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~Keep it Clean~
Clean Breaks by Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith is a guide to 500 things you could do around the world without a high environmental impact. The green aspirations of the book make it pretty clear that it's not going to be the Richard Hammond of Top Gear fame that wrote it - I can't somehow see him and his co-presenters offsetting their carbon when they head off to burn up the road in the latest super car. This is the kind of book that's ideal for friends and relatives who love to travel and love to dream about where they might go next. If they suffer at least a basic level of environnmental 'guilt' about their travel, this is a nice choice to help them feel better about themselves.
Richard Hammond is a travel journalist who is the eco-travel correspondent for the Guardian. Jeremy Smith is ex-editor of the Ecologist magazine and an environmental consultant. Both have great credentials to write with authority on their topic.
I didn't buy this book - it came as a free gift with a magazine subscription. I have a feeling that it might have been Conde Nast Traveller but I might be wrong. Would I have bought it with my own hard won dosh? Probably not just on the basis of it being a Rough Guide publication and I'm not a fan of their guide books. However I'm still impressed by the book and glad to have a copy. I'm one of those people who buys all the '500 Places to See Before you Die' type books and if I'd realised that this is another book in the sub-genre of 'inspirational lists', I'd probably have given it more attention.
~A Book of Inspiration~
What the book aims to do is offer ideas of how you could spend your holidays either doing things that are 'greener' in terms of their carbon footprint or involve activities that make a difference (a positive one of course) to the lives of people living locally. It's an imaginative book full of things you wouldn't automatically think of and the authors go out of their way to help you go out of yours, helping you to see and do unusual things that might just make you feel better about yourself and how you've used your annual leave. The options range from green adventures in the UK to holidays all over the world and if you're worried about the impact of long haul travel on the environment, they even offer advice on how to carbon offsetting.
The book stretches to 392 pages and cover 121 countries - actually they cheat a little by splitting up the UK into its component parts but even so that's pretty impressive. Admittedly you won't find anything in Iraq, Sudan, Somalia or Yemen (for example) and the coverage of Africa is very skewed towards South Africaand the typical Safari-belt but there's not much point recommending eco-holidays in places nobody wants to go to anyway.
~How to use it~
If you are looking for a particular country or activity then start at the back where the index can be searched alphabetically by country or by type of activity. So either pick the country you are interested in and look at their suggestions or decide that you really want to look at turtles or dolphins and then check out the places they suggest for that. Or if you're totally open minded you can just browse at will and see what pops up though in all honesty I think you'll do better to narrow things down a bit if you don't want to get overwhelmed and do actually want to find practical suggestions rather then just fantacising about things you'll never do (though if that's what you want, it's your book and you can use it as you like).
As many people will be aware I'm obsessed with India so I decided to check out their suggestions for the Indian sub-continent and I was quite chuffed to realise that I'd already done a few of their suggestions. I've done the more obvious things like tiger safaris and a cruise on the Kerala backwaters but I could be seriously tempted by a 12 day elephant safari if I had lots of money to spend or their great ideas for things to do in Mumbai which include going to a handicraft centre, touring the slums or sleeping in the park where there are wild leopards and the occasional man-eating tiger (thank goodness I'm a woman!).
~Closer to Home~
For those who can't get their heads round the idea of an eco-holiday with a long haul flight, there are lots of ideas close to home in the UK and Ireland. Some involve roughing it or physical exertion whilst others are more luxurious like natural spa centres. There are lots of 'alternative' accommodation options like yurts and bothies or ecocabins. Each double page contains several suggestions and lots of photographs so naturally there's not a large amount of information about any of the places but they provide basic information, contact details and suggestions of tour operators who can help you achieve the holiday you want. Websites are provided wherever appropriate and available so that after the book has whetted your appetite, you can go off and do some more homework to fill in the details. They include a few pages about green festivals too.
Many of the western European ideas involve travelling by train, river boat or bicycle and you'll find options for canoeing, horse riding and ski-ing too. They feature ski resorts that are well connected to the rail network too. A lot of the holidays featured in Africa and Asia are focused on wildlife experiences or contact with local communities but there are also relaxing and luxurious places to visit where you can lie back and enjoy that massage knowing it's delivered by fairly paid workers using natural oils and extracts. Sporting holidays are also abundant - cycling, canoeing, hiking, climbing and surfing are just a few of the featured activities.
~Who is it for?~
It's easy to say that a book like this contains 'something for everyone' but that's probably a slight exageration. It may well not contain something for the reader who doesn't give a hoot about the environment, hates animals, loathes the natural world and would rather the 'locals' stayed well away when they're enjoying their two week all inclusive break in a compound surrounded by barbed wire. For those who want to do something a little different, who feel a bit guilty about long haul travel, want to get to know the local people and spend time with them and who want to see the natural world in all its wonderful variety, then I would be surprised if they don't find a good few ideas in 'Clean Breaks' to get them thinking of new places to visit and things to do.
A new copy will set you back £14.29 on Amazon with second hand copies from just £4. This it the kind of book that is likely to be in good condition second hand since it's more of a book you browse than one you break and batter about.