into and then organize for the local shop to come and collect the chopped wood. The man takes all the money earned and is able to support a family from this income.
The second free resource supporting the local community consists of long grass harvested from the farm. The local ladies who harvest grass from the farm and bundle it for thatching use. There are several thatching companies who come around every couple of week who buy the grass from the ladies.This again creates enough income to pay for schooling for their children.

So all riders are educated about the local community, their needs, projects being undertaken to meet them and how thier horse ridnig holiday fits in. By allowing riders through their beautiful villages, rolling country side and stunning beaches communities are being developed and supported. Thus tourism gives value to their environment, ensuring that it will be valued and protected for many years to come.

If you are interested in booking a Wild Coast Trail riding holiday you can visit any of these projects and your holiday funds will support all the above projects. Any additional donations will be much appreciated and you are able to specify which projects they should support.

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