We all love travelling, but what’s even better is knowing that your travels are making a positive impact and not a negative one.
I’ve teamed up with travel bloggers from around the world to bring you some examples of unique tours that you can participate in which give back, either socially or environmentally, to the world around us.
Make informed choices when you travel and try to choose tours that are positively impacting local communities and not negatively impacting the environment. If you look hard enough and you’ll find many gems like these who provide unique travel experiences, and altruistic ones as well.
Eco Cycling Tour in Ubud Bali
When I stayed in Ubud, Bali, I took part in an Eco Cycling Tour that was absolutely amazing. We started off visiting a volcano and having a delicious local breakfast, then we went to a coffee plantation where we were able to sample different organic coffees and teas made by local farmers. After the coffee and tea tasting, we went on a mostly downhill bike tour, visiting some locals in their villages along the way. We got to see inside a traditional Balinese family compound, where multiple generations of the family live together, and play with some local children. Finally, the tour ended at the Eco Cycling company’s own organic farm, where we had a delicious buffet lunch. Their farm is run entirely by locals from the surrounding community, which gives high-quality and sustainable jobs to people living in the rural, less touristic parts of Bali.
If you are interested in taking part in the tour, which I highly recommend, visit their website to book or find more information.
Conservation Safari in South Africa
Recently, we were able to take part in a unique experience at Gondwana Game Reserve in South Africa. We all know that Africa is the continent to go to when in search of wild animals. Well we got more than that in the Western Cape. For a week we lived with the park rangers and helped them with their conservation tasks each day. This including monitoring lion activity, spotting bird species, clearing invasive trees, and keeping track of endangered species. It was incredible to go on a different type of safari experience where one is actually contributing to the conservation of Africa.
You can find our more about Gondwana’s tented eco-camp here.
Seaweed farming in Bohol Philippines
My involvement in the community of seaweed farmers in a small village on Bohol Island Philippines was my first encounter with ecotourism and learning about how, here in Bohol, seaweed farming provides a livelihood for the local people. I joined the tour to learn about seaweed, the fish cage and how ecotourism could help provide an alternative income for the community that resides here. There were no other tourists when I visited, except me and 2 other French nationals who happened to be my guests. The community had taught us how simple living should be given importance; how seaweed had given them the chance to grow their source of income, and helped to increase their awareness about protecting the ocean from pollution.
During the tour we helped the local people plant the seaweed, which takes about a month or two to grow. They prepared lunch for us, showed us proudly the white sandbar where they set out our food, and they even took us to their marine sanctuary with growing corals. I could sense their genuine love for the environment, especially when they asked for our opinion as to how they could improve their village. We had a great lunch, which of course included seaweed, and fresh grilled fish and squid. I was humbled by their friendliness, hospitality and honesty. They didn’t ask anything more from us other than the payment for the food prepared and the sanctuary fee. They were genuinely interested in showing us their culture and practices. They don’t have much here in this small village, yet they are smiling with all their heart. Your visit can make a big difference to them.
Find out more about local tours in Candijy here.
Community based tourism in Nepal
I recently went on two G adventures tours, from India to Nepal, which was their “Delhi to Kathmandu YOLO” trip and it was a wonderful trip. G adventures is a community based tour company and works closely with the community in all of its tours, we stayed primarily in hotels run by local people, ate at local restaurants, and did tours in towns run by the local people.
While I was in Pokhara, Nepal we visited an organisation called Sasane, which helps train women who have been victims of human trafficking (a huge problem in Nepal) as Paralegals. They taught us how to make Momos, made us lunch, and talked about their organisation. They used it as a way of earning money for the organisation, and to practice their English skills.
Find out more about G Adventures Delhi to Kathmandu tour here.
Eco Safari in the Bornean Rainforest
Last year I went on a Kinabatangan river three-day safari in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo with a very special tour operator, and it was truly one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I did a lot of research before going to Borneo to find the perfect company to go with, and I found out that Borneo Eco Tours is the most sustainable tour operator in the region. This is especially important in an endangered area where the palm oil industry is destroying the jungle and the animals’ habitat!
During the safari we were based at the tour operator-owned Sukau Rainforest Lodge, which was inserted in the list of “Unique Lodges of the World” by National Geographic. Each day we went on multiple safaris on electric motored boats, and we were able to spot not only orangutans, but also hornbills, crocodiles, proboscis monkeys and a herd of rare pygmy elephants with the babies! The sunsets in the jungle are something breathtaking as well. But why is the company so special? For a million reasons. The founder of the lodge changed the destiny of the land that was going to be sold to the palm oil industry, and employed all local people. The lodge is as green as possible considering it’s in the middle of the jungle: rainwater is filtered, organic waste is composted, and so on. Borneo Eco Tours has also founded a community and environmental society that has organised projects ranging from medical camps to school programs. This is just a part of what you’ll contribute to by going on this tour, and trust me, the experience of spending a few days disconnected in the jungle is truly unmissable.
You can find a list of tours on the Borneo Eco Tours website here.
Supporting education in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Don’t get me wrong I am the first person to berate slum tourism but when the opportunity to visit a not for profit school through Choice Cambodia in Phnom Penh arose, I took it. I teach politics and current affairs to high school kids and was keen to bring the textbook to life for them as well as volunteering my services as an educator. We travelled to the school via minibus, picking up a young girl on the way. She was from the feeder school community, squatters who live on makeshift houses on stilts. This young girl had completed school and was now attending hair and beauty college, the placement was found by Choice Cambodia.
On arrival of at the school, the kids were in class. We played and sang songs then came brushing teeth after lunch (we donated money for ours). Not comfortable with teaching for the ‘ankle biters’ Craig delivered clean water to the local community. He couldn’t believe how these families lived with literally nothing yet one ‘house’ had a massive sound system – priorities differ for everyone! On the drive home, we passed mansions next to slums, it was obvious that inequality exists everywhere in the world. I still show the photos from my visit to my students to help them understand the complex issue of inequality and to prove that there are some people out there who try to help these communities.
Find out about joining a tour with Choice Cambodia here.
Eco Diving in the Solomon Islands
So I am on Gizo in the beautiful Solomon Islands to try my hand at diving for the first time. I found a company called Dive Gizo who have a fantastic reputation and after spending a few days with them I find the American owners and the dive centre has become completely ingrained in the local community.
Although they had a French main Dive Master, they have trained 2-3 locals to a high dive master standard and have a team who work on their boats from servicing to piloting. They also keep it local by buying produce from the harbour markets in Gizo for the lunches they provide which means the stall owners, the fishermen and the farmers all gain benefit from the dive shop and it’s business.
Before I arrived, storms within the South Pacific and the El Nino weather shift had disrupted a massive amount of Crown of Thorns starfish from somewhere in the South Pacific to Gizo Island region. These starfish are very destructive as they feed on the coral itself and in doing so kill it before they move on, therefore marine life that rely on the coral are also affected. Since this would affect the surroundings in a big way by damaging the beauty of the coral and potentially the business they tried to get funding from the likes of WWF but unfortunately failed so the dive shop owners took things into their own hands to help solve this issue and out of the owners own pockets, a group of locals were paid cash for every Crown of Thorns they found and destroyed. Although they obviously couldn’t clear up the entire 300+ islands that make up the Solomon’s, they had made huge progress in their region by the time I left.
Find out more about diving trips with Dive Gizo here.
Have you recently gone on a responsible tour? Share your experience with us in the comments below.