Launched in 1998 by two backpacking friends from Melbourne, Darrell Wade and George Manchester, Intrepid Travel has become a standout small-group adventure tour company, with a conscience. It offers explorers a number of themed excursions including polar, sailing and trekking, but also manages to be carbon neutral and sensitive to local cultures. Brand manager Filippos Venetopoulos tells Globetrender why low-impact adventure cruising is taking off and why you won’t find any casinos on board.
What is Intrepid Travel?
Intrepid Travel is the world’s largest provider of adventure travel experiences with more than 1,500 trips in over 100 countries, and on every continent. Taking people to the world’s most amazing places for the last 28 years, the trips allow people to explore local culture, meet locals and try local food. We ensure award-winning tour leaders, small groups and lots of activities included, making it great value for money.
Why are your adventure cruises innovative?
Cruises are usually associated with large ships with casinos carrying thousands of people or small ships that are much more expensive to travel on. We’re disrupting the industry by creating” immersive” and affordable adventure cruises that visit destinations and ports that no other ships go to.
Our adventure cruising itineraries use small vessels that have a maximum of 50 passengers on board, enabling travellers to visit little-known towns and villages in some of the world’s best travel destinations. We have a combination of land and sea activities included in our itineraries so that travellers can get to the heart of each destination that we visit.
What are your most popular holidays?
Our new “Cruising Iceland’s Wild West Coast” is proving to be popular for 2018. Our Icelandic adventure explores the rugged coast from Reykjavik to Siglufjordur, while taking in the striking landscapes of the towering Mt Kirkjufell, the waterfalls of the Snafellsnes Peninsula and the seas of flowers in Pingeyri.
Croatia is also always a popular option for our travellers, giving them a chance to enjoy some of Europe’s clearest water and fascinating medieval towns. A highlight on the “Cruising Croatia’s Central Coast” tour is a visit to Kornati National Park, made up of 89 islands where it’s possible to kayak around the bays.
Who do you expect them to appeal to?
Our adventure cruises have been specially designed for people who have cruised before and are looking for an alternative, for people who don’t want to go on larger cruises but still want to enjoy the benefits of travelling by boat. They are interested in exploring the destination and getting to see the local culture and hidden charms of a place in a responsible and authentic way.
What emerging destinations would you highlight?
Intrepid’s new “Cruising Spain, Portugal and Morocco” tour stops off in Tangier, where travellers can explore medinas and sip on the traditional mint tea served in Hafa. They will also have the chance to discover the part-palace, part-fortress that is Alhambra Palace in Granada, as well as visiting more well-known destinations such as the cosmopolitan city of Lisbon.
In what ways are your cruises sustainable, authentic and immersive?
All of Intrepid’s adventure cruising trips are carbon offset, and we use local suppliers wherever possible. Unlike many cruise ships, 90 per cent of our food is locally sourced and, usually, one meal a day is had on land so that travellers can immerse themselves further in the local community by eating in local restaurants. We also visit places such as Opuzen in Croatia, a destination which isn’t visited by other cruise ships, meaning our travellers are unlikely to see any other tourists whilst they are there.
In what ways are you a “low-impact” company? Aren’t cruises bad for the environment?
We use small vessels that have less impact on the environment and will open sails where possible so that we’re able to use less fuel and travel at a more relaxing pace. We also don’t use any single-use plastics such as straws, cups and water bottles on board, instead providing travellers with cloth bags and refillable water bottles.
How do you carbon offset?
Since 2010, all of Intrepid Travel’s trips have been carbon offset, with the aim of making us carbon neutral. We work hard to reduce carbon emissions and seek less carbon-intensive alternatives where possible, and then balance the remaining emissions by purchasing internationally certified carbon credits. [Intrepid Travel invests in projects such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) project in Kenya and a wind farm in Turkey.]
In what ways do you partner with local communities?
All of Intrepid’s trips focus on the local community and local culture. We visit local restaurants, use local food on board, have local leaders, use transfer companies that are family owned and visit locally owned places such as family-owned wineries.
What travel trends have you noticed taking off in recent years?
The cruise industry has also been growing at a rapid rate, allowing travellers to see multiple destinations at once. But more and more people are becoming conscious about the impact their travelling is having on the world and, as a result, are wanting to travel in a more responsible way.
What do you predict for 2018 and beyond?
Trends are showing that destinations throughout Europe are proving to be increasingly popular and our adventure cruising European itineraries are expected to sell out for our second season.