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A Peek Inside ‘Clean Breaks, 500 New Ways to See the World’

  • Ethan Gelber
  • 3 August 2009

Clean Breaks, 500 New Ways to See the World (read a review), published in August 2009 by Rough Guides, is a full-colour guide of the authors’ handpicked choices of the world’s best hotels, tours and activities run by people who are passionate about what they do in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

Hiking through paddy fields in Thailand, you will definitely feel like you've made a clean break from your regular routine

Hiking through paddy fields in Thailand, you will definitely feel like you've made a clean break from your regular routine. Photo courtesy of Rough Guides

Needless to say, there’s an inspiring overlap between the authors’ motivations and the whl.travel vision, the latter being to locate and promote the kinds of small, grassroots travel initiatives that, over time and with the support of travellers, are positive steps toward improving a place, and help shape it in a caring and sustainable way.

To illustrate this, the following links take you to abridged Clean Breaks excerpts paired, when relevant, with mentions (in blue) of the further resources in select destinations available through whl.travel. After all, it is our shared belief that readers inspired by Clean Breaks are the kinds of people who see the value in traveling with whl.travel.

FAIR TRADE HOLIDAYS

South Africa has the world’s first fair trade tourism scheme, with a growing range of places involved. The following ten experiences offer much of the best South Africa has to offer – from wildlife-watching to townships to wine tasting – plus you’ll know that the local communities benefited from your visit. For details of all the participants in the scheme see www.fairtourismsa.org.za.

Clean Break #227: Drink with locals in a township

On a tour of the townships of Nelson Mandela Bay with Calabash, it’s a great idea to visit some of your guide’s favourite watering holes (shebeens). Here you can drink with the locals and shake your stuff to the marimba bands who often play outside the bars. www.calabashtours.co.za

The whl.travel local connection in Cape Town also offers a variety of Cape Town township tours, including the Township Dinner and Jazz Experience, as well as other responsible tours and community-conscious accommodation.

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CLEAN BREAK #440: TREK THROUGH VILLAGES IN NEPAL

A 15-day Annapurna Trails and Homestay trip with the Responsible Travellers (who invest all their profits in local charities, www.theresponsibletravellers.com) takes in traditional houses like those pictured here. The whl.travel connection in Nepal (www.pokharahotel-link.com) also organises responsible tours in the area.

A 15-day Annapurna Trails and Homestay trip with the Responsible Travellers (who invest all their profits in local charities, www.theresponsibletravellers.com) takes in traditional houses like those pictured here. The whl.travel connection in Nepal (www.pokharahotel-link.com) also organises responsible tours in the area. Photo courtesy of Rough Guides

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JUNGLE LODGES

The Amazon rainforest is the stuff of dreams; there are iridescent butterflies the size of your hand, deafening waterfalls that cascade into emerald pools, indigenous tribes who hunt with blowpipes, and as many different kinds of exotic plants and birds as you’ll find anywhere on the earth. The remoteness of most jungle lodges means they have to be self-reliant for electricity, food and water, and many now organize guided treks that promote conservation of the jungle’s biodiversity. They also bring much-needed income to remote communities and provide visitors with an insight into their struggle with logging and oil companies.

Of 10 favourites named – including four in Ecuador, two in Peru, one in Guyana and one in Bolivia – one of the two in Brazil is:

Clean Break #353: Amazonat Jungle Lodge

One of the most accessible jungle lodges, Amazonat is two hours by road east from Manaus international airport, in a 50-square-kilometre private reserve. The owners run treks deep into the jungle and include courses on jungle survival. www.amazonat.org

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In the forests of northern Laos, the Akha people still will traditional clothing

In the forests of northern Laos, the Akha people still wear traditional clothing and use patterns that may inspire you at Ock Pop Tok’s textile gallery. Photo courtesy of Rough Guides

GREEN LUANG PRABANG

Laos eased restrictions on foreign tourism in 1994, and the sleepy former royal capital of Luang Prabang, hidden away in the jungle at the confluence of the Kahn and Mekong rivers, was made a World Heritage Site a year later. Visitor numbers have accelerated since, and Luang Prabang now has several ventures that aim to cope with the growth sustainably. The following experiences [three of five listed in the book] offer the best of this magical place, and will help to preserve its soul for many years to come.

Clean Break #402: Enjoy a puppet show

Every Thursday and Saturday at 7.30pm the kids at Children’s Cultural Centre, a project developed with Unicef, put on a traditional Lao puppet show. Throughout the year, the CCC members (aged between 6 and 18) perform in rural villages, using puppetry and other traditional forms to deliver messages about children’s rights and health issues. The rest of the time they learn all manner of traditional arts at the centre, and guests are welcome to learn as well, or help out. It’s all part of a concerted effort to ensure interest in Lao traditional culture is carried on by the next generation.

Clean break #403: Get a massage with the Red Cross

There are plenty of places in town where you can get an invigorating massage for berry little money, but choosing the Red Cross means you’ll help to fund projects to provide latrines and water systems to local villagers, and train local youths and tuk-tuk drivers in first aid. It’s a proper massage too after sweating away toxins on a steam bath infused with 24 different herbs, you’re kneaded and pummeled back into shape by medically trained professionals.

Clean Break #404: Make your own scarf

Laos is famous for its silk, and at Ock Pop Tok’s textile gallery you can select your favourite patterns and colours from a range of hand-stitched fabrics, or have clothes made to measure. Or you can visit their weaving centre located in a traditional riverside garden just 2km from the centre of town. Here you can learn how to weave or dye your own scarf in classes lasting from a half-day to a week; you’ll be taught by women working with Ock Pop Tock in an effort to keep their traditional handicrafts alive. www.ockpoptok.com

The whl.travel local connection in Lunag Prabang also recommends visits to the Children’s Cultural Centre and the Lao Red Cross, in addition to offering responsible tours and accommodations throughout the region.

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CLEAN BREAK #479: IN SEARCH OF THE REAL FIJI

Agencies such as FijiBure (www.fijibure.com) and Fiji Ecotours (www.fijiecotours.net) help travellers get beyond stage-managed 'village tours' and into the embrace of real Fijian families living in traditional bures of woven bamboo walls and thatched roofs. The whl.travel connection in Fiji (www.fiji-hotels.com.fj) also offers responsible accommodation and tours.

Agencies such as FijiBure (www.fijibure.com) and Fiji Ecotours (www.fijiecotours.net) help travellers get beyond stage-managed 'village tours' and into the embrace of real Fijian families living in traditional bures of woven bamboo walls and thatched roofs. The whl.travel connection in Fiji (www.fiji-hotels.com.fj) also offers responsible accommodation and tours. Photo courtesy of Rough Guides

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CLEAN BREAK #140: EXPLORE BORJOMI-KHARAGAULI NATIONAL PARK, GEORGIA

It may be the same size as Ireland, but Georgia has more animal and bird species than any other country in Europe – and the best way to see them is on guided walks through Borjomi-Kharangauli National Park, a vast wilderness of coniferous forest where bears, lynx and chamois dwell.

The family-run Marelisi guesthouse in the village of the same name at the park’s northern edge provides an ideal base to plan walking routes, book guides and fill up on local food. Hikes from here pass along rhododendron-lined rivers and meadows whose subalpine grasses seem to shift colour as they waft in the mountain breeze. Marelisi village itself is almost totally self-sufficient: a place where people still grind their corn in communal watermills known as tiskvili. Before you set out, be sure to stock up on sweet churchkela, a smack made by boiling nuts in grape juice and a useful energy source while hiking.
www.borjomi-kharagauli-np.ge

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CLEAN BREAK #400: DIVE AT BUNAKEN, INDONESIA

No one’s really sure how many fish dwell in the gin-clear water of Bunaken Marine Reserve in the north of the Sulawesi archipelago. It’s probably more than 2500 different species, but the number keeps changing as more are discovered. Whatever the exact amount, with up to 45m visibility on a clear day this is one of the best place to dive not just in Indonesia, but the whole world.

 

Sea turtles are just one of the many underwater creatures awaiting eager divers

Sea turtles are just some of the many underwater creatures awaiting eager divers. Photo courtesy of Rough Guides

And each year it gets a bit more beautiful. That’s partly because the 890-square-kilometre reserve – which is spread over five hundred small islands – is using money raised from entrance fees to end damaging practices such as coral mining and blast-fishing. Also, because the reserve employs local villagers to clean up the reefs and beaches and guard them from trespassers, live coral cover is now increasing by around five hundred percent a year.

Most of the reserve’s accommodation – mainly basic homestays – is on Bunaken Island. If you’re after a little more luxury, head for the nearby island of Siladen and the Siladen Resort and Spa.
www.sulawesi-info.com/bunaken.php, www.siladen.com

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Ethan Gelber

In addition to his freelance travel writing (Lonely Planet author, ex-AFAR Ambassador, Huffington Post Travel blogger and more), Ethan has agitated tirelessly for responsible/sustainable travel practices, family travel, keeping things local, and quality and relevance in publishing and destination marketing. Among many other things, Ethan is editorial director of the Family Travel Association, a co-founder of OutBounding, and tackles content projects for HomeExchange.com and RW Social, which produces the NY Trav Fest. Previously, Ethan was Chief Communications Officer of the WHL Group, for which he founded and edited The Travel Word (this now-independent blog); publications manager of the French government tourist office (Atout France) in NYC; and helped manage a Paris-based bicycle tour operator.
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adventure travel, animal conservation, Brazil, ecotours, Fiji, Georgia, Indonesia, Laos, marine conservation, Nepal, outdoors, responsible travel, responsible travel news, South Africa,

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