Best Destinations 2017: In green travel, there’s a growing trend where people are more interested in authenticity and ‘transforming journeys’ than all-inclusive package deals. LitterBins UK has done a study on the rise of ecotourism which shows that today’s connected and globally conscious travellers are now more aware of the detrimental affects that mass-market tourism often has on local communities. They talked to expert responsible tourism operators Brian Morgan of Adventure Life and Matt Holmes of Boundless Journeys to get their recommendations on where to travel this winter.
“As scientists and non-scientists learn more about how our species is impacting the planet, more people want to do what they can whilst still exploring the world,” says Matt Holmes of Boundless Journeys. “It could be staying at a resort that farms their own food in Italy, visiting a family-run camp that cares for retired logging elephants in Myanmar, or knowing a park entry fee goes to a conservation organisation in Costa Rica.”
Brian Morgan founded the eco-minded tourism company Adventure Life after living and working in places such as Ecuador, Russia and Peru. He believes, “The ecotourism industry will continue to grow as so much of the world is disassociated from the wonders of the natural world. This includes a disassociation from where our food comes from, and so I think that agro-tourism will be one of the fastest growing segments of ecotourism. People are aware of the importance of whole foods, of where their food comes from and how it is produced, and so travel that connects them with the origination of their favourite foods will grow,” he suggests, demonstrating how the ecotourism sector is also linked to many other ‘Millennial issues’.
BEST DESTINATIONS 2017:
Home to Machu Picchu, the Norte Chico and Incan Empire, not to mention its huge section of the Amazon rainforest, Peru truly is a dream destination for adventurous and eco-conscious travellers. In fact, as much as three quarters of Peru is covered by the Amazon and is home to over 20,000 different types of plants. The stretch of the Amazon River is a natural breeding ground for all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures, including the giant river otter, anacondas, pink dolphin and piranha.
Volunteering in Peru:
There are plenty of volunteering opportunities in Peru, especially in communities that need assistance with construction and renovation projects to rebuild old hospitals, schools and orphanages. Whether you have specific expertise or not, you’re highly likely to find a volunteering position with one of Peru’s many organisations.
Green accommodation in Peru:
Far, far away from anything that resembles city life, the secluded Tambopata Ecolodge is the perfect place to really get away from it all. Squirrelled away in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, it is surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of all sorts of spectacular plants and wildlife. Another great option is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, which is a little less remote and offers all the comforts of a modern hotel in the setting of a tranquil forest.
Eco-adventures in Peru:
Peru is heaven for those who love hiking. The Inca Trail is world-renowned as one of the best routes in the world and the ancient architecture of Machu Picchu is simply spectacular. More adventurous travellers can also revel in white water river rafting through the beautiful Manu jungle.
Brian Morgan of Adventure Life says: “Peru isn’t a typical winter destination, but it is a cultural destination. And by going in winter, travellers avoid the crowds of summer and so arguably have a more authentic experience. Winter is also the growing season, so the hillsides around Cusco will be green and the markets will be filled with local produce.”
The largest island in Asia, Borneo is an immensely popular destination for nature lovers and those who want to discover all sorts of wonderful wildlife. Here you will spot the Sunda Clouded Leopard, Pygmy Asian Elephant and, if you’re lucky, Bornean Orangutan. Culture vultures will also enjoy delving into the traditions of the indigenous Dayak people, who are happy to share their culture and culinary customs.
Volunteering in Borneo:
Continued deforestation means Borneo’s Great Orangutan Project still desperately needs help from volunteers. Working hands-on in the Kubah National Park, you will help to improve the living conditions of this important but declining animal.
Green accommodation in Borneo:
The large and secluded resort of Borneo Rainforest Lodge is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life whilst making no negative impact on the environment. If you dream of living up in the trees, just like the local apes, you’ll love the natural delights of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve, where you can stay in your very own tree house apartment.
Eco-adventures in Borneo:
Whether exploring on foot or by river boat, you’ll find that the Borneo rainforest offers all sorts of eco-friendly activities. If you like to be active whilst travelling then you won’t want to miss the Kiulu Valley, otherwise known as the “Valley of the Mist”, and there are also many opportunities to meet the local tribes and partake in traditional customs.
Brian Morgan of Adventure Life says: “Borneo is still evolving as a destination and, frankly, they need more visitors interested in nature to preserve their forests. With that said, it is still an incredibly wild place with some of the most charismatic wildlife anywhere.”
A true innovator of ecotourism, Costa Rica is one of the world’s leading green travel destinations for those who want to explore unspoilt natural beauty and see natural wildlife. Its diverse landscapes are made up of dramatic volcanoes, rainforests, and beaches, making it perfect for those who enjoy swimming, climbing and walking with wild animals surrounded by the beauty of Mother Nature.
Volunteering in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica is the perfect place for travelling volunteers who want to get involved in the protection and preservation of endangered sea turtles. The team at Tortuguero National Park work closely with naturalists and teach their volunteers about the region’s delicate ecosystem while working together to protect these beautiful creatures.
Green accommodation in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica harbours a great deal of quality eco lodges which are designed specifically for those who want to escape city life. Leona Eco Lodge and Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge are two prime examples, both nestled in beautiful jungle where they constantly work on ways to reduce waste and minimise their consumption.
Eco-adventures in Costa Rica:
With its established ecotourism industry, Costa Rica offers a plethora of activities, ranging from cultural tours where you can immerse yourself in the local way of life to hiking trips through the rainforest where you can explore the local flora and fauna.
Brian Morgan of Adventure Life says: “Costa Rica is arguably the birthplace of ecotourism in Latin America. Its tropical jungles are more accessible than anywhere else I know and the government has insured that the parks around the country remain connected, so the forest are thriving too. It also has some of the best interpretive agro-tourism programs – here you can learn how coffee, cocoa, bananas, mangoes, and more are produced.”
Famous the world over for its fascinating history and magnificent natural beauty, Vietnam has a great deal to offer. Seek out paradise beaches and protected national parks, or trace roaring rivers and the gargantuan Tam Giang-Cau Hai Lagoon. Vietnam is set to be an immensely important destination for ecotourism in the future.
There’s simply nowhere else on earth quite like Patagonia.The sky-piercing mountains and vast glaciers and lakes are crying out to be explored and there are all sorts of trekking opportunities for those brave enough to traverse the mighty Torres del Paine National Park. For outdoor lovers and nature nerds, Patagonia really is heaven on earth.
Volunteering in Patagonia:
There are all sorts of volunteering opportunities in Patagonia. Nature lovers can help organisations remove foreign plants that have a negative impact on native species, while animal lovers can volunteer for schemes that protect the endangered ‘huemul’ deer species.
Green accommodation in Patagonia:
One of the most respected eco-resorts in Chile is the Eco-Camp Patagonia, which is renowned for being the world’s very first geodesic hotel. The accommodation is beautifully merged with its surroundings, with features such as sky domes that allow you to sleep under the stars.
Eco-adventures in Patagonia:
There really is no end to the possibilities in Patagonia: enjoy horse riding and hiking up the dramatic Andes Mountains or seek out close encounters with friendly seals and penguins. Take to the seas and you might even spot whales and dolphins breaching the waves.
Brian Morgan of Adventure Life says: “Whether visiting Patagonia in Chile or Argentina, the northern hemisphere’s winter is summer way down south. Visitors will encounter spectacular mountain vistas, trekking, wildlife, and gaucho culture.”
Famed the world over for their unique species of animals and plants, these fascinating and truly unique volcanic islands offer an experience unlike any other destination known to man. Some 90 per cent of the islands are protected national parks, allowing the ecosystem and natural beauty to flourish and prosper — whether on land or water, you’ll see wildlife you never dreamed possible.
Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands:
The Galapagos Islands’ preservation depends heavily on the help of volunteers to restore the islands’ natural habitat and maintain their crops. Whether you’re a short-term or long-term traveler, assistance is always appreciated.
Green accommodation in the Galapagos Islands:
The key to conserving the Galapagos Islands is to encourage visitors to stay offshore. Companies such as Ecoventura rent boats where travellers can stay, which is not only good for the environment but also great for those who want to get aquatinted with the local marine life. If you’d prefer to stay on land, the Galapagos Safari camp is a family-run sustainable accommodation provider that enables people to stay without disrupting the ecosystem.
Eco-adventures in the Galapagos Islands:
There are all sorts of ways to get involved in the local culture of the Galapagos Islands, from the villages to forests and beaches, although an essential attraction for anyone interested in ecology is the Charles Darwin Research Station national park, which is home to some 200 scientists and volunteers.
Brian Morgan of Adventure Life says: “The Galapagos Islands are a favourite year-round for all ages. The snorkelling is some of the best in the world, and the land animals are so unafraid of humans that it turns everyone into a wildlife photographer!”
A small land-locked country bordered by the Tibetan region of China to the north and India to the south, Bhutan is one of the most unspoilt places on earth and one of the top 10 global biodiversity destinations. Pack your camera and go in search of Himalayan wolves and wild snow leopards at the Eastern Himalayan conservation complex. Or explore the country’s largest conservation zone at the Wangchuck Centennial National Park.
Volunteering in Bhutan:
Bhutan’s local communities are always in need of English language teachers, so it is a great place to go once you are qualified to teach English as a foreign language. You do not need previous teaching experience, although you do require the official qualification, which can be earned online via distance learning or at teacher training centres around the world.
Green accommodation in Bhutan:
Bhutan is a fantastic place to be for people who want to integrate with new communities. It is normal for local villagers to open their homes to volunteers and there are also various eco-lodges available throughout the country.
Eco-adventures in Bhutan:
Interesting cultural activities range from visits to remote villages to guided treks through the Himalayan Mountains. The beauty of travelling in Bhutan is the Bhutanese people, who are known for their warm welcomes and willingness to share and celebrate their traditions and customs.
Matt Holmes of Boundless Journeys says: “I absolutely love Bhutan. The country has developed their tourism slowly and deliberately, with serious attention to preserving their natural resources and protecting their culture. Not only is it a beautiful country, but the Bhutanese culture is fascinating, with little Western influence.”
Controlled by communist Yugoslavia since World War II, Slovenia is a relatively undiscovered travel destination and remains as one of the wold’s finest examples of alpine eco-tourism. As well as having its own cultural heritage, Slovenia is also bordered by the Italian Alps and is perfect for those who love to get active in the great outdoors.
Matt Holmes of Boundless Journeys says: “Slovenia is my other favourite destination. It feels like my home state of Vermont with lush meadows and forests, great mountain hiking, wonderful local food, and friendly people. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked, but it has so much to offer and very few crowds! In fact, the capital, Ljubljana, was named the European Green Capital for 2016.”
With everything from subtropical forests and herculean mountain ranges to elegant glaciers and fjords, New Zealand’s diverse and dramatic landscapes are perfect for those who love exploring the joys of the natural world. See it all on foot or take to the water and explore the country’s spectacular sea life, which includes seals, dolphins and whales.
Matt Holmes of Boundless Journeys says: “The beautiful South Island offers beaches, mountains with quaint towns, a Maori cultural visit, and wonderful local wine to boot.”
Botswana and Zambia
With their almost unlimited supply of both culture and wildlife, Botswana and Zambia are two of the most popular destinations in southern Africa. Meet Botswana’s Bushmen and lose yourself in the sacred Tsodilo Hills UNESCO World Heritage site, a place that’s thought to have been inhabited for at least 100,000 years. Or explore the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and see the area’s diverse wildlife. And don’t miss the thundering waterfall at Zambezi River in Zambia, which is the world’s largest waterfall.
Volunteering in Botswana and Zambia:
Poverty is a real issue in Botswana and Zambia and there is a huge need for help with educating the children. There are many NGOs operating in the country, but a good place to start would be the Livingstone Day Cheshire Homes, which helps educate some 150 disabled children. Whether you’re a qualified teacher or not, there are always volunteer positions to be filled in this part of the world.
Green accommodation in Botswana and Zambia:
Although Botswana and Zambia are world-renowned for their safari camps, it’s worth knowing that not all of them are as eco-friendly as they make themselves out to be. The Delta Camp in Botswana, however, comes highly recommended and is one of the leading eco-accommodation providers in the country.
Eco-adventures in Botswana and Zambia:
Whether it’s trying new flavours, learning about local cultures or taking part in a wildlife safari tour, there are all sorts of professionally run and eco-conscious activity companies to get involved in in Botswana and Zambia.
Matt Holmes of Boundless Journeys says: “The country is incredibly remote with some of the best game-viewing in southern Africa. It’s a popular choice for first-time safari-goers because of the diverse wildlife and exclusive lodges.”
Jonathan Horsfield is the Managing Director of Litterbins.