Top Ecotourism Destinations in the World
Ecotourism as a popular concept first gained traction in the early 2000s as an alternative to the all-inclusive holiday packages that have always flooded the travel and tourism market.
But ecotourism is more than simply hiking a trail or boating down a river. It allows travelers to connect with nature and experience new cultures in ways that most people will never experience.
In other words, it is not simply a vacation — it is a lifestyle complete with its own value system.
Ecotourism operates under three principals: raising environmental awareness, empowering local communities around the world and conserving the natural and cultural heritage of the planet.
By providing individuals with enriched travel experiences environmental awareness is raised as is the respect for local societies and cultures.
Eco tours empower these local communities by providing building and employment opportunities, which in turn provide economic incentives for conserving bio-cultural diversity.
So keeping these principals in mind, here are a few of the top ecotourism adventures throughout the world…
Caiman Ecological Reserve, Brazil –
This working cattle ranch sits on 132,000 acres of Brazil’s Pantanal region. By adopting a sustainable approach to ranching, Caiman Ecological Reserve is doing its part to protect the idyllic and lush landscapes that make up the area. Those who spend a few days in one of the refuge’s four eco-lodges can choose from a variety of outdoor activities, from horseback riding with locals to canoeing down rivers rife with caiman. With over 60 animal and 380 bird species on hand, nature lovers will never lack for that perfect snapshot.
($176 dollars per night, www.caiman.com.br)
Mesoamerican Reef, Belize –
Travelers flock to Belize every year in order to experience the world-class snorkeling and diving provided by the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The elbow-shaped Gladden Spit, located just off the coast of Placencia, is particularly popular with eco-tourists due to the abundance of whale sharks that appear from April to June. This area of the reef is also home to Friends of Nature, a nonprofit devoted to promoting sustainable fishing in the area.
($150 whale shark dive, www.toadaladventure.com)
Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai –
Dubai is more known for being the Las Vegas of the Middle East rather than for any of its ecotourism potential. But this desert playground for multimillionaires now possesses one of the world’s most impressive ecotourism models in the form of the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa. With all of the surrounding desert reserve placed under eco-protection by the government, this resort promotes conservation on top of providing luxury. Guests can choose to explore the expansive desert on camelback or by guided safari. Not only that, but those who splurge on the trip may even be treated to a glimpse of the Arabian oryx, one of the rarest breeds of antelope on the planet.
(from $1,510, www.al-maha.com)
Mount Kenya, Kenya -
Inspired by a Kenyan who turned his family’s ranch into a wildlife conservancy, Samburu and Masai tribes near Mount Kenya followed suit. The result: over a million acres of once dry and overgrazed land has, in little over a decade, been transformed into a biodiversity zone teeming with wildlife. Visitors to the area are guided by tribal warriors who point out the various endangered species that call the area home, such as the Grevy’s Zebra.
(packages starting at $3,935, www.
Tatshenshini-Alsek River, Canada –
When the Tatshenshini was threatened by copper mine development in 1987, conservationists fought back – and won. The Canadian government rejected the mine permit, opting instead to create a 2.5 million-acre national park that connects the river to Alaska’s Glacier Bay. Adventurers can raft 132 miles of the river while taking in a number of wildlife sights, including ospreys, moose and, yes, grizzly bears.
($3,350 for nine-day package, www.mtsobek.com)
This just a small sampling of the various ecotourism adventures that await those intrepid travelers who are driven by a love of adventure and conservation. Beautiful and relatively untouched destinations such as these can be found throughout the world. It’s up to the environmentally conscious traveler to do his or her part in not only visiting these areas, but in promoting conservation and sustainable development as well.