Monday, July 29, 2013

Head to the Mountain on Sentuls’ Ecofriendly Trails

Specializing in responsible outdoor adventures, idGuides offers a breath of fresh air to the Indonesian tourism market by offering off-the-beaten-path excursions in the Sentul Highlands of West Java.
Cofounders Krystyna Krassowska and Cepi Burhanudin began a partnership in 2009 with Karang Tengah Village with the aim of developing the community’s livelihood alongside their conservation-minded trekking business.
“It’s a green economy with stable development,” Krystyna said.
“We are trying to find alternative livelihoods for local people so it takes the pressure off resources used … and these livelihoods also provide jobs, ideally to reinforce the conservation as opposed to undermining it.”
The base camp is roughly 90 minutes from Jakarta at the Petronas petrol station in Sentul City, where idGuides pick up participants.
Currently, idGuides manages 12 community trails in the highlands that span a range of difficulty levels, from easy to challenging. Expeditions can also be tailored to a variety of interests, including photography, camping and trail running.
While idGuides is trying to plug a gap in the trekking and expedition field in Indonesia, their commitment to achieve their mission responsibly and transparently has had some challenges.
Perhaps the biggest issue idGuides faces in growing the business is protecting the relationship cultivated with villagers in rural Central Karang.
“This community is one of the least-developed worldwide. For some reason it’s been left behind,” Krystyna said.
The community only acquired electricity in February 2011. IdGuides’ revenue-sharing business model has slowly helped the community develop its infrastructure, including a paved road.
IdGuides continues to “prove [itself] all the time,” according to Krystyna.
Sensitive to the needs of the community, idGuides relies on strong social ethics to access and use land that belongs to villagers.
“People in the community have to see the common link between this bridge and the person walking on the trail,” Krystyna said on protecting the rapport between villagers and visitors.
The farmland trails that link the villagers and visitors are carefully protected from outsiders. None are posted on Google Maps or on the idGuides website to preserve the “natural and local heritage,” according to Krystyna.
A few weeks ago, for example, Krystyna said the area had a motocross group come straight to the trails, leaving the park with holes as big as half a meter.
“The motocross [group] is definitely not what we call responsible trail users. We are expecting users to be socially and environmentally responsible,” she said.
According to Krystyna, social ecotourism responsibility includes minimizing the footprints that people leave behind.
“We are still able to manage the light touch footprints, like walking and running,” Krystyna added.
Read more: Jakarta Globe and idguides.wordpress.com

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