I have been running expeditions throughout the world for 39 years, and have witnessed a lot of unpredictable events; some caused by humans and many caused by nature. We all know that adventure travel, by definition, presents risks to the participants. And to some travelers, that’s part of the appeal. However, as professionals in the adventure business we do not seek these risks out. Rather, we try to minimize our exposure to them. Our approach is to plan and train, and plan and train. And when it’s all over, plan and train again. Planning and training for the worst case scenario, and hoping for the best, seems to be the formula for a successful and enjoyable trip.
But not all companies are created equal. As the adventure travel industry has exploded in size over the past 20 years, so has the number of companies offering adventure trips. And I say “offering”, not “running”. Most companies which sell adventure trips are owned by individuals who wouldn’t know a trekking boot from a penny loafer. They DO NOT operate their own trips, and do not have any control of the safety standards. They are marketing agencies which subcontract their trips to overseas local tour operators at a negotiated price, and then mark the trip up to suit their clientele. By subcontracting, they subcontract all aspects of the trip, especially safety and health.
I know this because I have seen it all since I founded Tusker Trail 39 years ago. Since day one, we have operated all our own trips, with our own guides, whom we train ourselves. This way we have full control of our extremely high standards of safety, nutrition and comfort.
Planning and training are two of the most significant components of any reputable professional guiding company. Fortunately, nowadays, armed with the right knowledge, you can ask the right questions of your chosen tour company and ascertain what they have done to mitigate risks likely to be encountered on your trip.
The three most important questions you should ask yourself are:
- Am I healthy and fit enough for the type of trip I am planning?
- Do I know all the risks involved?
- Am I prepared for the risks?
- How experienced are their guides?
- How are their guides trained?
- What are they trained in?
- Is the guide training relevant to the risks of the activities on the trip?
- Who trains them?
- Where do the guides come from?
- Do they speak your language?
- What emergencies are likely to happen?
- Who is responsible for your safety in the event of an emergency?
- What systems are in place in the event of an emergency?
- What emergency equipment is provided on the trip?
- Can you buy an evacuation policy from an evacuation company before you travel?
- Who prepares your meals on the trip?
- How sanitary is the meal prep?
- How are the cooks trained?
- How is the water purified?
And there are many more…
In the early days there wasn’t much planning at all. We piled in a truck with a map and a compass and a full tank of diesel. We just headed out for months of expeditioning across a continent – and hoped for the best. Things have changed a lot. It is critical that you as the traveler ensure that you’re properly prepared, physically and mentally, to partake in the activities on your trip, whether it’s rafting a river, climbing at high altitude, or trekking for long hard days.
Professional guiding companies should shoulder a lot of the responsibility for the safety and well-being of their clientele by training their guides regularly. Guides need to be drilled in leadership skills, health and safety, and should understand their environment and the risks involved. Professional companies should also use the best equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable trek.
And here’s something you can do to ensure a successful and happy trip:
Plan and train.
Are you prepared to take on adventure? Contact us to find out!