Published: February 2009
The Adventure Ratings 2009: Now Live!
A comprehensive ranking of the world's top outfitters—surveyed, sorted, and scored.
By Costas Christ and Claire Martin

For the second time in as many years, we’ve conducted an unprecedented survey of adventure travel companies, based on the idea that a traveler’s most important decision is not always where to go but who to go with. For the 2009 edition, we spoke to more guide services—and their clients—than ever before (248 in all). We contacted companies that lead 85,000 people a year and those that cater to a hundred. We surveyed paddling outfitters, trekking guides, safari specialists, and the ones that do it all. We evaluated companies that will take you places you’ve only dreamed of (the Tibetan Plateau, the Serengeti on foot) and those that specialize in your own backyard (the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons).

And after asking them the tough questions (Have you tested your risk management strategies? Are your guides trained to “leave no trace”?), we scored each one using criteria synonymous with National Geographic—environmental awareness, reliable service, local knowledge. Because in a time when travel dollars are stretched, it’s essential that an outfitter deliver the trip of a lifetime, the first time. These are the world’s leading travel specialists. Each offers a unique way to explore the planet. The only question now is: Who will you go with? See top companies in each category, as published in the magazine >>

The Adventure Ratings Online Update for 2009
We’ve created the ultimate trip-planning tool: a comprehensive listing the world’s 200 top-ranking outfitters—complete with comments from readers like you—that's searchable by destination, activity, price, and scores. Start your search >>

HOW WE DID IT: The Methodology
Using National Geographic ADVENTURE’s global outfitter database and with assistance from Sustainable Travel International, The Adventure Travel Trade Association, The International Ecotourism Society, and other travel and tourism organizations, we reached out to hundreds of tour companies around the world. The outfitters were asked to complete a comprehensive, 30-question survey. Each survey was scored from 1-100 in each of the following categories: Education, Sustainability, Quality of Service, and Spirit of Adventure. Researchers then randomly interviewed client references for every company based on the same categories and generated a fifth score, also between 1 and 100. Each outfitter’s overall score represents the average of these five scores. A team of ADVENTURE editors and travel experts then vetted those with overall scores of 85 and above. From this pool of candidates, we identified the best adventure travel companies, which are profiled here.

Category Criteria For Inclusion in Magazine “Top Ten” Listings

Do-It-All
Operate on at least three continents and offer a wide range of outdoor adventure activities.

Biking
Operate in multiple countries and specialize in road cycling and/or mountain biking.

Hiking + Trekking
Operate on multiple continents and specialize in trekking.

River + Sea
Operate on multiple continents and specialize in flat- and whitewater padding.

Safari
Operate in one or more African countries and specialize in wildlife viewing excursions.

Luxury
Operate on multiple continents and deliver adventures with first-class services and amenities.

Price Range
Average Cost Per Person, Per Day

$ - 0 to $100
$$ - $101 to $200
$$$ - $201 to $400
$$$$ - $401 to $600
$$$$$ - $601+

Outfitters continue to offer special rates—be sure to ask about them.