Here at Choose a Challenge, we are passionate about showing students parts of the world that others rarely get to see. With that being said, we are aware of the social and economic issues that are associated with tourism. As a company, we choose to only work with local ground operators who are ethically responsible and who support community tourism projects. We have copied below a couple of things we are proud to support by working with our suppliers.
Our trek partner for the Kilimanjaro trek has their own Charity. The charity was set up in 2009, it’s aim is to enhance community economic development especially by supporting vulnerable groups in the community such as orphans, Maasai women group, and porters. Students who visit Tanzania are also lucky enough to visit the Charity shop, they’ll be able to pick up souvenirs, all whilst supporting the charity.
Our trek partner for the Machu Picchu trek have their own ethical standards they adhere to, to support the local community and the planet. Not only are they part of the 1% for the planet scheme, which opts to donate 1% of their turnover each year to help reforest the Lares area with native trees. Since 2007, they’ve managed to plant over 500,000 native trees. They also work hard to protect their porters, providing a career progression programme, as well as many other benefits!
Our in-country provider for the Everest Base Camp trek also takes an active role in ensuring they are a responsible tour operator. They are not only members of various responsible tourism societies, they are also recommended by responsibletravel.com. The operator contributes 10% of their profit from trading each year to supporting rural development projects to directly uplift the living standard of local residents and contribute to the national economy of Nepal.
So in sum, we work hard alongside our ground suppliers to ensure we are facilitating responsible tourism. But there is also a big part played by our students in responsible tourism. We think it’s important for our students to follow the guidelines provided below to ensure they are helping to make a positive impact to whichever country they are lucky enough to visit:
Litter: There is nothing worse than getting to explore a beautiful, natural environment such as Mount Kilimanjaro, to find toilet roll scattered along the path or empty bottles propped on a rock. Here are a couple of ways you can do your part preventing the littering along these beautiful treks:
1) Each participant should be using a reusable bottle (and not carrying plastic ones around). If you do use a plastic bottle, ensure this is carried to a relevant recycling bin (this may not be until the end of the trek).
2) Ladies, you may have the unfortunate time of the month occur along the trek. We suggest you carry along some sanitary bags. If you need to change along the way, pop your used products in a bag and once you arrive at your camp later that day you’ll be able to put them into a bin (if you can’t find the bin, your guide will be able to assist you – don’t worry, they’ve seen this plenty of times before!).
3) Along the way, you may be provided with snacks such as apples or bananas. You should not leave these along the path, although they are biodegradable, you should still ensure you have left them in the appropriate containers or bags around your camp or lunch spot.
4) Toilet tissue. You may need to pop to the toilet along the way on the trek, this could mean you need to duck behind a rock or in a bush at some points. With this being said, it’s important that your excrement is the only thing you’ll be leaving behind the rock- no toilet roll, please! We suggest students come armed with a couple of sanitary bags to store their toilet roll along the route, to then pop in the bin when they reach the camp. You may get to a “toilet rock” and notice there is other tourist’s leftover tissue, this isn’t a sign that it’s ok for you to do the same- we strongly encourage you to protect the environment and put your tissue in the relevant bin.
Plants and Wildlife. Along the trek, you’ll likely encounter plants and other creatures you may not have seen before. We hope this would be common sense, but we ask students to not interfere with any wildlife they encounter. So, in short, that means no picking flowers, no squashing bugs, and no feeding animals!
Souvenirs. We all love a souvenir to take home as a reminder of where we’ve been. It’s great to try and buy locally made crafts that support local skills. You should avoid buying items that exploit or threaten endangered wildlife species, for example, items made out of ivory or ancient artefacts (as they probably won’t be real anyway!).
Tipping. In all of our pre-departure briefings and briefing packs, we mention the importance of tipping. As you can see from above, all of our staff are paid a fair wage. With this being said, tipping is a social norm in countries that offer treks such as those our participants take part in. Within our individual briefing packs, we provide a recommended amount. Tipping is always optional, and participants are able to pay as much or as little as they wish to. One thing we will say though is that students often head out to their trek thinking the recommended amount is quite a lot to ask for. However, we would estimate around 90% of them come back down from the mountain saying they agree with the amount suggested (with some saying it should be higher!). The guides and trek staff work really hard to ensure students have the most amazing time on the challenge, so we believe they do deserve it!
Overall, if you want to read more about your individual challenge and the recommendations for responsible tourism within your particular destination- check out your briefing pack on the FAQ section of the website here.