Hiking has become a popular activity for many in TT and this need for recreation in nature has resulted in the formation of a number of hiking clubs and companies. Business Day had a conversation with Bruce Nisha, founder of iFit World Adventure Travel – which provides hikes, camping, yoga, fitness training, travel, and tours.
iFit World collaborates with gym trainers, yoga instructors, and geologists, to name a few, to provide a wide range of experiences for those seeking to become more physically active while enjoying the great outdoors. The clientèle, Nisha said, spans from babies to the elderly.
The company, established in 2017, has seen tremendous growth, though he had been promoting hiking at least a year before that.
“When the vision for what I wanted to establish took form, and people started liking the photos I would post on social media, I knew they would not imagine what it takes to get to some of these places,” he recalled. He was therefore inspired to form a company – and was pleasantly surprised about its success initial, almost immediate success.
The first public hike he organised was to Rio Seco Waterfall. He managed to score 102 participants. The second to Avocat Waterfall had 100. Since then, he has an average of 60 hikers participating on each day of the weekend. Hikes take place every Saturday and Sunday during the dry season, between December and July.
The photographer/videographer said he has been hiking for as long as he can remember. In 2010, he started hiking with larger groups, beginning with Island Hikers, which he still does from time to time.
“We also cover carnivals throughout the region in St Vincent, Barbados, Grenada, and Jamaica, to name a few. So, when we plan trips for carnivals, we ensure there are extra days for exploration of natural attractions. That is the essence of the trip, separate and apart from the carnival experience.” This, he said, adds to the many features that separate iFit World from its competition. He said, however, there are challenges in instances where he has noted theft of his content by competition – something he said he hopes will stop as it is a breach of copyright law.
Hiking can take a toll on the body, as with any intense kind of physical activity. “Sometimes, we literally have to carry people. Last Saturday, a hiker took four hours to complete the hike, while most took only two hours.” In these instances, the hike leader stays with the participant, every step of the way, at every point where the participant needs to stop and rest – while motivating the hiker to complete the trail.
Though this happens with older hikers, Nisha said the most recent case involved a young lady in her 20s.
“She expressed gratitude for the support she got throughout the hike, saying at one point she was so frustrated she wanted to cry. But because of the support and motivation from hike leaders, she made it through the trail. She said she was very proud of herself for having completed the trail – it was a personal success for her.” He said for every group of ten to 15 hikers, there is a hike leader.
“It can take a lot of energy. So, I have to find the motivation required to encourage my team, so they can then inspire people.” Nisha said he has heard of hike groups that leave people behind, or will tell hikers the path is an easy one, “so they can do it on their own. This is unfortunate, and should not happen.”
For some hikers, completing a trail is a dream come true for them, not only because of the vistas, but the ability to complete an activity which requires physical endurance. “When going on a trail like the one in Paria, there is no turning back. There is no cell service, so people have to be motivated to push through.”
Nisha said, “We don’t always screen people who wish to hike with us. We cannot discriminate in terms of screening, because you can never tell. Because someone who may appear fit, may burnout easily, while those who may typically be underestimated would complete the trail with ease.”
However, there are instances where screening is necessary – in cases of highly challenging trails to ensure safety over profit.
The camping experience is one everyone should try. “At places like Paria Bay, hikers get to experience things like drinking from a fresh-water spring, turtle watching, and just enjoying being out in nature under the stars, grilling food ourselves.”
Asked about the profitability of starting a hiking business, Nisha said it can be financially challenging without a reasonable and consistent clientèle and sponsorship. A major cost is transportation, therefore, gaining sponsorship for supplies is of great consideration. iFit World is sponsored by Hadco, Holiday Snacks (Soldanza and Exotica nuts), SM Jaleel & Co Ltd (Oasis and Viva), and the Indian High Commission in TT.
“As a photographer/ videographer, the financial burden of creating content for promotion of hikes and tourism, in general, is tremendously reduced.” He said the cost of renting a drone or hiring a drone pilot/photographer to travel along a hiking trail can be expensive. He, therefore, makes an effort to create most of the content internally, even though there are instances where he hires content creators.
Asked about their largest event, Nisha said, “Our biggest outdoor event yet was for International Day of Yoga last year, which was powered by the High Commission of India and the International Day of Yoga committee – where we had over 800 participants coming out to the boardwalk in Chaguaramas.”
To contribute to the preservation of the natural environment, iFit World collaborates with the Open Circle, which is managed by the NGO, Green Circle. “Every year in September, we do the grand beach cleanup in collaboration with them for International Coastal Cleanup Day. Last year we removed four tons of garbage from Scotland Bay. This cleanup is promoted at every hike – while we continue to encourage hikers to pick up non-biodegradable waste on hikes.”
Nisha said it is absolutely important to ensure the natural environment is preserved and education is imperative especially for children. “Our lifetime has seen the most extinctions in history. We have to protect them.”
iFit World is currently organising a trail cleanup hike, where hikers will clean up the path while hiking along the trail. There is also an upcoming campout slated for June 28, and a Euro trip from September 3 – 17.
iFit World can be found on Instagram and Facebook, @ifitworld and additional information is available on the website, ifitworld.org.