Travel for a Living: Nigel Gifford Is the Founder of Adventure-Travel Company High and Wild and Co-Author of the Book the Adventurous Traveller. Jacob Lotinga Speaks to Him about the Origins of His Company and Making Paper from Elephant Dung

By Lotinga, Jacob | Geographical, May 2004 | Go to article overview

Travel for a Living: Nigel Gifford Is the Founder of Adventure-Travel Company High and Wild and Co-Author of the Book the Adventurous Traveller. Jacob Lotinga Speaks to Him about the Origins of His Company and Making Paper from Elephant Dung


Lotinga, Jacob, Geographical


How did you first become interested in adventure travel?

I had little choice really. As a child, all of the stories my father told me involved adventure. They were mostly based on his own life. He was a merchant seaman who worked his way around the world on large ocean liners during the 1920s. He was a good horseman, too. At the age of 45, he qualified as a ship's second mate and would go off for months at a time, leaving my mother in charge of the family restaurant while he went port-hopping around Africa on tramp steamers. So he was the inspiration tar any adventure.

Why did you decide to found High and Wild?

It was something I'd always wanted to do. I meant to start an adventure travel company in the 1980s, combining it with my own private guiding in the Himalayas, but I got sidetracked by other business. Then, in 2000, I decided the time was right for a niche market adventure company. I wanted to fill some blanks on the map, plan adventures, and not to simply follow the well-trodden package-tour routes.

How did you choose the company name?

Galen Rowell wrote a book called High and Wild. He was a longstanding friend since a chance encounter on Mount McKinley. I was dozing in a snow hole when he and Ned Gillette burst in. They were ranting and swearing at each other, but politely requested a tea bag. Sadly, both of these wonderful characters are no longer with us, Galen died in an air crash two years ago, and Ned was shot by raiders in the Hunza Valley in Pakistan. The High and Wild team all love the name, and every day it reminds me of Galen and Ned.

Can you describe some of the fragile environments you've encountered since founding the company?

In 1994, we made an expedition to the Thar Desert in India to explore the impact of the Indira Gandhi Canal on rural communities It had brought mosquitoes and malaria to the area, and the disease had decimated both the nomadic population and the villagers living near the canal. Other problems had arisen, including water-borne diseases and traces of toxic chemicals and pesticides in village crops The by-product of the canal was an improved road system, which could have helped the indigenous peoples, but any help has been outweighed by the unconsidered impact of tourism. …

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