Travel is a powerful engine of change: It can protect environments, preserve cultures, and transform lives. Once again, Travel + Leisure honors the companies and organizations that are harnessing travel to positively impact our world. With the help of our panel of expert judges, we sifted through nearly 150 applications to find the 2010 Global Visionaries. Read on—and be inspired to see the world with this year’s winners.
Land Management: Great Plains Conservation, Africa
It’s hard to tell whether Great Plains is a conservation organization or a safari lodge company—a testament to how well it wears both identities. The six camps under the Great Plains banner all embody the highest standards of service and design, and together they are situated on some 955,000 acres of conserved land. At Kenya’s Ol Donyo Wuas, Great Plains has partnered with the local Masai community to protect the area’s wildlife while helping to support neighboring villages. The Mara Plains camp, also in Kenya, is leading efforts to preserve the ecologically and culturally sensitive Masai Mara Reserve. And Botswana’s Selinda Reserve has converted no less than 320,000 acres from hunting to conservation grounds.
Take the Trip: Ride alongside a herd of giraffes on a horseback safari through Kenya’s Chyulu Hills at the Ol Donyo Wuas Lodge (doubles from $650, all-inclusive). See greatplainsconservation.com for other lodges.
Wildlife Protection: &Beyond, Africa
The safari lodge company and tour operator &Beyond was founded in 1991 (as C.C. Africa) on these principles: care of the land, care of the wildlife, care of the people. The company’s first project was to restore degraded farmland in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, creating the Phinda Private Reserve. Today, it operates a collection of 46 well-regarded luxury lodges on 8.5 million acres of protected land in Africa and India, and devotes countless staff hours to the reintroduction, relocation, and study of animals. And it has done all of this while giving back to local communities. To date, the &Beyond Foundation has constructed more than 160 classrooms, awarded university scholarships to more than 200 students, and built four health clinics.
Environmental Upstart: RiverIndia, Arunachal Pradesh, India
After traversing the Tibetan Plateau, the Yarlung Tsangpo River becomes the mighty Siang of northern India. It is there, in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, that RiverIndia, a small rafting-tour operator, is building a sustainable-tourism industry with the hopes of protecting the 1,800-mile-long river, recently targeted for hydropower plants. It’s a David versus Goliath story of a scrappy company fighting Indian big business. But it’s also the tale of how an organization can train locals to embrace their natural resources, introduce travelers to an endangered landscape, and perhaps keep one of Asia’s longest free-flowing waterways on course.
Take the Trip: Eleven-day Himalayan expeditions with RiverIndia begin and end in New Delhi and include six days of rafting along the Siang (11-day trips from $2,250 per person, all-inclusive).