Andrea Mandel-Campbell founded karibu adventures to promote the kind of travel she loves and believes in. That is, travel that enriches both travelers and the communities they visit. The small company offers guided tours to British Columbia, Ontario and Italy. Mandel-Campbell shared her travel philosophy and hopes for karibu’s future with Inhabitat.
Inhabitat: Tell us a little bit about how you decided to start karibu adventures.
Mandel-Campbell: I am a lifelong traveler, starting as a backpacker at 17 and traveling to Africa and the Middle East for a year, to becoming a foreign correspondent in Latin America for a decade. I am also a huge nature and wildlife lover and spend a lot of time hiking, biking and canoeing. Like many people, I have become increasingly concerned with climate change and rapid biodiversity loss and wanted to do my part to help to protect and preserve the world’s natural beauty.
That conviction came into much sharper focus during COVID and I decided it was now or never. So I quit my job and took about six months to really think about how I could contribute and came up with the idea for building an offering that made it easy for people to actively experience unique wild places in a responsible and inclusive way.
I believe there are a lot of people who want to travel this way; they want to get off the mass market travel conveyor belt and find those hidden gems, they want to be active and immersed in nature; they want genuine cultural connection, and they want to feel like how they travel is making a positive contribution, or at the very least, is doing no harm. I decided to start karibu to create that option for people and make it easy for them to travel like this with a group of friends, family or on their own.
Inhabitat: How have you picked your destinations of Italy, Ontario and Vancouver Island?
Mandel-Campbell: Each one of these destinations is special for a number of reasons; they are all spectacularly beautiful, have unique natural attributes, are off the beaten track and I have a personal connection to each one of them.
My husband’s family has been living in the Alta Valsesia [Italy], which is a UNESCO Geopark and World Heritage Site, for 500 years. We’ve made the very considered decision to share it with people, and our tour takes visitors on our favorite hikes and to a number of centuries-old family homes, from shepherd rock huts to historic mountain houses in nearby hanging valleys.
Temagami Ontario is a mecca for canoeing and we have been going on multi-day canoe trips there as a family for years. Getting out onto some of the most beautiful Canadian Shield flat water paddling is like nothing you will experience and food for the soul.
As for North Vancouver Island, I did my university honors thesis on the live capture of whales and dolphins for Seaquariums. I learned that North Vancouver Island was where the world’s pioneering research was being conducted on killer whale behavior and travel patterns, and was in fact the best place in the world to see them in the wild. It was a dream of mine to go there, which I did, and I wanted to share that with other people.
Inhabitat: Can you tell us a little bit about how karibu lives out the guiding principle of “Travel, not trample?”
Mandel-Campbell: We limit the number of trips to each destination and our groups range from six to 12 people. We also travel lightly and try to be as place-based as possible. In Italy there is no driving around – we are based in the village and hike each day. In Ontario, we bookend our trip with a stay in a classic backcountry lodge, and otherwise you are canoeing. For North Vancouver Island, we divide our time between Port Hardy and three days of kayaking, based on an island in the Johnstone Strait.
Inhabitat: Talk about how you work with Indigenous communities.
Mandel-Campbell: Our trip to North Vancouver includes a varied exploration of Indigenous culture, art and history. We visit the workshop of a renowned carver and storyteller, we spend time on Alert Bay visiting the U’mista Cultural Centre, which is on the site of a former residential school, and houses a priceless collection of potlatch regalia, and we also visit the Big House and watch a traditional dance performance. One of the highlights is a special invitation into the Great Bear Rainforest and the traditional territory of the Ḵwiḵwa̱sut̓inux̱w nation, where we will meet cultural leaders who have established an ambitious cultural initiative to revive the Kwak’wala language and steward the land.
I have worked with Indigenous partners with a strong focus on reconciliation and appreciation for whose land we are on. A key part for me is creating opportunities that are mutually beneficial. I am making choices to lodge guests at Indigenous-owned accommodations and work with Indigenous suppliers.
As for my guests, many people have not had the opportunity to meet Indigenous Canadians and learn about their lives and their culture where they actually live. My goal is to provide them with that opportunity, so they can better understand just how rich the culture and history is and have a better appreciation for the peoples whose land they are on and traveling through.
Inhabitat: What are some of your favorite highlights of karibu’s current itineraries?
Mandel-Campbell: That’s a tough one! In Italy, the hanging valley of Otro is like visiting heaven on earth. It’s a steep one-hour hike up (there is no road access), and this spectacular valley opens up with wall to wall mountains and a quaint refugio with delicious food.
North Vancouver Island – It’s a toss-up between kayaking through giant kelp forests and then having a pod of dolphins pop up beside you, watching a pod of orca, their fins slicing through the water as the sun sets over the Johnstone Strait, and visiting an Indigenous carver’s workshop, seeing giant totem poles being made and listening to colorful stories about the Kwakwaka’wakw culture.
As for Temagami, laying out a picnic on the smooth rocks overlooking Wolf Lake, which is surrounded by quartzite cliffs and old growth red pine forests, and then jumping in the lake for a refreshing swim.
Inhabitat: Do you expect to expand to other places? If so, where would you like karibu to go?
Mandel-Campbell: Absolutely! In the next phase, my priorities are adding a couple of more destinations in Canada as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. I’m heading out this month to do some scouting for what I hope will be a new destination for winter 2024.
Images via Karibu Adventures