Use your legs to explore foreign countries, guided by this renowned eco-tourism company.
Sustainable tourism may sound like an oxymoron, especially if it involves flying to a destination. But exploring the planet is an activity intrinsic to being human and, as wasteful as it may be in its modern-day form, it is unlikely to stop anytime soon. What we can do, though, is look for better ways of travelling upon arrival in a foreign place.
This is the goal of a privately owned Australian tour company called Intrepid Travel. The company, which has signed on to the UN Global Compact for sustainability, has made a name for itself as an environmental leader in the tourism industry for a number of reasons. Most notably, it runs more than 1,000 carbon neutral group tours annually, the emissions of which are offset through investment in renewable energy projects worldwide. (Its efforts were recognized by the New York Times as part of a feature on the status of sustainable tourism.)
Especially interesting is the company's emphasis on tours that are low impact by design. These include fewer flights within tours, an emphasis on using local transportation methods, and the prioritization of local services, such as eating at restaurants serving locally-sourced food and hiring guides and leaders from the regions being explored.
Intrepid is now advertising a number of "human-powered experiences," which is a fun way of describing walking, trekking, cycling, and camping tours. These trips are green travel at its best, relying on one's body to get from point A to point B, and an excellent example of the kind of 'slow travel' we should all be striving to embrace. There are several wonderful-sounding itineraries on the Intrepid Travel website:
1) South Africa Walking Expedition: Kruger Walking Safari
This trip takes you into the wilderness of Kruger National Park, outside Johannesburg, on foot.
"While safaris are notorious for sitting during long days in a 4x4 truck to spot animals, this experience takes travellers out of the truck and onto their feet to explore the northernmost reaches of Kruger on multiple walking safaris led by a knowledgeable guide. The trip also includes a bicycle tour of the historic Soweto neighborhood of Johannesburg (in place of a bus tour), and four nights of camping near the banks of the Luvuvhu River, where there is limited power and no running water."
2) Djibouti Expedition: Footsteps of the Afar
Africa can seem like a tough nut to crack, in terms of travel; it is huge and intimidating. That's why choosing a single fascinating destination and taking a tour to explore it makes it more manageable. This 11-day mix of hiking and snorkelling through Djibouti will show you everything from whale sharks to volcanoes to one of the saltiest lakes on Earth.
3) Cycle Sri Lanka
Intrepid offers a number of cycling tours on four continents, but this one in Sri Lanka comes highly rated. Bicycles slow everything down in a most wonderful way; they allow you to see the scenery, interact with locals, feel the climate, and burn off the delicious spicy feasts you're sure to eat.
4) Turkey: Hike, Bike & Kayak
A 12-day expedition will take you on a bicycle around Lake Gokova and into the thermal mud baths, following a kayak trip over a sunken Byzantine city in the Mediterranean, and numerous hikes ranging from 3 to 14 km that include the Gallipoli Battlefields. There is some travel on public buses, which surprisingly come with WiFi and apparently serve coffee and cake.
Visit the Intrepid Travel website for many more tour options.