7 Unforgettable Travel Experiences That Leave A Positive Impact

Ruby Tan



Planning your next vacay? These one-of-a-kind trips put your tourism dollars to good use, so you know that your trip actually improves lives in the country you visit. 

Founder of The Dorsal Effect, Kathy XuThe Dorsal Effect Founder Kathy Xu 

The travel companies mentioned below are social enterprises that specialise in responsible tourism, and they offer unique travel activities with a difference. We trawled through their itineraries, excursions and activities to find the extra special ones that must be tried to be believed. Bon voyage! 

 Camel ride through the Mingsha Sand Dunes. On the Explore Silk Road Tour - Active China

Explore Silk Road Tour - Active China


Company: Active China

Experience: The 12-day Explore Silk Road tour. This adventure will have you experiencing a night on a sleeper train and in a yurt as you take in sand dunes (where the camel ride to the lake is optional!), ancient cities (with their tombs and caves) and colourful, local bazaars on the route from Urumqi (Uighur Autonomous Region) to Xi'an (capital of Shaanxi province). 

Social Impact: This responsible tourism company makes it a point for travellers to live and have hands-on interactions with China's minority indigenous cultures, in their rural and often isolated homes. Would you like to help Tibetans rebuild a mountain trail? Or cook with the Hanis in their home? The alternative income and culture exchange helps these communities to prosper. Cycling is the preferred mode of transport to reduce the environmental impact. Active China also contributes to Yunnan America Fund to support schools and students in Yunnan province.

Price: USD$2,400

Tarantula cooking lesson in Siem Reap - Backstreet Academy

Mmm protein!

Deep fried crickets with lime leaf and spring onion

 Deep fried crickets with lime leaf and spring onion 


Company: Backstreet Academy

Experience: Aptly named the fear factor challenge, this day tour doesn’t just serve you creepy crawlies on a plate, but teaches you how to prepare them. You’ll also learn a bit about the history of insect cuisine in Cambodia, and yes, eat your creature creations. Not for weak stomachs, although participants consistently say the bugs were tastier than they expected.

Price: US$19 for a 2-hour lesson

Social Impact: Backstreet Academy is a social enterprise that connects tourists directly with the local hosts and experts. It provides training to hosts, coaching them in English, workshop structures, and tourism skills as well. 

 Lombok Island Hop - The Dorsal Effect

Island-hop around Lombok with former shark fishermen 


Company: The Dorsal Effect

Experience: Support ex-shark fishermen and save the sharks while you beach hop and snorkel in the pristine waters of Lombok, Indonesia. Founder Kathy Xu started The Dorsal Effect as part of her focus on shark conservation – she hires shark fishermen to play boatmen to travellers, in the hopes that they will leave the old finning trade behind. She herself comes on these excursions to spread the conservation message.

Our pick: There is only one trip available. Enjoy lots of snorkelling and visits to secluded beaches for some quiet paradise. You'll be taken to a viewpoint on a cliff for a spectacular coastal view. Play an active role in environmental conservation with a beach and reef trash pick-up too. 

Price: USD$120 for a day trip


Rice farming in Lao Backstreet Academy Rice farming in Lao, Backstreet Academy. 


Company: Backstreet Academy

Experience: Try your hand at a day in the life of a Lao farmer, alongside locals. In this 10-hour activity, you'll take part in all 14 stages of rice planting, spend the afternoon making rice wine, fish in the Nam Khan river and then barbeque the day's catch right on the boat for dinner.

Social Impact: Backstreet Academy connects tourists directly with the local hosts and experts. The social enterprise provides training to hosts, coaching them in English, workshop structures, and tourism skills as well.

Price: USD$68



Company: The Blue Yonder

Experience: Have your societal norms challenged at the Auroville Impressions tour. Be inspired by this international community in Pondicherry, India, made up of over 2,500 permanent residents from 50 different countries. See how their knowledge of sustainability, spirituality, innovation and harmony, led to the flourishing of this community. Enjoy a lunch from their solar-powered kitchen.

Social Impact: This Blue Yonder links travellers with the local communities – allowing them to earn an alternative income and promote their traditional cultures and art forms – but has initiated many community and environmental improvement programmes.

Price: INR2,500 (approx. USD$38)  

 Solo to Yogyakarta - Tari Travel

Solo to Yogayakrta - Tari Travel


Company: Tari Travel

Experience: On this 4-day trip, you'll travel like a local on a train from Yogyakarta to Solo and then spend your time on beautiful walks and cycling trips through the countryside. A highlight activity is a cooking class taught by actual descendents of the royal family – you'll whip up traditional delights not just for yourself but for the less fortunate children from a nearby village! 

Social Impact: Tari Travel has many socially responsible practices in place from hiring and training locals as guides (even if it’s cheaper to hire people from another city) to channelling their profits towards environmental and animal welfare initiatives (like adopting two gibbons and planting trees!).

Price: IDR3,350,000 (approx. USD$246) per person for double board.


If you want to find more about socially conscious living in Asia, check out Asia For Good's social enterprise directory.


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