We are dedicated to minimising the effects our trips have on the environment, and are committed to ensuring that we have a positive impact on the local communities we travel through.
On this epic trip through the USA, Canada, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, we will be travelling overland, using a combination of overland vehicles, buses, taxis, boats, 4x4s and trains, thus cutting out the need for air travel apart from a short excursion to the Bay Islands and over the Darien Gap, and reducing carbon-emissions. Going overland (by car and on foot for excursions) means you get to experience physically crossing the borders between countries as well as explore places which are off the beaten track.
In order to minimise the impact of our presence on the wildlife and ecosystem of the areas where we travel, we explicitly forbid any involvement in activities that harm or exploit animals, and advise our crew in specific activities to avoid in this regard.
We believe that local culture and communities must be an integral part of our trips. We recognise that we are guests of the local communities we travel through and strive to make these communities into our partners.
Wherever we are in the world, we prefer to use smaller locally-owned businesses, ensuring that local communities gain a direct economic benefit from our business, for example, we use small locally owned hotels, campsites and activity providers wherever possible. In Raqchi we stay at a homestay within the community, which provides local rural people with tourist revenue and employment, as well as providing a superb opportunity for local interaction.
We use local guides and operators throughout the trip; for example, in many places throughout the route we use responsible local operators that provide training and employment to many local people as guides, providing them with stable employment in the tourism industry.
We also feel it is important that our guests immerse themselves in the culture of their host country and we ensure that we weave experiences that will facilitate this into our itineraries. For example, we visit local markets in the villages on the Community Inca Trail and throughout the trip.
All of our vehicles conform to UK emission controls when they leave the UK and are regularly serviced and maintained in established, locally-owned workshops ensuring that they run as efficiently as possible and our economic returns to a country reach beyond tourism. Waste products such as oils and tyres are often reused several times after we have finished with them, as we pass them on to local people.
All trucks carry a 350-litre water tank, providing drinking water for the group and minimising the need to purchase bottled water. Rather than using plastic bags when shopping for food, we also provide reusable longer lasting bags; we bury our bio-degradable waste or give it to local people to feed livestock; and for cooking we generally use gas instead of wood, a cleaner fuel which leaves natural resources for local people. Passengers and crew are encouraged to use rechargeable batteries for items such as cameras, which can be charged from mains supplies or on our trucks as we travel.
In the office and as a company: We are committed to trying to reduce, re-use and recycle as much as is possible: we reduce what we print by using email and online media for the majority of our communication; any necessary print is always 2-sided and all paper products (in addition to plastics, glass, cardboard, oils and metal) are recycled. We minimise our energy consumption in whatever way we can (e.g. using energy efficient light bulbs and minimising water usage with reduced water cisterns in the bathroom for example).
We are committed to promoting human rights within our sphere of influence – this means trying to ensure that everybody involved with us are treated with fairness and respect, including our office staff, crew, local guides and suppliers, as well as all the other stakeholders.
We are also involved with a variety of community projects in key destinations as we visit. Our involvement with these projects is a long-term commitment, allowing us and our passengers to participate directly in delivering real practical benefits to the communities we travel through on the ground. The projects are not tourist initiatives, but a way of employing tourism to generate funding and support and facilitate community interaction. For example, in San Andres Itzapa we support and stay at Manos Amigos, a guesthouse run by an Italian-based NGO that support women that have been abandoned or abused and live at the centre with their children.
Since 2005 we have been operating our flagship community-based tourism project in South America, the Tarpay Yachay Community Inca Trek. When setting up the project, our initial aim was to develop an alternative to the extremely popular “Classic” Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu – one that was grounded in the principles of responsible, sustainable and ethical travel. This is a trekking programme that seeks to genuinely benefit the host communities our groups pass through via education, income generation, and environmental initiatives, whilst protecting the communities from exploitation and giving them ownership over how their environment is used.
To date, our groups’ donations have helped improve local schools through refurbishment projects, recruiting and supporting the continued employment of a full-time teacher for each community, created designated camping areas with toilet facilities in order to prevent contamination and degradation of open spaces and provide an income for the communities, supported micro-projects to increase the type of crops available to local people in order to improve their diet and nutrition, re-introduced herds or 'hatos' of alpacas after an absence of 200 years (which in turn has allowed alpaca-wool weaving to start in the area, providing revenue for the locals), repaired bridges along the pathways, and together with the ECOAN (a local conservation non-profit organization) have donated 5000 polylepsis (Queuna) trees to areas in danger of extinction in the Lares Valley. In 2013 it was agreed to research a new area through which to trek whilst maintaining the original ethos behind the project - that of combining benefits to both trekkers and local communities.
A new route was created, travelling through an even more stunning mountainous area, thus bringing income to new communities and opening up parts of the Andes which had previously little contact with the adventure tourist.