Orphanage volunteering holidays removed

We at responsibletravel.com have been finding the issue of orphanage volunteering around the world of increasing concern.

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After a lot of thought, research and consultation we have taken the difficult decision to temporarily remove all volunteering trips to orphanages from responsibletravel.com. This is a total of ten trips from 6 operators. We will not be taking on any new ones for the time being.

The removal of trips is a temporary measure, whilst, over the coming weeks we work with industry leaders to develop best practice guidelines and criteria for the child-focussed volunteer trips we offer via responsibletravel.com. Read more »

Categories: Inside the travel industry, Issues in responsible tourism, Responsibletravel.com team posts, Volunteering | Tags: , , | 37 Comments

Home-cooked meals: a delicious way to connect travellers with locals

Last year, while on a tour of Rajasthan I was lucky enough to be welcomed into the home of a local family to share a meal.

Sitting cross-legged on the roof terrace of a modest home in Pushkar, we were treated to thali, a selection of delicately spiced vegetarian dishes, roti and rice, followed by gulab jamun, a milk-based dessert that is turned into soft, sweet, syrup-soaked balls. Over dinner, we chatted to our hosts and learned about their work, their neighbourhood and their children’s dreams of becoming teachers when they grew up.

Home-cooked meal in Delhi

A typical home-cooked meal in India may include vegetarian curries, pulses and paratha

The meal wasn’t strictly part of the tour itinerary, but our Indian tour leader, Naggi organised it so that we could have a ‘real life experience’, in other words something that would give us a genuine insight into local family life rather than an activity designed purely for tourists. Of course, another benefit was that we knew our tourist dollars were being spent in a way that would directly support the local community.

While it may seem easier to access this sort of experience if you are travelling with a tour group, a number of day tour providers are now offering independent travellers the chance to share a meal with a local family, in destinations as diverse as Kochi, Samarkand and Bucharest, which can be booked in advance or while in your destination.

Home Cooked Delhi

Rakesh and his wife, Anu host travellers for a home-cooked meal in Delhi

Being welcomed into the home of a local family is a privilege for travellers, but can also benefit host families. Rakesh, who with his wife, Anu invites tourists into his home on Urban Adventures’ Home Cooked Delhi tour, says: “As well as teaching people about our own culture, I love to host people in my home because I connect with people from all over the world. We host travellers who are from so many different countries, and I learn a lot about their own culture as we share a meal together.”

Have you enjoyed a home-cooked meal with a family while you were on your travels? Or would you consider hosting travellers for a meal in your home?

Categories: Local culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Repaint your safari picture in KwaZulu-Natal

By Rosie Greenaway

A key thing to remember in all types of travel is that there is always a way to embark upon a journey responsibly – whether by your mode of transport or the choices you make at your destination about how you spend your time and money, where you stay and what you eat – and it may surprise you to learn that a safari is no exception. More than likely, when you tell your friends that you’re going on the holiday of a lifetime, an African safari, they will imagine a typically standard trip involving privately driven jeeps and luxury lodges.

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But how about going against the grain and opting for a safari of an entirely different nature, in which you spend your time giving back to the land and its inhabitants? Nowadays there are a number of responsible alternatives which offer you the chance to re-paint that stereotypical safari picture, contribute to conservation efforts and ultimately get much more out of the experience for yourself. KwaZulu-Natal, a province in South Africa, is one such place where this is possible. Often abbreviated to KZN, this eastern part of the country remains a popular tourist destination thanks to a wealth of wildlife, but what makes it so unique is that a safari in this province takes you so much closer to the action by immersing you in the heart of the landscape and culture, and giving you the chance to help preserve it for future generations to enjoy. Read more »
Categories: Tales from Africa, Wildlife | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Discover Sabah holidays, for unimaginable wildlife adventures

By Rosie Greenaway

The island of Borneo – comprised of Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei – may seem a distant and exotic island, but in reality it’s far more accessible and welcoming to visitors than people imagine.

Also known as The Land Below The Wind, the mystical Malaysian state of Sabah is home to a variety of rare animals, natural hot springs and tribal villages of communities who still practice local traditions. It is a deeply rewarding destination for those who are passionate about wildlife – in particular, the endangered species of the great Orangutan – offering unimaginable adventures, from the depths of its lush jungle to the shores of its aquamarine waters.

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Wildlife in the wild

Orangutans (currently only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra) are an intelligent and sadly endangered primate. In their natural habitat Orangutans can be tricky to find, but for those fortunate enough to bear witness to these beautiful creatures in the wild, it’s a humbling experience – and the anticipation is half the fun! Take up your wildlife watching positions aboard a small, local boat on the Kinabatangan River and drift peacefully along as you keep your eyes peeled from the water; much of the Orangutans’ activity occurs at dawn and dusk, joined by Proboscis monkeys, crocodiles and a variety of birds. Walking trails and a canopy walkway in the Danum Valley offer incredible jungle views and the chance to see wild Bornean Pygmy elephants. Another short cruise meanders through the mangrove area of the Klias River, two hours from the state capital Kota Kinabalu, where after dusk you can see a mesmerising display of fireflies. Read more »

Categories: Tales from Asia, Wildlife | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Some of the best destinations for cycling holidays in Europe

There are some holidays you will find unforgettable. But none more than a cycling holiday. Long cycling journeys take passion, effort and rigour. They’ll test your mind, body and bike to the limit, you’ll have lows and highs, but you’ll always have one heck of a story to tell afterwards! In order for you to have the best holiday possible I have put together some of the best destinations for cycling holidays in Europe.

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Cycle around Gozo

Gozo is a gorgeous island off Malta, you could cycle around it’s beautiful coastline in a day quite easily as the circumference of the island is 42.63km but if you’d like there are charming little village hops you can try which can vary from 9-15 km a day. The Highlights of cycling in Gozo are caves, castles and the flower-scented maze of capital city Victoria to quietly race around. While in Gozo you should make a point of visiting the Azure window, a natural arch in a cliffside recently seen on Game of Thrones. You should also visit the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu a beautiful and prominent Roman Catholic Basilica. And try snorkelling around the sapphire waters of Fungus Rock. Read more »

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Top 5 things to do in Cuba with kids

The atmosphere throughout Cuba is vibrant and lively; it has an intoxicating feel and a visit will leave you full of historical knowledge and with a passion for dance. I love Cuba because it’s a friendly, beautiful place to take your kids. There’s excitement, cultural enrichment and education, plus it has some of the best beaches in Latin America. Havana has just been named world’s ‘best destination’ according to Wanderlust readers and rightly so. It’s a must for families to experience the incredible ambiance of Cuba. Here are my top five things to do in Cuba with kids.

1. Casas particulares (homestays). A homestay is a great way to let your children make friends with the local children, learn about a traditional way of life and experience the ‘real Cuba’. Homestays are staying overnight with local families in their own homes with a room rented out for guests and sharing breakfast with the host family. A highlight of a family adventure for me.

2. Havana. The capital of Cuba and well worth a visit. Kids will love playing photographer and exploring the wide boulevards lined with 50s era classic cars, investigating the old and new parts of the city and witnessing locals dancing and singing in the street. The friendly locals are always after new dance partners and will love to show your family the ropes.

Cuba with kids: classic cars in Havana

Kids will love the classic cars lining the streets of Havana

Read more »

Categories: Family travel, Local culture, Tales from the Caribbean | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using your dive holiday to Coralwatch in Belize!

Diving the Belize Barrier Reef is an incredible holiday experience, but as well as getting your dose of underwater thrills, tourists can also be part of larger conservation efforts to protect one of the world’s most delicate and important ecosystems.

Lovely ReefCI guest Trina Hazell explains her Coralwatch survey!

The point of this dive was to ascertain the status of health of the various corals on the reef.  The corals are watched as their colour and behaviours are predictors of how the reef will continue to function and provide food for the resident fish and flooding protection to the surrounding land based communities of Belize, Mexico and Guatamala.

Coral Bleaching is an indication that the reef is stressed and can be caused by a combination of factors.

  1. Physical presence of foreign bodies ( such as fishing line)
  2. Water temperatures below and or above optimum thresholds
  3. Salinity levels
  4. Acidification of the oceans.
  5. Pollution levels of sediment, phosphates and increased algae blooming

All of which (amongst other reasons) are indicators to a potential loss in sustainable fisheries due to the loss of the organic life forms within the crusty shell of hard corals.

The best way I can find to illustrate the phenomenan of bleaching is to show you evidence from the dive site near Tom Owens Caye

A healthy Lettuce Coral

Read more »

Categories: Active holidays, Tales from Central America, Volunteering | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Kenya is great for kids

When you think about family-friendly destinations for a summer holiday, Kenya may not be top of mind. But with world-class wildlife reserves, beautiful bird-filled lakes and opportunities to learn first-hand about traditional Maasai culture, it really should be. I’ve recently returned from Kenya and cannot wait to go back with my kids.

The Maasai Mara Nature Reserve is world famous for its game viewing for good reason. You have probably heard of the ‘Big Five’, but here you can spot the ‘Big Nine’: lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, buffalo, rhino, zebra, giraffe and hippo, as well as many species of antelope. Whatever your age, seeing wildlife up close in its own habitat is a magical experience and with so many different species to spot, even teens couldn’t get bored of taking long game drives here.

Kenya family holiday

Take a family holiday in Kenya and you may see the wildebeest migration

Go to Kenya at the right time and you may be lucky enough to see the annual wildebeest migration, which takes place in the Maasai Mara between July and August, and again in October. More than a million wildebeest migrate from the Serengeti in Tanzania in search of greener pastures, food and water, before returning south again later in the year. It is one of the greatest shows on Earth, and the good news is it usually takes place during the school summer holidays, when the weather is dry and wildlife viewing is at its best. Read more »

Categories: Family travel, Local culture, National Parks and Reserves, Tales from Africa, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Explore France at your Own Pace

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France is a marvellous country packed full of some of the finest food and wine in the world and also boasts world class cities, cultural and biological diversity, pristine beaches and stunning scenery aplenty. No wonder it’s the most visited country in the world.

And there is no better way to explore this fine country than by using your own two feet. Walking holidays in France allow you to explore this wonderful country at a suitably languid pace and to get closer to the people and everyday life than would otherwise be possible. It is also highly rewarding in itself, walking bringing numerous physical and psychological benefits. Best of all, with so many stunning areas to discover, France will keep you coming back for more year after year.

Read more »

Categories: Active holidays, Tales from Europe | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Actually, we can handle the truth

Pumbaa

Pumbaa shouts one of my young guests. It’s the first time she has seen a warthog on safari and she’s very excited. At this point I must admit (to my eternal shame), that I have never seen the Lion King. In truth I only know some of the character names from being educated by the younger members of families I have guided in Africa. Read more »

Categories: Tales from Africa, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

10 interesting and quirky facts about Belize

Belize is one of the world’s last unspoilt destinations. They call it ‘Mother nature’s best kept secret’!

There are jungle adventures, waterfalls, Mayan ruins and caves.

Belize has some of the best dive sites in the Caribbean. Spanning the length of Belize is the 2nd biggest barrier reef in the world. In many other parts of the Caribbean the diving is around volcanic rock. The Belizean barrier reef boasts an incredible array of marine life making it one of the premier Caribbean destinations for diving and snorkelling.

Dive & sponge

Here are a few things you may not know about Belize: Read more »

Categories: Coasts and islands, Tales from Central America, Tales from the Caribbean | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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