Forget crowded beaches, packed walkways, and photo clichés, ecotourism destinations offer a fresh kind of experience when it comes to travelling. Limited numbers of visitors, undisturbed wilderness, and a focus on positive socio-environmental impact is what the ecotourism ethos is all about.
More than adventures into the jungle or sustainably run resorts, ecotourism is just as much about the visitor as it is about the destination. The essence of this branch of the travel industry revolves around responsibility. Ecotourism countries or companies look to attract travellers who are interested in conservationism, supporting the well-being of local communities, building environmental and cultural awareness, and engaging in travel that is as responsible as possible.
Almost everywhere you can travel, there are plenty of sustainable companies, locally run agencies, or small-scale guided getaways, that you can find if you do your research. But in some places, an ecotourist approach is built into the culture and sustained by governmental policies and rules that look to protect natural spaces and the people who rely on them. So, here is a look at some of the best ecotourism destinations around the world.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
A destination that is well known for being strict when it comes to conservation and limiting environmental impacts, the Galapagos Islands are unique in their wildlife, landscape, and approach to tourism. A trip here is often considered a trip of a lifetime and all activities are guided no matter if you are exploring shorelines, diving in the surrounding seas, or hiking volcanos.
This archipelago of islands has made around 80% of its land and waters into conservation areas to protect the biodiversity that the islands rely on. Palau has plenty of natural attractions, historic sites, and cultural spots to visit, but to do so you commit to an eco-pledge when you enter the country that is stamped onto your passport: “Children of Palau, I take this pledge, as your guest, to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home. I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully”.
The island of contradictions with fiery volcanos and icy glaciers alike, Iceland maintains pristine landscapes and natural wonders you won’t find anywhere else. There are plenty of companies and accommodations that take a sustainable approach, offering eco-friendly hotels and responsible guided excursions, whether you want to explore glaciers, fjords, stunning waterfalls, and catch the Northern Lights, or go whale watching, icy beach hopping, and discover traditional villages.
From hiking near volcanos to ziplining through the canopy, this Central American destination is an adventure paradise and conservation areas cover over a third of the country to ensure that it stays that way. Eco-lodges are abundant here and the range of activities isn’t just limited to the immense and accessible rainforests; kayaking and rafting on the inland rivers or surfing and snorkelling along the Pacific Coast are some worthwhile activities.
The diverse and fragile landscapes that cover New Zealand are a claim to fame for the country and the reasons so many decide to visit the South Pacific destination. Glow-worm caves, glaciers, fjords, and more, many of these breathtaking sites are protected by the 13 national parks that cover 20% of New Zealand’s territory. An element of the country that you shouldn’t miss is Maori history and culture, which you can learn about through responsible and small-scale tourist agencies.