Responsible tourism: Sao Tome & Equatorial Guinea small group holiday
Much of the time on this tour is spent in towns and cities (especially in Equatorial Guinea), but we do spend a significant proportion of the trip exploring the countryside and wilder areas of both countries. When exploring these areas on foot we take care to stick to the trails and not to damage any of the flora, as some parts of the region are quite a fragile environment. We operate a strict no litter policy on our tours, and work to educate our drivers and other service providers so as to avoid contributing to this problem.
Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels each day, as well as saving electricity and turning lights off.
Both countries are in the nascent stages of tourism development and we recognise that we have an important responsibility to lead by example and set the right tone when operating trips here.
We include a visit to the Moka Wildlife centre, which plays an important role in the conservation of local species - our visit, albeit in a small way, helps to fund their efforts. We also spend a night at Ureka, where a community based project has been established to help protect the turtles which come on shore to nest. The presence of tourism brings income to this community and reinforces the idea that the turtles and their habitat are worth protecting.
On all of tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers that tourism should have a positive impact on the places visited. On this tour we include a number of stays in smaller communities that are outside the mainstream tourist industry - not that much of a mainstream industry exists here. Our stay at Ureka not only benefits the wildlife but helps to ensure that local people outside of the capital benefit from visitors.
Elsewhere we stay at locally owned guesthouses and hotels and where appropriate employ the services of local people in order not only to gain a greater insight into the complex traditions here but to ensure that they gain financial benefit from our visit, rather than just being ‘exhibits’. In Sao Joao dos Angolares we stay in a converted 'roca' - an old plantation house - which provides important employment opportunities for local people in a remote part of the island, and we encourage our groups to take part in activities guided by the residents of this small community. The fact that tourists visit here provides an important incentive to maintain the delicate heritage of this part of Sao Tome.
When visiting the smaller communities, we encourage our travellers to spend money locally and perhaps purchase some of the fine handicrafts on sale here.
We visit a number of sites on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources – particularly the case in Equatorial Guinea, which despite being an oil rich nation has great divides between rich and poor. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the countries we travel through.