National Geographic Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth

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National Geographic
Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth
The ADVENTURE Ratings: The First Authoritative Rating of Adventure Travel Companies
By Costas Christ and Claire Martin

2007 - 2009 Backcountry Safaris has been recognized by National Geographic as one of the Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.

Best Adventure Travel CompaniesWhen planning the adventure trip of a lifetime, the most important decision you'll make is not where to go, but who to go with. Think about the stakes: weeks of your time, thousands of your dollars, even, potentially, your own safety. If an outfitter fails to deliver on the dark side of the moon, you don't get a do-over. An expert tour company, on the other hand, can give you access to remote lands, introduce you to those who live there, and make sure you not only see the world, but also experience it.

Today there are outfitters running trips in just about every country on Earth. To help you pick the right one, we've conducted the world's first large-scale rating of adventure tour operators. It's extensive. It's user-friendly.

As part of the National Geographic Society, we have a unique take on travel. We appreciate fine meals and high thread counts, but we also want to know who's teaching their clients about the places they visit, who's pushing the frontiers of discovery and adventure, and who's giving back to the planet. So we surveyed over 200 outfitters and scored them on the criteria that matter to us most: education, sustainability, quality of service, and spirit of adventure. We evaluated gorilla-safari specialists and Grand Canyon rafters, Napa Valley cyclists and Himalaya trekkers. As expected, most of the top scorers excel in multiple areas. But we were pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of them consider their environmental impact a fundamental part of the trips they offer.

Each of the 158 companies featured here received an overall score of 80 or higher in our survey and, therefore, merits your consideration. Now it's up to you to decide which one is best for you.

The Methodology: How We Did It
With assistance from the Adventure Council, Adventures in Travel Expo, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and other travel and tourism organizations, we reached out to hundreds of tour companies around the world. The outfitters were asked to complete a comprehensive 28-question survey and were scored from 1 to 100 in each of the following categories:

  • Education: The extent to which clients learn about destinations (geology, culture, history, etc.) from guides, locals, and pre- and post-trip information.
  • Sustainability: The emphasis outfitters place on practices that help protect the planet's cultural and natural heritage while also benefiting local communities.
  • Quality of Service: How well outfitters take care of clients, from providing up-to-date gear and high-comfort accommodations to developing solid emergency plans.
  • Spirit of Adventure: The degree to which trips involve outdoor physical activity and introduce clients to innovative experiences in classic and emerging areas.
  • References: Customer reviews of a company's education, sustainability, service, and adventure (multiple clients were interviewed for each outfitter)
    Each outfitter's overall score represents the average of these five scores.

A team of Adventure editors, travel writers, and experts vetted those with overall scores of 80 and above and, from this pool of candidates, chose the “Best Outfitters on Earth,” 55 of which were profiled in the November 2007 issue of National Geographic Adventure, divided into the six major categories below. The rest are listed online.

  • Do-It-All: Operate on multiple continents and offer a wide range of outdoor adventure activities.
  • Biking: Operate in multiple countries and specialize in road cycling and/or mountain biking.
  • Hiking + Trekking: Operate on multiple continents and specialize in trekking tours.
  • River + Sea: Operate on multiple continents and specialize in flat- and whitewater paddling
  • Safari: Operate in one or more African countries and specialize in wildlife viewing excursions.
  • Luxury: Operate on multiple continents and deliver adventures with first-class services and amenities.

About the Authors:
Costas Christ serves as the Chairman of Judges for the World Travel and Tourism Council's Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, which recognizes best practices within the global travel industry. He is a contributing editor and columnist with National Geographic Adventure magazine and was a founding member and former Chairman of the Board of the International Ecotourism Society. He is on the advisory board of the Adventure Travel World Summit, is co-founder of the Adventure Council, and also serves on the board of directors of Sustainable Travel International. His travels and work have taken him to more than 120 countries across six continents, including expeditions to some of the world's most remote wilderness areas and archeological sites. In addition to National Geographic Adventure, Christ's articles and essays on travel and tourism have appeared in publications, including the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Boston Globe, and Sunday Times of London. He is the lead author of, Tourism and Biodiversity: Mapping Tourism Global Footprint and a contributing author in Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places.

Claire Martin is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and editor. She's the former travel editor of several consumer magazines and has written for the New York Times.

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  1. Alaska State Flower: Forget-me-not
  2. Alaska State Bird: Willow Ptarmigan
  3. Alaska State Tree: Sitka Spruce
  4. Alaska State Mineral: Gold
  5. Alaska State Gem: Jade
  6. Alaska State Mammal: Moose
  7. Alaska State Fish: King Salmon
  8. Alaska State Sport: Dog Mushing
  9. State Nickname: The Last Frontier
  10. State Motto: North To The Future
  11. State Song: Alaska's Flag
  12. Alaska State Holidays: Alaska Day, Oct.18th and Seward's Day March 27
  13. The United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million, about 2 cents an acre.
  14. 15 species of whales are found in Alaska waters.
  15. Alaska has more than 80 potentially active volcanoes.
  16. The flag of Alaska contains 8 gold stars representing the Big Dipper and the North Star on a field of blue.
  17. Longest Day: Barrow the sun rises on May 10th, it don't set for nearly 3 months.
  18. Shortest Day: Barrow when sun sets on November 18th, Barrow residents do not see the sun again for nearly two months.
  19. What maybe the oldest documented site of human habitation in North America, the Mesa Site found in 1993 lies 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
  20. There are more than 3,000 rivers in Alaska and over 3 million lakes.
  21. The name of Alaska probably comes from Unalaska, an Aleut word derived from agunalaksh which translates the shores where the sea breaks its back.
  22. The 90,000 Native people of Alaska make up roughly 15% of the state's population.
  23. Almost half of Alaska (175 million acres) is classified as wetlands.
  24. Highest Point: Mount Denali (Mount McKinley), 20,320 ft
  25. 17 of the highest 20 mountains in the U.S. are in Alaska. It has 19 peaks over 14,000 feet.
  26. Of the total 365 million acres of land that make up Alaska, less than one-twentieth of 1% is settled.
  27. Alaska has numerous natural hot springs found across the state. Near Port Moller Hot Springs on the Alaska Peninsula, a village site has been occupied intermittently over the past 3000 years.
  28. The largest gold nugget found in Alaska was discovered near Nome in 1903. It weighed 155 troy ounces and was 2 inches thick, 4 inches wide and 7 inches long.
  29. It is estimated that there are 100,000 glaciers in Alaska covering 29,000 square miles or 5% of the state.
  30. The estimated tidal shoreline of Alaska including inlets, islands and shoreline to head of tidewater is 47,300 miles.
  31. The largest state in the union, Alaska is one-fifth the size of the Lower 48 and spans 2,400 miles east to west and 1,420 miles north to south.
  32. On average 1,000 earthquakes registering 3.5 or more on the Richter scale occur in Alaska each year.
  33. Most snowfall in 24 hours: 62 inches, at Thompson Pass near Valdez, Dec. 1955.
  34. Most monthly snowfall: 297.9 inches, at Thompson Pass near Valdez, Feb. 1953.
  35. Most snowfall in a season: 974.5 inches (over 81 feet), at Thompson Pass near Valdez, 1952-53.
  36. Most precipitation in 24 hours: 15.2 inches, in Angoon, Oct. 12, 1982.
  37. Most monthly precipitation: 70.99 inches at MacLeod Harbor (Montague Island), Nov. 1976.
  38. Most annual precipitation: 332.29 inches at MacLeod Harbor (Montague Island), 1976.
  39. Highest recorded temperature: 100¡F, at Ft. Yukon, June 27, 1915.
  40. Lowest recorded temperature: -80¡F, at Prospect Creek Camp, Jan. 23, 1971.
  41. Earthquakes: 9.2 on the Richter Scale on March 27th 1964 - the strongest ever recorded in North America
  42. 430 bird species have been sited in Alaska.
  43. Over 50 species of wild fruit is found in Alaska including Low and Highbush Cranberries, Blueberries, Salmonberries, wild rose and strawberries.
  44. Three species of bear are found in Alaska: the black, the brown/grizzly and the polar bear. Brown bears are the largest living omnivorous land mammals in the world.
  45. The Arctic Circle is the latitude where the sun does not set for one day at summer solstice and does not rise for one day at winter solstic.
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