Low Impact Transportation: India has lots of options for getting around making less of an impact. We always try to use transport that creates fewer emissions. We will take the train, cycle-rickshaw, auto-rickshaw, and canoe!. The train can certainly be counted as one of the marvels of modern India, and no visit is complete without at least one train trip. We take a hundred year old steam train from Coonoor to Ooty where you can enjoy the breath taking views of the Nilgiri mountains. Mamallapuram is a small town with all the interesting spots like monuments, cave temples, stone workshops, seafood restaurants, and beautiful beach. So the bicycle ride in the town is one of the highlights of the tour. Riding one of the ubiquitous cycle-rickshaws is another experience in itself, not to mention taking local buses – always an adventure. Getting around as the locals do not only allows you to experience the culture on a deeper level, but the same way it is at home, using public transport is the most sustainable way to go – after walking and cycling of course!
Wildlife Sanctuaries: Mudumalai or "Ancient Hill Range" is situated at the base of the Nilgiri Hills. The sanctuary provides one of the most important refuges for the elephant and bison in India. The park encompasses some 320 sq kms of undulating terrain and varrying vegetation. There is a rich diversity of wildlife within the sanctaury including Nilgiri tahr, sambar, tiger, spotted deer, and flying squirrel. And more than 120 species of birds, including heron, stork, egret, kite, falcon, peafowl, woodpecker, drongo and the warbler will keep the keen bird watchers happy. We spend part of the afternoon on a short safari spotting the variety of wildlife within the park.
We also visit one of the few habitats remaining for wild tigers in India (and indeed, the world), Periyar, also known as Thekkady. It is nestled in the high ranges of Western Ghats in Kerala, part of Project Tiger, a wildlife conservation project designed to protect Royal Bengal Tigers from extinction. Set high in the mountains of the Western Ghats, about 100kms from the Backwaters, this protected area covers 777 sq kms, out of which a 350 sq km part of the core zone was made into the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. Famous for its picturesque lake and of course tiger (which number about 40), the park is also home to 62 different kinds of mammal. National parks and private reserves protect the world’s last remaining large tracts of natural forest, wildlife refuge and the planet’s biodiversity. Visiting national parks is an important way to contribute to conservation because entrance fees are the core method of funding many parks, from maintenance to security and protection from poaching. Visitors help the parks to pay staff and keep the park protected.
Support World Heritage: On this trip there are numerous opportunities to visit important heritage sites on foot or by bicycle such as 7th century Shore Temple, and the famous temple cities of Thanjavur and Tiruchirapalli, among others. Celebrating world heritage is an important way to participate in sustainable tourism. World heritage sites are designated for protection so that all the world’s people can share in these fascinating and historical wonders for generations to come.
Appreciating Local Culture: India is a country that is very different to anything you will have experienced before. Although this means it is not the easiest place to travel, this is also what makes it so special. Pollution, poverty and the crowds can result in initial culture shock but should be seen as an exciting new challenge. During our time here we have come to love this large and wonderfully different country but we know that we should always expect to encounter some difficulties along the way.
In India there are very different attitudes to time keeping, public cleanliness, privacy and service. Trains will sometimes be late, plumbing can sometimes be temperamental and power will often just vanish. Optimistic menus turn out to have only one dish available and everyone, just everyone, will want to know your name. If you are able to travel with a lot of patience and a healthy sense of humour, then we know that you - like us - will be captivated by what India has to offer.
Supporting Local Businesses: There are a multitude of opportunities to support local businesses on this trip. From the colourful markets to the bustling food stalls and cafes amid craft bazaars, the choices for eating and handicrafts are endless and the money is staying in the local economy - a vital way for tourism to make a positive impact. Activities that take you to markets, locally-owned restaurants, and villages are vital to the local peoples’ ability to truly benefit from tourism. Our style of trip, traveling and eating with the locals, puts you right at the heart of Indian culture. Vegetarian? You’ve found the right place, India is a haven for vegetarian food, and a delicious way to tread lightly on the planet. Be sure to try one of Madurai’s popular sweet carumbu (sugarcane juice) drinks.
Homestay with a local family: Homestays are one of the best ways for tourism to benefit local people. Your overnight visit to their home supplements income which is often much needed in rural areas in countries like India. Accommodation here is on a multi-share basis and all the families live within a few hundred meters of each other, with at least one person in the family speaking some English. Food is traditional Keralan home cooking and is superb.
We explore the island with a local person on foot and by canoe to observe the different facets of village life - a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under the palm trees, we weave in between the rice fields that cover the island and learn more about the lifestyles of the locals. Just before sunset we jump on a small country boat and journey along with the locals to enjoy sunset on the winding backwaters.
As a Tour Operator
This company has operated on responsible tourism values since its inception. From an environmental perspective, our initiatives extend from our company offices to our tours. Our head office and stores are powered by a local green energy provider, we encourage cleaner transportation methods for staff, and purchase all supplies from a local green business supplier. Our office is as paperless as possible and our brochures use 100% PEFC certified sustainable paper. We offset emissions from all corporate flights and our marine vessel, and encourage our travelers to do so by providing an online platform through Sustainable Travel International.
Supporting communties is and always has been at the heart of our tours. We provide business opportunities to local people by employing local guides and tour operators. The majority of accommodation used on our tours are small-scale, locally-owned hotels. Our tours mainly use public transportation wherever possible and are small in size to keep our impact on fragile sites and communities as minimal as possible. We monitor the sustainability of our tours through traveler evaluations in order to allow for continuous improvement. We support the local economy and business initiatives by visiting locally-owned shops, restaurants, and markets on our tours.
Many tours incorporate community projects as a way of supplementing community income and supporting community development projects. In 2003 we founded a non-profit organization as a way for our travelers and our company to give back to the people and places we visit. We develop community projects around the world in the areas of health, education, small business development and environmental conservation. Funds are raised through traveler donations and fundraising. The company pays all administration fees which means that 100% of each individual donation goes directly to the community projects. Each year, we continue to support and develop new partnerships with more community projects and community-based tourism initiatives worldwide, in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
Tour leaders provide travelers with information about local environmental issues in their respective regions, and provide suggestions of how we can best protect the local environment and culture. To reduce the amount of waste created on tours, tour leaders also encourage travelers to use refillable water bottles instead of disposable plastic, cotton tote bags, reusable batteries, etc. We also include destination-specific information in our guidebooks, which are provided to each traveler including information particular to the local culture and environment and tips on how to be a responsible traveler.