I HAVE just received a brochure from a new operator called Tribes which, unusually for a brochure, has succeeded in catching my eye. For a start, it seems to be printed on recycled paper (it isn't glossy and is sepia-coloured throughout). On the other hand, it is not a cheap product - and nor are the holidays.

"Life is too short to spend your precious free time on things which do not enrich you," it begins pompously. Are we about to be lectured on how we should or should not take our holidays? It's a fairly close thing, but the answer is: not quite.

The point to Tribes can be summarised in a few key phrases. One is to experience the world of others, "not just gawp at it". Another is to let the native people be your guides; another is to help sustain cultural and ecological heritage through your tourism. In short, "travelling with respect" (which includes avoiding areas where the locals do not want tourism).

So far, so worthy. But don't get the wrong idea. These are not the kind of trips where you effectively pay to sweat it out planting trees in the jungle. No, instead we are assured that we don't have to be martyrs when we travel, and that "there's nothing wrong with a little bit of comfort and style when it's available".

The trips are scattered around the developing world, from Latin America to Africa and India, with a couple in the developed world (USA and Australia) thrown in for good measure.

Part of the blurb for each trip is devoted to explaining just how the trip will help the locals. On the Peru trip, for example, we learn that "The Quechua people who provide our horses and help look after us during the trek benefit from a fairly-traded income".

Accommodation varies from tents to "comfortable" hotels and the food is described as "fresh meats, grains and vegetables". Nothing wrong with a bit of comfort and style? Given that this 11-day trip costs about pounds 100 a day before flights, I have to say I am not yet convinced.

Tribes Travel: 01728 685971.

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