Sustainable Tourism

Ever since the early days of Naturetrek, we have been committed to operating our holidays in a responsible manner. Ours is a wildlife travel company run by naturalists, for naturalists. Every member of our office team and every one of our tour leaders has a passion for conservation, wildlife and wildlife tourism; the need to ensure the long-term protection of species and habitats is an important part of our lives. This commitment to protecting species and habitats, as well as to working with local communities and leaving a positive impact on the destinations we visit, has always been a fundamental part of our business. We were delighted to achieve AITO’s top 5-star Sustainable Tourism accreditation, and now make a pledge annually as part of AITO’s Project PROTECT.

Below, you can read more about our carbon-offsetting initiative with the World Land Trust and Fundacion EcoMinga in Ecuador, and our support of Butterfly Conservation. We also detail our core aims, our suggestions for responsible travel, and our contributions to wildlife conservation and other causes over the years.

Our Key Projects

Over the years we have supported all manner of projects; many of them are detailed below. Currently, we choose to channel our energy and financial support into two important projects:

The Naturetrek Reserve in Ecuador – Reducing the Carbon Emissions from our Flights
We have been encouraging our customers to offset their carbon emissions from flights since 2000, and since 2007 we have been making contributions at our own expense. We donate £15 for every long-haul return flight and £5 for every short-haul return flight booked by our customers to Fundacion EcoMinga, the Ecuadorian partner of the World Land Trust. To date, we have raised over £445,000 in this way.

EcoMinga uses our funds to purchase and protect critically endangered cloudforest in the Ecuadorian Andes. Over the years, we have slowly but surely built up our own ‘Naturetrek Reserve’, creating an invaluable forest corridor linking the Sangay and Llanganates National Parks. Currently, our protected area covers 1,715 acres … twice the size of the City of London! This threatened cloudforest corridor was classified by WWF as one of the 200 most important wildlife corridors in the world, due to its high levels of biodiversity. It is full of locally endemic plant species, and rich in Andean species such as Spectacled Bear, Mountain Tapir, Cock-of-the-Rock and Giant Antpitta. We are very excited that species new to science have been discovered within our reserve, including two new frogs! You can read more about our reserve on our dedicated webpage

We also encourage our clients to match our donation when they book their holiday, in order to further reduce the environmental impact of their trip. By matching our donation, you can help us to grow our ‘Naturetrek Reserve’, both locking up carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and preventing the National Parks from becoming isolated cloudforest islands, thereby protecting this valuable, extremely biodiverse habitat and its endangered wildlife.


Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

Supporting Butterfly Conservation

Amongst the 600+ wildlife holidays that we operate around the world each year, around 25 focus on butterflies. Here in the UK and across the globe the habitats that these endearing insects need are becoming increasingly fragile, with constant pressures from the ever-developing world we live in. We want to do our utmost to help protect and manage these habitats, not only benefitting our butterflies, but also the ecosystem as a whole.

We donate 10% of the income generated from our butterfly-focused holidays to the charity Butterfly Conservation, and are a Gold Corporate Sponsor. Each year our donation funds different projects that focus on protecting and correctly managing habitats for different butterfly species. Under Butterfly Conservation’s expert stewardship, a great range of other species will also benefit. Each participant on our butterfly holidays also receives a year’s membership to the charity, giving them the opportunity to learn more about the conservation of butterflies.

To date we have donated over £228,000 in this way to Butterfly Conservation. With this commitment, Naturetrek clients are helping to ensure that vital butterfly habitats are protected across the UK and Europe, for the enjoyment of all.

Our Core Aims

Naturetrek’s founders, staff and tour leaders are naturalists and conservationists turned tour operators, and sustainable tourism has been a key part of Naturetrek’s ethos since the company began in 1986. We are, of course, utterly dependent on the well-being of the world’s wildlife for the success of our business… and the habitats, reserves and national parks that protect it. Thus, our core aims are, and always have been:

  • To focus on visiting national parks, wildlife reserves and wilderness areas which do not benefit from the rewards of mass market tourism.
  • To minimise our environmental impact by exploring in small groups and, as much as possible, on foot.
  • To use local guides wherever possible… and to train them to the highest standards expected by today’s wildlife tourists.
  • To involve local communities wherever possible in our operations, and to ensure that they receive a fair share of the benefits of wildlife tourism.
  • To use small, locally owned, family-run accommodation, and similarly owned and operated specialist in-country partners with a wildlife/conservation bias and sympathy.
  • To purchase local produce over imported goods.
  • To fund and develop partnerships with local communities and naturalists in order to develop low-impact and environmentally friendly tourist facilities in exceptional wildlife areas. Koshi Camp and Suklaphanta Wildlife Camp are examples of such partnerships.
  • To run our UK office (a beautiful barn conversion set amongst a 12-acre grassland site in the village of Chawton) in as energy-efficient a manner as possible.
  • To encourage and develop a passion for wildlife and wild places amongst our customers (many of whom are novices, trying this form of holiday for the first time).

Guidelines for Responsible Travel

Wildlife travel is, of course, responsible for its share of damaging carbon emissions. It does, however, provide substantial benefits which, we would argue as conservationists, make a strong case for wildlife enthusiasts to continue travelling. If we stopped bringing our custom to the national parks, wildlife reserves and the wilderness regions of the world, many of these areas, especially in developing countries, would simply disappear … and with them their wildlife. Not only does wildlife tourism support rural communities in impoverished nations, but it supports them in the ability to preserve their natural and wildlife heritage for their future generations who, hopefully, may have the wealth and leisure opportunities that we have today to enjoy their natural heritage.

If you do choose to travel, then ‘make travel count’. Ensure that you, and your travel company, are off-setting all emissions that relate to your journey. Try to reduce your environmental impact in your chosen destination much as possible, and allow your travels to bring benefits to the local people, communities and the wildlife that you meet along the way. We encourage all of our customers to consider the following suggestions and take a responsible approach to tourism around the world:

1. Support the 'World Land Trust'

Air travel is one of the major causes of global warming and many of our holidays involve flying. While our donation to the World Land Trust on behalf of every passenger booking a Naturetrek overseas holiday (£15 for each long-haul and £5 for each short-haul passenger) goes towards offsetting the carbon emissions from your flights, we invite you to match our donation and further offset some of the emissions resulting from other aspects of your holiday (airport transfers, coach travel, lighting, heating, etc.). You could even ensure that your holiday is carbon negative by means of a more generous donation!

It is worth adding that, in virtually every country through which you choose to travel, you will find a practice or policy (perhaps several!) which offends you. It might be a country's abuse of human rights, nuclear testing programme, whaling, slavery, trade in endangered species, bull fighting, the slaughter of migrant birds, deforestation, or fox hunting. The chances are that they offend us too, but were we to boycott travel to that particular country we would have no destinations left to offer! Instead, we choose to make no such judgements; it is you who make your own choice of holiday destination. Further, in all these countries, live many people who share your concerns. They would much rather you visit – to lend them support, to understand the problem, and to protest more rationally on your return home, to the offending nation's government, tourist board or embassy.

Our Contribution to Sustainable Tourism

We are intimately involved in wildlife tourism and dependent on it as a business, making us acutely aware of the need to ensure the long-term protection of species and habitats. Our financial contribution to conservation causes has increased over the years with the growth of our business, and now stands at over £900,000. Some examples of our own projects and contributions include: