Ethical travel questions

Ethical travel questions

Tribes Travel is a founding member of the Ethical Tour Operators Group (ETOG).  Responsible, sustainable travel is key to Tribes.  This ETOG group comes under the auspices of the UK’s Tourism Concern, a charity which campaigns for better tourism worldwide.

Yesterday we had a meeting and a variety of tourism issues were discussed.  The agenda this time included: slum tourism, all inclusive hotels, trekking porters’ rights, and standards in volunteering travel. As you can see the issues which this group take on are quite diverse.  The tourism industry really has so many different angles which need to be considered and changed for the better that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start.

Below are some of the questions which were posed and discussed yesterday.  What are your views on any of these?  Give us your comments and let’s widen the discussion.  The more views the better!

  1. Why do travellers visit slums / townships?  Do they know that unless a visit is undertaken sensitively and properly, such visits bring no benefit to the community?
  2. Are all-inclusive hotels bad for the community they are within, given that guests rarely leave the confines of the hotel?
  3. Gap year volunteering trips are very popular now. Many (not all – for example, see our recommended volunteering page) are badly run and planned and can cause real problems in the places they are trying to help. Would it not be better for gappers to simply travel, and not volunteer?

So if any of these questions have any connection with your travel choices, we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

5 of the best responsible tourism destinations

5 of the best responsible tourism destinations

As Responsible Tourism Week 2012 draws to a close, I thought I’d share some of Tribes’ favourite 5-Globe Eco-Rated lodges and hotels with you. I hope these will give you some inspiration when looking to travel responsibly. Tribes undertakes both a social and environmental review of its hotels before awarding an eco-rating so travellers can be sure that Tribes’ 5-globe rated accommodations have impeccable eco-credentials.

Mwamba Bush Camp, South Luangwa NP, Zambia


As mentioned in an earlier post, Mwamba Bush Camp, owned and run by Shenton Safaris, comprises 3 reed and thatch en-suite chalets on the banks of the Mwamba River. The chalets are uniquely designed with two large skylights allowing you to experience sleeping under the stars. They also have solar lighting, flush toilets and bucket showers. Mwamba provides back-to-nature simplicity with essential comforts and has been awarded a 5-Globe rating for its care and consideration for both the environment and the social impact of its camp.

Chumbe Island Lodge, South-West Zanzibar

The beautiful Chumbe Island Lodge

The accommodation on Chumbe Island takes the concept of eco-architecture to unparalleled levels that has seen award winning global recognition for its innovation and conservation principles. Chumbe’s seven eco-bungalows are designed so that they provide both privacy and a sense of freedom of living in the open.

One of Chumbe Island Lodge’s great eco-assets is that all the lodge’s buildings have been ingeniously designed to catch, filter and store their own rainwater.

As far as Tribes is concerned we wish all accommodation was built on the principles found at Chumbe Island, the lodge fully deserves its 5-Globe Eco-rating!!

Feynan Lodge, Jordan

Feynan Lodge has been developed by Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and opened in the summer of 2005. It is set among the arid mountains of Wadi Feynan on the western border of Dana Nature Reserve.

The interior of the wonderful Feynan Lodge

It is an interesting piece of architecture built entirely of local materials and designed by a local architect. The lodge uses solar power by day and candle light at night and the staff are all from the local Bedouin community, making it an important asset to this remote area.

Thoroughly deserving of its 5-Globe rating, It is a great place to stay and can form the base for longer explorations and treks into the area.

Coconut Lagoon, Kerala

Managed by CGH Earth Experience Hotels, the Coconut Lagoon resort is leading the way for sustainable tourism in Kerala. Its organic gardens provide food for the restaurant, with compost produced on site. There is a water treatment and recycling plant and even a biogas plant producing gas for cooking.

The amazing Coconut Lagoon

The Coconut Lagoon Resort is a great example of environmental sustainability and involvement of the local community and also offers excellent locally produced organic food.

It’s a perfect spot for starting or ending a Kerala backwaters cruise, and is one of our favourite eco-friendly resorts in India.

Sani Lodge, Lake Challuacocha, Ecuador


A typical chalet at Sani Lodge

Sani Lodge is owned and operated by members of the Sani community and is dedicated to environmental conservation and community projects. Sani Lodge is truly a one of a kind ecolodge dedicated to ecotourism, environmental conservation, and community projects in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador. With their extensive knowledge of the Amazon wildlife and biodiversity the members of the Sani community can give Sani Lodge guests the true experience of the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle.

To find out more about the Tribes Eco-Rating system and what you can expect from a true responsible tourism experience, take a look at the Responsible Travel section of our website.

Happy eco-travelling!!!

Shenton Safaris

Shenton Safaris

If you’re thinking of taking a safari in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, let me recommend a really excellent small safari company – Shenton Safaris.

It is an owner-run company, which is a great start in my view.   Owned by Derek and Jules Shenton, this is a company whose passion for the valley of South Luangwa is long term and in depth.  They really know and love this place!

Derek and Jules built their first camp, Kaingo camp, in 1992, and they later added Mwamba Bush Camp.  The camps are known for their superb photographic hides which have been used for photographic shoots by the BBC, National Geographic and others.   There is the Hippo Hide, Elephant hide, Carmine Hide and ‘The Last Waterhole.  If you are a wildlife photographer, this is where you want to be.

Mwamba Bush Camp

Mwamba Bush Camp

Mwamba is a lovely little bush camp – very remote and fantastic for walking. I’d recommend combining this with Kaingo (Shenton’s other camp) and walking between the two as well.  Shenton’s are superb and their photographic hides add an extra element to the safari which anyone will love!  Don’t be put off that they are geared so much to photographers, you don’t have to be David Bailey to stay here!

Fly camping can be enjoyed while at Mwamba Camp. This involves a game drive and walking safari to a remote location, where dinner is prepared before a night spent beneath the stars – a true bush experience.

Kaingo Camp

A friendly elephant pays a visit to one of the chalets at Kaingo Camp

I love this camp!.  Derek and Jules are both such passionate and experienced hosts and guides and it’s a lovely, friendly little camp in the most superb part of Luangwa.  Make sure you take time to sit in the photography hides and take it all in … though at the hippo hide you may want a face mask, the smell is not particularly attractive!

The number of repeat clientele here is very high which in itself says a great deal about this small company. Both camps have impeccable eco-credentials and have both been awarded the Tribes Travel  5 Globe Eco Rating.

Sustainable travel awards

Sustainable travel awards

Last night, at an anniversary dinner of AITO (the Association of Tour Operators) in London, Tribes was delighted to be given the award for the ‘Most Innovative Sustainable Tourism Initiative 2011’.  This responsible travel award recognised Tribes’ eco-rating system of environmental and social impact auditing of the properties with which it works around the world. So far, 325 properties have been assessed across 17 countries, establishing their relative eco strengths and weaknesses, before publishing their grading on the company’s website. This process helps to raise environmental awareness among property owners, who are able to make positive changes as a result. Tribes also has a business plan to push sales for the higher-graded properties as an added incentive for those with a lower grading.
Guy and Amanda Marks collected the award and are seen here with three of the judging panel, Dick Sisman, Chris Breen and Richard Hammond.

A new award, the Roger Diski Community Project Award was won by Adventure Alternative for their excellent work in two rural village communities in the Nepal Himalaya. One of its main achievements has been to improve the quality of inhabitants’ lives and to stem the migration of younger generations to the more urban lowlands, thereby rejuvenating this unique community.

Judge and environmental guru Dick Sisman said: “This year’s entries show once again the depth of understanding that AITO members and their affiliates have for projects which support communities and the environment in tourism destinations around the world. I am particularly pleased to see the new Roger Diski Community Project award, which remembers a remarkable man and his love for the host communities who helped to make tourism such a special event for him and continue to do so for us.”


Rainforest with the Huaorani

Rainforest with the Huaorani

Recently some of our clients came back from a trip to the Ecuadorian rainforest.  Patrick and Diana have travelled with Tribes previously, and this time wanted something unique in terms of a rainforest experience.  We suggested the Huaorani Ecolodge amongst other great spots.  They had a fabulous time and here are some of their comments which we hope will be useful for anyone considering this wonderful place.


The whole rainforest experience was for us memorable. The progression from the Huaorani lodge to Sacha Lodge was smooth, and a nice balance of experience in that a bit extra comfort was welcome at this stage, although one was still worked quite fully in terms of activities. It would have been nice to have avoided the night in Coca and spend it with either the Huaorani, or at Sacha, but one can understand the difficulties involved in this.

The Huaorani experience was fascinating and bewitching, and especially so because of its unrefined naturalness. The air of innocence and gentle friendliness amongst the villagers was captivating, and real. Sadly, over-developed tourism would be bound to contaminate this.

It is fair to say, however, that aspects of it are quite tough and would not be possible for a number of the older people we later met at Sacha Lodge. The pace and extreme humidity could cause problems for some, particularly the waterfall walk and steps (really hard work). The delightful swims in the river and the picnic lunches were magical and the catering by our Huaorani cook was extraordinary. This was some of the best food we have eaten anywhere, and I mean anywhere. A remarkable feat of ingenuity and natural talent. Expect, though, to get wet through with sweat and river water, but this is part of the fun of it all.

The main man behind this Huaoranis project is a man called Moi Enomenga.  Tribes’ director Guy Marks has travelled with Moi in the past, and Moi was written about by Joe Kane in his book “Savages”.  Well worth a read whether you’re going to travel to this area or not.