Indigenous voices and perspectives have often gone overlooked in the past, but many travel companies such as Maple Leaf Adventures are putting them at the heart of the travel experience. In 2020 and 2021, when the Great Bear Rainforest on Canada’s west coast lost its tourism revenue, Maple Leaf Adventures asked the government for funding to begin the largest ever marine debris clean up this pristine old growth forest, home to First Nations people. The result was was around 300 tons of plastic being removed. Almost impossible to get to via road, the project also provided work to Indigenous communities during the 2020/2021 sailing season. The company also operate trips around the archipelago of Haida Gwai, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, and known as Canada’s ‘Galapagos’ for its marine life and home to the rich Haida (a coastal First Nations) culture.
With 15 award-winning lodges in Africa, Singita has been a pioneer in luxury conservation-orientated safari experiencs, from wildlife conservation to community uplift. Traveler experiences include meeting the canine anti-poaching unit in South Africa amd Tanzania, cooking courses with students of the Singita Community Culinary School at Singita Kruger National Park, South Africa (with a third school launched in Rwanda). The projects they support include a child nutrition programme at Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe where 20,000 students receive a daily 300ml cup of mahewu, a nutritional porridge-based drink while partner NGOs operate women’s empowerment programmes, English immersion and environmental conservation lessons.
Restoring habitats is integral to conservation. This Just Conservation trip from Wildife Worldwide to the Kalahari Private Reserve in South Africa is a way for travelers to support a pioneering conservation project in the Kalahari Desert. This region used to be cattle farms, but over the last 14 years, they have removed fences naturalised the land, and wildlife populations have recovered. It’s now South Africa’s largest private Big-5 game reserve. For travelers, it’s a luxury eco-tourism experience, staying in a boutique safari camp with four en-suite tents, plus a chance to take part in predator monitoring, game counts, vegetation surveys and anti-poaching.
Bush fires in Australia have highlighted the need to address climate change in a country that has the world’s worst mammal extinction rate, with extreme weather, water shortages, land development and loss of biodiversity among the reasons. Travelers who want to help can track wild koalas with a koala researcher with Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours or join their Koala Tree Planting and Recovery Experience. Since 2011, the project has removed over 1,500,000 Boneseed weeds (koalas avoid eucalyptus trees surrounded by this introduced weed) to improve koala habitat, and since 2016, they’ve planted 7,500 Koala trees, in support of the non-profit Koala Clancy Foundation. They’ve recently announced the aim to plant 300,000 trees across the You Yangs outside Melbourne by 2030 too.
If you’ve always fancied husky sledding, Hetta Huskies in Finland is one to consider. While many companies in the Arctic claim to provide their dogs with the highest quality of life, sadly this isn’t always the case. Hetta Huskies has taken it upon itself to not only provide an ethical and sustainable husky sledding experience for travelers, but also to improve the industry overall. The company was awarded a gold in the 2015 World Responsible Tourism Awards for Best Animal Welfare Initiative. Offering short and multi-day husky safaris through arctic Finland, Hetta Huskies also provide information on their website about the worldwide need for better welfare standards in the sled dog industry. They even offer a service that allows regular punters to adopt their elderly or injured dogs who can no longer run.
Gorilla tourism isn’t just about seeing the great ape up-close; tourism has also helped to conserve this magnificent creature and one of the pioneering companies behind this is Volcanoes Safaris renowned for their gorilla and chimpanzee tourism. After the Rwandan genocide in the ‘90s, they helped kick-start gorilla tourism in both Rwanda and neighboring Uganda and now not only preserve the habitat of the great ape, but also ensure local communities benefit. Volcanoes Safaris runs several safaris including the popular 4 day Virunga Lodge safari in Rwanda and the 10 day Uganda safari. In Rwanda, you’ll also trek to the grave of primatologist Dian Fossey and the gorilla cemetery where her favorite gorilla Digit, among others, has his final resting place. In Uganda, you will trek gorillas in both the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Virunga volcanoes at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, as well as hiking to the lost chimps of Kyambura Gorge. Community projects include the Gahinga Batwa Village, Bwindi Bar hospitality training school and the Kyambura Eco-tourism Project.