Earthbound Expeditions will be your new way of travelling and trekking for those who've had enough of mass tourism. It's about respecting and benefiting local people and the environment ? but it's about far more than that.
If you travel for relaxation, fulfilment, discover and to learn ? rather than simply to tick off 'places and things' ? then responsible travel is for you.
Responsive travellers are interested in minimizing their carbon footprint and maximizing their contribution to local inhabitants?both financially and through human and cultural exchange.
Tourism is the world's fastest growing industry. Travelling to far flung places gives us a wonderful opportunity to experience cultures that are so different from our own. But with the wondrous joy of travel comes the responsibility of ensuring that we do not adversely affect those countries that we visit.
Earthbound Expeditions has been leading the way in the travel trade sector providing both leisure and adventure activities in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India for more than a decade. We organize eco tours and trekking for groups as well as individual travellers and cater to all age groups. We tailor make programs and packages to suit the interest, physical fitness and budget aspect of an individual / group. Our large volume of clients is forever expanding as trekkers, travellers or rafters return with grand tales of exploration of the Himalayas, and thus take pride in our record of "repeat business" and the many referrals that we enjoy from satisfied travellers we have served. Take an adventure holiday to the Himalaya with one of the leading trekking companies, that is responsible and committed to environmental and social sustainability ω make a difference.. !!
All of Earthbound Expeditions' staff is locally employed and all our guides are, ensuring a more authentic experience for travellers, as well as sensitivity to local customs and culture. We use local products (food, vegetables, dairy products etc.). We are committed on providing services best available in the industry and make no compromise when it comes to guest's preferences. Apart from the conventional promotional campaigns, we take pride in our return business that comes through word of mouth.
Our commitment to provide prompt and quality services exceeding guest satisfaction, and continued effort in maintaining the trend has won us some prestigious titles.
Earthbound Expeditions believes that it is possible to operate commercially in the Eco-Tourism Sector of the industry and also preserve the natural and cultural heritage of an area through promotion of sustainable tourism. In our work, we actively promote and implement this philosophy whenever an opportunity presents. The evident success is that our Trekking tours has achieved obvious rewards in the professional and commercial sense and has positively enhanced the travel and Eco-trekking experience of the Eco Tourist. We run and affiliated with some non government organization that is committed to providing the much needed health and education facilities to remote areas of Nepal. We work very close with the remote government school where people can come and share their experience.
We emphasize on making extensive use of the available local products and enhance maximum economic benefits to the local communities. In addition, we support rural development projects by contributing some % of the profit generated each trading year, thereby, have directly uplifted the living standard of the local residents and contributed to the national economy of Nepal and its neighbours.
Earthbound has been striving to open up remote areas of Nepal. We pioneered the first commercial ascents in the "wild routes" to the far West and East of Nepal and also specialized in trekking to virgin areas with formidable games and nature watching experiences that till then were inaccessible to the tourists. We strive to maintain the trend by making continuous effort in discovering interesting new destinations within the country. Furthermore, we have initiated cleaning campaigns in the nearby villages that involve a lot of local participation. The idea is to raise hygiene and environmental awareness in the villagers. Such campaigns also educate the villagers keep their villages and the surroundings neat and clean.
Our volunteer and donation efforts are at the core of Earthbound Expeditions is giving hand to hand to rebuild a school in Lang tang region where It's what gives our tours heart and soul.
Since 2007, through donations from our clients, friends, families, and communities we were able to give a computer and sports equipment and some building construction fund to the school.
As a traveller, you also have a role to play in continuing our efforts on your trip, which is why we have written some guidelines on Responsible Travel for you to read.
These guidelines are not intended to be overbearing but simply clear and informative. They outline the standards of behavior that we expect from everyone who participates in our trips. The guidelines exist because we are privileged to be guests in local homes and communities, plus we want to promote sustainable tourism for both the benefit of the locals and so that travelers in the future can also visit and enjoy the same experience what you ahve now!.
When you read the guidelines, you may find yourself considering issues that might never even have crossed your mind before. The area of Responsible Tourism is not black and white, it raises some ethical questions to which there are no clear answers. But with a little preparation in advance of your trip and by reading these guidelines, you can rest assured that the only impression you will leave behind after your travels is a positive one.
Experiencing cultural diversity is one of the main reasons why we travel to far flung places and we need to make sure that these differences are respected and maintained. Things are done differently in south Asia, which is one of the reasons why it is so appealing! In general, it is essential that we respect the cultural rules in the areas that we are travelling in ( Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India). Please accept the differences in these areas and do not try to change them for the benefit of your own comfort. The traveller who wishes to have a happy and successful trip should keep as calm, cheerful and friendly as humanly possible. Patience and courtesy are virtues that open many doors. Demanding tourists do not get smiles, service or respect.
The flip side of gaining cultural understanding when travelling is helping the locals to gain a greater insight into Western culture, and beyond the superficial attractions of money and wealth. Recognise that as a Westerner in many parts of south Asia you are probably richer than the locals you are meeting and you are a world traveller - something most of the locals you meet can only dream of. When dealing with locals respect that they may wish to develop economically and have access to material possessions that you take for granted. While this undoubtedly changes villages and makes it less "unspoilt" for tourists, it is something that we should respect and understand. Everyone has a right to development and a better standard of living. A role you can play is to help assist local people to gain a balanced view of development by sharing not only the advantages of your culture but also some of the negative influences that come from increased material wealth, on both the family and the community.
Asian people in general, dress modestly and as a rule Earthbound Expeditions trip participants should dress as the locals do. Dress standards vary from place to place, with rural areas tending to be more conservative than the cities. In major cities, such as Kathmandu, Pokhara, Delhimini skirts and such like are becoming popular with the younger generation. You will find that the older generation frown upon this and are more conservative in their dress. For women, singlet tops, not wearing a bra and tight body hugging attire can be offensive, as well as attracting unwanted male attention!
Modest clothing goes a long way towards making a good impression with the local people. You will find them far more willing to approach you if you dress as they do. Long pants/skirts and sleeved shirts are seen as appropriate. This is not to say you cannot wear shorts, but there will be situations where they are inappropriate, especially for females. Shorts should never be too short and lycra is best left for the gym.
More formal dress codes apply for temples, monasteries, mosques or any other religious sites you may visit, and to prevent the wrath of the gods as well as the locals these should be closely followed. In general, both men and women should have covered shoulders and legs, plus shoes and hats should be removed in those religious sites.
The ideal demeanour for the Asian traveller is friendly and open and ever ready to answer questions like where you are going? Are you married? How old are you? how many children's you have? You will likely be asked questions like these that in a Western society may be considered personal. While you might find such a barrage of questions disconcerting, remain patient and remember to recognise that people are just being friendly and curious. Asian people often ask what your religion is. They have a general concern that everyone has a religion, though it doesn't particularly matter which one. If you reply that you do not have a religion, you might find a look of horror on the faces of your local hosts! The same attitude extends to the area of marriage and children. If someone asks you if you are married or have children, and you are not/do not, a good response is "not yet". If you are feeling uncomfortable with such questions, try to be patient or subtly change the subject!
Bear in mind also that attitudes toward privacy differ greatly between the West and Asia. Asian people often have an interest in our books, writing or photographs, things that the Westerner considers to be 'private property.' Concepts of property, private ownership and privacy are very different for the rural Asian, who is accustomed to living and sharing in a close-knit community. Be prepared and understand that your local hosts are not being 'nosey' but politely interested.
Sensitivity is the key when it comes to photography. Always ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Minority groups in particular are often unhappy to have their photo taken. They may think they do not look attractive (wearing their work clothes rather than festival clothes), while other groups believe that part of their spirit is taken away if they are photographed ( rural areas). There are occasions when you will meet a lot of porters carrying anything from bottles of beer to beds. Please respect that this is their job and that they may not like having their photo taken in these circumstances. Travellers should avoid paying for the right to take a photo as this has been found to encourage a begging mentality in the locals. Instead you can send back copies via your tour leader / guide or directly to the people themselves. The locals gain a great buzz from seeing themselves in photos and it encourages a 'sharing' rather than 'taking' attitude towards photography. Also in many cases the locals could never afford to take photos themselves.
While you are welcome to pack your video cameras, there are some places that we request you not to film. In some small villages, home stays and remote communities, the local people consider filming to be too intrusive and recording aspects of their private lives. In these communities we also request the utmost courtesy and discretion with still cameras. Your tour leader / guide will advise you in this regard.
Earthbound Expeditions do not allow travellers to use illegal drugs while on a trip. The laws of most Asian countries carry harsh penalties for drug possession or usage, including the death penalty (??). Foreigners are not exempt from such penalties if convicted of such a crime. It is not acceptable to indulge in opium, marijuana ( except Shiva's birthday in Kathmandu) or other illegal drugs whilst on trips. Your group leader / guide has grounds for asking you to leave a trip if you are found to be using or carrying illegal drugs.
The use of alcohol also needs to be carefully considered, especially in smaller villages and tribal regions. In these areas our 'privileged' status brings with it a responsibility to promote the good in our cultures and not the excesses. Many village people cannot afford to purchase alcohol and so see our sometimes excessive consumption as a sign of affluence and elitism. For some the lure to taste that influence causes them to ignore family responsibilities and spend their income on alcohol. This is not something Earthbound Expeditions wants to be responsible for, particularly in hill tribe towns where drug addiction is already a major problem.
Furthermore, out of control drunken Westerners can damage our positive relationships with locals and negatively change the group dynamics. In towns and larger urban centres where there is increased local wealth our influence has less impact and the use of alcohol has wider acceptance.
Avoid giving Western medicines to our Asian hosts. They may not understand the medicine and the concept, say of taking tablets 3 times per day, may not be understood. Unpredicted side-effects could also be a problem. In addition, we don't want dependence on medicines to occur especially when natural and traditional treatments may be just as effective. If a local person approaches you for treatment, encourage them to seek traditional cures or assist them to the local clinic/hospital. If you are a medic, it may be better not to reveal your profession too readily, as you might find yourself with a queue of patients and be left in a dilemma.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule in the case of emergencies. If a local is seriously injured and in a potentially life threatening situation then they should be given the appropriate first aid treatment which may include medication. However, remain aware of the potential dangers of reactions to drugs and try to get them to medical help as soon as possible.
The prevalence of prostitution is an unfortunate element of Asia today and it is an aspect that Earthbound Expeditions want to have no part of in running our trips. The philosophy of Earthbound is one of mutual respect towards everyone we deal with and in particular the local people who make the region as special as it is. The use of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy and we are strongly opposed to any of our travellers visiting prostitutes while in Asia.
While there is a risk of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, there are other wider social implications. Unlike prostitutes in some developed countries, many Asian women are not prostitutes of their own free will but are in fact bonded labour. They may have been lured into employment in the city and end up imprisoned in brothels. Many face condemnation and being ostracised by their communities and may not be able to return, while many more end up with drug problems and become infected with HIV or other STDs. On this basis we strongly condemn any person who supports prostitution in Asia. It is not an acceptable excuse to say that it is 'part of the culture'.
Child prostitution or sex tourism is an abhorrent and illegal act that we strongly condemn. Any incidences of this will be reported to the local and international authorities, who have links with Interpol and will ensure that the person involved will be questioned - and if appropriate - charged.
This is a difficult issue for many travellers who want to assist the local communities but are unaware of the larger implications. There are many ways in which you can have a positive input into the communities that you visit:
Earthbound Expeditions supports a number of local projects and charities. Visit the Responsible Travel section of our website or ask your tour leader / guide about making a donation. We collect clothing, first aid items, stationery and children's books and ensure that they go directly the requested charity or project.
Do not give to begging children / adults as it reinforces that begging is an acceptable way to make a living for these children. It is best to follow the guidelines set by local people in how they treat beggars in their community e.g. in many places it is considered acceptable to give to the elderly and disabled as there is no social security or other way these people can earn money. Buddhists and Hindus believe giving to beggars will earn them 'merit'. Your tour leader can advise you further on this.
Giving money and goods away at random to individuals accentuates an unequal relationship between locals and visitors, with tourists being seen as purely 'money givers'. It also strips self esteem away from people when they get money for simply being poor rather than having to solve their own issues of poverty through community action. We also need to be careful not to pay for acts of kindness in monetary terms (eg. paying kids for photographs). We do not want to encourage the development of a society that equates every human action as a potential money making scheme.
Do not give sweets to children in the villages that we visit. Local people do not have access to dentists, nor can they afford them and again there is the issue of turning children into beggars. Pens, toothbrushes, clothing or other perhaps 'worthwhile' items are best distributed via a local charity, school teacher or community leader. Avoid feeling that you necessarily have to give 'material' things. The best giving can sometimes be shared interactions like a smile, joke, sing-song, dance or playing a game. Giving something of your friendship, time and interest to interact with locals can be the best gift of all.
Please refuse to buy any souvenirs, food or products made from local wildlife - this includes snake-wine, bear, bats,Tigers,monkey, frogs, turtles and sea horses. Though a local delicacy, both bears and frogs, for example, are highly endangered and we should not encourage their demise. Where possible avoid restaurants that make a feature of wild endangered animal species on their menus. If you see an abuse of animals or wildlife, report this to the concerned places. Alternatively, advise your tour guide who will refer it to an appropriate organisation who can best handle it e.g. WSPA ? the World Society for the Protection of Animals, TRAFFIC - the wildlife trade monitoring program of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
While there are human rights abuses all over Asia some places are far worse than others. Do what you can to not support the oppressors or perpetrators of the abuses. Learn as much as you can about what is happening in the country you will be visiting. Buffalo plans its activities so as not to financially support regimes that inflict violence on the general population. Occasionally though, there may be instances where our activities are supporting a regime. In that case you should weigh up the advantages to the people over the disadvantages of supporting the regime.
Try not to use plastic covered or wrapped foods when fresh options are available. The disposal of plastic and styrofoam is a major problem in south Asia, and the more we can do to reduce its use the better. Buy in local markets where little packaging is used, the food is fresh and the money is benefiting the local producers. Take your own bags with you when shopping - "say no to plastic".
Whenever we are away from towns or cities we must not leave any rubbish we take in with us. Tampons and sanitary pads should be taken out of the area and disposed of appropriately. Pick up any rubbish that you see left behind by other travellers, so that we leave a place cleaner than we found it.
Organic waste such as food scraps should not be dispersed or buried in national parks and other protected areas. This practise may introduce exotic seeds and is not the natural diet of the native animals. Take it out with you again. You guide will advise you in this regard.
Bottled water is for sale in much of Asia and also in trekking, but unfortunately there are few facilities for recycling the bottles. Actively try to reduce the 'consumption' of plastic bottles by using alternatives. Your options are:
When trekking in remote areas use the toilet facilities that are provided. If none are established, find out a suitable place which is at least 50m away from water sources and people's homes. Bury faecal matter, carry toilet paper in a plastic bag for appropriate disposal later, or burn it. On all regular trekking routes most home stays will have an established set toilet for the group.
On treks, use existing tracks and stay on them. This is especially important during the wet season because it is all too easy to create new tracks in order to get a better footing. If people don't adhere to this, the trail soon becomes a series of footpaths that turns into erosion gullies. This impacts on the vegetation as branches are reached for as handholds, broken off, and added to the topsoil that has been dislodged to silt up the waterways. Snorkelling ? remember that touching coral formations can hinder their growth. Coral cuts can easily become nasty infections too. Do not take any coral or shells, as even though they may be dead, it encourages locals to think that they are desirable souvenirs and that there's a market in these items. Stick with the "Take only photos, leave only footprints" adage but add sensitivity into the equation!
when visiting national parks or reserves where you will be in contact with wildlife, please ensure that you follow the appropriate park regulations that ensure that wildlife is protected. Respect this even if you observe that other tourists don't. Don't respond to local rangers offering to bend the rules for tourists. Sometimes local people will try and sell protected species to foreigners. While you wish to do this so that you can set the animal free, this actually can be a money making scam for locals and it is a better policy to refuse to pay money and encourage the local to release the animal. When they realise there is no demand for the animal then the practise may eventually stop.