How Rascal Voyages Is Turning Conservation Into A Luxury Travel Experience

Impact Tourism, The New Luxury
Arial shot of RASCAL yacht

There are two ways you can go about capitalizing on the public’s growing concern over the global climate crisis. You can exploit it with “see it before it’s gone” tour packages that contribute to the degradation of delicate ecosystems.

Or, you can be a part of the solution.

Steve Ebsworth, founder of Rascal Republic, has firmly planted himself in the second column.

“If you’re not doing conservation and sustainability in this day and age then you’re going to fall behind."

“If you’re not doing conservation and sustainability in this day and age,” says Ebsworth, “then you’re going to fall behind. I don’t think people should look at it as marketing anymore. It’s just the way to operate. And if you’re not operating in that way then you’re out of date.”

Ebsworth’s philosophy, Create In Order To Conserve, is at the heart of his entire business. Whether its operating the world’s highest al fresco bar or developing luxury villas, Rascal Republic puts conservation and sustainability at the fore.

One of their most intriguing projects is the Rascal Voyages Exploration Series.

Rascal Voyages is the yacht charter arm of Rascal Republic. Their maiden yacht (also named Rascal) is a 30 meter (98.5 ft), hand-crafted, ironwood and teak ship with five above-deck, air conditioned, en-suite cabins equipped with flat screen TVs and Sonos music systems. Purpose-built to explore Indonesia’s remote islands in comfort and style, she was inspired by Ebsworth’s genuine appreciation for the beauty of this land.

(In fact, Rascal’s origin is a great story in itself—with a real life-or-death twist—you should hear him tell it.)

Unfortunately, after launching Rascal, Ebsworth and his team discovered that the region’s marine environment was not as pristine as they first thought. “There was ocean pollution, including plastic pollution. And there was destruction of reefs,” he says.

Rascal Voyages had already committed to operating sustainably—forgoing plastic, hiring locally, sourcing local food, and responsibly managing their waste. But taking it a leap further, they partnered with Conservation International (CI), a non-profit environmental group that uses science, policy, and partnerships to protect nature for the benefit of all.

And so the Rascal Exploration Series was born.

"For the Exploration Series, guests pay about $12,500 per night."

“A typical voyage on Rascal costs about $10,000 per night for 10 people,” says Ebsworth. “Then, for the Exploration Series, guests pay about $12,500 per night.” The difference goes directly to Conservation International to support their work.

Rascal luxury cabin with a view

For the price, intrepid travelers can join the CI scientists as they conduct research on local marine life and create marine protection areas. These surveys take passengers into waters so remote that most tourists never get to see them.

"We’ve identified about 25 new species of fish, and a new species of walking shark.”

“We’ve done about half a dozen of these voyages,” ways Ebsworth “and we’ve identified about 25 new species of fish, and a new species of walking shark.”

Guests can get as hands-on as they like. They may choose to participate directly in the research, or simply sit back, drink in the Instagramable scenery, and enjoy unparalleled hospitality from Rascal’s VIP crew.

The view from the deck of Rascal

“It’s an amazing experience. Very, very powerful. A positive experience,” says Ebsworth. And he believes that’s the key to spurring even more interest in conservation. Because when people have positive experiences they happily spread the news and support the research that needs to be done.

"Experiences such as this—you’d probably call it impact tourism or holidays with a purpose or purposeful tourism—I think it’s the new luxury."

When asked if the Exploration Series has had a positive impact on his businesses, Ebsworth explained:

“Yeah. Experiences such as this—you’d probably call it impact tourism or holidays with a purpose or purposeful tourism—I think it’s the new luxury. I think people are bored with 6 and 7 star resorts. They’ve done that; they’ve been there.

“For a long time [travel] has been all about experiences. And if that experience can have a positive impact on the environment or the area in which you’re visiting, then that’s a win-win for everybody.”

So how can small travel and tourism providers get started if they want to be involved in conservation and sustainable tourism?

“I think it’s just doing the basics. How you operate. And how you structure your business. Some of the best conservation and sustainable projects are the smaller ones,” he says.

Rascal sailing the islands of Indonesia

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