Mountain Kingdoms, the Trekking Specialists
Mountain Kingdoms was formed back in October 1987 as Himalayan Kingdoms, when two mountaineering friends, Steve Berry and Steve Bell rejected conventional careers to make a living from the love of their life - the greatest mountain range in the world. The reputation of the company as the Himalayan, trekking, touring and mountaineering specialist quickly grew, and in 1993, Himalayan Kingdoms were the first British company to guide Everest, putting seven paying clients, six Sherpas and two guides on the summit.
In 1995, the company separated, with Steve Bell moving the mountaineering side of the business to Sheffield, which continued to operate as Himalayan Kingdoms Expeditions until 1999 when its new name, Jagged Globe, was slowly phased in. The two companies continue to have close, friendly ties. With Steve Berry at the helm, Himalayan Kingdoms continued to grow, pioneering new and exciting trekking routes, initially across the Himalaya, and then gradually beyond into the other great mountain ranges of the world: Europe, South East Asia, Central Asia, the Americas and, most recently, the Middle East and Africa. Finally, in 2008, Himalayan Kingdoms became Mountain Kingdoms to better reflect the holiday destinations we offer which span the world.
As well as expanding into new regions, Himalayan Kingdoms also began to offer different styles of adventure holiday. Besides full camping treks, tea house trekking, homestays and hill tribe treks provide comfortable accommodation as well as contributing directly to the local economy. Luxury lodge trekking in many countries has a greater level of comfort still. Today, Mountain Kingdoms also offers Cultural Tours and Trekking Peaks. There is an impressive choice of trekking holidays that range from gentle day walks to demanding high mountain adventure.
We are justifiably proud of ‘Mountain Kingdoms' 29 years of achievements’. Mountain Kingdoms - the adventure of a lifetime
At Mountain Kingdoms we are committed to Responsible Tourism through policies and practices which permeate all aspects of our business, ensuring that all our holidays are undertaken in a way which is socially, environmentally and culturally sound. Responsible Tourism remains at the very core of everything we do as a tour operator.
We feel strongly that all our holidays should benefit the local communities, protect the environment by minimising pollution, and respect local traditions, religion and heritage. We tread lightly - low volume, low impact holidays are the best way of preserving the beautiful and fragile places we visit. Mountain Kingdoms is a previous winner of the prestigious annual Association of Independent Tour Operators' (AITO) Responsible Tourism Award. We acknowledge the importance of AITO's sustainable tourism ethos, which recognises the social, economic and environmental responsibilities of tour operating.
We believe that Responsible Tourism is about more than just policies. It involves giving something tangible back to the communities that we visit. Read our Responsible Travel news article for a review of our activities in 2016.
Here are a few examples of our recent and ongoing work, and some of the charities that we support:
After much careful consideration, and as part of our commitment to Responsible Tourism, we will no longer be offering elephant-back safaris in any of our destinations. This is because it is not possible to train an elephant to accept a human onto its back without inhumane treatment. Also, elephants' spines are not designed to carry heavy loads, and the houdah (chair) that they are fitted with is uncomfortable and leads to sores.
We will be actively supporting venues like Tiger Tops in Chitwan National Park in Nepal, who have transitioned away from elephant safaris into more elephant friendly activities.These activities allow people to observe elephants in a sanctuary environment.
We hope that the practice of laundering new elephants and training them for any form of human entertainment will eventually cease. Also, it is important that the elephants being used for safaris can live out the rest of their lives in similar sanctuary environment to those practised at Tiger Tops.
For further information on this issue see the website of World Animal Protection
We have been offsetting the carbon from all Mountain Kingdoms' flights with Beyond Carbon for many years. Since 2009 we have raised £22,000 for Beyond Carbon, with money primarily being allocated to our nominated beneficiary the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh. From 2014 onward we plan to administer the carbon offsetting ourselves, ensuring even more money goes directly to carbon-absorbing projects. We will be giving 50% of the money raised to the Druk White Lotus School’s solar energy project, and 50% to a tree planting project in Peru.
The tree planting project
aims to restore the endangered Queuña forests in the Andean mountains of Peru and
is working with villagers to grow seedlings and plant the trees. As well as
absorbing carbon, the trees help prevent flash flooding in the mountains.
Five hundred years ago, when Spanish conquistadors first set foot in Peru, the high Andes had abundant forests of a low-growing and durable tree called Queuña (Kay YOU nyuh). The forests were home to more than 150 native species, absorbed and later released water from rain and glaciers, produced oxygen, absorbed carbon dioxide, and provided firewood and construction material to native people. Five hundred years later, these ancient forests have almost disappeared, and with them many of the species that once lived within these forests have almost gone extinct. Now the aim is to replant these forests and bring back the diversity and other benefits.
Carbon Offsetting Latest News:
In 2014 Mountain Kingdoms donated $1,000 to the Peruvian tree planting project, and an additional $300 in 2016 which is enough to plant 1,800 trees. Between December 2015 and February 2016 an amazing 76,000 trees were planted in six villages of the Lares watershed near Cuzco.
In December 2016 Mountain Kingdoms donated a further £500 to the tree planting project. Between December 2016 and February 2017 project saw another 89,600 trees planted in the high Andes by the local communities, all to help restore the endangered Queuña forests.
Working with Beyond Carbon (previously the Tourism Industry Carbon Offsetting Service), we offset the carbon emissions for every Mountain Kingdoms holiday sold that includes an international flight, as well as flights for staff and trek leaders. Since 2009 we have raised £22,000 for Beyond Carbon, with money primarily being allocated to our nominated beneficiary the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh. Their master sustainability plan includes the provision of solar energy, recycling and composting facilities and the growing of produce in greenhouses. More than one thousand trees were planted on the campus during 2008, and they are working to replace the existing diesel generator currently supplying the school with photovoltaic arrays.
Carbon Offsetting Latest News:
In 2014 we plan to administer the carbon offsetting ourselves, ensuring even more money goes directly to carbon-absorbing projects. We will be giving 50% of the money raised to the Druk White Lotus School’s solar energy project, and 50% to a tree planting project in Peru.
On some of our treks, where there are no roads or tracks suitable for vehicles or animals, your luggage and camping equipment is carried by porters. In conjunction with Tourism Concern, we have drawn up comprehensive guidelines for porters' rights and working conditions which our agents are obliged to adhere to. The welfare of our local trekking staff is of great importance to us, and we try our best to ensure they have appropriate clothing, shelter and footwear.
The post-trip questionnaire we send to all clients asks for feedback on the welfare of our trekking staff, and any reported concerns are swiftly acted upon.
Porter Welfare Latest News:
Mountain Kingdoms donates £1,250 in 2014
The Fifth Guide's Refresher Training Course took place in Nepal at the start of this year. From January 26 to 08 February, twenty-five Sherpa guides were given English lessons as well as classes in first aid, altitude scenarios, trek-camp-food-equipment management, map reading, local flora and fauna, national history and geography, Nepali customs and religions and responsible trekking.
Mountain Kingdoms donates over £1,000 a year to provide these classes which are run and organised by our Nepali agents. It’s our way of giving something extra back to the Sherpas for the wonderful service they provide to our clients. Being able to speak English means they can make the career progression from Sherpa to fully fledged mountain guide – a job with better pay and brighter prospects.
Initiated by Mountain Kingdoms MD, Steve Berry, this unique project is building a rare Zanskari bridge of interwoven twigs, helping to keep ancient Zanskari traditions and culture alive. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to make a donation.
Zanskar Twig Bridge Project Latest News:
2014 has got off to a great start at Mountain Kingdoms - our twig bridge project in Zanskar is complete!
Over the past 5 years Mountain Kingdoms MD Steve Berry has raised £3000 to restore a traditional twig bridge in Padum and preserve an ancient culture. The project was overseen by the local King Punchok Dawa. Now completed, it is an extraordinary structure which can be used by locals and trekkers alike. The twig bridge will form part of a new Mountain Kingdoms trek in Zanskar in September 2014. Kingdom of Zanskar Trek.
With permits granted and money raised, a completely traditional Zanskari bridge of interwoven twigs now crosses the river in Padum. It is hoped that this bridge will encourage the construction and restoration of other similar bridges in the kingdom. The bridge may be built, but the project is not over yet. Longterm the aim is also to build a small visitor centre next to the bridge with pictures and narrative showing how the bridges are made, and giving historical background regarding the kingdom and the ancestry of Punchok Dawa, who is a direct descendent from the early kings of Tibet. Read more about the project here.
The Simien Mountains Mobile Medical Service was set up by Wendy and Brian Lovatt, two of our dedicated clients following their holiday in Ethiopia. The SMMMS delivers essential medical care at no cost to remote villages in the Simien Mountains.
A qualified Ethiopian nurse with medical equipment and supplies travels from village to village giving general medical care, providing health education and teaching basic first aid, as well as referring patients to specialists in the nearest hospital and providing follow up care.
The project is now a registered charity and their Five Year Plan has been approved by the Ethiopian Government. The charity has taken over the running of a new clinic at Keyit. The project is making good progress, with SMMMS sponsoring midwives through university. If you'd like to make a donation to this project, contact our Responsible Tourism Manager Niki, or visit the SMMMS website.
Simien Mountains Mobile Medical Service Latest News:
Their work is really gathering momentum, with a third team in place in Beyeda, a really beautiful but rugged area behind Rash Dashen. In April 2014, SMMMS is looking forward to a visit from Marcus, a final year medical student at Oxford University, who’ll be joining them to gain experience in delivering medical care in remote environments. The nine midwifery students at Gondar University are all doing well and there should be six more from Beyeda starting their studies in September. Also the National Park have requested that the charity help with providing first aid refresher courses for all of their mountain guides.
Wendy and Brian's Medical Advisor, Dr Marcus Stevens, gives an eye-opening account on Maptia of the hard work put into SMMMS and why it is so vital for the survival of those living in the Simien Mountains. 5 years after being established, SMMMS's Keyit clinic has been a success, seeing up to 80 patients per day.
Ginette Harrison School, near Kathmandu, was named after one of the world's most famous 20th century female climbers. The original school building had to be vacated, and the school was moved to old temporary buildings, while a new school was constructed. Now the work is completed, the children have much more space and equipment, and a good place to learn, thanks to generous donations made by individuals and organisations to SHIVA Charity. The charity provides education for some of the poorest children in Nepal.
Ginette Harrison School Latest News:
To date Mountain Kingdoms has raised over £15,500 for SHIVA, through a host of fundraising activities and client donations. The next task is to
improve the quality of resources in the school and to give the
Mountain Kingdoms & Burma - Background
In the 26 years Mountain Kingdoms has been operating, our company policy has been that we would not operate trips to Burma as long as those associated with the democratic opposition in Burma advocated that tourists should stay away. Upon receiving confirmation that the National League for Democracy had decided to alter its stance on tourism, in November 2010, we began to actively pursue the idea of organising holidays to Burma - in a way which maximised benefit to local people and minimised direct benefit to the military regime and their associates.
Our plans were made with reference to Tourism Concern and we undertook our first research and inspection visit in January 2011. Following this, we launched a series of holidays to Burma. Our intention throughout has been to design holidays that avoid working with companies and individuals named in the Tourism Concern 2008 Briefing on Burma and those sanctioned by the EU. Our maximum group size for our Burma trips is 12 travellers which enables us to work with private individuals and companies, minimising as far as possible direct financial support to the military regime and its associates. Four other members of staff have since travelled in Burma, investigating new holiday itineraries and accommodation options.
We feel it is important to give the type of information that will enable travellers to make an informed choice and within our literature we name the hotels used, outline the levels of unavoidable government taxation/ fees and refer people to independent sources of information on travel to Burma, eg Tourism Concern.
Burma – Should I Travel? The advice we give to prospective clients in our holiday itineraries:
Despite the end of the NLD boycott of tourism to Burma, parts of the country remain troubled, with a terrible human rights record and ongoing oppression of the people by its ruling elite. The decision as to whether to travel to Burma is therefore, for many, a uniquely personal one. However, to enable prospective travellers to make an informed decision we wish to be as transparent as possible about our arrangements in Burma, these include:
- Carrying out our own first hand reconnaissance of the situation in Burma (January 2011, November 2011, July 2012 & May 2013) rather than simply relying upon media reports, or the reassurances of local tourism companies. Using this time to also talk to local Burmese people about their wishes and views on tourists visiting from the UK.
- Limiting as far as possible the use of services owned by the military regime or its close associates, eg hotels, and transportation as named in Tourism Concern’s briefing report of 2008.
- Working alongside a private company in Yangon to organise all of our transportation, accommodation and guiding services and maximising the use of private restaurants and tea shops
- Omitting visits to certain attractions/sights run by the military regime or its close associates.
No matter how careful we are to avoid using services associated with the military regime it is inevitable that a proportion of holiday costs will go into government coffers through taxation and official fees. However, we have endeavoured to keep this to an absolute minimum without compromising the standard of travel enjoyed by our clients.
Additional information relating to the arguments for and against travel in Burma can be found on the websites of Tourism Concern: www.tourismconcern.org.uk and the Burma Campaign: www.burmacampaign.org.uk
The Jimmy Roberts Memorial Fund helps to provide funds for the Pipar schools in the Annapurna region, and also funds local teams of field workers and ornithologists from the WPA's affiliate organisation, Bird Conservation Nepal, in their conservation and survey work.
The Himalayan Trust UK is the sister organisation of The Hillary Himalayan Trust. The charity's aim is to have a real and immediate effect on the Nepali Sherpas daily lives. This is achieved by providing resources to support education, basic health and forestry programmes.
The Himalayan Trust UK has been contributing to the work of the Himalayan Trust family in the Everest region since 1989. The work of Sir Edmund Hillary in the Everest region has seen the building of 27 schools, 12 health clinics, training programmes in over 200 schools, re-forestation projects, and disaster relief.
The Nepali Children's Trust was set up by Mountain Kingdoms' client, Fran McGowan, in 2005 to support physically challenged children living at the Disabled Newlife Centre (DNC) in Kathmandu. Their mission is to enable children and young people with a disability in Nepal to be independent, to overcome discrimination and have value within their families and communities.
They support children with a range of physical disabilities most of who are resident at the Disabled Newlife Centre in Kathmandu (DNC). Money raised is used to help fund essential salaries, prosthetic limbs & physiotherapy, schooling & further education/vocational training at DNC.
Nepali Children’s Trust Latest News:
The Newlife Centre was a new purpose built residential home that the Nepali Children's Trust had funded. It provided a haven to 40 children with varying degrees of disability where they received medical treatment, rehabilitation and education, and lots of TLC from Fran and her dedicated staff. Sadly, the 2015 earthquake caused great damage to the building leaving only a small area habitable. Estimates for the extensive rebuilding work needed are around £60,000 and it will take a great deal of time to complete. Repairs and rebuilding relate mainly to internal walls as the main structure of the building is fortunately sound. The plan therefore is to rebuild the walls so that they are strong enough to better withstand any possible future earthquakes. Fundraising to rebuild the centre is already well underway and any money that is donated will be very gratefully received.
The aim of HELP is to enable young people from poor communities in the Himalayas to improve their employment opportunities through education and in so doing enhance not only their own standard of living, but also that of their extended families and of the wider communities they come from. They are involved with projects throughout India and Nepal.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust was established in England in 1969. Its remit is to provide financial, medical and community aid to alleviate hardship and distress among Gurkha ex-servcemen of the British Army and their dependants after they have returned to their homeland of Nepal.
KINOE is a registered charity, founded in 1996 to raise funds for selected educational projects in the Indian subcontinent.
80% of their efforts have been concentrated in India, where they support a local educational project which provides education for over 4,000 of the poorest children.
In Nepal projects include a school in Mustang, a boarding school in the capital, Kathmandu and a home for trafficked girls. Find out more about their projects on the KINOE website.
The Tibet Foundation is a charity established in 1985 to give practical support to Tibetan communities in education, health care, social welfare and economic development, and helps Tibetan and Mongolian people to sustain their unique culture and spiritual traditions.
The Bhutan Society of the United Kingdom encourages cultural and educational links between the peoples of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the UK.
The society has a national membership of around 400 people - ranging from people with a professional interest in the culture, flora and fauna of Bhutan to those who have visited the country and wish to maintain a link after their visit.
Everest Memorial Trust raises money for the Pheriche Redevelopment Project, a high altitude hospital, as well as other environmental, health and education projects within the Solu Khumbu region of north east Nepal.
Read about the charity's projects on their website.
'Education is not the solution to poverty, but it is the best tool we have to fight it'.
When the Livingstone Tanzania Trust was first set up, they talked to the communities of Babati about what they thought were the issues that affected their lives and the problems they faced. The charity's development philosophy is that the communities need to tackle the problems themselves; they want to give a hand up, not a hand out. Hand ups create self respect, self belief and the results are infectious.
The community identified their hardships as being caused by poor education; lack of farming knowledge; lack of money and access to it; and poor health to which we have added environmental management. These 5 hurdles provide the foundation stones of all the Livingstone Tanzania Trust's activities, with projects aimed at targeting aspects of each. They believe that if poverty is to be alleviated, all the problems need to be tackled at once.
Very few girls from rural communities in Morocco get the opportunity of continuing their education after primary school. To help tackle this, Education For All, a Moroccan NGO, is building and running girls’ boarding houses near secondary colleges, allowing some girls from rural families to continue their education.
The Village Education Project works to improve education in primary and pre-primary schools in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania by renovating and equipping schools, providing books and materials.
Read more about the charity's projects on their website.
The Temple Garden Foundation
TGF only provides the “nudge” to get things started, and villagers provide the rest.
The Temple Garden Foundationwas set up in 2007 to help disadvantaged rural communities in Asia. Communities choose, develop and manage projects together with TGF; as a result, every project we undertake helps local people become stronger at organizing for their own constructive development.
The LATA Foundation is a UK-based charity dedicated to promoting sustainable development in Latin America and responsible business practices in the tourism industry. It was originally conceived and set up by members of the Latin American Travel Association (LATA) and is overseen by an independent board of Trustees.
Projects are helping to transform lives, providing clean water, dental or medical support and practical training to provide people with new skills in Mexico, Central and South America.
Dental Project Peru is a UK registered charity working in the high Andes of Peru. DPP strive to provide basic dental care to the indigenous people of the most remote and rural villages of Peru. With their portable dental equipment and small teams of volunteer dentists, they travel to these communities to treat over 3,000 patients in six 8 day trips. Providing oral health education and prevention by visiting every school in the region is also a very important part of DPP’s role as the Andean dental service. Their motivation is simple – “the relief of pain and suffering to wonderful people who would otherwise have to suffer in silence”. The project relies entirely on donations from kind individuals.
HEAL Kids was founded by Duncan Mundell in 2008 after he encountered some truly inspiring children during a visit to Burma with his wife. The country holds UN “Least Developed Country” status, and as such suffers from among the lowest levels of investment in education and healthcare in the world.
Since that first visit, HEAL Kids has built 15 schools, opened a medical clinic and a disabled care centre, supported feeding programmes for orphans and installed wells in numerous villages. They have also funded life-saving operations for over 80 children. With the cost of land and raw materials (and therefore running costs) rapidly increasing in “the new Burma,” donations are always gratefully received. Please visit the website at www.healkids.org.
Prospect Burma was set up in 1989 to help give young Burmese people access to education.
Prospect Burma is a non-political charity which does its best to fill the gap. It funds scholarships for young Burmese people, most of whom have been forced to look for their education abroad. Scholarships are given to needy Burmese students, regardless of religious or ethnic background, some of whom are refugees. The short term effect is that individual lives are transformed by the qualifications they gain, which enable them to find meaningful work and start to rebuild their lives.
In the long term, the charity aims to help to build a vital task force for Burma's future. All the students are committed to returning home when possible and to using their new expertise to rebuild civil society in Burma. Of the 23 students who graduated in 2012, eleven have already returned to Burma, with eight of them working in the fields of education, health and journalism. Nine of them are doing Burma related work elsewhere and one has gone on to study for a PhD.