AITO: The Association of Independent Tour Operators

Naturetrek Sustainability


Our sustainable Tourism Vision

At Naturetrek we have achieved AITO’s top, 5-star Sustainable Tourism accreditation and have always tried to operate our holidays in an environmentally responsible manner, striving to contribute to wildlife conservation and habitat preservation at all times. This is our detailed Sustainable Tourism Policy. It catalogues our contribution (both financial and operational) to sustainable tourism and conservation; it states our own ‘ST’ policy, and it suggests guidelines for you – the tourist – to follow whilst on holiday. Please take the time to read it carefully!

Ours is a tour company run by naturalists for naturalists. Unsurprisingly, all of us have an acute interest in conservation. Wildlife and wildlife tourism, and the need to ensure the long-term protection of species and habitats, are an important part of our lives. In the national parks and wildlife regions that we visit, we support small, locally owned hotels and lodges and the local guides and other staff in these areas. With your help and support they will flourish.

Sustainable Tourism – Our Policy
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 for the success of our business on the well-being of the world’s wildlife… and the habitats, reserves and national parks that protect it. Thus, our aims are:

- To focus, particularly, on visiting national parks, wildlife reserves and wilderness areas which, by and large, do not benefit from the rewards of mass market tourism.
- To minimise environmental impact by exploring in small groups and, as much as possible, on foot.
- To use, wherever possible, local guides… and to train them to the highest standards expected by modern-day 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, wherever possible, small, locally owned, family-run accommodation, and similarly owned and operated specialist local agents/ground operators with a wildlife/conservation bias and sympathy.
- To purchase, where possible, local produce.
- To develop and commit to long-term plans to visit rural areas and support the local communities.
To contribute financially to projects local to the areas that we visit (ie. schools, hospitals, conservation projects, etc.)
- To educate the local people on the importance and long-term benefits of wildlife tourism.
- To keep our clients well-informed on aspects of wildlife management and conservation.
- To work with British and overseas conservation organisations to develop new wildlife tourism destinations.
Where possible to run tours in partnership with conservation organisations, both to raise funds for that organisation, and to raise its profile. Such organisations include, or have included, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), International Animal Rescue (IAR), Butterfly Conservation, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), MARINElife, Birdfair, etc.
- Where possible to fund, and/or develop partnerships with, local communities and/or 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 renovated 18th century mill and barn) in as energy-efficient a manner as possible.
It is our aim 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), and the conservation of them.

Sustainable Tourism Projects from Naturetrek

Protecting Ecuadorian Cloudforest with the World Land Trust and EcoMinga

Naturetrek has been encouraging customers to offset their carbon emissions from flights since 2000, and since 2007 we have been making contributions at our own expense. The World Land Trust and its Ecuadorian partner, Fundacion EcoMinga, use these 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. In 2018 our protected area was already 1,389 acres (twice the size of the City of London!).

In 2019, we want to deepen this partnership by pledging to donate £15 for every long-haul flight and £5 for every short-haul flight booked by our customers to the World Land Trust. Over the year we aim to generate £40,000, which will enable us to protect a further 200 acres of cloudforest.

We will also further promote our project to customers this year through our website, e-marketing and brochure. We will encourage our customers to match our donations when they book, in order to increase our funds even further. In 2018 our clients donated £402 to the WLT; we aim to increase this figure to £4,000 in 2019.

By matching our donations our customers will be helping 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.

    Protecting Europe’s Butterflies

    Amongst the 450+ wildlife holidays that we operate around the world each year, around 20 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 which will not only benefit butterflies but the ecosystem as a whole.

    In 2017 Naturetrek will invest 10% of all income generated from our butterfly-focused holidays to the charity Butterfly Conservation. This aim in year one is to protect and effectively manage an area of the Chilterns specifically to allow the threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly to expand its range. This work will greatly reduce the risk of further local extinctions hence ensuring this beautiful butterfly can thrive in this area. We will be funding different projects each year focusing on protecting and correctly managing habitats for different butterfly species, whilst ensuring that under Butterfly Conservation’s expert stewardship a great range of other species will also benefit. Each participant on our butterfly holidays will also receive a year’s membership to the charity, giving them the opportunity for further learning and inspiration on the conservation of butterflies. With this commitment, our Naturetrek customers will be helping to ensure that vital butterfly habitats are protected across the UK and Europe for the enjoyment of all.

    • We are supporting Butterfly Conservation via dedicated butterfly-focused tours.
    • 10% of tour income will be donated to the charity each year.
    • Projects in 2017 include management of The Chilterns for conservation of the Duke of Burgundy.