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Sustainable tourism - Naturetrek Wildlife Holidays
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NATURETREK & SUSTAINABLE TOURISM

Polar Bear in the fragile Arctic environment

Polar Bear in the fragile Arctic environment

At Naturetrek we have achieved AITO’s top 5-star Sustainable Tourism accreditation and have always tried to operate our holidays in an environmentally responsible manner, striving to contribute to wildlife conservation and habitat preservation at all times. Further details of our Sustainable Tourism Policy can be found in the paragraphs below. The policy catalogues our contribution (both financial and operational) to sustainable tourism and conservation, states our own ‘ST’ policy, and suggests guidelines for you – the tourist – to follow whilst on holiday. We encourage you to take the time to read it carefully!

Ours is a tour company run by naturalists for naturalists. All of us have a passion for conservation, wildlife and wildlife tourism; the need to ensure the long-term protection of species and habitats is an important part of our lives. In the national parks and wildlife regions that we visit, we support small, locally owned hotels and lodges and the local guides and other staff in these areas. With your help and support they will flourish.


To fly or not to fly? Make travel count!

There is no doubt that Wildlife Travel is responsible for its share of damaging carbon emissions. It does, however, provide substantial benefits which, we would argue as conservationists, make a strong case for wildlife enthusiasts to continue travelling. After all, if we are not bringing our custom to the national parks, wildlife reserves and the wilderness regions of the world, many of these areas, especially in developing countries, will simply disappear … and with them their wildlife. Not only does wildlife tourism support rural communities in impoverished nations, but it supports them in the ability to preserve their natural and wildlife heritage for their future generations who, hopefully, may have the wealth and leisure opportunities that we have today to enjoy their natural heritage. Staying at home may slow the rise in the world’s temperatures and sea levels, but it will have little value if we lose the best of the world’s national parks and their wildlife in the process!

Further, it is the climatologists, conservationists and other scientists on whom we are reliant in putting pressure on governments to act, yet from where do these experts draw their facts and inspiration? From travelling! It is through travelling that we learn about, and learn to love, our environment. Stop travelling, and who is going to care? Whilst global warming does threaten us and the world’s wildlife, there may also be bonuses. Global warming gives the world an incentive and an urgency to plant trees and, above all, to save our rainforests from the logging and the fires that ravage and, especially in the case of the latter, add hugely to carbon emissions – moves that can only benefit our wildlife and their habitats. So, we would argue, if you are choosing to travel, ‘make travel count’, and make sure that you, and your travel company, are off-setting all emissions that relate to your journey. Better still, if you off-set over and above your current journey’s emissions, you’ll be contributing to the off-setting of emissions resulting from previous journeys you have made!

Sustainable Tourism – The Way Forward

Tourism is the second largest, and perhaps the most rapidly growing, industry in the world … and wildlife holidays, the area in which Naturetrek has specialised since 1986, is one of the fastest growing components of it. Such rapid development of our industry has rightly raised concerns and recognition that tourism can adversely affect the culture and natural environment of the host country. However, the assessment and reduction of these negative impacts is complex since there are so many countries and operators involved, and such a wide range of tourist requirements on the one hand, and local needs on the other. There is also a need to appreciate the great many positive benefits that tourism can bring, particularly to developing countries and to local/rural communities, and for tour operators to focus on, and maximise these.

When developed in an appropriate and responsible way, tourism not only has a very positive contribution to make to local economies, but also greatly benefits the conservation, not just of wildlife, but of habitats, landscapes, monuments, towns, villages and cities! For example, by taking tourists to a country to see its wildlife, not only are a range of local employment opportunities created in an area that might otherwise be bypassed by tourism, but the association between protecting wildlife and a healthier economy indicates to both local people and national government alike the importance of conservation, and the great potential of national parks and wildlife reserves.

Clearly there is an obvious need for all of us working in the industry to ensure that such positive aspects of tourism are developed, and all negative aspects reduced or avoided, by developing a ‘sustainable’ approach to tourism which contributes to the long-term future of a country’s wildlife, people, culture and heritage. As part of this growing concern, today’s tour operators are increasingly recognising the need for greater transparency and accountability which can be aided by the provision of a company statement or policy on Sustainable Tourism. To date, there are no universal standards for a Sustainable Tourism Policy although there are several bodies (including the United Nations, World Travel Organisation, WWF, Tourism Concern, CERT, Tearfund and AiTO) which offer advice to travellers and guidelines for tour operators. It is ultimately up to each individual tour operator to design a Sustainable Tourism Policy of their own that sets attainable standards for staff and clients alike.

Naturetrek regards the development of a detailed Sustainable Tourism Policy by every tour operator as an essential step forward. The following information details our contribution to, and involvement with, the movement towards Sustainable Tourism to date. You will find below, firstly Naturetrek’s contribution and policy, and secondly, our recommendations to you, our customer (the tourist!).

Sustainable Tourism – Our Policy

Naturetrek’s founders, staff and tour leaders are naturalists and conservationists turned tour operators, and sustainable tourism has been a key part of Naturetrek’s ethos since the company began in 1986. We are, of course, utterly dependent for the success of our business on the well-being of the world’s wildlife… and the habitats, reserves and national parks that protect it. Thus, our aims are:

  • To focus, particularly, on visiting national parks, wildlife reserves and wilderness areas which, by and large, do not benefit from the rewards of mass market tourism.
  • To minimise environmental impact by exploring in small groups and, as much as possible, on foot.
  • To use, wherever possible, local guides… and to train them to the highest standards expected by modern-day wildlife tourists.
  • To involve local communities wherever possible in our operations, and to ensure that they receive a fair share of the benefits of wildlife tourism.
  • To use, wherever possible, small, locally owned, family-run accommodation, and similarly owned and operated specialist local agents/ground operators with a wildlife/conservation bias and sympathy.
  • To purchase, where possible, local produce.
  • To develop and commit to long-term plans to visit rural areas and support the local communities.
  • To contribute financially to projects local to the areas that we visit (ie. schools, hospitals, conservation projects, etc.)
  • To educate the local people on the importance and long-term benefits of wildlife tourism.
  • To keep our clients well-informed on aspects of wildlife management and conservation.
  • To work with British and overseas conservation organisations to develop new wildlife tourism destinations.
  • Where possible to run tours in partnership with conservation organisations, both to raise funds for that organisation, and to raise its profile. Such organisations include, or have included, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), International Animal Rescue (IAR), Butterfly Conservation, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), MARINElife, Birdfair, etc.
  • Where possible to fund, and/or develop partnerships with, local communities and/or naturalists, in order to develop low-impact and environmentally friendly tourist facilities in exceptional wildlife areas. Koshi Camp and Suklaphanta Wildlife Camp are examples of such partnerships.
  • To run our UK office (a renovated 18th century mill and barn) in as energy-efficient a manner as possible.
  • It is our aim to encourage and develop a passion for wildlife and wild places amongst our customers (many of whom are novices, trying this form of holiday for the first time), and the conservation of them.
Sustainable Tourism – Our Contribution

Operationally...
Sustainable Tourism and the Naturetrek 'raison d'etre' are, in many regards, intertwined. With all Naturetrek tours escorted by at least one expert naturalist with an inevitable concern for conservation of habitats and species, and the holidays appealing almost exclusively to like-minded wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists, the need to actively push a policy of Sustainable Tourism, let alone to market on this front, has not previously been a priority. Essentially, Naturetrek’s founders, staff and tour leaders are naturalists and conservationists turned tour operators … not the other way around! The biographies of these key staff and tour leaders may be found on the Naturetrek website (www.naturetrek.co.uk) combining between them a fascinating and unrivalled range of commitments and achievements in the fields of wildlife, conservation, environmental science, ecology, biology, etc. One member of our staff, Maryanne Mills, devotes her time to the role of Naturetrek's Sustainable Tourism Officer. She ensures that the company keeps abreast of 'ST' developments and standards within the industry, and that Naturetrek remains fully committed to the role that Sustainable Tourism must play within the travel industry today, making as full a contribution as possible.

The fact that our business revolves, almost exclusively, around sending wildlife enthusiasts to the world's national parks, wildlife reserves and wilderness areas, supporting locally owned hotels, lodges and the local guides and other staff in these regions, encourages (we hope!) locals and national governments alike to value and protect these unique habitats and their wildlife. Other aspects of the style of a Naturetrek holiday also allow us, hopefully, to minimise damaging environmental impact. Notably, our operation of small groups (4-16, average 10, clients); our preference for exploration on foot, rather than vehicle, wherever possible; our use of local naturalists (where possible, rather than imported guides), and other local guiding and support staff on most holidays; our preference for small, locally owned, specialist agents/ground operators with a wildlife/conservation bias and sympathy; our ensuring benefit and employment opportunities to local communities, so important when developing wildlife tourism in remote areas where Western tourists have been previously unknown (ie. parts of Nepal, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Ethiopia, etc.); our contributing financially to local projects in the areas visited rather than broad scale environmental/community schemes; our working with conservation organisations (notably the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), International Animal Rescue (IAR), Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Butterfly Conservation, the RSPB, BirdLife International, MARINElife, Birdfair, etc) to develop and expand wildlife tourism into new areas of the world in which the species diversity and habitat value might otherwise go unrecognised locally.

However, in encouraging and sending Naturetrek customers overseas, we cannot escape the most damaging of all the adverse impacts that tourism has upon the world's environment, namely the emission of greenhouse gases produced by the flight to and from the destination. Yet we can try to offset these emissions and, to do this, Naturetrek has been making contributions towards neutralising the carbon emissions of our holidays at our expense since 2007, and this policy continues for all of our holidays to this day and into the future. To do this, we currently donate to the World Land Trust £15 for every person booking a long-haul holiday with us and £5 on behalf of each of our short-haul travellers. The World Land Trust (www.worldlandtrust.org), a highly respected charity with a growing profile, then invests this money in the purchase and protection of threatened tropical rainforest, in so doing not only helping to lock up carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, but also protecting valuable habitat and its endangered wildlife in perpetuity.

While our donation goes towards offsetting the carbon emissions from your flights, we invite you to match our payment to the World Land Trust and therefore contribute towards offsetting some of the emissions resulting from other aspects of your holiday (airport transfers, coach travel, lighting, heating, etc.), perhaps even ensuring that your holiday is carbon negative by means of a more generous donation.

Naturetrek was one of the very first British tour operators to encourage its clients to contribute towards offsetting their carbon emissions, having been doing so since 2000. However, we also believe that we are one of the few tour operators contributing ourselves towards the cost of offsetting every customer’s flight emissions, in addition to offsetting all emissions from both our office operation (electricity, heating, staff journeys, etc.) and the flights of our staff.

Further, Naturetrek has recently focused on the development and marketing of an ever-increasing number of holidays that do not involve flights, notably through the use of Eurostar services to European destinations and a substantial and ongoing expansion of our programme of wildlife breaks within the British Isles.

Another beneficial by-product of Naturetrek's operation of wildlife tours arises on account of the company's need to advertise in wildlife and conservation magazines worldwide to generate business. Of a spend of approximately £150,000 per annum, a large part is spent with such notable conservation organisations and charities as the RSPB, the RHS, the RSPCA, Plantlife, the Wildlife Trusts, and numerous other smaller publications distributed by wildlife charities.

Financially...
As a company which is so intimately involved in, and ultimately dependent upon, wildlife tourism, we are acutely aware of the need to ensure the long-term protection of species and habitats. Therefore, over the years, Naturetrek has been keen to contribute financially to worthy conservation causes, and has raised a total of £398,681 (up to the end of 2012) in the following ways:

Fund-raising tours: Naturetrek & Butterfly Conservation, etc.
Naturetrek operates a wide range of tours on behalf of conservation organisations, donating 10% of the income from these tours to conservation causes supported by the organisation. For example, our annual programme of butterfly holidays, run in conjunction with Butterfly Conservation since 2002, has raised £178,641 to date. Similarly, our Tiger and Orang-utan tours on behalf of the EIA (the Environmental Investigation Agency) raised £53,503 between 2000 and 2011 for the EIA's work on the conservation of these two endangered species. Between 2005 and 2008 we also raised £14,000 for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) by operating tours to their overseas conservation projects, which included Cheetahs in Tanzania, Vultures in India, Rhinos in Kenya, Ethiopian Wolves (in Ethiopia) and Corncrakes in Lincolnshire, etc.

Research-funding tours: Naturetrek & the BDRP/MARINElife
In 2002 Naturetrek joined forces with the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme (BDRP), putting paying customers onto a research vessel in the Bay of Biscay to fund key research into the huge numbers and variety of whales, dolphins and other marine-life realised to be using the Bay (regarded as one of the most important regions of the world's oceans). The aim of this research was to provide specific data on the abundance, variety and ecology of the whales, dolphins, seabirds, sharks, turtles, sunfish and other marine-life of the Bay, in order to publicise its presence and international significance, and to ensure that it might be suitably protected from the growing threat of damaging human activities in the Bay. Since that time, BDRP has been absorbed into the charity, MARINElife, with whom Naturetrek have been working in Lyme Bay since 2008, funding data-collecting survey cruises out into the Bay through the provision of fare-paying passengers. For example, over 10 such research cruises were funded in this way during 2012.

Sponsorship: Naturetrek & the British Birdwatching Fair
As an associate sponsor of the annual British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water (the Birdfair) since 2002, Naturetrek has donated £70,095 to the worldwide conservation causes supported by the Birdfair each year. The Birdfair, the world's largest annual gathering of birdwatchers and naturalists, is a major conservation fund-raiser, donating over £100,000 each year to a chosen area of worldwide ornithological importance identified by BirdLife International and the RSPB. Areas chosen over the years have included the Spanish Steppes, Moroccan wetlands, Spain's Coto Doñana, the Polish marshlands, Romania's Danube Delta, and, by way of further contribution, Naturetrek has offered tours to many of these regions in conjunction with The British Birdwatching Fair and BirdLife International to enable naturalists the chance to see at first hand these highly important and restricted areas and the conservation work carried out in them by BirdLife staff and their local partners. Further, on each of these tours 10% of the tour cost has been donated to the project visited.

A specific example of one of these fundraising tours involved the collaboration of Naturetrek and BirdLife International to raise the profile of, and raise funds for, the conservation of Madagascar’s fragile Mahavavy Delta Wetlands, an area under continual threat from draining, agriculture, hunting and over-fishing. This is the only site in the country supporting all of western Madagascar’s endemic wetland bird species, amongst them the critically endangered Sakalava Rail, a bird seen by fewer than 10 living ornithologists! To assist, as well as donating £5,000 in our capacity as associate sponsor of the Fair, which raised funds exclusively to enable BirdLife to launch its 'Madagascar Wetlands Conservation Programme' to protect the Mahavavy Wetlands, we further worked to bring wildlife tourism – and much needed finance – into the region by organising the first, expeditionary tour there in November 2004 (which was successful in seeing the Rail!). This tour brought employment and financial benefit to the local community, plus an additional £2,536 (10% of tour proceeds) which was gifted to the Programme. Most recently a similar fund-raising tour was run by Naturetrek, with similar financial success, to the regions of Ethiopia needing assistance with the protection of habitats critical to the survival of the country’s southern endemic birds.

Partnership: Naturetrek & Butterfly Conservation
In 2002 Naturetrek joined in partnership with Butterfly Conservation, the highly regarded British butterfly conservation organisation. As part of this partnership Naturetrek agreed to donate £1,000 per annum to Butterfly Conservation, joining its corporate sponsorship scheme at the highest level (‘Gold’), and becoming the first company to do so. Naturetrek further agreed to promote Butterfly Conservation membership to those on its mailing list through regular Naturetrek newsletter promotions and distribution of BC membership flyers. It was further agreed that Naturetrek would promote and market annually a selection of butterfly tours, donating 10% of the turnover generated to Butterfly Conservation, and paying for a year's Butterfly Conservation membership for all clients not already members. Since 2002, this partnership has benefited Butterfly Conservation to the tune of £178,605.

Naturetrek & the Bald Ibis Appeal Fund
Naturetrek established this Appeal Fund in the late 1990s in order to encourage donations from clients interested in saving the Bald Ibis, the most threatened species of bird in the Western Palaearctic region (Europe, north Africa and western Asia). The plight of this magnificent bird, down to just 200 surviving individuals at the time, was the focus of this fundraising initiative, funds from which were used, amongst other things, for the purchase of a freezer (essential for storing dead birds for autopsy and other vital research!). Updates on the Bald Ibis situation (now much improved), and the gathering success of researchers in saving it from extinction, have been included in Naturetrek newsletters, together with further appeals for funds needed.

Naturetrek & the Vultures of India
In 2004 Naturetrek began talks with the Zoological Society of London, BirdLife International and Bird Conservation Nepal, with a view to financing a ‘last ditch’ attempt to save the critically endangered Indian White-backed Vulture, and India’s other vulture species, from extinction through the establishment of captive breeding programmes.

Provision of equipment
In the early years, with limited resources, Nepal and Ethiopia were the focus of our assistance. In Ethiopia, Naturetrek focused on the donation and supply of Collins Field Guides to the enthusiastic but ill-equipped local staff of Ethiopian National Parks, whilst in both Ethiopia and Nepal we donated new binoculars and telescopes to budding naturalists, and helped distribute second-hand equipment provided by British clients and bird clubs, a project which continues today.

Corporate sponsorship
Naturetrek is a pioneering Corporate Sponsor of a wide range of conservation organisations. We became the first tour operator to become one of BirdLife International's World Environment Partners, and became the first sponsor of Butterfly Conservation under the ‘Gold' corporate sponsor scheme. Other charities of which we are a corporate sponsor include the highly respected Oriental Bird Club and the African Bird Club, both of which encourage and contribute to invaluable research and conservation work in their respective areas. For example, a Naturetrek contribution of £500 was spent on research work by the Indian ornithologist Dr Choudhary into the endangered grassland birds of a little-known reserve in north-eastern India.

Development of local conservation organisations
In Nepal, Naturetrek inspired and assisted local naturalists in the development of the country's first bird club, originally known as the Nepal Bird Club, and now known as BCN (Bird Conservation Nepal). BCN, now a partner organisation of BirdLife International, is committed to conservation, education, recording, research and community involvement in saving Nepal's threatened birdlife and habitats. With Hem Sagar Baral, Nepal's foremost conservationist and longstanding Naturetrek tour leader, Naturetrek both planned and funded the first ever BCN newsletter, and we continue to sponsor this regular and successful newsletter.

Naturetrek & Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
One of the finest and most important wetland wildlife reserves in Asia, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, was created largely to protect Nepal's last remaining population of wild Water Buffaloes, but is of even greater importance to migratory birds and endangered grassland birds and mammals. In the early 1990s, it was neglected by the tourism it deserved and not regarded nationally as a tourism destination of any note. This situation has since changed dramatically owing to Naturetrek's inspiration for, and funding of, Koshi Tappu's first luxury tented camp. Naturetrek's single-handed marketing of this camp, and the attractions of the Reserve, have – 20 years later – put it firmly on the map of the must-go-to destinations of naturalists and birdwatchers worldwide. So much so that there are now several tourist camps/lodges hosting tourists in a reserve that could so easily have had no tourist appeal and benefits at all. The encouragement and training of local staff and expert naturalist guides, has been extended to include school and village visits, emphasising the benefits of birds, wildlife, conservation and tourism for all. Today a 50% shareholding in Koshi Camp has been passed to the local naturalists and conservationists who assisted in establishing this popular tourist wildlife camp, and in whose hands the future of the conservation of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve lies.

Naturetrek & Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve
Such has been the success of our initiative at Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve that, in 2008, we established a second tented camp at Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in far western Nepal. This remote and little-visited reserve protects the world’s largest population of the nominate race of the Swamp Deer, as well as many other mammals, including healthy populations of both Tiger and Leopard. However, it is for rare grassland birds that Suklaphanta is particularly special, amongst them the endangered Bengal Florican, and it is our intention that, by encouraging tourists to this park, we will persuade both local people and the government of Nepal of the value of this important wildlife reserve. The encouragement and training given to local staff and naturalist guides has again been at the forefront of our work here.

In Summary
Naturetrek's financial contribution to conservation causes has increased over the years with the growth of our business, and stands at a total of around £704,382 contributed over the years.

Sustainable Tourism – Our Guidelines; Your Choice

Your desire to travel (whether or not on a Naturetrek holiday!) in order to visit overseas national parks and reserves is crucial to the survival of the world's wildlife. However, it is not otherwise an altogether environmentally friendly pastime. Please consider the following measures which will help you to travel as a Responsible Tourist, both by minimising the damage caused by your travels and by providing a benefit to your host country:

Support the 'World Land Trust'
Air travel is one of the major causes of global warming and many of our holidays involve flying. While our donation to the World Land Trust on behalf of every passenger booking a Naturetrek overseas holiday (£15 for each long-haul and £5 for each short-haul passenger) goes towards offsetting the carbon emissions from your flights, we invite you to match our payment to the World Land Trust and therefore contribute towards offsetting some of the emissions resulting from other aspects of your holiday (airport transfers, coach travel, lighting, heating, etc.), perhaps even ensuring that your holiday is carbon negative by means of a more generous donation.

Wildlife First
Watch and photograph wildlife with minimum obtrusion, and respect the viewing instructions of your guide and tour leader. Remember that all wildlife sightings are a bonus; none are guaranteed! The removal of any specimen – whether plant, seed or animal – from its natural environment is not acceptable.

A wildlife holiday with Naturetrek is, first and foremost, an opportunity to experience important wildlife habitats, not a species shopping trip with list in hand! If you don't see your target species, your visit (through park fees, local employment opportunities, etc.) will nonetheless be supporting the preservation of the habitat on which it relies, and further, you will have a very good reason for a return visit!

Respect Others
Remember, our so-called 'high standards' have come largely at the expense of our environment. If you cannot accept and enjoy the different standards and cultures of less affluent countries, you should stay at home! Before travelling, read widely to familiarise yourself with your destination's history, background, culture, customs, standards, etc. The well prepared tourist is likely to have a fulfilling holiday, with minimal problems and regrets.

Your Accommodation
Wherever possible, Naturetrek aims to use small, locally owned and managed accommodation (ideally locally constructed in a traditional style) serving traditional home-cooked meals. Sometimes such accommodation cannot match the multi-national comfort offered by larger hotels. However, such smaller hotels do both minimise environmental impact as well as support local communities, and their styles, culture and traditions. In choosing your holiday destination, please do consider your accommodation in terms of minimising environmental impact.

Your Dress
Dress practically and conservatively, paying particular attention to observe local dress codes to ensure that you are not offending your host country's cultural or religious beliefs (particularly in Hindu and Muslim countries). If in doubt, cover up (you'll also avoid sunburn, insect bites and consequential ill health!).

Your Local Guide
Please remember to use your local guide and driver to the full. You are paying for them (and perhaps tipping them if they are good); allow them to shine and revel in enthusing about their country. Get to known them, ask them questions, show your appreciation, and make their job fun. We reticent Brits are not always the best at this; make an effort and you will get value for money from your holiday … and perhaps a lifelong friend!

Above all, by showing your interest in, and your appreciation of, your host country's wildlife and natural environment to your guide(s), driver and other local staff, you are actively developing in them a pride and interest in their environment which bodes well for its future preservation by these local people and, ultimately, their governments.

Photography
Be sensitive to local conditions, laws and customs, asking your local guide if in doubt. Seek advice and their permission before photographing local people, thus showing respect and awareness of another's culture and beliefs. At all times avoid the obvious display of cameras and other expensive items; you'll find more in common with the locals, and avoid becoming the victim of theft.

Off Limits
Do not enter restricted, dangerous, sensitive or private areas. If in doubt, seek your guide's advice.

Souvenirs
Be selective. Buy locally made goods only, thus encouraging a pride in traditional culture and crafts and discouraging the import of other goods. Avoid souvenirs sold to the detriment of wildlife and the environment (shells, corals, skins, ivory, hardwood products, etc). Ensure a fair price when bargaining, taking advice from your guide. Bargain hard by all means, to maintain respect, but above all retain a measure of common sense and fairness; remember that, ultimately, it is your salesman's family that is going to be very much more disadvantaged by a low price than you (or yours).

Gratuitous Gifts
Handouts of sweets, pens, etc. undermine pride and cause tooth decay. Donate instead to schools, or local conservation or charitable organisations, details of which we can provide.

Avoid Litter
Don't leave litter. Consider very carefully what you really need to take on your holiday before you travel and take care to leave at home all unnecessary packaging and wrapping. Take home with you all your non-biodegradable rubbish (particularly plastics, used batteries, etc.) where it can be more reliably disposed of. Carry a lighter or matches to burn all toilet tissue and other paper waste created during your holiday. 

Choose Environmentally Friendly Travel Products
Use environmentally friendly shampoos, detergents, etc., and keep them out of the rivers!

Conserve Energy & Water
Conserve energy by turning off lights, air-conditioning, heating, etc. when not required. Minimise your requirement for clean towels, napkins and sheets. In many countries water is very limited; minimum usage conserves a precious resource. If possible purify water with purification tablets rather than by boiling. 

Communicate
Leave only friendship behind in the countries you visit. Communicate with local people at all times in a friendly manner, and make an effort to learn a few words and phrases of the local language. Accept local foods or drinks when offered them, and indicate to your hosts your interest in, and support for, their wildlife, landscapes and culture to promote their value both to local people and ultimately their governments. 

Support Local & International Wildlife Conservation Organisations
Read widely about your destination's wildlife and conservation priorities before your departure. Such wildlife conservation organisations as BirdLife International, the Oriental Bird Club, WWF, and the Environmental Investigation Agency are worth contacting, or even joining. More importantly, at the end of your holiday, become an overseas member of your host country's bird club or conservation organisation, and continue your interest in that country.

In virtually every country through which you choose to travel you will find a practice or policy (perhaps several!) which offends you. It might be a country's abuse of human rights, nuclear testing programme, whaling, slavery, trade in endangered species, bull fighting, the slaughter of migrant birds, deforestation, or fox hunting. The chances are that they offend us too; but were we to boycott travel to that particular country (as you might wish us to), we would, frankly, have no destinations left to offer, such have been the demands upon us over the years! Instead, we choose to make no such judgements; it is you, after all, who make your own choice of holiday destination. Further, in all these countries, live many people who share your concerns. They would much rather you visit – to lend them support, to understand more fully the problem, and to protest more rationally, on your return home, to the offending nation's government, tourist board, embassy, etc.

Your Help & Suggestions Needed!

On returning from your travels, do let us hear your thoughts on any environmental, cultural or economic impacts of the trip that you think we should know about, also of any practices that you observed and considered beneficial, or otherwise, to a country's wildlife.

Should you have other ideas that would enhance this code of conduct, we should welcome them.

Sustainable Tourism – Our Carbon Off-setting Initiatives

We strive to Carbon Balance each Naturetrek holiday. Please make it Carbon Negative!

Since 2007 Naturetrek has been making contributions towards neutralising the carbon emissions of our holidays at our expense, and this policy continues for all holidays to this day and into the future. To do this we currently donate to the World Land Trust £15 for every person booking a long-haul holiday with us, and £5 on behalf of each of our short-haul travellers. The World Land Trust (www.worldlandtrust.org), a highly respected charity with a growing profile, then invests this money in the purchase and protection of threatened tropical rainforest, in so doing not only helping to lock up carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, but also protecting valuable habitat and its endangered wildlife in perpetuity.

While our donation goes towards offsetting the carbon emissions from your flights, we invite you to match our payment to the World Land Trust and therefore contribute towards offsetting some of the emissions resulting from other aspects of your holiday (airport transfers, coach travel, lighting, heating, etc.), perhaps even ensuring that your holiday is carbon negative by means of a more generous donation.

Naturetrek was one of the very first British tour operators to encourage its clients to contribute towards offsetting their carbon emissions, having been doing so since 2000. However, we also believe that we are one of the few tour operators contributing ourselves towards the cost of offsetting every customer’s flight emissions, in addition to offsetting all emissions from both our office operation (electricity, heating, staff journeys, etc.) and the flights of our staff.

Sustainable Tourism – Our ‘Naturetrek Reserve’

For the last decade Naturetrek has been working to protect a threatened cloudforest corridor in the Ecuadorian Andes which has been classified by WWF as one of the 200 most important wildlife corridors in the world. Through the World Land Trust and Ecuadorian conservation charity Fundación EcoMinga* we have been supporting direct purchase of the forest as a public nature reserve, open to the local people for no-impact ecotourism and protected from hunting, plant collection, and any other extractive activities. Funds for these purchases have been achieved by Naturetrek setting aside £15 for every person booking on a long-haul holiday and £5 for those booking a short-haul tour. As of November 2016, Naturetrek had donated £197,551 for these purchases, saving 890 acres. The area saved included a large block of forest in the corridor, and an additional block of forest connecting the Llanganates National Park with a different kind of lower-elevation forest. In spring 2018 we donated an additional $128,850 which will protect another 499 acres in the corridor, bringing the total area protected to 1,389 acres.

The Río Pastaza valley cuts through one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, the eastern Andes of Ecuador. To the north of this valley, the high mountains are protected by a large national park, Los Llanganates National Park, where the treasure of the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa, is supposedly buried, but the vulnerable (and agriculturally valuable) lower slopes leading into the valley were left out of the park. To the south of the valley, another very large national park, Sangay, protects the highest mountains, but here too the more valuable and vulnerable lower slopes leading into the valley were left unprotected. These unprotected slopes were originally completely covered by rich cloudforest, full of locally endemic plant species, and rich in Andean wildlife such as the Spectacled Bear and endangered Mountain Tapir. The once contiguous forest provided a wildlife corridor between the two national parks, and hence between the north-east Andes and the south-east Andes of Ecuador, with only a shallow river separating them.

However, deforestation began early in this valley, which was one of the main lines of communication and travel between the Amazon basin and the densely settled inter-Andean plateau. In the 1950s a major road was built through it, and the forests began to be cut in earnest, mostly to grow the citrus fruit naranjilla (Solanum quitoense). Today the wildlife corridor between the north-east and south-east Andes, and the wealth of rare species it contains, is under even more threat, as the local people have begun to deploy zip lines in order to facilitate bringing crops down from even very high and steep mountain slopes.

Because the Naturetrek Reserves connect higher altitude cloudforest to the vulnerable riparian forests along the valley floor, they not only provide vital river access for large mammals and other species but also extend protection to the more diverse lower elevations that are not protected by the highland national parks in this watershed. For example, a recently discovered and very rare tree, Blakea attenboroughii, is not known from any national park yet is present in the Naturetrek Reserve. The upper Río Pastaza watershed is home to nearly 200 additional species of plants found nowhere else in the world, and this number is steadily increasing due to botanical investigation. The birdlife here is also very special, with species such as the Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Giant Antpitta, and the endangered Black-and-chestnut Eagle, one of which has been spotted by EcoMinga staff carrying a capuchin monkey through the air!

Over the last few years students visiting EcoMinga’s reserves have focused on herpetological monitoring in the main unit of the Naturetrek Reserve. This has led to a new appreciation of the diversity of frogs within the reserve. The most exciting result of these investigations has been the discovery of a new species of frog belonging to the genus Noblella. This new frog will be named after Naturetrek in recognition of our role in saving this species and its habitat.

It is also our aim to develop wildlife tourism, and an awareness of the value and importance of our Reserves and the two national parks, in the local town of Baños. Whilst it is already one of Ecuador’s major tourist destinations, Baños’ local tourism operators have yet to appreciate the value of the region’s unique potential for ecotourism. This is something that we hope we can influence – by demonstrating that the area’s forest and its wildlife have economic value, and that a more sustainable local economy is on the doorstep, providing a realistic alternative to deforestation and farming.

For more information on the Candelaria Reserve, how you can help fight climate change and about the rest of World Land Trust’s important conservation work, please visit their website at www.worldlandtrust.org

*Fundación EcoMinga was founded in 2005 and is based in Baños, Ecuador. The organisation’s aim is to efficiently preserve biodiversity in Ecuador. WLT and Naturetrek have been working with Fundación EcoMinga since 2007.

 

Naturetrek's Responsible Tourism officer is Maryanne Mills. If you have any ideas on ways in which our policy could be enhanced, please contact Maryanne on 01962 733051 or e-mail maryanne@naturetrek.co.uk