Best Adventure

Gold and Overall Winner: Himalayan Ecotourism

Himalayan Expeditions offers opportunities to explore the nature and culture of less visited parts of the Himalayas. Himalayan Ecotourism is a co-operative society engaging individuals from 72 families in villages in the buffer zone of the Great Himalayan National Park offering the experience of travelling with locals – for example to travel from Delhi to Leh by road rather than flying. 20% of turnover is profit for the co-operative. The co-operative is the operating company managed by the partners who work as mountain guides, cooks and porters. Much of their profit is used to support eco-development. The porters carry loads of no more than 20kg. The trekking staff have been trained at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and operate as teams of ten.

The judges recognised the good practices of the GHNP Community Based Ecotourism Cooperative Society in its tour operations, the use of local community expertise and the strength of the marketing and management partnership with the commercial firm Himalayan Eco-Services and Products. The mountain guides, cooks and porters are now partners in the co-operative and no longer sell themselves as day labourers. Himalayan Ecotourism is working with village women to develop value-added products for sale hand-made soaps with apricot oil, local fruit jams, chutney & pickles, and felted wool products. They have trained and developed female trekking guides. The co-operative is working to raise awareness of the damage caused by intentional and repetitive forest fires and promoting and encouraging the use of clean wood stoves and solar cookers.

The judges recognise the co-operative structure linked with a more internationally oriented marketing and management company, but with guaranteed profits for the staff owned co-operative as a model for tourism development which ensures local benefits and control, empowers local communities and provides a viable route to market as a model which could, and should, be replicated.

Silver Winner: Expeditions India

Expeditions India offers high-quality expedition backed with rigorous safety standards, operating on the Ganga with intentionally small group sizes and a high staff to guest ration, average group size for day trips is five and for multi-day trips, eight. All their multi-day trips are expedition style, camping on river beaches with a strict leave no trace set of operational practices. The judges were particularly impressed by their closed-door policy in May and June. Until there is more regulation in place, they recognise that running Ganga trips at the height of the season would make both harm nature and deny their clients the experience of the Ganga that Expeditions India cherishes. They launched a Paddle Safe India campaign and offer a significantly discounted rate to women for their Beginners Kayak session each year.