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Responsible tourism: Inca Trail trek in Peru
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. During the hike, all garbage and waste is packed out. Our porters and cooks for our Peruvian treks come from the Cachiccata community and we have a long history with the people of this community. Through our involvement in Peru’s Cachiccata community, we have also funded a waste management program to help educate and train our porters. Management of solid waste is a difficult issue in the Andes where there are few facilities to deal with waste discarded by locals and tourists.
Conservation at home is as important to us as conservation in the field. Our office promotes 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.
We believe it is critical that local people be made active partners in developing a local tourism industry and driving conservation efforts. Money generated by tourism should stay in and directly benefit the community. This means hiring local guides, staying in locally owned hotels, and using the local transportation infrastructure.
The philosophy carries over to our successful micro-grant program, that provides funding for small, grassroots projects in the countries we visit. In Peru, we have awarded grants to reforestation projects, operations at a women's shelter, reconstruction of buildings, village irrigation systems, sanitation systems, and a conservation of traditional handicraft techniques. By traveling with us, you help to fund such projects. 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. Certification programs are required; many also participate in an apprenticeship before they are allowed to lead tours on their own. Our Peruvian guides speak English, Spanish and Quechua. All guides are thoroughly researched and hand-picked by our staff or a trusted affiliate. Both our guides and our travelers are all versed in the “Leave No Trace” principles.
As mention above, our porters and cooks for our Peruvian treks come from the Cachiccata community. Most of Cachiccata’s inhabitants are subsistence farmers and many augment their income by working as cooks and porters on the Inca Trail and other routes in the area. We have hand a long-standing relationship with this community and have joined them in a number of service projects. This includes native tree planting, community clean-ups, home restoration projects and funding for a new water pump. The water pump was requested by the community to replace an irrigation system that was destroyed by severe flooding. We have also funded a waste management program to help educate and train our porters. Management of solid waste is a difficult issue in the Andes where there are few facilities to deal with waste discarded by locals and tourists.
The water pump is supplying water to 200 agriculture hectares which belong to 60 families – their corn corps are are dependent on the water pump. There are an average of 3 kids per household; 120 adults, 130 children. It includes 3 hectares of the local school. The community of Cachiccata and Ollantaytambo Municipality are caring and maintaining the trees planted in the reforestation program. The water pump funded by our grant helps to irrigate it during the dry season.