The Give-Back Factor in India
Updated: Nov 26, 2020
If planning a trip to India, travel with a top tour operator that gives back in a big way.
These five tour operators and posh properties across India create unforgettable experiences for their guests while protecting the environment and supporting the local communities around them.
This massive country encompasses a vast number of habitats and cultures. These five brands work diligently to sustain them with their itineraries, staff and their eco approach.
Aquaterra Adventures leads thrill-seeking trips in the Indian Himalayas and beyond. From rafting to camping to trekking, it provides endless experiences for the adventurous traveler. Since its founding, Aquaterra has expanded beyond India and into Nepal, Bhutan, South America, and more.
As a longtime climber and guide, Vaibhav Kala was at the forefront of creating, planning, and leading adventure travel in India. He founded Aquaterra Adventures in 1995, as he wished to introduce travelers to the more adventurous side of India. His tours are diverse and engaging as he offers both custom and fixed trips. Now in its 25th year, Kala's commitment and vision and his company are still going strong.
In addition to his trips, his property Atali Ganga, set above the Ganga River, 18 miles north of Rishikesh, has been lauded by Travel & Leisure National Geographic, Trip Advisor, and several media publications. It is a top spot in the region and a great place to be based during one of Aquaterra's adventures.
Aquaterra prides itself on its personal touch. It adapts their trip itineraries to individual traveler's interests. It hires guides locally from the Himalayas, advantaging local communities and ensuring that travelers can learn without harming the Himalayan environment or cultures.
It is committed to responsible tourism and protecting the local environment. To be less intrusive, it keeps group sizes between 12 to 18 people. Treks minimize environmental harm; groups use solar-powered lanterns, light no campfires, and leave nothing behind biodegradable food waste.
Rani Chandresh Kumari, the Princess of Jodhpur, founded the aptly named Royal Expeditions in 1993. Her interests in quality, value, and environmental awareness continue to flavor the company's trips. Royal Expeditions runs individually tailored luxury tours that immerse guests in the heritage, nature, wildlife, and adventure that India offers.
Royal Expeditions has grown to become an international company. A head office in New Delhi conducts sales operations out of the U.S., Spain, and Brazil. Its tours span India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan.
Despite the diversity of Royal Expeditions' offerings, the company upholds a single code of ethics. It follows the World Tourism Organization's Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, as outlined by the UN. Hence, it emphasizes sustainable management, protects tour environments, and ensures that local communities benefit economically and socially from its trips.
Royal Expeditions associates with Waste Warriors, helping to manage waste safely and effectively within the frameworks of unique communities. Its founder, the Princess of Jodhpur, serves as the director for Travel Operators for Tigers. This coalition raises money and educates people for the protection of India's endangered Bengal tigers.
They offer set departures and custom itineraries. There is a wide range of themes and interests, all from adventure to culture and culinary, art, architecture and textiles, photography, birding, spirituality and yoga and festivals and events.
Jamtara Wilderness Camp
In the Village of Jamtara, the magnificent Pench National Park and the Jamtara Wilderness Camp provide guests with an unforgettable adventure and experience. The Camp features ten luxury tents, a library, and a pool. Besides the ambiance, its resident naturalists lead guests on educational day-tours of the lush jungle landscape surrounding the Camp.
The Camp also offers “star beds,” which sit high on raised wooden platforms outside. They allow guests to sleep in nature. Local farmers use similar structures, called machaans, to watch their fields throughout the night. The Camp took inspiration from the machaans. They give the majority of their star bed profits back to local landowners.
Jamtara sources furniture from reclamation yards. They also protect surrounding plants, including dozens of Arjuna trees and one ancient Banyan. They grow food on-site, use all-natural products wherever possible, and hire 80% of its staff from the local village. They provide solar panels to villagers and contribute to the Tiger Trust.
Opening Jamtara in 2014, Amit Sankhala followed in his conservationist father, Pradeep Sankhala footsteps. Pradeep established the Tiger Resorts Private Limited in 1987. He wanted to provide an environmentally friendly experience, one that embraced the rugged beauty of Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks – through their Jungle Lodges.
Since then, the company has committed itself to protect tigers while providing eco viable and earthy, luxury travel experiences. Along with Jamtara, they manage a Jungle Lodge in Bandhavgarh National Park and one in Kanha. Each park is a massive tiger reserve, and the Jungle Lodges help to support them. Amit is the Managing Director of Tiger Resorts Pvt.Ltd and Indian Nature Expeditions.
Since 1979, Ibex Expeditions has led trips with a commitment and a passion for adventure and sustainability. National Geographic included Ibex in a list of Best Adventure Travel Companies; it won a National Tourism Award within India. In addition to their presence in India, Ibex also leads tours in Mongolia, Madagascar, and Antarctica.
As the founder and managing director of Ibex Expeditions, Mandip Singh Soin FRGS is celebrating more than 40 years since it's inception. His wife, Anita Singh Soin, is Ibex Director. Her artistic and creative flair is in the execution and meticulous design of their handcrafted luxury rips.
An environmental approach is far from a trend with Ibex. Conservation, sustainability, and social justice are at the core of their business and their many trips. They take a light approach, literally, in whichever direction that they head.
As a member of the Ecotourism Society of India, the UIAA Climbing and Mountaineering Development Commission, and the PATA Environment Chapter, Ibex remains committed in protecting the earth. It has partnered with WWF-India, spreading awareness about fragile Himalayan ecosystems. They implemented, Pack for a Purpose, encouraging travelers to only bring necessary resources to the communities they visit.
Mandip Singh Soin has edited four editions of the Environment and Eco-Tourism Handbook, published by India's Ministry of Tourism. Ibex has even released a travel book, Koko Singh's Delhi and Agra, to raise money for the Atmashakti Trust. The Trust improves living conditions for families in Odisha, a disadvantaged Indian state.
An elite sub-group, the Ibex Explorers Fellowship, includes environmentally conscious explorers that travel and develop ideas together. Eco-responsibility permeates Ibex from its board to its trips. At Ibex Expeditions, outstanding travel experiences and environmental consciousness go hand-in-hand.
Taj Hotels: Banjaar Tola
The Taj Hotels is India's premier luxury brand, known the world over. Alongside its flagship, the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, the brand manages 83 Indian hotels and 16 in other locations around the world. As luxe as it is, it uses its influence to advance good causes and sustainable initiatives.
For over a decade, Taj Hotels have worked to cut energy consumption and waste. They follow EarthCheck benchmarks, which advise the best environmental practices for companies worldwide. Under Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), its parent company, Taj Hotels, engage in transparent and responsible methods.
The IHCL reports its social and environmental impacts through the United National Global Compact and Business Responsibility Reporting. It runs training programs and provides educational opportunities to disadvantaged youth across India.
One Taj Hotel, Banjaar Tola, makes a particular environmental impact. Located in Kanha National Park, the hotel helps protect tigers and other local species. Kanha, one of the original Project Tiger reserves established in 1973, works to preserve Bengal tigers. Also, over 300 recorded bird species live within the park.
Banjaar Tola derives furniture and artwork from local craftspeople and features two camps with nine tents each.
While on-site, guests enjoy naturalist-guided tours, spa treatments, and a good conscience.
Written by Olivia Cipperman