Another National Geographic Award!
Our Soper River Expedition on Baffin Island was selected as one of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s 2010 Tours of a Lifetime. It was featured in the May/June 2010 issue, as well as listed on the award-winning National Geographic website.
The selection process was competitive and the editorial team worked long and hard to find 2010’s most authentic, most innovative, most immersive, best-guided, and most sustainable tours. “The outfitters we selected have responded to travelers looking for more meaning and context,” noted senior editor Norie Quintos, who headed up the project. “And beyond guiding you to the destination, they’ve also found novel ways to give back.”
National Geographic Traveler magazine has been surfacing the best tours and outfitters for travellers for the last eight years as part of the magazine’s mission “to propel readers out of their armchairs and into the field.”
How did we do it?
Our rivers are wilderness icons. They have high name recognition among travellers, but only have between 50 and 600 visitors each year, giving them a high level of exclusivity. Most of our destinations require floatplane or helicopter access. Visiting each of these rivers is truly a lifetime accomplishment to the most experienced travellers. Exciting features abound – dramatic, scenic landscapes, wildlife, flowers, fishing – all world-class in quality. Many of these features are either the last remaining or best examples on the planet.
Countless loyal guests return year after year to share another river with us. These trips attract people we call “salt of the earth.” They’re interesting people who enjoy wilderness, adventure, respect the environment and fellow travellers – and usually come with some great stories of their own. They love natural beauty. Some love the camaraderie, others seek a quiet experience, and our guides are able to ensure that all are satisfied.
Because of our successful reputation and the iconic status of the rivers we travel, we’re able to attract the best guides from across the country. These men and women are mature, friendly leaders who have a passion for these places, extensive knowledge and love sharing it. We have little turnover and some of our guides have been with us for over 20 years. These rivers flow through their blood.
Our guides have a broader and deeper knowledge of the history, geology, flora, fauna and unique attributes to each area. We have written three books about our rivers and the depth of information on our website is testimony to our commitment to learning as part of the travel experience. This sets us apart from our competitors.
We maintain a sense of reverence and awe for these rivers and convey this throughout the expedition. Most participants begin the trip as the “adventure of their lives” and our guides sustain this attitude and encourage the sense of awe that comes with travelling in such special places.
We deliver a highly personalized service. We use our intimate knowledge of each of these spectacular destinations to design river trips that take advantage of the best features of each region. Careful thought has been put into each element of the trip to make it comfortable while preserving the adventure.
We know that people will protect what they love. By bringing people to these remote (and often threatened) wild places, and giving them a memorable experience, they become emissaries for these rivers and lands.
To do this sustainably, we embrace change. Many of our guests are experienced travellers and we learn from them. As we learn, we carefully adjust our offerings, practices, training and standards to best meet the needs of our guests. Change can mean more work and investment for us, but it’s well worth the effort.
Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Practices
We practice Leave No Trace as a matter of course. We also provide leadership in our region for research and advocate best practices. As an example, we encouraged Nahanni National Park to enact a departure regulation system and require the use of environmental fire boxes. On the Tatshenshini River we pushed for mandatory pack-out of solid human waste.
Most importantly, we provide leadership in environmental conflicts. We played a significant role in fighting the ill-conceived Windy Craggy Coppermine in the Tatshenshini/Alsek watershed. We’re currently fighting for the protection of the entire South Nahanni watershed by increasing the park’s boundaries.
Neil Hartling provides leadership to the adventure industry nationally. For many years he has been President of the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, and serves on national committees of the Canadian Tourism Commission. He was recently elected a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
We have frequent interpretive sessions while travelling – during the day on the water or during hikes and in the evening around the fire. In addition, we connect with First Nations groups. On the Tatshenshini expedition, we visit a cultural site that is operated by a First Nations couple. We hire a First Nations Elder for a story telling session. We also visit the Kluane National Park Visitor Centre. On the Nahanni River we visit the village of Nahanni Butte (pop. 100 with no road access) and when available, we hire a local interpreter for a village tour.
We have a business partnership with the First Nations people of the Nahanni Butte Band. It involves a long-term vision to involve local young people in sustainable tourism.
We have a cooperative business arrangement with the Southern Tutchone in the Yukon.
We actively encourage our guests to engage in northern conservation issues. We provide monthly “calls to action” with our e-newsletters. In addition, we collect a minimum donation of $20 per person that goes directly to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
We support leaders of indigenous groups who put effort into preserving their culture. For example, by supporting Long Ago Peoples Place cultural camp in the Yukon, we help them to remain viable as a facility that serves school groups.
We look forward to showing you in person why we’re truly one of the best travel companies on earth.
Our company has been the one that others try to emulate. Our destinations and guides are “top of the food chain” and respected throughout the industry.
Neil Hartling provides leadership to the adventure industry nationally. For many years he has been President of the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, and serves on national committees of the Canadian Tourism Commission.