The Green Awards

Four travel outfitters that are doing it right

Mar 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

A notch above: a TourIndia Kerala tree house

For those who want to mix pleasure with principled travel, here are a few expedition guides that get a gold star for treading lightly and forging ahead with sustainable tourism.

In 1999, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, Tauck World Discovery, which travels to all seven continents and offers more than 100 upscale trips, sent a handful of its 450 staff members on a monthlong volunteer stint in Mesa Verde National Park. This move inspired an avalanche of good deeds: Tauck has since donated more than $1 million in grants to various national park projects and now offers regularly scheduled volunteer opportunities for both its staff and guests. Projects have included building new fences around George Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge and mucking out the rangers' horse stables behind Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Next year, travelers who sign up for Tauck tours can volunteer for cleanups at Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Zion national parks. For more details, call Tauck World Discovery at 800-788-7885, or visit its Web site at

Since 1958, this ship-based tour operator has taken clients to the loneliest points on the planet, from Antarctica to Norway's Svalbard Islands. Acutely aware of the impact tourism has on these fragile ecosystems, the company set up an environmental management system in 2000 to reduce consumption and waste on its vessels. Clients can also help preserve the landscapes they're visiting: Since 1997, Lindblad guests have donated $1.5 million to the company's Galápagos Conservation Fund. Call Lindblad at 800-397-3348 for more information, or visit its Web site at

This innovative outfitter, operating in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, has, over the last quarter-century, become India's model for small-scale sustainable tourism. One of its first projects was retrofitting kettuvallams, or rice boats, into low-impact houseboats to show visitors Kerala's scenic backwaters. That was followed by village tours via open bullock carts, and by the construction of an eco-lodge near Vythiri, in North Kerala, where guests stay in private tree houses 86 feet off the ground. But the company's greatest success so far is the development, in 2001, of the 22-mile Periyar Tiger Trail, which protects rare tigers and other species by partnering with the Kerala Forest Authority to patrol and monitor all activity within the 300-square-mile Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. It employs former poachers as forest rangers and trekking guides. For more details, call TourIndia Kerala at 011-91-471-233-0437, or visit its Web site at

This Malaysia-based outfitter set up the Sukau Ecotourism Research and Development Centre in 2000 to funnel some of the profits from its Sukau Rainforest Lodge into conserving a portion of the million-acre Lower Kinabatangan River Basin, where the Asian elephant population was being forced out by logging. In addition, the center has adopted 64 acres of the degraded riverine land and invites every guest to plant a tree. The goal? To put 5,000 seedlings in the ground this year. For details, call Borneo Eco Tours at 011-60-88-234009, or check out its Web site at

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