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Why does Travel Philanthropy play such an important role within The Explorations Company?

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
11 Dec 2017
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The Explorations Company has always been involved in philanthropy and in particular Philanthropic Travel, supporting deserving, usually small, “sharp-end” conservation and community projects since our inception in 1989.

When Nicola started the company all those years ago her core principle in terms of overall focus was to give back to the countries in which the company operates. This has always been funded by a small (and voluntary!) client contribution from each itinerary which is then matched by in-house funding; the end result being a small, but worthwhile, annual philanthropic fund.

Christmas is historically the season of goodwill and a time for giving. We therefore bring you some exciting news about the new philanthropic branch of our company and offer an opportunity for you to consider helping one of these very worthy causes – although others are of course available:


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“Philanthropy Plus”

In an age of increasing awareness about world issues and global needs there has been a growing trend towards “travel philanthropy” or, more simply put, using travel as a means to give back. The problem, however, is the overwhelming potential scope and, at the same time, making sure that promises are turned into reality.

It can be difficult, in wishing to make an individual difference, to sometimes find an “entry point” to giving back to specific places one has visited (or causes encountered en route) or to understand in any detail whether or not one’s efforts will really make an impact.

Caring alone isn’t enough to effect change. Just because one cares doesn’t mean one is easily able to take that next, meaningful, step. Finding a way to make a real difference can be confusing, involving questions such as: Where? How much? What commitment might it demand, if anything? What difference will the commitment make?


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Philanthropy was once reserved only for a small segment of society; one of the positives about our ultra-connected modern society is that giving has become a social norm. Now more and more individuals want to get involved and do something - anything - that will help causes close to their hearts.

As an extension of this it is the fulfillment that comes from also perhaps helping in a more hands-on way than “just” donating cash; so what better way to do both than by travelling to the area/s in question and directly experiencing work being done? In a world that has become increasingly competitive, commercial and digitally driven many people are finding the need to rediscover their own sense of true meaning and, therefore, for many people holidays are no longer just recreational.

Our inchoate new offshoot, Philanthropy Plus  will, once finally fully established, give individuals who are eager to reconnect and help those less fortunate than themselves the opportunity to do just that as a core feature of their travel plans: thus travelling to - and directly experiencing as part of their holiday, safari or vacation – places and projects where they may be directly able to help.


How does it work?

Philanthropy Plus will enable our clients to visit projects that are chosen to suit their own interests as part of their safari or holiday - and with a view to possibly making a direct investment in them going forward. Thus clients can see exactly where their money is going and, more rewardingly, what a difference it will make as part of a hands-on “diligence evaluation”.

In such cases we are suggesting an entry point donation of, possibly, upwards of 5% of the holiday cost, assuming that one is talking funding rather than, for instance, the provision of equally valuable expertise. In so doing a whole new concept is brought to the idea of going on, for instance, a safari – and more especially so as a family – so that there is much greater involvement than simply visiting a lodge or camp, having a fabulous time and moving on.

As an even more impactful alternative, for those who are looking to take ownership of a project in its entirety and who have an established idea of potential project subject or scope, we can source likely suitable recipients or partners and establish an even more serious long term relationship, including regular visits.


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Please do ask us for more details on this exciting and far-reaching development.

Of course travel philanthropy is not without its considerable challenges but, given the state of the world today, we believe that, assuming proper diligence and control, it can only increase in both effect and popularity.

Crucially, in order for such philanthropy to remain truly impactful (both for the communities or entities being helped and those actually helping) we must understand and successfully overcome the challenges at hand and develop more effective programmes that will serve the globe in the most positive and efficient way possible. This is our goal and we will achieve it.


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Examples of Current Funding:

Excellent Development

Excellent Development is a wonderful charity that exists to give practical, direct, effective, help. We have supported Excellent for many years as they put simple concepts to far reaching positive effect for both humanity and wildlife. Excellent, apart from being worthy of support in their own right, have an immediate requirement that we feel may be of very special interest to those of our clients who have strong leanings towards wildlife conservation.  


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Excellent Development enables dryland communities in Africa and India to build sand dams, providing a reliable and convenient access to clean water. With the time saved from collecting water, people can invest in farming to grow more food for their families and to sell at market.

A sand dam is a truly wonderful example of simple (and ancient) technology brought up to date, providing low cost, minimal maintenance and very long term sustainable benefit. A reinforced block wall is built across a seasonal riverbed at an appropriate point. During the rainy seasons this captures sand behind the dam wall; the sand then acting as a vast protective sponge.


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A sand dam can store tens of millions of litres of water, protecting it from evaporation and contamination, yet each individual sand dam captures only a minute proportion of the overall flow during the rainy season so that downstream communities are not at all deprived of “their” water. Having a sand dam nearby means that women and children save literally hours of time each day - time they can invest in their education and their future. 

Sand dams also raise the water table; the whole effect provides not only a fresh, sustainable, year-round community (and wildlife) water source but also enables communities to grow a greater variety of crops to eat, store and sell. Sand dams have a powerfully positive effect on the surrounding environment, too, reversing the damaging effects of climate change and drought. But, whilst Sand Dams make a serious difference to dryland communities, they also have a focused wildlife potential.


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Specific Excellent Development Project: How Can You Help Right Now?

The famed Kenya Wildlife Service has asked Excellent to scope a highly valuable, natural water-provision project for wildlife in Tsavo and Meru National Parks. Both are seriously affected by drought and upstream human water extraction. Both these causes have resulted in wildlife being forced out of the reserve/s so that animals of all sizes become more susceptible to poaching and human/wildlife conflict is also exacerbated through crop raiding.

Establishment of a series of small “in line” sand dams – which become virtually natural features - on seasonal watercourses inside the Parks will hugely improve the situation. The project needs initial scoping, for which £5,000 is urgently sought, and, crucially, as well as focusing on the Meru and Tsavo projects, the final scoping document will then serve as a template for similar dryland wildlife-beneficial projects in other parts of the world, not only in Africa.

There is really serious potential here, with far-reaching implications, and, whilst we already support Excellent, our own donations have to be fairly spread. We are therefore seeking a donor, or donors, to assist with raising the £5,000 cost of the initial scoping. Please, please, do consider helping: We can easily provide more details or arrange a direct discussion with Excellent.


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How Have The Explorations Company Recently Assisted Excellent?

We always look for the best way to maximise funding, whether in its effect or scope. We recently agreed to stand as initial pledge match donors (for total £5,000) for Excellent’s funding push during The Big Give, which culminated in early December.

Our original £5,000 pledge guarantee helped Excellent to raise another £17,500 in match funding which in turn raised, with Gift Aid, a total of over £80,000 including individual donations. That’s not bad for a £5,000 “seed” and will enable several dryland communities to build their own a sand dam, giving them access to clean water as well as future micro-agricultural spinoffs - at almost nil onward cost. This is serious, practical, leverage!


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The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

The Explorations Company have been long standing supporters of the DSWT through sponsorship, direct contributions and of course, incorporating DSWT into safaris where appropriate so that clients can gain some understanding of the magnificent work they are doing in the wild.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s Elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya is an essential visit for those interested in conservation of wildlife:  She has dedicated “A lifetime to the protection and preservation of Africa’s Wilderness and its denizens, particularly endangered species such as elephants and black rhino.” 

She is involved in many conservation projects across Kenya. With the loss of 86 elephant and 3 rhino per day in Africa due to poaching, the race is on to try and stabilise the population levels so that our children and grandchildren can have the opportunity of seeing these magnificent pachyderms in the wild – and not only behind bars in a zoo or wildlife sanctuary.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a small, flexible, charity established in 1977 to honour the memory of Daphne’s husband who was a naturalist and founder warden of Tsavo East National Park.


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Due to poaching and loss of habitat, rhino and elephant populations are under extreme threat. DSWT works with communities and wildlife areas in order to rescue and rehabilitate orphans, offering much needed medical help as well as attending to the physical and psychological needs of these small and precious animals at a very vulnerable moment. The orphanage has raised over 150 infant elephants which, once stable, are then moved to Tsavo East National Park and re-integrated into wild families and herds.

The Elephant Nursery is nestled within Nairobi National Park under the auspices of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and overseen by Daphne whose elephant experience spans a lifetime. This pioneering organisation, working in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, offers hope for any orphaned elephant fortunate enough to be found alive.


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It took Daphne Sheldrick nearly three decades of trial and error to perfect the milk formula and complex husbandry necessary to rear an orphaned infant African elephant. The Explorations Company has been supporting DSWT for many years, not only with direct funding but also by suggesting clients not only visit the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi but, just as importantly, the relocating areas in Tsavo East National Park and Kibwezi Forest. Here it is possible to witness the most incredible, extraordinary and uplifting events as these creatures have a second chance at life reintegrating with wild herds.


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We challenge the most hardy, cynical, well-travelled individual to have a dry eye after visiting either the nursery or Tsavo/Kibwezi!

With the latter one can spend three days amongst these creatures watching them feed and socialise as well as being part of their play time at the water holes. One becomes the most privileged observer in the world! The cost of each stay goes directly into DSWT so your contribution is not only enriching for oneself but also for the elephants, too! Call us today to assemble the most wonderful elephant-based safari incorporating the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Trust!


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Shree Kumrung Baraha Primary School, Nepal

It is well known that Nepal has an exodus of young people from rural districts, many of whom emigrate to work in the Middle East and further afield. This is hardly surprising given the relative poverty and lack of infrastructure in many parts of Nepal.

However, with some decent basic education the indigenous youth of rural Nepal can be better equipped to make decisions that are perhaps more balanced for the long term future of their own families and, at the same time, their birthplace.



Happily, critical primary education is in place in many areas and staffed on the whole by very dedicated teachers. But whilst school books are usually available there is a desperate shortage of other basic requirements.

Whilst looking at new areas for off-the-beaten track and individually guided high quality treks, we came across a small and very rural primary school in the Ghandruk region of Nepal. Shree Kumrung Baraha School, located in a stunning spot on the terraces of Tikhyan under the looming slopes of Annapurna South, has 80+ pupils taught by two teachers.


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The children walk to school for up to two hours each way every weekday during term time. There is no road to the village; the children’s parents are mainly subsistence farmers. Crucially: over half the children were getting up in the morning, doing chores, having breakfast, walking to school for an 8:30AM start, finishing at 3:30PM (with no meal at lunchtime) and then walking home again – at which point they’d eventually have something to eat at home. Obviously, many were very hungry by the time they got home. It’s tough for a youngster to learn with no fuel.


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With the headmaster, Ram Poudel, we came up with a win-win three part solution to fund the provision of lunchtime “tiffin” for the children:

  1. We would fund the purchase of lunchtime provisions for the school.
  2. Instead of the headmaster taking a whole day to descend to market in the valley donkey to buy provisions and bring them back on his donkey, the basic ingredients would be sourced at normal market rates from the children’s parent’s smallholdings, in rotation. 
  3. Each parent would then take turns to come to school, bring firewood and cook the midday tiffin for the children.

A simple concept – and it’s working well. The parents can sell some of their produce (and are now clubbing together to share the production of extra crops to suit the school’s requirements) and the children get a midday meal. The cost is very small.

This is “sharp-end” help, directly donated and directly actioned. Similar schemes can be easily set up by individuals who visit such areas as part of the travels and we can certainly assist in sourcing locations and ideas that might work along the same lines.


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