Green Travel List: Community Projects
Canoeing up the Amazon led by Omene, one of the expert Huaorani guides. Photo: Richard Hammond
Tropic Journeys in Nature, Ecuador
If you're dubious about the claims made by travel companies promising 'authentic' tribal tours, then Tropic's trips are much more like the genuine article. The Ecuadorian operator has pioneered small-scale, sensitively-run trips to meet with remote nomadic hunter gatherer tribes in the Amazon, including the Huaorani (with whom it has helped set up a small ecolodge and 3,000-hectare nature reserve) and more recently with the Secoya People in the upper Amazon Basin. www.tropiceco.com, +593 2 2234 594.
Rwanda Eco-Tours, Rwanda
The number of mountain gorillas in Rwanda is now in a far healthier state thanks to companies like Rwanda Eco Tours, which has convinced local communities that these magnificent animals are worth more alive than dead. Co-run by local Rwandan, Edwin Sabuhoro, the company runs guided treks to see the gorillas in the heart of the Parc National des Volcans. Tours range from a one-day hike from the base of the Virunga Mountains to a six-day tour that includes a visit to the Dian Fossey Research Station where you can learn about the programme's Mountain Gorilla Conservation work. www.rwandaecotours.com, +250 500 331.
Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan
Just 90 minutes' drive from the popular seaside town of Aqaba – followed by a six-hour trek – the 26-room Feynan Wilderness Lodge lies like an oasis in Indiana Jones territory at the foot of the Dana valley amid the arid mountains of the southern Rift valley. The long, black flapping tents of the old Bedouin camp have been replaced by modern adobe-walled buildings, which are solar-powered. www.feynan.com,+962 6 464 5580. (photo: Richard Hammond)
TESFA Community Treks, Ethiopia
Pioneering community-based walking holidays in the ancient Ethiopian Highlands organised by TESFA, an NGO based in Addis Ababa. Trips for only 4-6 people at a time were initially focused on visiting the remote parish of Mequat Mariam, but now include visits to other villages as well as treks to the Abuna Yoseph mountain where much of the income goes directly to the villagers who decide collectively how to spend it. www.community-tourism-ethiopia.com, +251 0 11 122 5024.
Andaman Discoveries, Thailand
The simplest way to escape the tourist trail and see what life is like in the real Thailand is to stay in a homestay. Andaman Discoveries runs one of the country's best organised programmes, born out of the North Andaman Tsunami Relief fund, which places visitors in homes on a rotational basis to spread the benefits around the villages along the Andaman coast. Activities include guided hiking, mangrove tours and snorkelling before returning to your host family early evening for a slap up meal of freshly caught seafood and home-cooked southern curries. www.andamandiscoveries.com, +66 087 917 7165.
Finca Esperanza Verde, Nicaragua
A 26-bed eco-lodge on an organic coffee farm in the mountains of Nicaragua that organise locally guided jungle treks to see howler monkeys, waterfalls and a butterfly farm. It is one of the farms on the tourist "coffee route" from Matagalpa, where you can visit other coffee cooperatives in the area. Owned by a nonprofit organisation and run by volunteers in North Carolina, the lodge is powered entirely by renewable energy sources (solar and hydro-electric) and 10 per cent of its income is invested in rural water projects and local schools. www.fincaesperanzaverde.org, +505 7725003.
Deep in the Ecuadorian jungle, Yachana is more like a village than a lodge and guests are actively encouraged to get involved in the indigenous lifestyle while staying in the lap of luxury on the banks of the River Napo. Judge Dan Linstead said there is "clear evidence of engagement with specific local environmental issues, and smart solutions: including reusable 'souvenir' water bottles for tourists instead of plastic disposables, and food waste used to feed pigs". Pride of place is Yachana's technical college, which educates young indigenous Amazonians in green issues. According to Linstead, the college is "a brilliant hearts-and-minds investment in the region's long-term sustainability". www.yachana.com, +1 310 691 2594.