Ocean Sole Africa


Tour De Force

Six NGOs in East Africa that connect travelers with unique experiences and opportunities to make an impact.
By Colleen Curtis

Once people are here, they understand how tourism makes a direct contribution to changing Africans’ lives,” says Roar Africa’s Deborah Calmeyer, “and they want to be a part of that. It’s an authentic, emotional experience that shows how vital a visit to this continent really is.” These NGOs in East Africa connect travelers with unique experiences and opportunities to make an impact.


Africa Foundation has partnered with andBeyond to facilitate the socioeconomic development of the communities closest to, and in some cases sharing, the land where they hold concessions. Guests at any of their 29 camps and lodges across the continent can arrange a visit to local schools or villages, where they can meet the people whose lives are directly impacted by their tourism dollars, through education, employment, and health care. Such interactions have led to guests funding school kitchens and dorms. One recent expert fit an elderly Maasai warrior with a life-changing hearing aid on the spot. africafoundation.org

The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, aka “Chimp Island,” is home to 50 chimpanzees who can’t return to the wild. Visitors are confined to one small area in the forest, while the chimps wander freely, emerging twice a day for feedings that coincide with scheduled daily visits. There’s also a three-day kids camp and an immersive four-week volunteer program. ngambaisland.org


The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) has successfully raised 244 infant elephants and reintegrated 156 orphans back into wild herds in Tsavo, Kenya. Visitors can stop by the project outside Nairobi to watch baby ellies (sometimes as many as 15) enjoy their daily mud bath and midday feed. Pro tip: There is a second, smaller interaction most days for those who are “fostering” one or more of the orphans. sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

Ocean Sole Africa creates colorful products from the tons of recycled flip-flops that are collected off Kenya’s beaches and waterways every year. Visit their Nairobi workshop (down the road from SWT) and meet the artists working with this social enterprise that redirects profits from making art out of ocean pollution into conservation entrepreneurship. oceansoleafrica.com


Shanga is the Kiswahili word for beads, and this workshop, located in the Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania, employs more than 65 people, a majority of whom have a wide range of disabilities, to create products via traditional arts like weaving, glass blowing, papermaking, metalwork, and of course, beading. Recycled materials are used wherever possible. shanga.org

The Plaster House believes no child should live with a treatable disability, and for 11 years the NGO’s groundbreaking work has provided a healthy, supportive place to recover for local children who undergo reconstructive surgery—for disabilities including clubfoot, cleft palate, and burns. Families who want to experience solution-based philanthropy can visit or even volunteer to play soccer or do puzzles and crafts with the kids who are recovering. theplasterhouse.org

Instagram Facebook Twitter Youtube