All of our ‘trails’ share the same ethos of personal service, integrity, empathy for our clients, and love of wildlife and natural habitat. We pride ourselves on providing unique, intimate and personal wildlife experiences, and helping our clients to realise their dreams and ambitions. What sets us apart is that we do not share the “one size fits all” philosophy of package and large group tour operators. We view all our clients as individuals with varied interests, budgets, tastes, and time constraints, so we tailor make every tour. We actively avoid crowds and seek the path less traveled, without compromising the quality of your experience.
We have continued to grow, expand and diversify in to new areas whilst ensuring that our advice to our clients remains realistic, honest, transparent, ethical and up to date, often from our own first hand experiences. We were the first company in India to recommend that clients stay 4/ 5 days in the Tiger Sanctuaries to give themselves a more realistic schedule and to take away some of the unnecessary and potentially damaging pressure to ‘show me tiger!’. Our aim was to move way from the ‘Zoo’ like experience, where clients were turning up with tour companies on unrealistic schedules, staying 2 days in a park and expecting to see every species; all this does is cause aggressive pursuit of wildlife by guides and clients and disappointment when key species are not seen.
Staying longer allows travellers and local guides alike to obtain a deeper understanding of the wildlife sanctuary and to remain more relaxed when it comes to achieving their wildlife aims. It also provides an opportunity for the guide to form a more meaningful relationship with the visiting client; allowing exhange of ideas and cultures and mutual education.
In The Office
Our approach in the office mirrors our principles at home; choosing local suppliers, reusing and recycling materials as much as possible, limiting unnecessary car journeys, being more energy efficient and favouring online communication and transactions over paper reliant methods. Paper brochures and mailings are only provided on request and we do not enagage in a large annual printed run of new brochures like many companies choose to do; many of which simply stay in their office cupbards gathering dust.
We pride ourselves on hand-picking the most suitable local operators and local guides, and regularly re-visiting locations to ensure that our high standards are continuously being met; following this up with feedback forms completed by the majority of our clients on their return. Our ground operators and service providers are chosen for their experience and professionalism in understanding the needs and expectations of our company and of our clients. We actively seek to work with those who share a similar philosophy and passion for nature with Wildlife Trails and our guests, from wildlife guides to property owners.
In all locations we only use local guides, and by ensuring that they are paid a fair and realistic wage for their services we can be confident of their longer term commitment to sustainable and respectful wildlife viewing. We question whether it is fair or ethical to send western guides to developing countries, when so many over qualified local guides do not have jobs.
We favour accommodation that is locally owned and locally staffed as far as possible, preferring smaller hotels and lodges to large complexes. We support the use of traditional local building techniques, cooking with locally grown produce, preserving adjoining natural areas, recycling of waste products, and property owners who actively work for improvements in their local community. In a fragile environment where even basic resources are limited, so we encourage our guests not to expect all the comforts of home, and our property owners to consider the real impact of unnecessary luxuries.
Why Price Matters
As wildlife focused tour operators we have a responsibility, and need, to be proactive in preserving the natural environment for the long term and minimising potential damage caused by our presence and actions. This long-term approach works most effectively when we can build up positive relationships with local service providers over time and earn the respect and trust of local communities that rely on or are affected by tourism, directly or indirectly. In the current climate of cheaper and cheaper travel we refuse to put excessive pressure on our chosen hosts to exist on ever-decreasing margins, otherwise their business would not be viable and the financial benefit to local communities would be unsustainable. Clients are prefectly entitled to pay a rock bottom price for a trip to a developing country; it is their money after all. However they do need to understand that this approach is unsustainable and we are happy to talk to them about some of the problems this has caused in mass tourism locations like Goa and Sri Lanka.
We spend a lot of time researching our tours and communicating with relevant parties and organisations. Even before finalising an itinerary our clients are well equipped with the information and advice they need to help them make an informed choice, and are often already well aware of the need for responsible travel values and practices.
By keeping up to date with our local service providers we can monitor and react to any changes that could impact upon the wildlife habitat and your experience of it, we endeavour to keep you informed of any such issues as they arise. Our service providers regularly feedback that our clients are far better prepared than many others that they meet, we believe that this greater level of understanding enables our guests to have a more positive travel experience. A recent example of this was the decision by the Supreme Court in India to close all the Tiger Sanctuaries in India (re-opened October 16th 2012); throughout this whole difficult saga we kept all affected clients updated by email on a weekly basis, as well as designing back up tours if the ban was not lifted; which was very much appreciated by all of them
After booking a tour with us we will continue to offer guidance and advice, and happily answer questions relevant to your trip so that our clients know what to expect at their chosen destination. Through our ‘Travellers Tips’ we provide advice tailored to each particular country relating to local customs, currency, health matters and useful items for example.
In ensuring that our clients are well-informed and well-prepared we aim to encourage and empower you to meet local people and interact respectfully, and to feel comfortable making suggestions for improvements to our own practices.
In all locations we ask that you:
Always follow the instructions of guides and naturalists. Keep noise to a minimum and encourage others to do likewise.
Remember that flash photography is not allowed within the parks. Don’t crowd the animals; respect their privacy as well as other people’s enjoyment of the wildlife by moving on.
Be not afraid to ask your guide to slow down or move away from wildlife
Be prepared to share safari vehicles at busier times to reduce pressure on the wildlife and protected areas
Don’t feed wildlife it can encourage unnatural dependency and disease.
Read and observe any specific codes of conduct or safety guidelines provided by us, for example ‘Tour Operators for Tigers’, in India
Please use as little water and power as possible. Carry rubbish away with you and decline plastic bags (buy or bring fabric ‘shoppers’), apart from being unsightly wildlife can be injured or poisoned. Common sense and common courtesy should prevail in all your actions. Don’t buy animal products, and satisfy yourself that wooden items are from a sustainable source.
Dress respectfully; in India ‘beachwear’ away from the poolside or beach usually won’t cause offence but will make you the centre of attention, shorts and T-shirts are fine but even men shouldn’t go topless. When visiting temples women should keep legs, chest and shoulders covered, and men should wear trousers; always remove your shoes before entering.
Ask before taking photos of people or religious sites
Tip responsibly and distribute fairly, particularly with regard to the less obvious staff (ask about ‘courtesy boxes’)
Making A Real Difference
By maintaining a reasonable growth in turnover every year we are able to contribute more financial support to conservation initiatives and community projects. In India we undertake this directly through our own charity the Tiger Trails Foundation (registered in 2002, no.1092852), 10% of company net profits are donated to the foundation each year. Tiger Trails are also founder members of Tour Operators for Tigers, as well as adhering to their Codes of Conduct members make an annual contribution to Global Tiger Patrol. We are also member of Tourism Concern (http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk); as a member of their Ethical Tour Operators Group we work together on crucial issues affecting tourism all over the world, such as water equity in tourism and human rights. We have also received the highest award possible from AITO of 5 stars for responsible tourism
As a means of helping to protect India’s National Parks, and hence the wildlife, the ‘Tiger Trails Foundation’ aims to provide resources and support for the neighbouring tribal villages. By improving the quality of life for these communities through sustainable eco-development projects we believe that there will be reduced damage to the park buffer and core zones, and that there will be improved awareness and respect of India’s limited natural resources. In short, the only way that tigers will survive in India is by saving their forests and prey, and this can only be achieved with the trust and co-operation of the local population.
We have been working in partnership with villages around the perimeter of Ranthambhore National Park since 2001 on initiatives such as water harvesting, tree plantations and education. We were the first and only wildlife tour operator to work directly with a local village in this way. The projects are not ‘hidden’ schemes but are there for all our clients to see when in Ranthambhore and many do take the opportunity to visit. Since April 2006 we have had a ‘wireless’ computer network set up in Ranwal specifically for the children to learn basic computer skills, opening up a wider range of employment options. The network and the employment of a teacher have all been paid for by the Tiger Trails Foundation, which receives 90% of its funds from Tiger Trails.
So that the whole of these funds are used for the intended purpose Tiger Trails Foundation uses the facilities of Wildlife Trails on a no-cost basis, with administrative and management duties being undertaken by the trustees on a voluntary basis. Projects are completed using local volunteer labour from within the villages concerned, except where specialist skills are required. Ownership of projects, and any associated financial gain are held by the members of each village as a co-operative.
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