If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that travel isn’t just a one-way ticket to self-improvement; it can also change lives on the other side. Here’s our (non-exhaustive) selection for 2022 adventures that have the opportunity to make an impact—both for the traveler and destination.
We have a long way to go when it comes to equity in the industry, something the pandemic highlighted, from the lack of safety nets for communities dependent on tourism to vaccine equity and distribution. But when you can travel, make it count. We know right now there are restrictions and border closures in place but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream.
From helping to revive tourism in destinations which have experienced multiple challenges over the last couple of decades such as Nepal, to tracking koalas in Australia’s bushfire-stricken New South Wales to booking zero-carbon itineraries to staying in properties making an effort when it comes to equity, community and sustainability, we’ve pulled together a list of trips to inspire you for 2022.
They will still give travelers everything they crave—adventure, growth, challenge, excitement—but also raise awareness, shift perceptions, and provide resources to destinations in need. And in some cases, simply provide a much-needed cash injection into the local economies and communities.
Travel company Black Tomato’s new ‘Field Trip’ series is aimed at families who want to inspire their children—the world’s future environmentalists, geographers, and conservationists—through hands-on ‘classes’ on their holidays. A new itinerary to Egypt includes a Field Trip to Cairo to explore inside ‘Garbage City’ to meet and learn about the Zabbaleen community, the iconic garbage collectors of Cairo and the recycling processes they’ve developed by collecting rubbish from Cairo’s 20 million residents. They recycle 80 per cent of waste the pick, cleaning and recycling more effectively than the government or external companies.
Head further north than most visitors to Pakistan do, and into mountainous Baltistan on Pakistan’s northwest frontier with this small-group Pakistan food tour from Responsible Travel. Developed by Madiha Hamid, owner and CEO of Chefling Tales, a local blog/e-magazine, the tour covers the sights of Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Peshawar, as well as taking in a whole variety of restaurants, from road trip favorites to traditional spots to some of Pakistan’s high-end spots, plus cooking workshops in chefs’ kitchen.
A new trip is this jungle trek from Much Better Adventures in northeastern Ecuador’s UNESCO Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, one of the world’s most biodiverse places and home to numerous indigenous tribes plus 130 globally threatened species of animals, from giant armadillos, pink dolphins to golden-mantled tamarins and white-bellied spider monkeys. Activities include hiking through the primary rainforest, canoeing along quiet rivers, and camping out under the night sky, and staying at the community-run Mandari Panga Camp. Oil drilling began in Yasuni in 2016 and around 10,000 hectares of land have already been lost. It’s hoped that local economies and reforestation can be supported in alternative ways, such as adventure tourism.
To see rewilding in action, try this new walking tour from Exodus Travels in partnership with Rewilding Europe through the Nature and Carboridors project. Their Rewilding in the Italian Apennines trip visits the area that’s being rewilded, restoring habitats, encouraging wildlife to return, while addressing climate change by improving the land’s ability to absorb carbon. While walking these incredible trails with expert nature guides, travelers will see the benefits and impact of rewilding on this tour and how wildlife corridors can connect protected areas: The Italian Apennines are home to chamois, deer, wolves, and golden eagles, and if you’re lucky, you might see the rare Marsican brown bear.
Sometimes, it’s simply about staying somewhere that makes an effort to be environmentally sensitive. The 15-room Zecamp hotel in Vercors National Park at the start of the 148-kilometer Nordic skiing area of the Hauts-Plateaux du Vercors, France, is heated by solar panels, transport is via electric bicycles or electric cars, and a vegan menu is inspired by organic, local ingredients, some from Zecamp’s vegetable garden. The hotel was designed by top French athletes and skiers, Marie Dorin-Habert, Robin Duvillard and Loïs Habert, for fitness and wellness breaks. There’s a professional gym, cold bath for aching muscles, and personalised healthy meals.
For many luxury properties with affluent guests, it’s about giving back to the community around them with that money . For the founders of eco-retreat The Pavilions Himalayas The Farm in Nepal, helping some of the most disadvantaged young people in the village of Pumdi Bhumdi and protecting the environment is key. They do this via their NGO partner Right4Children, while the organic farm retreat sponsors students to attend the FAB Hospitality School plus paid internships for FAB graduates. They also fund a free healthcare clinic for the residents, and contribute funds to improve transport to and from Pumdi Bhumdi.
Around 430 kilometers north of Adelaide, Australia, is Wilpena Pound Resort which showcases the surrounding setting of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park through the eyes of the region’s Traditional Owners, the Adnyamathanha people, some of whom work there. There’s a daily sunset Welcome to Country ceremony, carried out in traditional Yura Ngawarla language, interpreted into English, which explains the Adnyamathanha flag and traditional stories of the Yura Muda. Welcome to Country is a not-for-profit organisation whose objective is to address employment and economic development outcomes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
When you think of the Dominican Republic, all-inclusive resorts and mass tourism may come to mind, but—and the same goes for similar destinations—there are always exceptions. In a tiny surf town called Cabarete is eXtreme Hotel Cabarete, a community-centered, solar-powered property which uses clever ventilation instead of air-conditioning, and employs over 80 per cent Dominican staff. Their on-site permaculture farm plus one of the Caribbean’s biggest aquaponics system (one of the most sustainable forms of agriculture) provides produce for the beachfront restaurants, and activities include yoga, surfing, flying trapeze, horseback riding, zip-lining and hiking.
It’s no ordinary cruise. The Aranui 5 passenger-cargo ship which sails to the remote Marquesas islands in French Polynesia, began life as a freight ship, a lifeline to islanders in this remote South Pacific archipelago, 200 kilometers northeast of Tahiti. The ‘Freighter to Paradise’ visits all six inhabited islands, and the majority of crew are Polynesian and Marquesan—some play in the ship’s Aranui band. Focusing on Marquesan culture, one almost wiped out by missionaries, colonizers and settlers, travelers will see stone tikis and rock art of the Taipivai Valley on Nuku Hiva, enjoy an ‘Umu’ pork lunch cooked in a Marquesan underground oven, a 4×4 trip across Ua Huka’s mountains, hiking to the ‘Cross’ on Ua Pou with its towering basalt summits, and sunset from the lush island of Fatu Hiva in the UNESCO World Heritage Bay of Virgins. On-board, talks explore Marquesan culture and history, and their influence on author Herman Melville, Belgian singer Jacques Brel, and Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin.
If Antarctica is on the list, take a look at Aurora Expeditions, an Australian-owned adventure expedition operator specializing in small-group, expedition-style travel. As one of the founding members of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) which developed the environmental rules for commercial visitors to Antarctica, their trips encourage travelers to respect the wilderness they’re visiting via on-board lectures and engaging nature experiences. Their new ship is named after marine biologist Sylvia Earle, and the five decks are named after female conservationists. The company recently certified as 100% carbon neutral too.
If you want to travel 100% flight free and 100% vegan, flight-free travel company Byway is launching a dynamic vegan holiday planner—the first of its kind—in January to help carbon-conscious consumers enjoy plant-based holidays by train, boat and bus. The carbon impact of rail travel is 14g of CO2 per passenger mile—compared to 285g for air travel—while giving up meat for a year saves 2.7 tonnes of carbon—equivalent to a return flight from London to San Francisco. Byway CEO Cat Jones who founded the company in 2020 has never owned a car and travels by train and bike to her annual family holiday. Trips include Paris to Berlin by train with meals in the city’s best vegan spots; staying in a sustainable, vegan agritourism in Tuscany and visiting the home of slow food, Turin; and exploring the Highlands of Scotland.
If you want to dive responsibly, finding ethical dive operators is key—the impact of environmental stress on marine life and habitats is huge. PADI, the body that governs certification of divers and dive instructors, works with local, specialist operators to promote such trips. Im the World Heritage Site of the Galapagos, divers can explore newly established marine reserves and their expansion with Eagleray Tours Viajes Y Turismo—that’s more protected waters for hammerhead sharks, turtles, tuna and manta rays. There’s citizen science diving with Dive Ninja Expeditions in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, whose expeditions and profits support research and conservation; and with Ceningan Divers in Bali, travelers can help rejuvenate mangrove nurseries from home through an online marine conservation program which supports the projects in destination when they arrive.
Collaboration is the key to this Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort desert trail from World Expeditions, a partnership between a travel company, the traditional indigenous owners from whom they lease the land, the Central Land Council, and the Australian government (Department of National Parks and Wildlife). Three-times winner of the Northern Territory’s Brolga Award for best eco-tourism product, the Larapinta Trek includes hiking through the ancient landscape of the West MacDonnell Ranges, summiting Mount Sonder and trekking in the Ormiston Gorge and Standley Chasm. The birdlife is extraordinary and the trips weave in a better understanding and appreciation for indigenous culture. The architect-designed camps (think hot showers, heated dining shelter, and three-course campfire dinners) are themselves are semi-permanent, dismantled each summer so the ground can recover.
If you want to explore the The Sacred Valley of the Incas and Lares, but without basic camping, the Black Diamond Trek from Mountain Lodges of Peru is a community-focused trip combining hiking with sustainable travel, accompanied by expert guides. Starting from the Plaza de Armas in Cusco to Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate, this 10-day, 75-mile trek winds along quiet mountain paths—the Inca used many trails to move around the mountains—passing traditional villages and archaeological sites. Accommodation is in luxury camps and mountain lodges, with a strong focus on local dishes and traditions throughout.
Getting to know a place and its people through tangible experiences is top of many travelers’ lists. This new, small-group guided tour with Walks Worldwide sees guests join the winter migration of the Nomadic Yörüks in Turkey, walking working and eating with the Yörüks to understand their traditions from olive-picking to making cheese and butter, as they and their herds of sheep and goats move from their summer pastures in the mountains back to the Lycian Coast in the Western Toros mountain range. On this once-a-year trip in October, travelers will hike ancient nomad paths, hear evening songs played with the Saz, a traditional lute, and visit Patara, Xanthos and the sunken city at Kekova.
Cultural immersion, supporting communities and entrepreneurs, and spreading the tourism dollar is at the heart of Social Tours’ ethos. Their 10-day Experience Nepal Now itinerary helps travelers discover what makes Nepal tick, showing why and how the Nepali people beat back adversities, including the 2015 earthquake, an embargo from India, repeated natural disasters and now the pandemic, to better understand the country’s cultural, political and even architectural history. Travelers will also see the role of Buddhism and Hinduism in the Nepali psyche. The tour explores the Kathmandu Valley to see life in rural Nepal—including meeting artisans keeping traditional skills alive—before ending in the lakeside town of Pokhara or wildlife haven of Chitwan National Park.
Since 2014, tour operator Native Eye have been supporting the Wodaabe tribe in Chad, being the first to approach the tribe to allow a few guests to attend their Gerewol Festival. To attend the festival, you need permission from the Sultan of the Wodaabe, and Native Eye have almost-exclusive access due to their approach in sensitive cultural engagement. The festival takes place once a year in the semi-desert Sahel region of landlocked Chad, during which Chad’s Wodaabe nomads get dressedin up and dance for hours in the stifling desert sun in an attempt to attract a partner. Read more about it in this photo essay by photographer Tariq Zaidi.
Launched in May 2019, Authentic Indigenous promotes Indigenous-owned and operated businesses in the Canadian province of British Columbia. This includes visiting and learning about the connection to land and wildlife on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation with Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours with a chance to see grizzly bears, salmon, eagles and whales. language. With Moccasin Trails, travelers can sail along the traditional waters of the Secwepemcuu’l’ecw (Shuswap Nation) as you paddle down the South Thompson River, and there are many more operators like these.
In November 2022, a small team will travel by sea kayak around Papua New Guinea’s Louisades Archipelago, paddling up to 20 kilometers a day between the Solomon and Coral Seas. This epic, 12-day trip from Secret Compass will visit isolated island communities to learn about the marine heritage, fishing techniques and trading traditions of the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea’s South Pacific islands, as well as enjoying the biodiversity of these volcanic and coral islands, and staying overnight in deserted island campsites.
If high-altitude trekking, deep forest hiking, birding, wildlife, yoga, healthy living and natural organic farming in the middle of the Himalayas sound your thing, this trip may be your ticket. During COVID-19, women-led NGO Fernweh Travel created a boutique eco-retreat and food forest in a permaculture farm, Himalayan Citrus Garden, in a beautiful river valley by Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary, run by local women, has been designed for nature and cultural immersion experiences. There’s a yogashala, meditation house, library, star-gazing spaces, and high-end accommodation. Fernweh Fair Travel – Uplifting Communities combines mountain adventures with female empowerment in Uttarakhand, by creating jobs for mainly women (90 percent); young widows with no possibility of re-marrying again, survivors of domestic violence, youth, and ‘untouchable’ tribes.
Supporting ongoing conservation work while you travel is another way of making an impact. Intrepid Travel has been working with MEET Network, an initiative from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, to develop two new trips around Crete and Croatia’s Central Dalmatia region. The itineraries take travelers away from the more popular places and instead, to spots that don’t typically benefit from the tourist dollar where conservation work is taking place. In Croatia, that includes the Kornati Isands National Park, and Samaria Gorge National Park in Crete.
InsideAsia’s new 14-day Borneo to be Wild trekking trip explores the small but diverse Bako national park, the rainforest and caves along the ‘Headhunters trail’ in Mulu National Park and summiting Mount Kinabalu. The focus is on the communities who call these areas home, and accommodation includes staying overnight in a long house with the Iban people in Mulu National Park and staying at a community-run eco-lodge, set up to encourage people to stay and protect the local environment and culture of the Murut people of Sapulot, deep in the Sabah interior.
The lesser visited areas of Morocco are explored on Intrepid Travel’s first female-only adventure, starting in Marrakech before visiting more remote areas where travelers can break bread with Berber families, see for themselves how an artist co-op is empowering female rug-weavers in small villages, and enjoy the wonders of the M’goun Valley. A local leader will accompany travelers on this tour where the focus on female travel and female empowerment is designed to provide an opportunity in a sometimes-conservative country.
It’s a first for Nelson Tasman, known as ‘the top of the south’ on the northwestern corner of New Zeland’s South Island, who have New Zealand’s first zero-carbon iinerary. The region, home to three national parks, has almost 30 Zero Carbon or Positive Carbon-certified tourism businesses who have worked together to create a light footprint zero carbon travel itinerary—they’re regularly audited to measure, reduce and offset their emissions and the organisations they support include Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, Abel Tasman Tree Collective and Tasman Bay Guardians. Experiences include e-biking, visiting the country’s first climate positive pub in the country and canyoning.
However you experience this World Heritage Site of the Great Barrier Reef, choose an ethical operator—Master Reef Guides features best-practice companies who contribute to research in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. But while marine marvels are the big ticket here, there’s more on offer. The land, like all of Australia’s, is home to the world’s oldest living culture and an increasing number of Indigenous-run and -owned operators are now sharing their stories. At the Mossman Gorge Centre, you can take a walk to a sacred site with the local Kuku Yalanji people and learn about traditional plants, visit the UNESCO Quinkan Rock Art and hear the Dreamtime stories with Jarramali Rock Art Tours, and find out what the reef means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel.
Just three per cent of modern-day Australia’s population is comprised of people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. That’s a whole lot of culture—some 50,000 years’ worth—that needs to be sought out. Thankfully, a host of Indigenous Australians are encouraging the rest of us to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors,and Aboriginal Cultural Tours in South Australia, is one such outfit. Owner Quenten Agius has built an immersive and award-winning set of itineraries, offering travelers the opportunity to embark on coastal (Adjahdura) or outbush (Ngadjuri) tours, or both. “Our aim is to take people on journey, not only physically but also spiritually, to a place where they have never been to before,” says Agius. “With each tour, our guests gain a wealth of knowledge about Aboriginal heritage, culture, traditions, and beliefs.”
New Zealand is streets ahead when it comes to celebrating its indigenous culture: Artwork and Maori greetings adorn most international airports; the All Blacks—their international rugby team—perform the Haka (a traditional Maori war dance) before every game; Maori language and history is taught in schools. On a global scale, there’s much to be done from an education perspective, but there are plenty of on-the-ground adventures for those who want to dig deeper. Napier Maori Tours, run by a young local Maori family, offer ‘eco-cultural’ day tours along the protected Ahuriri Estuary where travelers can practise traditional fishing and take archaeological tours of an ancient Maori village, the largest and oldest in the country. And if you’re in Northland—New Zealand’s northernmost peninsula—Footprints Waipoua offer Maori-led tours through the Waipoua Forest, home to Tana Mahuta, the country’s largest living tree.
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.
Even if you can’t travel, you can still help people and communities who could do with a boost. Read Tracey Croke’s inspiring article for ideas: How travelers can be a force for good (without traveling anywhere)
You can also donate to The Intrepid Foundation, the not-for-profit entity of Intrepid Travel, parent company of Adventure.com. The Intrepid Foundation supports local organizations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences.
We wish the travel industry and every person, community and project in it all the best for 2022 and hope travel can continue to be a force for good around the world.
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