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15 Feb 2017
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17 Mar 2017
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15 Nov 2017
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: South Burma tour


If governments see that creating and maintaining National Parks can create revenue, then it is an incentive for them to preserve such areas and create new ones instead of short term gain from logging, plantations etc. And if local communities can see that National Parks, Forest Reserves, Wildlife Sanctuaries etc bring in revenue for local communities and employment for local people then it is an incentive for them to respect such protected areas and participate in tourism schemes. We therefore feel it is essential to incorporate as many such protected areas into our itineraries as possible – not only to show the scenery and exotic flora and fauna to visitors, but also to encourage authorities and local people to establish and take care of.

With respect to any nature based activities: hiking, snorkelling, bird watching etc. not only do smaller groups have less negative impact on the natural environment but, as above, it is easier for a guide to transmit instructions and knowledge. There is also far more chance of spotting birds and wildlife without disturbing them with lower numbers of people.


This tour includes destinations not usually included in Burma itineraries such as the ancient Mon capital of Pegu, now Bago, Moulmein, (Mawlamlyine), Hpa-An. Great care has been made to insure that a maximum of expenditure goes to privately owned and local companies, as well as actively endeavouring to avoid places or companies that may be privately owned but have close contacts with the government.. Indeed certain state-run museums and sites we judged non-essential have been deliberately omitted from out itinerary.

The Mon villages see very few tourists but the villagers will be happy to show how they make cane walking sticks, the typical Burmese style bamboo hats, slate blackboards and even back garden rubber band making. Use of local forms of transport where practical such as cyclos/rickshaws and ox or horse carts. Visits to hill-tribe villages ususally incorporate visits to local schools where we are looking at possibilities of material assistance in terms of books, pencils, sports items etc

All our group sizes are genuinely small, with scheduled tours usually limited to just 12 persons. Experience has shown that this offers major benefits in various areas, and is integral to our concept of responsible tourism.

- Socially, small numbers create a much more cohesive group with far less chance of cliques or 'groups within groups' – it's often been described by those who travel with us as "more like a group of friends and not like a tour group at all".
- Service is inevitably improved with a high ratio of guides and tour-leaders to customers and we are able to offer a more personalized service. Information and directions are passed on far more easily and a high level of flexibility can be maintained, which isn't possible with larger groups.
- Transport; we are able to use smaller types of transport as well as making public transport more practical. i.e. pick–up trucks and minibuses instead of large coaches. This has practical as well as ecological benefits
- Restaurants and Accommodation; we use smaller, locally run restaurants and accommodation that larger groups wouldn't be able to do - again another essential element of our tours.
- Interacting with local people; another significant advantage is when visiting local people, villages, tribal groups and so on, a smaller group has far less impact, is far less intimidating and there's a much greater chance of a warm welcome and opportunities for genuine interaction. (No villager is going to invite 16 people in for a cup of tea!)

Providing a balance between the well known 'must sees' and the off the beaten track 'best kept secrets' is what we're all about. Not only taking in the famous sites and well known destinations, but also the rarely visited ones not usually included in tour itineraries, but which we believe provides a more authentic insight into the countries visited.

Not only does this mean you will visit sites which are more remote and which most people don't get to see, but also that the people living in these less frequented areas will also get to benefit from the tourist dollar. The vast majority of tourism in SE Asian countries only touches a few key sites: e.g. in Burma only a very small percentage of visitors get to see anything other than Bagan, Inle, Mandalay and Shwedagon.

People in other parts of Burma seeking work would converge exclusively on those destinations, leading to social problems and depopulation in these rural areas and creating a serious imbalance in wealth between regions.

Local food and meals are an essential part of any culture therefore an essential part of enjoying new and different cultures is discovering their traditional food. That's why on all our tours, meals are, as much as possible, based on authentic regional food eaten in local restaurants, and whenever possible, we avoid eating in hotels and flashy tourist establishments. We believe that the food eaten in a bustling night market is going to be the real McCoy!

This means better and more authentic food, and also means our custom is going directly to small cafés and market vendors rather than big businesses - and again provides more opportunities for interaction with local people.

By eating in this manner we are encouraging local people to offer local alternatives to visitors and indeed to increase pride in their traditional cuisines. It's a sad state of affairs, and perhaps a reflection on many tourists, that in many areas, local people are of the impression that all foreigners want to eat pizzas and drink Nescafe!? It's nice to show the locals otherwise.

By explaining our methods and the reasons behind them, local agents, guides and hotels are encouraged by us to adopt further responsible tourism practices themselves. Our guides and drivers are provided with additional training in this respect. We carefully select the places we visit to ensure that none are involved in exploitative practices of its people or the environment.

Providing suitable, relevant information for our customers; to help them gain a wider understanding of our style of tourism that focuses on learning, genuine interaction with the local communities, reciprocity and cultural exchange processes. To be aware of the potential impact of tourism on the local society, culture and environment, and to behave and dress appropriately with a respect and appreciation for local customs, mores and traditions and a respect for the ecology of areas visited. bringing associated economic benefits to those areas.

Our guides and leaders thus facilitate communication of our values to both travelers and local communities, educating them in sustainable tourism practices

Reviews of South Burma tour

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 26 Feb 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

We enjoyed traveling by boat-very relaxing.
Our guide arranged for us to visit a local school which was very enjoyable. It would have been lovely to have known about this opportunity in advance as we would like to have taken some gifts.
The hotel in Mawlamlyine was wonderful with staff who couldn't do enough for us.

The arrival- to get to a crowded airport with no idea of language or anything was disconcerting and it would have been useful to have a taxi waiting for us; also when we got to the hotel there was no message from our tour guide leader- such as a message on the hotel notice board to say-' welcome to Yangon, I look forward to seeing you at 4pm'

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

This is not a vacation for the fainthearted. Standards of accommodation etc vary and facilities such as toilets can be very poor! Visits to pagodas often involve large flights of steps and must be visited in bare feet!
Accommodation varied considerably with most hotels being rather basic except the Ngwe Moe at Mawlamlyine which was excellent.
The hotel in Yangon had nice rooms but the catering was very poor. The dining room was rat infested and all the food at breakfast including rice was cold when we arrived and was then slowly being heated-a recipe for disaster! Where hotels were rather basic (such as Golden Rock where my mattress was only half covered by the sheet) there was always a better hotel nearby and we
couldn't help wondering why particular hotels had been chosen. The Journey on the last day was very long. The guide said that we would get back to Yangon by early afternoon, whereas actually it was just after 4pm. It was a very long run.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

There is a narrow line between what is generally acceptable standards and ensuring local businesses are supported. The 2 very local 'cafes' where we had lunch were rather basic as far as food and toilet facilities. We were happy to use a local taxi to get to and from the airport but I do feel that arriving in a strange country often very weary from traveling, it is a great relief to be met by someone who can speak the language.
Excellent local driver.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was a very interesting experience. The range of activities were rather limited. For example it would have been wonderful to have experienced some of the music and dance of the country. Our guide was extremely well informed and had a reasonable grasp of English.
More flexibility with catering would have been appreciated. Eg we did not always want a cooked lunch but the cost of this was sometimes included in our itinery. It would have been nice if our dinner could have been included on the days when we didn't want much at lunch time.
We had a great time and enjoyed the individual attention which was able to be given as there were only 3 in the group.

Read the operator's response here:

So glad you enjoyed your vacation Jill and we hope you will be traveling again with us
in the future - glad you appreciated what an off the beaten track experience this tour
is. We'd love to be able to offer experiences like the visit to the local school on
the itinerary but regrettably we can't publish something which can't be guaranteed.
The tour leaders always try and incorporate anything that will be of interest and
involve the local communities but these are often impromptu. Sorry not all hotels
appeared to be the best in the area but they are selected in accordance with our
responsible travel policy and we do our utmost to ensure that no government owned or
supported hotels are used, this does limit our choice, but hopefully our customers
support this decision. Thanks for your comment on catering, we will have a look at
this again. People's wishes tend to be individual and we try our best to offer choice
when there's a free day and plenty of places to choose from, however, for logistical
reasons these have to be fixed in advance.

Reviewed on 23 Apr 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Visiting the golden rock Pagoda and mixing with local vacation.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Go with an open mind, it's a vacation for travelers not vacation makers.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

It benefitted local people because we used local hotels and visited local markets and ate with local people in their cafés.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A great experience.

Read the operator's response here:

Thanks for your comments Ruth. Always good to hear when people enjoy a new itinerary and destination and Southern Burma is certainly that. We look forward to welcoming you back on a future tour.

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