Respecting the wellbeing of our porters
The Intrepid Group believes in responsible travel and is committed to ensuring respectful and fair working conditions for all trekking porters. Out there on the wild trails of Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea and the Himalayas, they look after us. So in turn, we look after them.
We’ve partnered up with local mountaineering organisations and are working with them to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our porters. In our key climbing areas of Nepal and Tanzania, we work with the International Mountain Explorers Connection (IMEC). This US-based not-for-profit organisation promotes responsible and sustainable connections between travellers and locals in developing mountain regions around the world. In Peru, our counterparts run a highly regulated operation, in which porters are registered each year with the local government and required to provide a medical certificate.
All of our chosen porters are 18-55 years of age, physically healthy and active and have a transparent background (we check their background with the recommending person to ascertain their trustworthiness). Once selected, porters are trained in the many duties they will carry out on the trails, such as packing and safely handling their loads, setting up tents and maintaining trekking gear.
Intrepid pays all porters, cooks and guides a wage in compliance with legal requirements. In addition, we provide porters with allowances for meals, transport and insurance often well beyond government regulations.
Intrepid provides medical insurance to porters for the duration of each trek. If they need to make a medical insurance claim, our staff will assist them with all the required paperwork. Intrepid covers the upfront medical expenses and follows up the claim with the insurance company.
Education and training
The IMEC’s Porter Assistance Project seeks to improve the working conditions of porters by:
- Providing a stockpile of technical clothing that is required when trekking in high altitude conditions. This includes water and wind resistant jackets and pants, gloves, base layers, socks, hats, sunglasses and proper footwear. This equipment is also available for mountain crew and tour operators to borrow
- Offering English language, First Aid, HIV/AIDS Awareness and Money Management classes in order to motivate and empower porters
- Educating tourists about acceptable standards of porter treatment
Out on the trail
Our porters are given access to tents or provided with sleeping quarters, sleeping bags, mats and cooking equipment. The maximum weight a porter can carry varies depending on the trek and region. Intrepid strictly enforces this weight limit and includes a personal allowance for items such as sleeping bag and clothes. At the pre-tour briefing, our leaders ask passengers to pack only what is necessary for the trek in order to make things easier for their porters. Each porter and his load are weighed at the start of the trail.
Porters and passengers are introduced to each other at the beginning of the hike. As our leaders will explain, when recruiting porters we give priority to those from local regions and disadvantaged communities. This is in keeping with Intrepid’s responsible travel policies. As such, many haven’t had access to an adequate education and their language skills are often limited. The best way for them to learn is to have as much practice on the job as possible. Many of our porters will eventually become trek leaders, so we ask you to support them by interacting as much as possible. After you work through any initial shyness and get to know each other, you’re likely to learn as much from them as they will from you. Just imagine their stories!
Trekking guides and senior staff
The majority of our trek leaders have worked their way up from being a porter at some stage. Thus, more than anybody else, they understand the plights and challenges porters often face. All of our leaders are trained in porter welfare and fair treatment and are informed of the issues by watching an International Porter Protection Group (IPPG) documentary. Trek leaders are under clear instruction to:
• Respect and treat porters in a dignified way
• Give porters the same priority they give to passengers should they fall sick
• Never load porters with baggage beyond the stipulated weight limit
• Give porters the opportunity to enhance their language skills by enabling interaction with passengers
• Pay them the exact wage allocated in the tour budget
• Allow them to receive tips directly from passengers
Stern action will be taken against any trek leader who fails to adhere to Intrepid’s policies regarding porter treatment and welfare.
Help a brother out!
If at the completion of your trek you’ve found the services of your porter invaluable, we recommend you tip them. If you’re unsure how much to give, please refer to your trip notes or speak to your leader. They’ll be able to recommend an appropriate amount given the region. Additionally, if you have any good quality gear that you never want to see again after your time in the mountains, feel free to pass it on to your porter so they can use it on their next trek.