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Community-based Tourism

Posted by Richard Hammond at 06:20 on Saturday 15 October 2005

Homestay in central EdinburghHomestay in central Edinburgh

Real community-based tourism is increasingly popular in some of the world's most adventurous destinations - from local homestays in the Himalayas to aboriginal bush treks in Western Australia.

The Indian government recently unveiled plans for 50 villages to provide tourists with a "return to roots experience", providing local accommodation and lessons in local art, crafts and customs. It's a similar kind of collective enterprise that has already attracted visitors to Ladakh and Sikkim. While filming for the new BBC Natural History blockbuster Planet Earth, Jonathan Keeling stayed at a Himalayan homestay (himalayan-homestays.com) in the "snow leopard capital of India". "We thought it might be intrusive, but the villagers were so welcoming and engaging, we got a terrific insight into the lives of people who live in such a beautiful place," he said.

Bolivia's flagship community-run Chalalan ecolodge in the Madidi national park was developed by Conservation International and is now managed and staffed by the indigenous Quechua-Tacana people. Journey Latin America (journeylatinamerica.com) organises a 15-night trip taking in the classic sights of Bolivia - Santa Cruz, Sucre, Potosí, Uyuni, La Paz and Lake Titicaca - as well as three nights at Chalalan, from £1,957pp, including flights.

In the Philippines, Thailand, India and Kenya, fairtrade organisation Traidcraft (traidcraft.com) is developing a range of holidays that give tourists the opportunity to "meet the people behind the products". Its 13-day "People to People" Kenyan safari costs £1,795 and includes a visit to the tea estate that supplies Teadirect and Traidcraft, the beaches at Mombasa and the Masai Mara national park during the wildebeest migration.

Rwanda's first community-based tour includes canoeing on Lake Burera and sampling the local banana beer. The four-day trip costs from US$600pp (maximum six people) including local transport, accommodation, activities meals and guide (amahoro-tours.com).

In Australia, the website aboriginaltourism.com.au has a list of authentic holidays including one from Lombadina Aboriginal Adventures (lombadina.com.au) which is run by a small community on the Dampier peninsula in Western Australia. Cabins cost A$154 per day for up to four people, and bushwalking trips and boat tours are organised around the Buccaneer archipelago to see the rare dugong, turtles and dolphins.

Greentraveller lists a number of homestay accommodations across Europe, offering the chance to stay in real homes alongside friendly hosts and to benefit from a whole wealth of local knowledge. Homestays can be found in a wide range of cities across the globe, including London, Paris and Barcelona. For something a little different, the Houseboat Homestay in Ghent, Belgium offers a quirky and comfortable base from which to explore the cobbled streets and quaint cafes of Ghent.

Buy tickets for trains to Belgium

This article, by Richard Hammond, was first published in the Guardian.

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