Southern India vacation, small group
Description of Southern India vacation, small group
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As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we've screened this (and every) vacation so that you can travel knowing it will help support the places and people that you visit, and the planet. Read how below.
PlanetWe aim at minimizing the adverse impacts of tourist travel and maximizing its positive effects. We put a lot of thought in working with local providers, making sure that everyone involved in your trip is committed to sharing advice on how to best leave a lighter footprint. Our partner in India was awarded the CSR Committed Seal for Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility in tourism.
We are trying to keep the extra unneeded waste to a minimum in all our tours through our “bring it in, bring it out” policy for litter and rubbish such as food packaging and recycling wherever possible. We have a recycling policy in our UK and local offices and re-use or recycle the information booklets we provide to every client on arrival wherever possible. Moreover, we do not produce a glossy brochure, concentrating on a comprehensive website, and providing as much information to our travelers as possible electronically, reducing the use of paper and inks.
Our partner in India is moreover part of the Beat Plastic Pollution drive. As a first step towards this good cause, plastic in the form of water bottles has been banned within the organisation. An Aluminium Water Tumbler has been designed as a special handout for all employees to place on their work stations and use for consuming water.
On your trip we will include boat rides or city walking tours, reducing our carbon footprint where we can, and which will also give you the opportunity to meet and interact with the local people. If motorized forms are unavoidable, we make sure that vehicle sizes are as small as appropriate and proper licensing on vehicles and certifying to national emission standards are maintained.
For your tour we choose responsible resorts as much as possible, just like The Gateway Hotel Pasumalai in Madurai, part of the TAJ hotel group. TAJ puts great effort towards reducing energy, waste and water footprint while leaving a positive impact in the destinations and the communities. To help the resorts reduce the impact of daily operations, the Taj partnered with EarthCheck - the world's leading environmental management, benchmarking and certification program for the travel and tourism industry. Additional initiatives are for example the Coral Regeneration Programme aimed to increase the coral coverage near resorts and create a healthy reef ecosystem, the innovative use of plastic bottles (to make park benches at the resort for example), or the use of green power (thermal use, wind turbine generator). You can participate in certain initiatives if you wish.
Another responsible hotel is the Muthoot Cardamom County, which is the first ISO Certified four-star resort in Kerala. The architecture and landscaping of the entire Resort has been thoughtfully created in deference to the ethereal beauty of its natural surroundings. They organize carbon-neutral activities such as nature walks, jungle patrols, border hiking, bamboo rafting, tribal heritage visits or Periyar tiger trails.
We have also chosen the Trident Hotel in Cochin, part of the the reponsible Oberoi hotel group. They are committed to employing the best environmental and ecological practices in technology, equipment and operational processes. Your stay will contribute to an organisation which is using natural products and recycling items, thus ensuring proper use of the diminishing natural resources.
Culture & Building
This tour will help preserve plenty of cultural and local heritage. Part of your entrance fees go to the maintenance of important UNESCO world heritage sites and important cultural and historic sites, such as the Mahabalipuram Temples. The group of monuments at Mahabalipuram is a collection of 7th- and 8th-century CE religious monuments and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site has 400 ancient monuments and Hindu temples, including one of the largest open-air rock reliefs in the world: the Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna's Penance.
Also the Shore Temple is part of the UNESCO group of the Mahabalipuram temples. It is so named because it overlooks the shore of the Bay of Bengal and it is a structural temple, built with blocks of granite, dating from the 8th century AD. It is one of the oldest structural (versus rock-cut) stone temples of South India.
Nature & Wildlife
The trip includes natural wildlife time, nature walks, hikes and boat rides at the Periyar National Park and Periyar Lake. Zealously guarded and managed, the reserve is a repository of rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna and forms the major watershed of two important rivers of Kerala, the Periyar and Pamba. It is notable as an elephant reserve and a tiger reserve. The protected area covers an area of 925 km2. 305 km2 of the core zone was declared as the Periyar National Park in 1982. People oriented and park centered community based ecotourism is the hallmark of Periyar Tiger Reserve. Programmes are conducted by local people responsible for the surveillance of the vulnerable parts of the reserve. By taking tourists along, they are involved in the conservation of the forests of Periyar and some valuable revenue is generated for community welfare. People who once made a living by illegal operations in the forests have since become forest protectors and earn their livelihood through these programmes.
Our local partners are part of TOFT (Travel Operators for Tigers), a pioneering international collective action campaign to advocate, plan, support and fund the protection, conservation and rewilding of natural wilderness and their wild inhabitants, especially tiger habitat, through the clever and wise use of nature tourism, using better visitor guidance, more community involvement, targeted green investment and enhanced governance and monitoring.
Our tour guides receive special training in how to leave a lower impact on the nature trips and in regional conservation projects. Our guides are actively promoting nature conservation practices such as not disturbing wildlife, keeping a safe distance to wildlife, reducing production of disturbing sounds, prohibiting feeding, avoiding litter at all times, using water sparingly and not polluting with harmful detergents, avoid being intrusive when taking photographs, dressing appropriately and in subdued colours when wildlife watching, etc.
PeopleWe make sure we only work with local guides that come from the very region you are visiting. Through this trip you are hence giving back to their families and communities. Our tour guides also receive special training in how to leave a lower impact on the trips and in regional conservation projects.
A great initiative of our local partner is the use of organic, bio-degradable and recyclable jute bags, made by three women at Literacy India, providing them with a daily and stable income. They also donated an ambulance at the Amber Fort for any medical assistance around the clock, to the Amber Development Authority, and donated a Toyota Innova to the Government of Rajasthan to serve as a Tourist Assistance Force Vehicle for the outlook of tourists in Jaipur.
Furthermore our partner conduct workshops for Child Protection across India and have been awarded for its Corporate Responsibility initiatives with the PATA Gold Award for Child Protection Workshops and National Tourism Award for Responible Tourism Project- Empowerment of Women through Literacy India & Fair Trade.
While many operators pay per day or per tour, our guides receive an hourly rate which allows a fair and fruitful reward for their expertise. We provide staff with written employment contracts and fair working conditions (e.g. overtime payment, national wage requirements, no discrimination, grievance mechanisms in place and no child labour).
Furthermore we ensure that our drivers do not more than 9 hours of driving per day and are provided adequate accommodation and do not drive at night (with the exception of airport pick-ups/drop-offs). After a driving period of 4.5 h the driver must take a break of at least 45 min.
You will contribute to the Taj group, where over 7000 associates of ´Give Back´, an employee volunteer programme, invest their time in mentoring and guiding youngsters, cleaning the local neighbourhood, taking up activities in the areas of hygiene and sanitation, local education, bringing guests to local villages and supporting the preservation and promotion of local art and culture.
Through staying at the Oberoi Group hotels you will also contribute to an organisation which is conscious of its role in the community, supporting social needs and ensuring employment from within the local community. You will enjoy a place where the staff are nurtured through continuous learning and skill improvement; and are respected, heard and encouraged to do their best. The Oberoi Group is recognised as best practice for training and developing its people.
If you want to do additional shopping, we will take you to local markets where locals of that very region craft their products to help keep the money earned in that very community. When we take you to local shops or markets we change the selected shops on a rotating basis.
We ensure customer awareness by familiarizing our guests with local history, culture, religions and traditions, by informing on culturally appropriate behavior, (e.g. dress codes for religious sites, taking photographs of people, language tips, etc.).
On your trip you can live special experiences which will help keep local wisdoms and traditions alive, just like with a Puducherry market walk, witnessing the Night ceremony at the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai, or an evening performance of the special Kathakali Dance, or the Kalaripayattu martial art form of Kerala, which is regarded as the oldest and most scientific of its kind in the world. The training aims at the ultimate co-ordination of the mind and body. Feats like chaattom (jumping), ottam (running), marichil (somersault) etc. are taught, followed by the lessons in the use of weapons such as daggers, swords, spears, maces, the bow and arrow and so on. This art form is used for self-expression in dance forms, in theatre and in movies.