Responsible tourism: Indonesia vacation, on the trail of the Dragons
This trip focusses on the cultural and natural wonders of a little visited part of the Indonesian archipelago, finishing with a visit to Komodo National Park. This consists of two islands , Komodo and Rinca, which provide a sanctuary for the Komodo Dragon. Our visit here includes entrance fees which are vital to the preservation of this important habitat and ensure that these giant lizards are seen as having economic benefit to the local communities, rather than just being a threat to their livestock. As with national parks all over the world, the involvement of the community here, in terms of hiring local guides and rangers, means that they have an economic stake in ensuring the continued existence of the komodo dragons. Our travelers are carefully briefed by local guides as to appropriate behaviour when close to these animals, so as not to unnecessarily disturb them – but also for reasons of safety.
The seas around Indonesia are home to some of the world’s most impressive marine life and we include opportunities on this trip to snorkel and explore the ocean world. Travelers are given guidelines on how to conduct themselves in the water and to avoid damaging the reefs – these are very fragile ecosystems that can easily be degraded by careless behaviour, and we do our best to ensure that we do not contribute to this.
In conjunction with our local partner we work with the guesthouses and hotels, to try to implement best practice with regards to environmental policies – this includes advising them on proper disposal waste and conserving energy. Many of these places are relatively new to tourism and we hope that by instilling these values from the start, we can make a small difference in the environmental impact of tourism upon this part of Indonesia.
We also visit a number of traditional villages and communities on this tour, from the Buginese villages around Maumere to the villages of the Ngada around Bajawa. We try to be as sensitive as possible to local communities when we visit – the villages that we stop at have usually been selected after consultation with village elders – some villages are happy to receive tourists and others are not, so we make sure that our presence will be welcomed. Where appropriate we will also make a gift to the village elders or community leaders – we do not feel that it is fair just to visit and for the community to receive nothing in return. However we also recognise the dangers in ‘paying’ to visit a village, and so will bring something that the community needs or will appreciate – this can be traditional gifts of tea, for example. We discourage travelers from giving pens, sweets etc to children and ask that they donate, via their guide, to the community as a whole.
We will often also employ the services of a local person from the community to show us around the village, which not only leads to great insights into traditional cultures but ensures that they gain financially from our presence. Where applicable we also encourage our travelers to spend money in the villages, perhaps at a village ‘shop’ for some cold drinks or buying local handicrafts.
Some villages are more traditional than others, and we brief travelers appropriately to ensure that they do not offend any local sensibilities or transgress any taboos.
We exclude meals on this trip where appropriate (ie. where people have a choice as to where to eat) and encourage our travelers to eat in local restaurants rather than the hotels, meaning that a greater variety of businesses have the chance to earn from tourism.