Before the trip begins all travelers are educated on the "Do's and Don'ts" of responsible travel and how to be an active participant in preserving local ecology and culture. And as always, group size is kept to a maximum of 12 travelers to help minimize local impact. Both our guides and our travelers are all versed in and practice the “Leave No Trace” principles . Operations for this trip are verified by the Rainforest Alliance via their program, Tour Operators Promoting Sustainability (TOPS). TOPS is a community of tour operators that have come together to help conserve threatened landscapes and provide sustainable livelihoods for the local communities where they work. By joining TOPS, tour operators commit to improving the sustainability of their own practices as well as the sustainability of their suppliers in various tourism destinations. The result: sustainability ripples down the supply chain. Hotels are inspired to operate responsibly, TOPS participants are motivated to promote sustainable tourism businesses and consumers are encouraged to visit eco-friendly destinations. We are one of a handful of North America tour operators who belong to TOPS.
We base our hotel selection on the following criteria: being locally owned and operated, built in a sustainable manner, having a desirable location, safety, cleanliness, and ranging in size from 12-20 rooms where possible. This helps to ensure small group size, which in turn helps minimize local impact. Lodges that use innovative practices to improve upon their sustainability and mitigate any environmental impacts are given special preference.
Conservation at home is as important to us as conservation in the field. Our office promotes, practices and rewards our staff for cycling and car pooling to work - winning our city-wide commuter challenge two years running. Those in big cities might be surprised to learn that only a few items like aluminum cans are recycled by the local sanitation company. Since that's not good enough for us, we pay for a private recycling service that collects all of our paper, plastic, cardboard, and cans. All of our paper is made from 100% post-consumer material and our brochures use soy-ink - an expensive but earth friendly alternative to traditional inks.
Our escorted trips use local guides and support staff exclusively. Guides’ training and background varies throughout our tours. But one thing remains consistent: their enthusiasm, professionalism, friendliness and knowledge of the regions. Many of the local guides we use hold degrees in their region's history, biology, archaeology or a related field. There is no better way to learn about a place than from the people who call that region home. Certification programs are required; many also participate in an apprenticeship before they are allowed to lead tours on their own. All guides are thoroughly researched and hand-picked by our staff or a trusted affiliate.
To further support and give back to the communities and environments where we send our travelers, we have developed a grant program. Our ongoing grant program provides funding for small, grassroots projects in the countries we visit. This past year, we were able to offer $10,000 in funding to several different groups including a reforestation and home restoration project in the Andes; a Christmas fiesta at an orphanage in Costa Rica; building supplies for a school in Guatemala made out of recycled materials; funds to dig a new well for proper plumbing and irrigation at a historic Bolivia hacienda; and first-aid and hospitality training for the community-owned Secoya lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon. By traveling with us, you help support these projects.