By Renee Goyeneche
July 22, 2011
I recently had a conversation with Todd Smith, the President and Founder of AdventureSmith Expeditions; the company has been of interest to me for some time due to its focus on sustainable tourism and a commitment to the communities and the environments they visit.
Among their most impressive achievements is the implementation of their Carbon Free Cruising campaign, which offsets all carbon emissions created as a result of their passenger’s expeditions. AdventureSmith has partnered with both local and global entities in a conservation effort that allows passengers to have a unique travel experience while contributing the preservation and renewal of natural resources.
Smith, who started in the cruise business in Alaska in the 1990’s, began formulating new ideas for adventure experiences from the very beginning. “I convinced the company I was working with to include kayaks aboard the ships”, says Smith. It was an all new concept; a bit of a leap of faith. “Nobody was doing it at that time, but we started there and worked into the idea of ecotours.”
In 2003, Smith took a leap of his own and created AdventureSmith Expeditions. The concept was to create unique tours that would appeal to those travelers looking for an active exploration of a region, and one that provides insight into the cultural, natural, and educational aspects of the area. Smith serves as a consultant to the numerous cruise lines with whom AdventureSmith is partnered, and helps to create itineraries that combine small vessels, experienced guides and naturalists, and sustainable practices to safely explore the wilderness.
This philosophy requires thought and careful planning, especially in circumstances where the environment is considered especially fragile, like the Antarctic or the Galapagos Islands. “You do have to plan differently“, says Smith “but we embrace ecotourism and try to establish local and grassroots partnerships in the areas we visit.” They’re also at the forefront of ecological topics and concerns, such as the recent ban on large ship cruising in the Antarctic. (The larger ships utilize a heavy fuel oil, which is slow to break down- especially in cold water- and is therefore more environmentally hazardous than other marine fuels.) “We actively lobbied for this legislation”, says Smith.
These “tread lightly” values also show in the itineraries they offer. For example, in an Antarctic Peninsula Basecamp Cruise, the ship will anchor in a cove, and include activities such as kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, camping, mountaineering, photography workshops and scuba diving- with a basecamp on the ice. At the same time, an international team of expedition leaders helps to instill in guests an awareness of the nature and history of Antarctica with lectures, briefings and field excursions.
Recent changes in the regulations at Galapagos National Park will also change the cost/travel dynamic of visiting that area, says Smith. New guidelines are in place to decrease the number and frequency of tourists to specific sites in this fragile ecosystem. “Visitors should be prepared to spend longer to hit all the sites and islands they want to see in the Galapagos. Right now, about 70% of visits are to 30% of the sites there, and the traffic is simply too much. Until now, common itineraries have been 7-night/8-day, but in an effort to reduce environmental impact, there will be limitations on how many people can visit, and with what frequency and duration. It will likely take a 14 night/15 day rotation to visit all these same sites. Travelers should be prepared for the cost/travel dynamic.”
AdventureSmith’s hallmark is “the ability to get off the boat”, and Smith says that he’s especially “proud of how we prepare our travelers for their destinations. A big part of travel is the anticipation of the experience, and we do an extensive pre-departure package for our guests.” These preparations include everything from packing lists, to a resource center with currency converters and links to the U.S. State department, to their very own AdventureSmith Outfitters Store. The store offers essential items for the adventure traveler, including Get Ready Packages that outfit guests, head-to-toe, in the appropriate gear for the voyage of their choice. And for those who prefer not purchase all new attire and accessories, AdventureSmith offers another program; travelers can rent items like parkas, waterproof gear or hiking boots for their journeys aboard the adventure cruises.
AdventureSmith offers a wide range of adventure tour options, with a travel philosophy that’s easy to embrace. If you’d like to find out more about AdventureSmith Explorations, please visit their AllThingsCruise information page.