Adventure Alternative is an independent travel company which was started in 1991 by adventurer and mountaineer Gavin Bate, and developed during many years of organising and running expeditions around the world. It is now an established company with an emphasis on responsible travel and a high level of knowledge and experience. We have run trips to the summit of Mount Everest to the middle of the Sahara Desert!
Our office is on the north coast of Ireland and we have long looked after Irish walkers and adventurers going round the world, but we also have many happy clients from England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Canada and America, with a smattering from other countries like Norway, Netherlands and elsewhere.
Over several decades Gavin invested money into setting up local companies in our most popular places like Kenya and Nepal, and they use our company name. Some of our staff have been with us for over fifteen years! We plough profits back into providing training for our local guides and cooks, drivers and porters so that they can have a long term career with us. We believe that this attitude and the loyalty it brings is a big part of what being responsible means, plus our groups have a more enjoyable holiday.
In fact the feedback we get always mentions the professionalism and friendliness of our staff, most people describe it more as a family than a company!
For UK staff we use International Mountain Leaders, Mountain Instructors and Mountain Guides for the climbs, and our ratios and mountaineering principles for safety come from the Mountain Leader Training Board and the UIAA.
With such a long track record, we are very proud of our exemplary safety record; we comply with the British Standard 8848 for overseas expeditions and have been independently assessed. Plus we run a separate client account and we are fully insured and bonded as a tour operator.
Moving Mountains was started by Gavin Bate in 1991 during his years of travelling and developmental aid work in the slums of Nairobi and the mountains of Nepal. He worked as an aid driver for a while and also as a teacher in Kibera on occasion, using the funds from guiding on Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro to fund school fees and facilities in a place called Muthurwa Primary School and also in a clinic he helped to build with Medecins Sans Frontieres. Later, while staying in the villages of solu Khumbu he committed to raising the money for hydro-electric power plants, schools, monasteries and clinics by climbing Mount Everest.
Still now the charity has its administrative overheads paid by Adventure Alternative and all the Trustees work voluntarily. We all understand that the company is more than just a commercial concern, it has enabled Moving Mountains to allow people from really poor backgrounds to achieve a lot, and it has built many schools and facilities.
Moving Mountains provides all the charity programmes and projects in global health that Adventure Alternative supports, often through some of our trips like school trips and medical electives. This ensures that the charity decides what the school groups do, rather than the company. It's important that any visit like this is properly developmental and professional.
Health and Safety
Our staff are medically trained and experienced in first aid and health and safety, and the guides receive specific training in altitude-related illnesses and how to cope with an emergency. The staff all carry mobile phones and satellite phones where necessary. On the mountain trips we carry pulse oximeters as standard, oxygen bottles where necessary on the higher mountains and first aid kits which are regularly checked and replenished.
We work hard to ensure that all of our staff adopt high levels of sanitation and hygiene, especially with regard to food and water. Clearly a trip can be easily spoilt by sickness caused by either of these, so we always boil or treat water and prepare food with clean water. Food is stored and transported carefully, and bought fresh from local trusted suppliers. We always check the restaurants and lodges that we use for their standards in food hygiene. Drinking water is provided from the kitchens boiled and strained.
We use toilets on the trail and in the lodges and in the villages, and sometimes we provide private toilets. We always advise people to use anti-bacterial hand gel which we provide on most of the treks, although most guests do bring their own.
For school and youth groups and volunteers we always provide training in health and safety prior to the trip, and general advice on how to manage yourself personally while on a visit abroad. This is then emphasized again on arrival in country and our staff are always careful to ensure that people are looking after themselves. They have a long experience of looking after foreign groups and understand the pitfalls of travelling abroad for the first time.
We work with specialist overseas health company Interhealth, which provides a remote Doctors service to any of staff anywhere in the world, plus a vaccination and travel advice service. They also provide pre-trip screening programmes, psychological first aid training and group training on self-management and looking after yourself in-country. Their services are all delivered by medical professionals with long experience in the voluntary aid sector.
When we start corresponding with people about their trip we aim to make sure the group works well together and our staff are well experienced in managing all types of people and keeping everyone happy and satisfied. Nobody feels anonymous and our staff in the main office and in the regional offices communicate all the time about upcoming groups and personal preferences.
For mountain trips we have clear guidelines on client:guide ratio and we follow the established guidelines of professional organisations such as the UIAA and Mountain Leader Training. Climbing teams will have the opportunity to meet in the UK for some specific training prior to their trip if they wish to have it, and we often manage individuals and small groups through a training programme to achieve a particular aim. For example someone wishing to climb Mount Everest may wish to have a five year plan in preparation for that trip.
For school and youth trips we provide a higher number of logistical staff and also male and female pastoral care staff with specific experience and qualifications in looking after young people. These might be teachers or youth workers, social workers and of course medical professionals. Volunteers and charity groups and school groups are all provided with personal care and training in preparation for their trip.
Many of our trips are scheduled for groups, but we provide just as many trips for private groups who have preferences for dates or itineraries. A large part of our time is spent creating these bespoke trips, for which is there is no additional cost. We find this is especially useful for charities, since we do not impose contractual conditions for this service.
Adventure Alternative complies with the UK Package Travel laws and the European Directive for tour companies. We are also members of a number of industry organisations.
Association of Independent Tour Operators
This association represents independent tour operators in the UK and membership criteria include a minimum share capital of £15,000 and providing financial protection for consumers with a bond. We are members of the AITO Sustainable Committee and have twice won the AITO Roger Diski Community Award.
Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust
The Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT) provides financial protection under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 for Adventure Alternative, and in the event of their insolvency, protection is provided for the following:
1. non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK;
2. non-flight packages commencing and returning to a country other than the UK; and
3. flight inclusive packages that commence outside of the UK, which are sold to customers outside of the UK.
1, 2 and 3 provides for a refund in the event you have not yet travelled. 1 and 3 provides for repatriation. Please note that bookings made outside the UK are only protected by ABTOT when purchased directly with Adventure Alternative.
Fair Trade Volunteering
We are founding members of this movement which endeavours to create equitable partnerships between sending organisations and host partners in foreign countries when trips are offered to volunteers and schools. We believe very strongly that these types of trips should be carefully arranged so that expectations from the visitor and host community are properly met, and also that the benefits for the host community are properly agreed and are fair.
Information Commissioners Office
We are signed up to the The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
British Standard 8848 for overseas expeditions
We are independently assessed by the Young Explorers Trust to comply with the British Standard for organising and managing visits, fieldwork, expeditions, and adventurous activities outside the UK.
The standard aims to reduce risk from injury or illness and provides those that comply with the standard with a way of being able to demonstrate that they are following good practice to manage the venture safely. BS 8848 specifies operational requirements for organisers of adventurous and educational activities abroad including university and academic fieldwork, gap year experiences, adventure holidays, charity challenges and research expeditions.