Baobabs, beaches & Lemurs vacation in Madagascar

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Baobabs, beaches & Lemurs vacation in Madagascar

Environment

The company that organises this vacation is a multi-award-winning responsible travel company. They try to ensure that nothing they do at home (in UK) or abroad compromises the environment or wildlife or exploits people. They believe in ensuring that travelers are well-informed, as an informed traveler tend to be a more respectful and sensitive traveler. They also believe in giving back to the country, people wildlife and environments which are affected by tourism.

Vakona Forest Lodge has a private reserve opened in 1996. It includes both a reserve for Nile crocodiles living in Madagascar, and “islets” where several species of lemurs now live freely including about 20 Vari lemurs (Varecia variegata) that had lived in captivity in private homes and which have be taken in by the reserve. They were mostly in poor health following their captivity in cramped cages. Today, the Vakona Reserve is working on a conservation programmed for endangered species in association with the Ministry of Water and Forests of Madagascar, with the aim of making them reproduce in their eco-system safely.

Our lodges use solar powered water heaters where ever possible, ensure solid waste sorting and composting is done on site and use sumps to filter liquid waste before discharging to sewers. Grey water is used in the lodge grounds where possible. Biodegradable cleaning products are bought and used as much as possible. There is also a strong sense that plastics usage should be eliminated. The lodges and hotels we work with prefer to use no plastic packaging, replacing them with paper and cartons or baskets of local materials for the transport of all their purchases.

The UK head office has a good policy of recycling, reducing and re-using (electricity, paper, plastic etc). They also buy only fair-trade goods such as tea, coffee, and use biodegradable detergents etc. They also make a point of buying only top eco-rated equipment (e.g. monitors).

Community

Our lodges and hotels on this itinerary all support their local villages. They employ people from the local villages, buy fruit, vegetable and fish, and work with the communities to provide experiences for guests that show the culture of the island.

Each of the lodges supports the local schools in their areas with equipment and buildings. They also are involved in the support of the medical teams in their communities and hospitals, providing funding for training, equipment, new beds, and clinics in villages. They support facilities for disadvantaged children as well as mothers and young women in difficult situations. Hospitality training programmes are in place offering disadvantaged local students the opportunity of a career path away from the land or sea.

In terms of information, all travelers are given guidelines on Traveling with Respect, which includes advice on cultural aspects of your travels as well as protecting the environment. For any community-owned or run project, they also have a Community Tourism Information sheet for travelers to help explain how to get the best from the experience, and what to expect (good and bad). For trekkers, the company have a Porter Policy in place, a copy of which is given to clients. They are also have a Responsible Wildlife Viewing guide too. For anything more specific, e.g. rules about visiting gorillas, this information is also given to clients. In addition, they offer more information about the native people and cultures in a destination country, which all adds to a traveler being more aware.

The company works with partners on the ground in each destination, and only uses local guides. They also primarily promote locally-owned services (hotels etc). They have eco-rated about 300 properties worldwide which they work with closely, so they are very clear which accommodations have good environmental and social responsibility credentials. This information is used to ensure that any traveler wanting to ensure they are really making a difference, can choose between one property and another on eco-issues.

They also promote community-owned projects and services where applicable and possible. Indeed, they were instrumental in setting up two community-owned ventures in Tanzania and Peru.

The company backs a charity with funds and administration. This is a registered UK charity whose principle aim is to relieve the poverty of indigenous communities in areas outside of the UK which are affected by tourism. The charity backs poverty alleviation, education, cultural preservation and conservation projects within these regions. It has backed schools, clinics, micro-business projects and more. It is a charity we encourage our travelers to donate to if they would like to give something back.

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