Chalet White Eden – Sainte Foy Tarentaise – Chalet Review 2016

Now here’s a couple of questions for all you ski holiday enthusiasts to ponder. Put to one side the resort and the weather, what are the ingredients that make a great chalet holiday for you? Is it the food, the location, the other guests, the rooms, the facilities, the price; or is it a combination of all these things? And how many truly great chalet holidays have you been on? There’s a lot of variables to take into account, and as a chalet company, a lot to get right if you want to run a successful business in a crowded market place. Hats off then to Small Wonders, who have got a very good handle on the majority of these factors, and tie them all together in a great venue that is Chalet White Eden.

The winner of the Ski Club Ski Holiday For Life competition, Rob Wycherley, has been in Sainte Foy Tarentaise this year.  He gives us his review for Chalet White Eden, Small Wonders.TheLodgeexterior4skiinout Everyone at Small Wonders, from the Managing Director down to the chalet staff in resort, hold the same philosophies regarding genuine hospitality, taking pleasure in looking after their customers, the enjoyment from being in a wonderful environment and that crucial aspect, attention to detail. All this became evident in the week that I spent as their guest in Chalet White Eden, tucked nicely in against the Home Run in the small resort of Sainte Foy in the Tarentaise, close to Bourg St Maurice and within striking distance of the Paradiski and Espace Killy. We’d chosen to hire a car and drive the just over 2 hours from Grenoble, giving us flexibility during the week, but the chalet will arrange a minibus pick up from the station at Bourg, as well as run you to other resorts should you choose to stretch your ski legs. After a short drive up the mountain from the Bourg to Tignes road you arrive in the resort of Ste. Foy, a collection of modern, tastefully presented, chalets and residences. Chalet White Eden is in the upper part of the village, and has the benefit of an underground car park, that proved to be an absolute godsend due to the levels of snow that we had during the week.

The chalet itself is only a few years old, and unlike a lot of its competitors in this price bracket spread across the Alps, it is not lacking for space. Aside from the underground car park there is room for a separate ski and boot room (equipped with powerful heaters and a sofa to change your boots on, heaven, and a massive tick from me!) as well as a sauna, a lift, generous living areas, a

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Jacuzzi on the balcony (great fun to bubble away in as the snow falls) and large bedrooms and en-suites, where you don’t have to trip over you and your companion’s gear as you get ready in the morning.

White Eden is set up in a style of what is best described as boutique chalet-hotel, with Savoyard architecture, and a smattering of art and carvings, making for a sophisticated but relaxed environment, with subtle lighting and a welcoming log fire in the hearth. Twice a week there are “Le Chic” Happy Hours, where champagne and mouth-watering canapés are served up, however outside of these times there is an honesty bar, which also includes quality teas and coffees. Although the hosts are generous with after dinner drinks, at this level of service with typical properties in the Alps, local beer and wine runs free of charge throughout the stay.


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Now on to the food; one word, wow! Expertly cooked and beautifully presented, with a wonderful repertoire and great matching wines. My mouth is still watering from the thought of it all after 3 weeks. Local produce is high on the list, and after an initial foray into gauging the right amount to serve for the guests on the first night, we settled into a well-balanced and perfectly timed series of dinner parties with our fellow holiday makers. Unusually for chalets in the Alps, during the week that I stayed it was a cosmopolitan mix of Europeans, with guests from France, Luxembourg, Ireland and Switzerland; and myself and my buddy were the only Brits in the mix. As the French were the most numerous, it was their language that dominated at the table, which might be a bit intimidating if you don’t speak the lingo, but everyone made a real effort and we all learned more about each other and had a lot of laughs in the process.

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For those of you interested in bringing children, as after all the resort is fabulous for families, there was a first sitting for dinner, and plenty of space for the kids to retreat to so that they can watch television and access the free wifi.

So, back to those questions I posed at the start. Small Wonders have that combination right, and it is testament to the company and their product that there was an almost unanimous re-booking for 2017 from the guests that stayed. This was a great chalet holiday, oh, and the snow played its part too!
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Have you heard of this resort? If you have, you’re in the minority. There might be a number of reasons why you could have, either you’ve passed through the main village on the road from Bourg St Maurice to Tignes and Val D’Isere, you might have a young family and wanted something quiet and safe, or lastly you’re a back country officianado who has heard whisperings of the awesome off-piste, and acres of powder that remains untouched days after all the other nearby major resorts have been skied out.

To be honest with you, I was very fortunate to find it, being given the opportunity as a guest of Small Wonders, staying in Chalet White Eden which I was reviewing for the Much Better Adventures website. Like you, I went online and checked out the usual sites for a review of the resort, full of statistics and mouth watering photos taken on bluebird powder days. I was apprehensive, as for a week’s skiing I normally plump for large ski stations with excellent links, miles of piste, ample eating and drinking opportunities with access to a range of off-piste opportunities. Don’t get me wrong, I love a smaller resort, and have been fortunate enough to ski in plenty across the globe, but normally from a larger centre, or for a long weekend or day trip. Ste. Foy however lends itself to do things the other way around, so you can stay at a smaller, more intimate resort and then use it as a base to explore other larger ones that are nearby. In my case, and having the benefit of a hire car, I skied in Val D’Isere and then a day in Meribel where I caught up with friends, though there are other resorts nearer such as Les Arcs, La Plagne, Tignes and La Rosiere within 40 minutes or so.


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For those with family, or with more intermediate desires, then the resort offers ample skiing with accessible pistes from a handful of well linked chairlifts. This makes it easy to navigate for those inclined to use piste maps, and gives reassurance that older children won’t get stuck in the wrong valley when they pester to go off with friends. There are a small number of restaurants to rendez-vous at, all serving good mountain fare, but in busier periods, or with inclement weather it is best to book for meals. My stay co-incided with European half term, but it never felt too busy or crowded on the slopes, and lift queues only became apparent when bad weather forced the closure of the two top lifts due to high winds and avalanche risk.   

So then, what about the off-piste opportunities? Well, if you catch the weather right and you have fresh snow, you’ll think you have won the lottery. The top lifts open up a significant amount of area, from the unpisted blacks through to tree skiing and itineraries, it is all here, and what’s more there are only a small number of like minded individuals doing the same, so it is possible to make fresh tracks for a number of days after. My friend and I cut first lines on an epic run of 1,300m of vertical from the top of the lifts via the deserted hamlet of Le Monal down to the village of Le Miroir. For a long time we were following the hoof marks of a small deer, which met an unfortunate demise on the path with only its head left on show in a pool of red snow! Eeek! We didn’t hang around long to look for the culprit, but safe to say we asked locals from the safety of a bar about the likely wildlife able to carry this ambush out. At Le Miroir there is a handy bus service that takes you back to the main resort. To get the best from the off-piste then, hire a local guide, gear up and get stuck in.

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Safe to say that the nightlife in Ste. Foy is pretty quiet, but there are a small number of bars and eateries, including a pretty decent wine bar that has some atmosphere, so you can venture out on the chef’s day off. We ate at the Maison a Colonnes at the base of the slopes, and thoroughly enjoyed a “Witch’s Hat” pierrade (see pic) with all the theatre of cooking your own grub.

Well then, there you have it, a super little destination that is becoming increasingly better known in skiing circles, and ticks a lot of boxes for a wide range of needs. It’s a relatively new resort that retains a lot of charm, and for those that have found it there are enough compelling reasons to keep coming back, and to keep it as quiet as possible from the rest of the skiing fraternity.

Damn, I’ve let you into my secret.

Want more of Rob? Check out his review of Go Ski Meribel Chalet Review 2015

 

Meet Sumak Travel – a new muchbetter way to see South America

We are delighted to welcome Sumak Travel as the latest member of the muchbetter community.

This new Uk based tour operator to South America was founded by Felipe after a year exploring the wonders of South America, getting totally hooked, and connecting with dozens of incredible community based tourism projects along the way. There are certain parallels with Alex there, who was driven to start Much Better Adventures after a similar year of discovery in South America. So you imagine his excitement to hear from someone else with a shared passion and vision for tourism in this captivating region of the world!

As Felipe explains:

We work directly with community-based tour operators in South America. They usually are co-operatives, social enterprises, associations, travel agencies, all managed by the local communities themselves. We specialise in community-base eco-tourism, but our trips include also visits to main cities and touristic attractions. When you book a trip with us, we organise and book everything for you.

We create bespoke eco-trips, which means that customers chose if they want a guide with them during the whole trip, only during the activities, or not at all. Our local providers can offer a wide range of services and we are able to create multinational eco-trips as well. For now, we dont do group travel, only independent travel.

In our website you can see standard trips we’ve created to give customers an idea of what they can get. These trips include lots of trekking and other eco-tourism activities, and we can tailor make to suit your interests.

We can’t wait to see them working the tailor making magic on our new service too, which currently lets you get tailored offers for walking, biking and skiing in Europe, but a full range of adventures and activities is on the way!

For now, you can contact Felipe to make your South America journey muchbetter!

Everest clean up trek commemorates 60th anniversary of Hillary/Tenzing feat.

May 29th 1953 was a special day for Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as they made history by stepping onto the worlds highest peak, Mt. Everest, for the first time.

To honour their accomplishments, Ace the Himalaya announces an 18-day Everest 60th Anniversary trek targeting arrival at Everest Base Camp on May 29th. Here they will have a two-night stay, while a service project to clean up the area will be accomplished along with enjoying an anniversary dinner celebration with Everest climbers. On the very auspicious day Ace has also planned for a special surprise gift to those who were born on the same day (more info here).

The trip begins and ends in Kathmandu along the following route: Kathmandu-Lukla-Namche Bazaar-Tengboche-Lobuche-Gorak Shep-Everest Base Camp-Kalapatthar-Lukla-Kathmandu.

Guests experience high-altitude trekking four to six hours daily. Ace say 100 percent of the money from this project stays in Nepal through the locally owned company leading the tour.

Hired porters and yaks will bring the garbage down to Namche bazaar where it will then be handed over to a Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC).

Prem K. Khatry, managing director of the company, explained that the base camp has become much polluted because of the thousands of annual visitors.

The ultimate joys of our Everest base camp trek are the breathtaking mountain panoramas, so its our duty to conserve its beauty and help keep it pollution free. If you like to trek and be a part of this important mission, this will be one of the most inspiring ways to get involved, he said.

The per person rate of $1,450 includes airport/hotel transfers, twin shared accommodation (in Kathmandu) for four nights with breakfast, guided city tour, sightseeing/monument entrance fees, lodge/guesthouse accommodation during the trek, all needed camping equipment, tented camp at Everest base camp for two nights with full board meals and hot drinks, local Ace the Himalaya licensed English speaking guide, local staff and porters for carrying luggage, all the required equipments (bags, baskets, gloves) to collect the garbage, yaks to carry the collected refuse from Base Camp down to Namche, food, accommodation, salary, insurance, equipment and medicine for all staff, down jacket and sleeping bag for use during trek, airfare from Kathmandu Lukla – Kathmandu including airport departure tax in Kathmandu and Lukla airport, surface transfer from and to Kathmandu, special 60th anniversary Celebration dinner, farewell dinner with culture show in typical Nepali restaurant, all government taxes, VAT, tourist service charges, and official expenses.

Ace the Himalaya works closely with and is one of the main supporters of Sambhav Nepal Foundation, a non-political and non-profit social organization. Ace the Himalaya contributions support the remote village of Arupokhari (Gorkha, Nepal) through donations, sponsorships and partnerships in a wide range of projects.

For more information, to see their other treks including Everest and Annapurna, and make reservations enquire direct to Ace from this page.

You can also check out more treks in Nepal, Everest treks and Annapurna treks from local and independent operators.

What’s the etiquette for taking photos of strangers?

We have all been there wondering around soaking up the atmosphere and keeping an eye out for photo opportunities, when suddenly you turn a corner and there in front of you is the most photogenic person you have ever seen. It is the shot you have been waiting for, and no doubt it is destined to make the front cover of some glossy adventure magazine.So let the moral dilemmas begin. How do you go about taking the picture? Do you do it sneakily without them noticing, or stroll right up and point the camera in their face? Will you offend them to ask? Will you offend them to offer payment? Will you even be breaking some local cultural taboo and usher in the devil as soon as you click the shutter? Its a minefield.

Taking a well-posed snap of friends and family is straightforward. Everyone is in agreement and ready to have their photo taken. However, taking a shot which involves photographing strangers is an entirely different matter. Deciding on the appropriate etiquette for snapping someone you don’t know can be tricky to get right. Here are a few pointers to help get it right.

 

To ask or not to ask?

The first issue to deal with is that of permission. Some photographers prefer not to ask to be allowed to take a picture, preferring instead to just get the shot while it’s there. This takes a lot of confidence and experience though and may not be the ideal way for an amateur to get the picture they want.Confidence isn’t a bad thing, however. Showing that you’re afraid to ask permission to photograph someone can come across as abrasive and almost threatening, which will immediately alienate your subject. The best way to get over this fear is just to do it. Get plenty of experience by asking for permission frequently. Be open, approachable and friendly. If you feel you need to give a valid reason for wanting to photograph someone, say it’s for a school, college or photography class project. Most importantly, take refusal with good grace and acceptance and move on.There may be cultural or religious reasons why someone does not want to be photographed, so if you’re taking shots while abroad or at a religious or cultural landmark, it’s wise to ask about the etiquette that may apply at these venues. Tour guides, venue staff or even just a passing local, might be able to fill you in on what’s acceptable and what’s not.

 

Getting relaxed shots

Getting the best shot can be difficult if you’ve asked permission first, as most people who know they are to be photographed will naturally turn towards the photographer, striking a pose. This is where your confidence as a photographer comes into play. Be bold about asking your subject to look at the camera, or away from it, or at the task they are doing. Strike the pose you want yourself so that they can copy you. Being direct about what you want can get better shots than treading on eggshells, or snapping from a distance.Keeping the conversation flowing while snapping can help your subject to relax while you get the picture you want. Chat to them about what they’re doing, ask questions about their costume, talk about the weather, even. Anything that will help them to lose any stiffness or awareness they have that they are being snapped.

 

To pay or not to pay?

Once you’ve got the shots you want, it is important to thank your subject. They may be keen to see the pictures you’ve taken and it’s only fair that they should be allowed to take a peek at them. In certain popular destinations, you need to be aware that there may an expectation of payment for having been photographed. Some cultures will be offended if you offer payment without being asked, so try to get to grips with what is appropriate before you start taking snaps. Most importantly, don’t be so impolite as to attempt to barter if asked for remuneration in exchange for a picture. If you’re not prepared to pay, then politely refuse and walk away.

 

Post by Tony, a UK based blogger on behalf of Cheapflights.

The African Travel Checklist

Heading out to explore the vast African wilderness is, I think, quite a polarizing idea amongst a lot of people. On the one hand, its something that a lot of people dream about, venturing to the birthplace of humanity itself. On the other, lots of people are put off by the number of things to worry about. What vaccinations do you need? Is your destination safe? What local customs do you need to understand to get by? What will the conditions be like? Whichever side of the fence youre on, heres a list weve compiled to try and make the whole process of beginning your African adventure as straightforward and painless as possible!

Health

Your health is obviously going to be a priority whenever you travel anywhere, and nobody is going to be surprised to hear that there are some precautions youll need to take before visiting Africa. You should make sure to book an appointment with your doctor at least one month before your departure. This will allow you to discuss the pending vaccinations as well as any other health related queries you might have. Again, make sure you do this with plenty of time to spare, because the vaccinations typically need to be administered a while before you depart so that they have time to take full effect.

Also make sure that you get hold of some Malaria tablets and follow the recommended dosage to the letter. Your doctor will clarify this issue for you. If youre travelling between different countries in Africa it might be pertinent to take a vaccination for Yellow Fever, too, as some require a certificate to allow entry from one country to another.

Clothes

Make sure that you pack for every possible scenario. Just because you are heading to Africa doesnt mean that there will be sun throughout your trip. If youre heading out on a Safari or a climb up Kilimanjaro you will need to purchase and bring clothing and footwear that suits these types of trips. Make sure that you always bring some sort of hat because the heat of the sun in Africa can be excruciating, and sunstroke and heavy burning can set in before youve even had a chance to notice it. If you have an area of your body where you dont have sunscreen you need to make sure that it is covered up at all times to avoid sunburn. We all know that nothing ruins a holiday like spending the whole time in pain and peeling!

Safari Preparations

Heading out on a Safari is a once in a lifetime experience but you will need to take several things into consideration. First and foremost you need to bring clothes with a very bland colour. This is so that they will not attract the attention of the animals around you. Beige is always a winner and a light shade of brown always works well. Bring your hat for sun protection and wear long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from both the sun and mosquitoes. In all this preparation, dont forget the most important thing of all; your camera! You will see some amazing animals and scenery on a safari so make sure you take plenty of batteries (and film, if youve decided not to go digital) and snap some really amazing pictures!

Security and Safety

Even though Africa is a wonderful place you need to consider your own safety and security. If possible you should avoid driving where possible in most African countries. The roads are usually a lot poorer than what you will be used to at home and the laws arent followed as strictly. There are usually a lot of older cars maintained to quite low safety standards on the roads, so it can be a bit of a gauntlet.

You also need to know that you are heading into potential Third World countries where the standard of living can be very low. That is why you need to keep your money close to your heart and dont flaunt your wealth. As with any tourist destination, there will be unscrupulous thieves looking to swipe a handbag, camera, or whatever else is on offer. Most importantly, keep your passport somewhere where theres no way it can be taken from you without you noticing. In order to minimize any risk, make sure you have an extra wallet with your credit card and the majority of your cash for emergencies. Only have a small amount of money in your primary wallet since this wont attract the same amount of attention from potential thieves.

Respect

Always make sure that you are respectful to the locals and their property. Keep in mind that you are a guest and that you are visiting on their terms, not yours. Be polite to staff, government officials and most importantly the Police. If you feel insecure in a situation, it is better to move away and get back to an area where you feel safe rather than confronting people.

Cold as it might sound, you should also be wary about giving money to people asking for it. Helping out the less fortunate is, obviously, a noble gesture, but it might also draw attention to your wealth and cause you to be hassled somewhat by others.

So, still want to visit Africa? Of course you do! Any adventurous traveler should mark the continent down on their list of places to visit, and, hopefully, this list has made the whole thing just that little bit simpler. Just remember to keep your wits about you, exercise caution and common sense, and, most of all, enjoy your adventure!

This article was brought to you by the travel bloggers at Vroomvroomvroom.co.uk, bringing you car hire from all major English airports and around the UK.

Black Sheep Inn Eco Lodge in Ecuador now community owned

In May 2012 Black Sheep Inn, a well known eco-lodge in the Ecuadorian Highlands, and perhaps one of the most famous examples of sustainable tourism, has became 100% community operated.

Alex spent some time at the lodge a few years back, and the news brought some happy memories flooding back! Here is the story:

Edmundo Vega Estrada, the new administrator was born and raised in Chugchiln. He graduated from the local elementary school Juan Jose Flores over 40 years ago before tourism had developed in the area. He moved to Latacunga and then to Quito where he began working in the hospitality industry. From dish washer to kitchen manager to banquet administrator to restaurant manager; he worked at the JW Marriott, Hotel Quito, Hilton Colon and high-end restaurants. Edmundo returned to Chugchiln in April 2012 after being away for 30 years. He wanted to live close to his elderly mother and brother and he wanted to run the Black Sheep Inn. Edmundo speaks a bit of English and French, in addition to his native Spanish.Edmundos team consists of original Black Sheep Inn employees: Narcisa Sigcha, EstherCunuhay, Olga Pastua and Martha Cuyo, who have been involved with Black Sheep Inn for years. Cesar Cuyo and Jorge Guamangate are the maestros who helped build the Ecolodge and still maintain the property.Black Sheep Inn is open year round for individual bookings.Black Sheep Inn founders Andres Hammerman and Michelle Kirby reside on an adjacentproperty and are assisting with the transitional period to ensure quality and to maintain the high level of sustainable practices that made the Black Sheep Inn famous.

View Black Sheep Inn.

View more eco-lodges around the world.

Event Notice: The Sierra Leone Marathon 2012 – run for their lives!

You may have run the London marathon. Cycled from London to Paris. Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. The toughest of you may even have survived the Marathon Des Sables. But none of you will have partaken in the Sierra Leone marathon. Doing a challenge for charity is not something new but this challenge is. Be part of something groundbreaking and participate in the first ever Sierra Leone marathon!
The Sierra Leone marathon is not just about pushing yourself to prove that you can run a marathon in tropical Sierra Leone – half marathon and 5k runs available for the less brave! – It is about seeing exactly where your fundraising is being spent. It is about meeting the children you are helping. All funds raised go directly to Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL), a charity that works to reduce the number of children living on the streets in Sierra Leone and increase the number of children in education. As a participant in the Sierra Leone marathon you will have the opportunity to visit SCoSLs childrens centres and newly build schools.
Running in Makeni, the former rebel army HQ, you will run along the very streets these children have been sleeping rough on. They are now enrolled on projects funded by SCoSL and before they head off to school for the day, they will line the race course and cheer you on!
Sierra Leone experienced a civil war which ended in 2002. Today, huge steps are being taken to help the picturesque country recover from devastating poverty. And with beaches that have featured in bounty bar adverts and a wildlife park to be admired The Times (Sept 2011) rightly suggests that
Sierra Leone might seem an off-beat choice but it offers a beach holiday to rival the Caribbean.

You may have run the London marathon. Cycled from London to Paris. Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. The toughest of you may even have survived the Marathon Des Sables. But none of you will have partaken in the Sierra Leone marathon. Doing a challenge for charity is not something new but this challenge is. Be part of something groundbreaking and participate in the first ever Sierra Leone marathon!

The Sierra Leone marathon is not just about pushing yourself to prove that you can run a marathon in tropical Sierra Leone – half marathon and 5k runs available for the less brave! – It is about seeing exactly where your fundraising is being spent. It is about meeting the children you are helping. All funds raised go directly to Street Child of Sierra Leone (SCoSL), a charity that works to reduce the number of children living on the streets in Sierra Leone and increase the number of children in education. As a participant in the Sierra Leone marathon you will have the opportunity to visit SCoSLs childrens centres and newly build schools.

Running the Sierra Leone marathon in Makeni, the former rebel army HQ, you will run along the very streets these childrenhave been sleeping rough on. They are now enrolled on projects funded by SCoSL and before they head off to school for the day, they will line the race course and cheer you on!

Sierra Leone experienced a civil war which ended in 2002. Today, huge steps are being taken to help the picturesque country recover from devastating poverty. And with beaches that have featured in bounty bar adverts and a wildlife park to be admired The Times (Sept 2011) rightly suggests that”Sierra Leone might seem an off-beat choice but it offers a beach holiday to rival the Caribbean“.

Celebrity adventurer, Ben Fogle, is the patron and face of this exciting new event and General Lord Dannatt, former head of the British army, is lending his operational support.

The Sierra Leone marathon will take place on the 9th June 2012, and its going to be one amazing race. So if you are interested in getting your running shoes on for one truly worthwhile cause, there is still plenty of time to register. Packages are only 300. This includes race entry, 5 nights basic accommodation, food and in-country transport.

For more information about the Sierra Leone marathon, the great cause that it will be supporting, and how to sign up for this great event visit the Sierra Leone Marathon’s website. If you are interested in getting involved in your own challenging adventure, but a marathon isn’t quite your thing, check out these great active holidays that are on offer. It’s time to get off the sofa…there is a great big world out there just full of exciting, adventure challenges! So what are you waiting for?

The Jompy – help tackle a global problem while you camp!

Is there anything better than enjoying a hot brew and cooking up a storm in the great outdoors, after a days hiking? Well what if there was a way to save time and energy while doing it? That could make it it even better, right? Those working at Jompy have developed a revolutionary device that not only has the ability to improve your camping experiences, but also to help tackle a global problem facing many families across the world today – the lack of access to clean drinking water. This one is definitely worth a look!

The Jompy Device

The Jompy device is a small, lightweight and simple to use device that allows you to simultaneously heat water, in order to render it safe for drinking, and cook food over a campfire or camping stove. Due to the fact that the Jompy allows you to heat your water while you cook, you could save up to 60% on your energy consumption, and reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced. The original Jompy device produces a litre of hot water every 45 seconds…so there is no more waiting 20 minutes for that much needed cup of tea!

Clean, safe drinking water

The Jompy was originally designed to tackle a problem much bigger than having to wait for a brew though. Today 1 in 6 children do not have access to clean drinking water, and UN estimates suggest that 1.5 million children die every year from diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. The Jompy device offers a simple, effective and maintenance free solution to this problem. In areas where clean water is in short supply, the Jompy device grants families the ability to produce safe drinking water. Each Jompy used in Africa will also save a huge 2.6 tonnes of Carbon per year.

Make a difference

For every Jompy device that is purchased fromThe Jompy website, one African family will receive their own Jompy. So if you are looking to upgrade your camping equipment, consider setting yourself up with a Jompy, and have an impact not only on your camping trips but also on the bigger picture! For more information please visit the website.

Volunteering in Local Communities, a Force for Good?

There is an emerging type of tourist who is looking for a the next new adventure in travel. Many of them are looking to give back to the communities that they visit, by way of volunteering their time and services to assist those who are lacking resources. Enter the voluntourist. With so many well intentioned people and organisations bringing these people and underdeveloped communities together, only good things can result. This is the theory, which seems sound on paper. Having been a voluntourist myself, and coming from a sustainable development/tourism view point, I doubt the validity of it always working out in favour of the local community/area. There are many types of volunteering as a tourist and likewise many groups and organisations that make these arrangements. It’s not that all forms do not benefit someone somehow, it’s whether the positive impacts outweigh the negative.
It’s a difficult situation to be able to judge or determine. Let’s take an example of an orphanage that I’ve encountered in my travels. They are open to foreigners to come stay at the orphanage and help on projects like building a playground for the children. By staying at the orphanage, the volunteers have the opportunity to interact with the children. In order to facilitate this, a fee is involved. The owners start seeking and pressuring for further donations from the foreigners during their stay to support the orphanage. They start to depend on foreigners for the survival of the orphanage. Sure, it’s great that someone can help out the orphanage to improve the facilities. But it also further propagates the view by locals to see foreigners as an open bank. It opens the eyes of the voluntarist and has immense benefits as a voluntourist to live and breathe the life of the local community. It is a unique experience. However, the experience and relationship between foreigner and local risks turning into a business transaction. What is the true benefit? What impact does this have on the children in the orphanage to see tourists coming in and out for a week at a time, more or less. The same with teaching English, in less developed areas where there is no continuity of foreigners to come teach English. Does having a foreign english teacher for a month once in a while better than not at all? In the case of conservation projects, without consistency of resources, how effective is the conservation? What are the environmental impacts of more people in the area that you’re trying to preserve makes for a difficult balancing act.
Then, you may consider the impacts of tourism itself. The more tourists that come through an area, the more work is involved in preserving its natural state or to ensure the location and community does survive in it’s own right and also remains available for future visitors. Consider places like Phuket in Thailand that has turned into somewhat of a large commercially driven tourist spot catering for all the flocks of tourists that come each year, that is mass tourism. The environmental and social impacts over the past 10-20 years are often seen as negative. Starting as a voluntourist, can be the start of the mass tourism cycle. What impact does our visit have on local area. Not just our services, but our extra presence there. We need to be fed, cleaned and we create rubbish.
While being a voluntarist sounds great in itself, there is much more to consider when selecting a project and choosing whether to do it at all. Consider what is the benefit? How do you measure this benefit? Only you as the voluntarist can decide if you think it’s worthwhile and whether your impact is better than having none at all. One of the main benefits of volunteering comes from educating the voluntarist by allowing that experience and insight into the local life which they can share with others. It’s not always necessarily assistance to the local community or conservation place, they will find ways to survive without the voluntourist.

There is an emerging type of tourist who is looking for a the next new adventure in travel. Many of them are looking to give back to the communities that they visit, by way of volunteering in local communities their time and services to assist those who are lacking resources. Enter the voluntourist.

With so many well intentioned people and organisations bringing these people and underdeveloped communities together, only good things can result. This is the theory, which seems sound on paper. Having been a voluntourist in a local community myself, and coming from a sustainable development/tourism view point, I doubt the validity of it always working out in favour of the local community/area. There are many types of volunteering as a tourist and likewise many groups and organisations that make these arrangements. It’s not that all forms do not benefit someone somehow, it’s whether the positive impacts outweigh the negative.

It’s a difficult situation to be able to judge or determine. Let’s take an example of an orphanage that I’ve encountered in my travels. They are open to foreigners to come stay at the orphanage and help on projects like building a playground for the children. By staying at the orphanage, the volunteers have the opportunity to interact with the children. In order to facilitate this, a fee is involved. The owners start seeking and pressuring for further donations from the foreigners during their stay to support the orphanage. They start to depend on foreigners for the survival of the orphanage. Sure, it’s great that someone can help out the orphanage to improve the facilities. But it also further propagates the view by locals to see foreigners as an open bank. It opens the eyes of the voluntarist and has immense benefits as a voluntourist to live and breathe the life of the local community. It is a unique experience. However, the experience and relationship between foreigner and local risks turning into a business transaction. What is the true benefit? What impact does this have on the children in the orphanage to see tourists coming in and out for a week at a time, more or less.

The same with teaching English, in less developed areas where there is no continuity of foreigners to come teach English. Does having a foreign english teacher for a month once in a while better than not at all? In the case of conservation projects, without consistency of resources, how effective is the conservation? What are the environmental impacts of more people in the area that you’re trying to preserve makes for a difficult balancing act.

Then, you may consider the impacts of tourism itself. The more tourists that come through an area, the more work is involved in preserving its natural state or to ensure the location and local community does survive in it’s own right and also remains available for future visitors. Consider places like Phuket in Thailand that has turned into somewhat of a large commercially driven tourist spot catering for all the flocks of tourists that come each year, that is mass tourism. The environmental and social impacts over the past 10-20 years are often seen as negative. Starting as a voluntourist in the local community, can be the start of the mass tourism cycle. What impact does our visit have on local area. Not just our services, but our extra presence there. We need to be fed, cleaned and we create rubbish.

While being a voluntarist sounds great in itself, there is much more to consider when selecting a project and choosing whether to do it at all. Consider what is the benefit? How do you measure this benefit? Only you as the voluntarist can decide if you think it’s worthwhile and whether your impact is better than having none at all. One of the main benefits of community volunteering comes from educating the voluntarist by allowing that experience and insight into the local life which they can share with others. It’s not always necessarily assistance to the local community or conservation place, they will find ways to survive without the voluntourist.

Travel Bunny, is an avid traveller who has trekked across the globe and worked in Australia, Ireland and UK in the past 10 years. In 2006, Travel Bunny travelled across Latin America over 8 months, touching all countries except for Venezuela, Suriname, French Guinea, Guyana, El Salvador and Belize.

In 2010-2011, Travel Bunny volunteered for local community and sustainable tourism operators in Thailand and Laos. Committed to helping the environment and economy of least developed countries and passionate about people, photography and salsa, you’ll find Travel Bunny dancing the night away in the places Travel Bunny visits. Travel Bunny’s latest passion is sustainable travel – the pathway for least developed countries to a sustainable future.

A really interesting debate, and one perhaps without a black and white answer. Leave your comments below!

You can, of course, check out volunteering holidays on Much Better Adventures!

All photos; author’s own.

Fine Tea and Fair Trade

Environmentally-conscious adventurers, volunteers and eco tourists alike, could enjoy this experience in West Bengal, India: an Indian homestay with a local family in Indias first certified organic and largest tea estate in Darjeeling.
I met Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, the Rajah of Darjeeling and the 4th generation tea planter of Makaibari Estate, who had a clear passion for conservation and sustainability. His efforts have heralded permaculture and sustainable tea production at Makaibari, which has been certified organic since 1988 and biodynamic since 1991, all a first of its kind in India. Wandering through the 700 hectare estate is a sight to see: carefully-trimmed Chinese and Assam tea bushes spread between natural woodland and villages. 70% of the estate remains under forest cover, which provides immediate shade for the tea leaves and helps retain moisture, as well a natural environment for many species of indigenous animals such as endangered panthers, tigers, birds, butterflies, snakes, spiders to thrive.
The lady tea-pickers stop and wave to me and my guide, most if not all pickers are women as their hands are more gentle on the prized bushes, plucking the essential bud and 2 top leaves that are later used to steep a delicate cup of Darjeeling green, white, oolong or black tea. The families living near my Indian homestay on the estate are provided their own cows, for milk and manure, the latter of which is later converted to bio-gas which eliminates the need to cut down forests for firewood, and is a non polluting renewable energy source. Excess manure is composted and sold as organic fertiliser to the estate.
I come back after a sun-kissed day exploring the hills of the estate to the lovely Lama family, my hosts of the Indian homestay, where a traditional vegetarian meal and (of course) a cup of Darjeeling tea await me. When this Fair-trade tea is sold, a premium is added that is used for social development projects that directly benefit the villages on the estate. These include electrification of villages, increased forestation, improved sanitation, micro loans, purchase of farm animals, computer training for children, a medical centre and higher education scholarships. Life here is slow, subtle and serene, and the connections made immediate. Opportunities for volunteers are ever present, and helping hands and hearts are always welcome, whether at one of the schools on the estate, teaching a new skill, or building a water pump. Past volunteers helped by compiling a cookbook of all the villagers favourite local recipes that is sold at the head office, another group help set up a library near the computer centre. The are many possibilities and each provides you with the chance to experience simple sustainable living at its best
Please visit www.volmakaibari.org for more information on homestays and volunteering at Makaibari. Makaibari Tea Estates work to ensure that Makaibari maintains a sustainable human and natural environment that can be enjoyed by both locals and visitors. For more information visit http://makaibari.com/index.php.
There are loads of great volunteering and ethical holidays on Much Better Adventures check them out!

Environmentally-conscious adventurers, volunteers and eco tourists alike, could enjoy this experience in West Bengal, India: an Indian homestay with a local family in Indias first certified organic and largest tea estate in Darjeeling.

I met Swaraj Kumar Banerjee, the Rajah of Darjeeling and the 4th generation tea planter of Makaibari Estate, who had a clear passion for conservation and sustainability. His efforts have heralded permaculture and sustainable tea production at Makaibari, which has been certified organic since 1988 and biodynamic since 1991, all a first of its kind in India.

Wandering through the 700 hectare estate is a sight to see: carefully-trimmed Chinese and Assam tea bushes spread between natural woodland and villages. 70% of the estate remains under forest cover, which provides immediate shade for the tea leaves and helps retain moisture, as well a natural environment for many species of indigenous animals such as endangered panthers, tigers, birds, butterflies, snakes, spiders to thrive.

The lady tea-pickers stop and wave to me and my guide, most if not all pickers are women as their hands are more gentle on the prized bushes, plucking the essential bud and 2 top leaves that are later used to steep a delicate cup of Darjeeling green, white, oolong or black tea. The families living near my Indian homestay on the estate are provided their own cows, for milk and manure, the latter of which is later converted to bio-gas which eliminates the need to cut down forests for firewood, and is a non polluting renewable energy source. Excess manure is composted and sold as organic fertiliser to the estate.

I come back after a sun-kissed day exploring the hills of the estate to the lovely Lama family, my hosts of the Indian homestay, where a traditional vegetarian meal and (of course) a cup of Darjeeling tea await me.

When this Fair-trade tea is sold, a premium is added that is used for social development projects that directly benefit the villages on the estate. These include electrification of villages, increased forestation, improved sanitation, micro loans, purchase of farm animals, computer training for children, a medical centre and higher education scholarships. Life here is slow, subtle and serene, and the connections made immediate.

Opportunities for volunteers are ever present, and helping hands and hearts are always welcome, whether at one of the schools on the estate, teaching a new skill, or building a water pump. Past volunteers helped by compiling a cookbook of all the villagers favourite local recipes that is sold at the head office, another group help set up a library near the computer centre. The are many possibilities and each provides you with the chance to experience simple sustainable living at its best.

Please visit www.volmakaibari.org for more information on homestays and volunteering.

Makaibari Tea Estates work to ensure that Makaibari maintains a sustainable human and natural environment that can be enjoyed by both locals and visitors.

There are loads of great volunteering and ethical holidays on Much Better Adventures check them out!

This article is a guest post byNiusia Winczewski of Gazing Maven.

Gazing Maven, graphic designer slash doodler slash photographer. Lover of airplane tickets, spicy food, trekking, pets, sun-chasing road trips and down-to-earth characters. The formula is simple: search, observe, create. http://gazingmaven.blogspot.com/

Inspiration for a year of adventures!

Now that the New Year has rolled in, the fuzzy head has cleared and you’re looking forward to a great 2012, it’s time to start planning your adventures.

With so many places in the World to visit, a massive range of activities to complete, and only 12 months to do it all in, we thought we’d put together a list of some of the best adventure ideas, month by month to inspire you.

All of them are provided by our ‘muchbetter‘ members, so you know that your adventure will have a positive impact on the area you go…

January – Northern Lights Wilderness Adventure

Experience the beauty of the Northern Lights on this multi-activity trip to Lapland. Cross country ski, snow shoe and dog sled amongst frozen lakes and untouched forests.

February – Winter Skills Snowhole Expedition

Instead of descending to the valley in the evenings of your expedition across the Cairngorm Plateau in Scotland, why not stay high and make the most of your time – sleeping in your own snowhole!

March – Ski Touring Holiday in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina might not be the obvious choice for a ski holiday, but the untouched wilderness is an experience not to be missed… Ski tour between the cities of Sarajevo and Mostar. Click here to see more ski touring holidays.

April – Marathon and Half Marathon Training on the Galapagos

You’ve got the New Years resolution to run a marathon, but the training has been cold and wet all spring… so why not treat yourself to this training camp in the beautiful surroundings of the Galapagos!

May – Klarlvdalen Kanot Canoe Tour

May has to be one of the best times of year to visit Sweden – it’s getting warmer, spring has sprung and the dreaded insects are only just waking up… These flexible self-led canoe tours are the perfect way to explore the Karlstad area of Sweden. See our canoe and kayak holidays page here.

June – Horse Trekking in Turkey

Run by Relief Riders, one of our muchbetter Pioneers, this is an amazing trip to Turkey, exploring the Cappadocia area on horseback. Along the way you’ll also be involved in some inspiring community based initiatives along the way.

July – Hiking Day Tours on the Peninsula of Trolls

Trolls?! Sounds intriguing! Explore this remote area of Iceland in July to experience the amazing scenery on offer. This area is as close to the Arctic Circle as you can get without actually being in it, but you’ll still be able to experience near 24 hour sunlight! Find more inspiring walking holidays here.

August – 1 or 2 week Surfariz

It’s the height of summer, Cornwall is experiencing a heat-wave, and the turquoise sea is as warm as it gets in the UK. So why not head down there for a week or two of surfing mixed with a bit of self-healing and relaxation through a range of alternative therapies. Follow this link for even more surfing holidays!

September – 2 Week Mountain Biking Adventure to Machu Picchu

Explore the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu on a mountain bike, whilst also visiting the hills around Cusco and the Incan settlements of Maras and Salineras. Lonely Planet author Katy Shorthouse and your local guide will tell you all you need to know about the fascinating culture. This link contains more info on cycling holidays.

October – Learn to Kayak in Nepal

Why not! With some world class whitewater, Nepal is a go-to destination for whitewater kayakers, so it’s also the perfect place to learn this amazing sport. This 4 day course is perfect for beginners to experts. Even morekayak holidays!

November – Learn to Dive with ReefCI in Belize

Diving gives you the opportunity to see a whole new world under the water… You’ll need to know how to do it though, so why not learn in the warm waters of Belize? You’ll also get the chance to be involved in some ocean conservation – protecting the ocean for your next visit! Find more diving holidays and marine conservation holidays here.

December – Snowshoeing in the Highlands of the Western Carpathians

What better way to finish off your year of adventures than a snowshoeing trip in Romania. It’s off the beaten track, so you’ll not bump into anyone else… T
he silence, empty forests and great local guides will ensure this is a trip you’ll never forget.

So there you have it – a year’s worth of adventure ideas. Your guide to making the most of 2012. We hope you’ll find some great ideas in here! There are so many incredible holidays on Much Better Adventures, we hope you’ll find what you are looking for. You can start your search from our Activities page, where you’ll find links to even more adventure ideas.

Best of the Grapevine, 2011

Its been a busy year at Much Better HQ new staff, new systems, loads and loads of great new companies and holidays and lots more of you guys our visitors!
The Grapevine has also been packed full of articles 163 if you count this one! Given that its the end of the year, we thought wed take a look through the past year and pick our favourite article of each month. Without further ado here we go!
January
Aspiring Adventures ask: Volunteering, who benefits?
Steve and Katy from Aspiring Adventures debate who really benefits from volunteers. With the rise of voluntourism placements, it was a particularly enlightening article.
February
Tom goes snowshoeing with Indie Outdoors
In February I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try something totally new to me snowshoeing. Walking through untouched snow was certainly something Ill remember for a long time!
March
The softshell on your back.. who made it?
Our resident techspert (see what I did there?!) Ed has been writing a series of articles on the sustainability of kit we all use in the outdoors. This article delved into the softshells which are gaining in popularity at the moment…
April
Cycling in Iceland a how to guide.
Iceland is one of those countries that, once youve been, youve just got to go back to… Heres a great account of Tom and Legs trip, cycling around Iceland.
May
Finally, a muchbetter Alternative to Carbon Offsetting
We all travel, we all know that this does have a negative effect on the environment. So how can we minimise this? Check out what we think is the perfect alternative to carbon offsetting.
June
VIDEO – a muchbetter member’s TED talk
If you are aware of TED Talks, youll know that TED feature some of the most interesting and inspirational speakers from virtually any subject. One of our very own muchbetter members, Omar Samra from Wild Guanabana is one such individual.
July
How to – Environmentally Friendly Diving
An interesting and informative piece on how you can reduce the impact of your diving a must read for divers!
August
Meet the members – Diamond Beach Village
Despite having loads of great general interest articles, we are a site designed to help you find great holidays! We have a regular Meet the Members series, and so heres a fantastic example of a muchbetter member.
September
Obituary – George Band
It was a sad moment in the office when we heard of the death of George Band a highly accomplished mountaineer who perhaps didnt get the recognition he should have.
October
Adventure sport in schools, what should be done?
With surfing entering the curriculum for high school students in Hawaii, we debate what can be done about introducing more adventure sports into schools.
November
The Toxicity Of Surfing – Infographic
More surfing this time looking at the environmental impact of the surfing industry. Could do better, we think!
December
Rowers rescued as boat is capsized by freak wave on Transatlantic charity challenge
December bought a dramatic firsthand account of what happens when your rowing boat capsizes in the mid-Atlantic!
Well, theres a year in articles for you! Thats only 12 of the 163 articles weve posted in 2011, so theres plenty more to explore in the Grapevine!
Were always looking for contributors, so if youve got a story to tell, do get in touch!
Heres hoping for a similarly packed 2012, we hope you all have a good one!

Its been a busy year at Much Better HQ new staff, new systems, loads and loads of great new companies and their holidays, and lots more of you guys!

The Grapevine has also been packed full of articles 163 if you count this one! Given that its the end of the year, we thought wed take a look through the past year and pick our favourite article of each month. Without further ado here we go!

January – Aspiring Adventures ask: Volunteering, who benefits?

Steve and Katy from Aspiring Adventures debate who really benefits from volunteers. With the rise of voluntourism placements, it was a particularly enlightening article.

February – Tom goes snowshoeing with Indie Outdoors

In February I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to try something totally new to me snowshoeing, with Indie Outdoors. Certainly something I’ll never forget!

March – The softshell on your back.. who made it?

Our resident techspert (see what I did there?!) [Ed. “Rubbish!”] Ed has been writing a series of articles on the sustainability of kit we all use in the outdoors. This article delved into the softshells which are gaining in popularity at the moment…

April – Cycling in Iceland a how to guide.

Iceland is one of those countries that, once youve been, youve just got to go back to… Heres a great account of Tom and Legs trip, cycling around Iceland.

May – Finally, a muchbetter Alternative to Carbon Offsetting

We all travel, we all know that this does have a negative effect on the environment. So how can we minimise this? Check out what we think is the perfect alternative to carbon offsetting.

June – VIDEO – a muchbetter member’s TED talk

If you are aware of TED Talks, youll know that TED feature some of the most interesting and inspirational speakers from virtually any subject. One of our very own muchbetter members, Omar Samra from Wild Guanabana is one such individual.

July – How to – Environmentally Friendly Diving

An interesting and informative piece on how you can reduce the impact of your diving a must read for divers!

August – Meet the members – Diamond Beach Village

Despite having loads of great general interest articles, we are a site designed to help you find great holidays! Heres a fantastic example of a muchbetter member – Diamond Beach Village, from our Meet the Members series.

September – Obituary – George Band

It was a sad moment in the office when we heard of the death of George Band a highly accomplished mountaineer who perhaps didnt get the recognition he should have.

October – Adventure sport in schools, what should be done?

With surfing entering the curriculum for high school students in Hawaii, we debate what can be done about introducing more adventure sports into schools.

November – The Toxicity Of Surfing – Infographic

More surfing this time looking at the environmental impact of the surfing industry. Could do better, we think!

December – Rowers rescued as boat is capsized by freak wave on Transatlantic charity challenge

December bought a dramatic firsthand account of what happens when your rowing boat capsizes in the mid-Atlantic!

Well, theres a year in articles for you. Thats only 12 of the 163 articles weve posted in 2011, so theres plenty more to explore in the Grapevine!

Were always looking for contributors, so if youve got a story to tell, do get in touch.

Heres hoping for a similarly packed 2012, we hope you all have a good one!