Responsible tourism: Ladakh & Kashmir vacation, India
This tour travels through some very remote regions, many of which have barely been touched by the presence of humans, and we strongly believe in maintaining their pristine nature. We strive to ensure that we leave these areas as we find them and our team have been trained in strict no litter policies, meaning that we take all refuse to either be recycled or properly disposed of in nearby towns. When exploring the landscape on foot we make sure that we stick to whatever tracks there may be, and when driving we stick to the roads so as not to degrade the landscape. Much of this region is a high altitude desert which means that even biodegradable material such as orange skins, banana peel etc can take a very long time to degrade; for this reason we are also strict about ensuring that this is properly disposed of – unless it can be fed to nearby goats!
In some areas visited on this trip we take the opportunity to hike through the region’s stunning landscapes. We are careful about sticking to whatever paths there may be, as Ladakh’s environment can be quite fragile.
In conjunction with our local team we work with the guesthouses and hotels to help them to implement best practice in terms of environmental issues, from energy conservation to waste disposal. We also help to educate local guides and drivers about how not to negatively impact upon the areas visited. Western norms with regards to this can be quite different from local concepts, so this can be a challenge but we are keen to play our part in the development of environmentally sensitive tourism within this region.
As with many of the trips that we offer, this tour has a strong focus on local culture and different ethnic groups. Where possible we try to ensure that local people benefit from our presence. This trip includes some nights staying in locally run guesthouses, which provide employment for people from the remote communities we travel through, often in areas where little alternative for employment exists. We do this in Padum in Zanskar, an isolated region that is cut off from the rest of India for much of the year, as well as in the Nubra Valley.
The fact that some of these areas are relatively isolated means that it is important to behave appropriately. We do not wish to change the traditions of the people that live here – which can often be a result of mass tourism, as people become more exposed to other ways of life. We operate just one group tour and a small number of private departures here, trying to balance the financial benefits of tourism with avoiding some of its negative effects.
We meet many different ethnic groups on this trip, all with their particular sets of customs. We are careful to ensure that we do not break any local taboos, and travelers are briefed on appropriate behaviour when visiting such groups. This is particularly relevant in the monasteries that we visit – there are strong codes of behaviour here and Buddhist principles are deeply revered, so our travelers are explained how to behave respectfully.
We visit a number of sites and monuments on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources; the entrance fees that we include help to maintain the heritage of this country for future generations – not just western travelers but more importantly to local people to whom they have far more cultural and historical significance. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the country.
Where possible we encourage our travelers to spend their money with local businesses; for this reason we do not include meals where it is feasible to eat outside of the hotels, in order that local restaurants are able to benefit from the presence of tourism, rather than the income being channelled just to the hotel.