... and no better way to do that, than to see it through the eyes of those that have always lived there. The OGs, if you will.
We’ve compiled 15 of the very best indigenous owned and operated experiences from around the world, from sledding with reindeer, to bow and arrows in the African desert. This is how to do it.
1 Sled with Sámi reindeer herders in Norway
The indigenous people of Norway have lived in harmony with reindeer and nature for thousands of years.
You can do the same for a day yourself, flying across the snow on a wooden sled as the Sami people herd reindeer, before learning about the meaning of those dancing lights in the Northern sky.
2 Walk among the dead at Tana Toraja
In a remote slice of land among rice fields and mountains in Central Indonesia, foreigners are invited to the extravagant funerals of the Tana Toraja people, often lasting several days.
You can also visit the extraordinary cliff-side burial site, which is guarded by tiny ‘Tau-Tau’ statues, and then there is the once a year Ma’ Nene ceremony: where the Torajans dig up their relatives (yes, we’re serious) in order to stay connected.
3 Up close and personal with big Grizzlies in British Columbia
There’s nothing quite like being up close and personal with a big ol’ Grizzly bear.
Run by the local Kwakwaka’wakw people, Seawolf Adventures supports local Indigenous communities as well as a more sustainable approach to wildlife viewing, and takes you as close as you’ll want to get with one of the big, brown beasts.
4 Live with nomads and ride horses in Mongolia
Saddle up and load all your gear onto a caravan of carts, because this is a horse riding adventure like no other.
The Steppe Nomads in Mongolia are the largest remaining pastoralist people on the planet. Sleep under a clear sky and watch the stars as you completely disconnect from the world in Central Asia.
5 Rumble in the Jungle in Peru
On a Bonanza Tour you’ll trek, climb, paddle, wade and crawl through the Peruvian section of the Amazon rainforest, where anything from monkeys and spiders, to giant otters and even jaguars roam one of the densest slices of wildlife in the world.
Bonanza was kickstarted Ryse Huamani Choquepuma and is now co-owned by him and his four brothers and sisters, all of whom grew up in the jungle they lead groups through. A large portion of the proceeds from their tours go toward buying essential provisions for people in communities like the one the family grew up in.
6 The Canadian Arctic is out of this world in Canada
Kylik Kisoun Taylor has been proudly sharing authentic Canadian Arctic experiences for more than a decade.
His business Tundra North Tours is an Inuit company based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories and runs boat tours, flights to Tuktoyaktuk, Reindeer Experiences and adrenaline packed Ice Road adventures.
7 Didgeridoo Dreaming in Australia
The desert, the ocean and the brightest stars you’ve ever seen all converge at Gutharraguda (Shark Bay), near Monkey Mia on the north-western corner of Australia.
It’s here you can learn to play the Didgeridoo from Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell, a descendant of the Nhanda and Malgana people and owner/operator of the business, while a small fire crackling nearby cooks seafood and bush tucker for dinner. You’ll never want to leave the outback after this magical experience.
8 Visit the Lord of The Forest in New Zealand
Tāne Mahuta, otherwise known as ‘Lord of the Forest’ is the biggest kauri tree alive, in the Waipoua Forest of Northland Region, New Zealand.
Travel to this mesmerising corner of the Land of the Long White Cloud with a Maori guide to ensure you follow all the correct protocols for your visit. Every step through this ancient landscape will be a lesson of the affinity that early Maori had with the forest and these giant trees.
9 Stay in a luxury lodge in the Atacama
Terrantai Lodge is a native owned, bespoke and architecturally designed hotel which honours the traditional customers of the Atacama desert, while at the same time offering guests a luxurious stay in one of the harshest landscapes in the world.
Terranti (which means ‘people of the earth’) is in the heart of San Pedro de Atacama and is crafted with stone walls, a modest wading pool to symbolise the importance of water conservation and interconnected stone passageways.
10 Storytelling with the ‡Kohmani San in the Kalahari Desert
Kalahari Desert bush-woman, Vinkie Van der Westhuzien’s takes the more intrepid travellers among us to the remote, sandy outpost that is the Northern Cape, giving them an unforgettable experience with the ‡Kohmani San, who have been based in the desert for 20,000 years.
Learn how to hunt with a bow and arrow, before an exhilarating four-wheel drive trip over the desert’s red dunes.
11 Camp with the Bedouin in Jordan
There aren’t many prettier night sky views than in the Wadi Rum Desert.
On this unforgettable indigenous experience, you can camp with the nomadic Bedouin people, who have had front row seats to the Wadi Rum sky for thousands of years, and learn about their culture over tea and khobz.
12 The greatest collection of tribal dancing in Papua New Guinea
The world’s largest collection of indigenous cultures sits just in Australia’s periphery. Papua New Guinea and its distinctive tribes from the highlands to the coastal regions are a literal time capsule of people and their connection to their environment.
The annual Hagen show is a homogeneous kaleidoscope of colour, dance and sound with tribes from right around this small nation all converging in the same place for a dance festival like no other.
13 This cellar door is connecting with Country in Australia
Fruits, flowers and herbs sprout throughout the botanical haven of Firescreek Winery on the Central Coast of New South Wales in Australia.
Shining the spotlight on native ingredients, Firescreek does wine tasting with a difference. Hints of feijoa, elderberry, mountain pepper and Davidson plum rippled through the 25 wines produced on the property. But what’s truly special about the Firescreek experience is the chance to wander through the lush grounds with Aboriginal Darkinjung Elder Gaving ‘Gavi’ Duncan on the Firescreek Aboriginal Storytelling and Wine Tasting Experience.
14 Haida Tourism is an eco-adventurers paradise in Canada
Haida Gwaii (an island just off the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada) is an ideal destination to experience the rugged and remote wilderness of Canada, but also a place where you can develop an even greater understanding of the Haida people and their connection to this sacred place (and the waters around it).
Haida Tourism is 100 per cent indigenous owned and offers immersive eco-adventures, food tours, wildlife experiences and recommendations for indigenous owned accommodation offerings.
15 Discover the streets in South Africa
Soweto is the largest and most famous of South Africa’s townships with 1.5 million people crammed into just 200 square kilometres worth of tiny laneways and ramshackle homes.
Lebo’s Backpackers is a hostel in name only. It is a four-star accommodation and bar that also organises tours by bicycle and tuk-tuk that allows you to explore the beating heart of Soweto. You’ll even drink a beer in a Shebeen – the township’s version of the pub.
Lebo’s was founded and operated by Soweto trailblazer Lebo Malepa, who provided opportunities for underprivileged in his local neighbourhood to work through the tourism generated by his business.