From bush walks with Aboriginal Australians to shamanic encounters in Guatemala, Intrepid Travel is giving indigenous culture the recognition it deserves. Jenny Southan reports

Intrepid Travel, the world’s largest travel B-Corp, is set to offer more than 100 experiences with indigenous communities globally from 2023.

The company first joined Australia’s Reconciliation movement in 2018, partnering with First Nations groups to develop travel experiences, report on progress and increase cultural awareness through tourism.

While authentic community-based tourism has always been core to Intrepid’s product, since 2020 Intrepid has been significantly building on its programme of indigenous experiences. As well as in Australia and New Zealand, the company has introduced indigenous tourism experiences to the US, Africa, South and Central America, among other destinations.Intrepid Travel indigenous experiencesAmong the 100 experiences are several new offerings for the year ahead, including a Mayan village medicinal garden visit and textile weaving workshop on Intrepid’s “Real Central America” itinerary; the five-day Australia “Walk Queensland’s Scenic Rim” trip, led entirely by host Gurruhmun “Old Man Kangaroo”, an Ugarapul and Bidjara guide; and a visit to an indigenous shaman on Intrepid’s “Maya Encounter” tour in Guatemala.

Sara King, Intrepid’s general manager for purpose, says: “Indigenous tourism has the power to bring travellers closer to the communities that shaped destinations, honouring their customs and unique history while paving a new path for peace and reconciliation.”Intrepid Travel indigenous experiencesIn a recent edition of Globetrender’s premium newsletter VOLT, we identified “Indigenous Engagements” as an emerging travel trend. I wrote: “Can Indigenous Engagements ever not be exploitative and voyeuristic, especially when they are organised for tourists? Indigenous culture has always been leveraged as a way to ‘wow’ outsiders by its ‘otherness’. But it’s so often performative – think of the Hawaiian hula dance you might be treated to on arrival at a luxury resort, the Maasai drumming ceremony you might experience on safari in Kenya or the bus tours to tribal villages in Costa Rica, which are commoditised as ‘human zoos’.

“However, performed with sensitivity, engaging with indigenous cultures through travel and tourism can be an extremely effective way of nurturing understanding and appreciation, which can go a long way in ensuring people are protected and provided with ethical sources of income. Recognising that greater reverence needs to be placed on Native American communities in the US, for instance, Intrepid Travel has launched its own dedicated American operations hub this year, which allows it to ‘build more meaningful and impactful relationships with its suppliers’.”Intrepid Travel indigenous experiences

Other indigenous experiences from Intrepid Travel:

  • Mexico: On Intrepid’s “Premium Mexico Yucatan Highlights” trip, groups will meet and tour the farm of a native Mayan family, followed by a hands-on cooking class before coming together to enjoy a traditional meal.
  • Costa Rica: While on Intrepid’s “Best of Costa Rica” trip, travellers can visit and learn about the traditions of the Terraba River indigenous Community, who have survived off the land for over 500 years.
  • US: On “Hiking Utah’s National Parks”, Intrepid travellers will trek across incredible landscapes, learning about local plants, animals and geographic features from a passionate Native American guide.
  • Kenya: During a “Kenya Wildlife Safari” Intrepid groups will camp at Tepesua Village, share stories with Maasai warriors in the night, and learn about the community’s resilience in paving the way for female education and health equity.
  • Australia: On Intrepid’s “Premium Red Centre and Uluru”, the Watarrka National Park Karrke Aboriginal Cultural Experience gives travellers the opportunity to learn about the healing power and spiritual significance of bush medicines to the Luritja and Pertame people.