We speak with one of the co-founders of South America and polar specialists touring company, Chimu Adventures.
Chimu Adventures recently celebrated 15 years as one of Australia’s leading adventure tour specialists. What key founding principles do you still stand by today?
Our core values have changed slightly over the years but one thing that I think has always been one of our major focuses is to think outside the box. As we’ve grown, I think that we’ve managed to keep that innovative and creative mindset throughout our team. The other consistent theme I think has been giving back. When we first started, Greg [Carter, co-founder] and I were helping community projects before we even paid ourselves a wage. Years later, we’re still trying out best to help important causes.
What are your most popular South America and polar adventure itineraries?
Our most important Antarctica itinerary has to be the ‘Classic’ 10-11 day trip from Ushuaia to the Antarctica Peninsula. About 80 per cent of people going to Antarctica do this route. For those in the know though (or who can afford it) the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica trips are the real bucket-list trips. For South America, our South America Circle is our most popular itinerary as it takes in all the major sights. Personally, I think South America is better split into a couple of longer trips so that you can relax and smell the roses. But if you’re only going to go there once, then the South America Circle is the trip to take.
What has been the impact of tourism you’ve witnessed during your time in running this business?
Tourism has certainly increased in South America from when I first started travelling but it’s still nowhere near the over-tourism type levels that places in Europe, in particular, are experiencing. There are a few places that get a little crazy in their respective high seasons but normally going at a shoulder season can solve that. In Antarctica, there has been an increase, but the region is so vast that you still rarely ever see another ship. I think it’s the last place on earth where you can still feel like you’re on a proper expedition.
How has the adventure traveller evolved in terms of their expectations and travel goals in the past 15 years?
I think the definition of ‘adventure travel’ has changed. Fifteen years ago, ‘adventure’ meant climbing a mountain or something similarly extreme. We think of our journeys as being an adventure primarily because of the destination. For many of our clients, South America is taking them a little out of their comfort zone and nothing makes me happier than when we hear from returned clients who explain how the trip has opened their mind and has been life-changing for them.
What role does philanthropy and sustainability play in Chimu Adventures – and the tours you operate?
For us, I think it was just the right thing to do and as I said earlier it was always at the core of why we started Chimu. It’s not a marketing ploy; we just really want to make sure we can give back as part of what we do. Like many people, I worry about the future of the planet and if we don’t all pitch in to consider how we can do things more sustainably then we’re in a lot of trouble.
What will the next 15 years hold for Chimu Adventures?
At the moment, our new joint venture with Intrepid on the Ocean Endeavour is our main focus and will be for the coming 12 months. Other than that, we’re really just focusing on building ourselves as Australia’s first choice South America and Antarctica and Arctic specialists.
Find out more: chimuadventures.com
This story first appeared in Vacations & Travel magazine, spring 2019, issue 112