Lonely Planet Writer

Connect with social activists in Colombia with tour operator

A Colombian tour operator called Justice Travel is providing travellers with a unique way to explore the country’s historical, cultural and natural landscapes. Self-described as a “social impact travel company,” they aim to connect human rights and tourism.

ncredible street art by public housing complex on the outskirts of Bogotá. Photo by: Justice Travel

In partnership with local organisations, humanitarian workers, universities and museums, Justice Travel goes beyond conventional tourism to offer travellers the opportunity to engage with social activists and understand the hard-hitting issues facing human rights in Colombia.

International visitors with Justice Travel in Icononzo, spending time with demobilized former FARC fighters re-entering society. Photo by: Justice Travel

They currently offer several tours based out of Bogota and Pereira and a two-week trip around the country that includes stops in Cali, Medellín, Santa Marta and Cartagena. On the trips, travellers can meet the inspiring leaders of an Afro-Colombian community on the Pacific coast who are directing the resistance against the exploitation of natural resources, spend time with demobilised former FARC guerrilla members, or explore the high-altitude moorlands of Sumapáz near Bogotá with local youth acting as guides, among others.

Kids playing in water fountain in Bogotá. Photo by: Justice Travel

Founder, Gabriel Tobias, believes that by supporting frontline human rights groups and by involving travellers in networks of advocacy, tourism can directly improve human rights situations around the world.

One of the company’s core principals is their commitment to invest 30% of the money made from their tours into selected local communities and organisations. “The positive impact on local communities should go beyond just souvenirs purchased or low-paying jobs created, towards aiding locals to have their own powerful voice in the development of their communities and their relationship with the government and with foreigners,” says Gabriel.

Rainswept valley in the Chocó region. Photo by: Justice Travel

Besides Colombia, Justice Travel also offers tours in Mexico and Guatemala and has plans to expand their operations to Brazil, Puerto Rico, southern Africa and southeast Asia.

“I want Justice Travel to be a way for travellers to find a bigger place for themselves in the world, to see that our struggles are all bound up together, to experience a place and people not just for their superficial beauty but for the deeper truths underneath,” concludes Gabriel.

By Jacqui de Klerk