The travel industry still has a long way to go before it can call itself truly committed to sustainability, but these inspired companies are doing their utmost to give back to their local communities and conserve the environment whilst also providing some awesome experiences for travellers. Here’s our pick of five worth booking.
Get naturally happy in Southern Morocco
Renewing Your Roots is an eco-holiday in Southern Morocco that gives you a chance to relax and renew in nature, in a friendly group and in a welcoming local community. Woven through the holiday are optional meditations, guided walks and mini workshop sessions with Alan Heeks, an expert in helping people grow their own wellbeing by learning from and in nature. You spend 4 nights in Taroudant, a charming small town, at La Maison Anglaise, an award-winning sustainable guest house which prides itself on being staffed by locals and supporting its local community – you’ll get to visit some of the projects they’re helping. Then there’s three nights in the beautiful Atlas Mountains staying in Toubkal National Park at Ouirgane Ecolodge, which is made from local materials, uses good energy and practices water conservation. It also has a swimming pool, hammam and good local cuisine. Next trip runs 21 – 28 October 2019. More info at cecu.co.uk.
Walk with the last migrating shepherds in the Himalayas
Responsible tourism specialist Village Ways offers guests the opportunity to meet and then walk with the Himalaya’s last remaining migrating shepherds during their trip In the Footsteps of Anwals. Every April and May the shepherds, herding flocks of up to 1,200 animals, set off into the high mountains, a journey lasting over eight months. Village Ways guests spend two days with the shepherds as they prepare for their long trek, learning about this tough but prestigious life and walking with them to the nearby meadow at Jaikuni to camp beneath the stars. The trip is bookended with walking in the Saryu and Pindar valleys, visiting when the hillsides are ablaze with wild flowers and local villages are buzzing with life. The company supports and funds local community projects, and a £50 contribution from each guest booking goes direct to the Anwal communities. Village Ways won the Best Tour Operator award in the Poverty Reduction category at the 2017 WTM Responsible Tourism Awards. Usually runs April to May. More info at villageways.com.
Help conserve the wilder side of Cambodia
InsideAsia Tours’ 15-night Wild Cambodia trip is for wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists. You’ll sightsee in two of Cambodia’s hub destinations, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but you’ll also experience Cambodia’s wilder side and have an opportunity to support and protect the incredible diversity that Cambodia has to offer. From assisting at a welfare-focused elephant rehabilitation project to tracking gibbons in the wild, there’s a strong focus on community conservation work. Other highlights include staying in local homestay accommodation and sleeping in safari-style tents; perfect for anyone looking to escape the extravagances of modern-day life. InsideAsia Tours provide all their clients with refillable water bottles, and have partnered with a large number of local organisations to offer refill stations in order to reduce plastic waste and consumption. It also operates a carbon reduction scheme for any flights taken by staff. December to April are the best times to take this trip. More info at www.insideasiatours.com.
Join a women-only expedition through Jordan
Intrepid’s women-only eight-day expedition through Jordan includes experiences otherwise off limits to mixed gender groups and expose female travellers to a range of fascinating local women – young, old, religious, conservative, rural, modern and liberal – while respecting traditional cultural values. Guided by a female leader, travellers will learn the ancient art of henna with traditional Bedouin ladies, discover how Kohl has been used for years, not just as a beauty product, but to protect the eyes from the harsh desert sands, and meet a female shepherd to hear about her work. Spend an afternoon at a local ladies-only beach, and master the art of Arabic cooking in a local home of three sisters who carry on their grandmother’s legacy and dedication to tradition. Trips run in April and October. Intrepid Group has B Corp certification (like NOW) and is committed doubling its number of female tour leaders globally by 2020. More information at www.intrepidtravel.com.
Relax and learn about sustainable living in Paris
Families looking for a sustainable holiday should try eco-friendly Les Villages Nature® Paris, which features one of Europe’s largest waterparks heated entirely by geothermal energy (to 30oC year-round, so great for al fresco bathing even in chillier, off season months). This renewable energy fuels all the resort’s heating and economises 9,000 tonnes of CO2, rainwater and greywater irrigates the landscape, staff use flasks to reduce the use of single-use plastics and 35% of rubbish is recycled (they aim to bring this to 60% by 2022). Enjoyable workshops teach guests to create vertical gardens, make honey, bread and chocolate, build forest dens, care for animals and live a healthy, sustainable lifestyle. There’s also a working farm, lake, forest play area, gardens which naturally purify the waterpark’s water, restaurants offering locally-sourced produce and a Deep Nature spa with salt rooms, sauna and hammam where the water and the heating system also come from geothermal energy. More info at www.villagesnatureparis.co.uk.