After more than a year of social distancing and self isolation, we’re cautiously optimistic and dreaming up travel plans as news of the vaccine makes its way around the world. We’ve also had lots of time to reflect on the ways we travel, and how we can do so in ways that are more sustainable. Enter ecotourism destinations.
As The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines it, ecotourism is ‘responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.’ As an eco-tourist, you will not only enjoy pristine locations that involve no destruction of wildlife, but also contribute to the local economy and the conservation of these regions.
From South Africa to Malaysia, Sweden and Ecuador, here are some ecotourism destinations that we can’t wait to visit. Which one is your favourite?
1. Botswana, South Africa
Botswana is one of the hottest up-and-coming ecotourism destinations, thanks to its progressive approach to conservation. For over 50 years, the protection of wildlife has been a top priority here, ever since the Batawana people established the Moremi Game Reserve in 1963. Commercial hunting was banned in 2014 and anti-poaching laws are very strictly enforced, with wildlife management largely handled by local communities. Thanks to their conservation efforts, Botswana has tons of amazing natural attractions for animal lovers. Bucket list activities include exploring the Okavango Delta on a canoe, seeing over 120,000 elephants in Chobe National Park, and having a Big 5 safari experience at Moremi!
2. Sabah, Malaysia
Sandakan in Sabah is one of the top ecotourism destinations. It is also home to one National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, Sukau Rainforest Lodge. Here, they make use of everything from rainwater, used cooking oil, green sewage treatment and low-noise electric boat engines – all without sacrificing luxury and comfort for guests. Its location on the bank of Kinabatangan River also means easy access to the unique flora and fauna of Borneo. There are also special tours to see Borneo’s Big 5 – the Pygmy Elephant, Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Crocodile and the Rhinoceros Hornbill.
3. Gothenburg, Sweden
For three years in a row, Gothenburg has been declared the world’s most sustainable destination by the Global Destination Sustainability Index. Here, more than 90% of its hotels are eco-friendly. Plastic bottles, cutlery and straws are things of the past. 65% of public transport runs on renewable energy, and electric trams scoot along the streets, past locals riding bicycles. Eco-friendly, vegan and vegetarian restaurants are easy to find, and all meat are organically farmed. The city is surrounded by thick forests, and vast natural spaces in the form of parks, meadows, and hiking routes. Truly, Gothenburg is as close to a green city as you can find on earth.
4. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Being so geologically unique and geographically remote, the animals on Galápagos Islands have evolved into entirely new species. In fact, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was inspired by a visit here in 1835! The islands have a delicate ecosystem, made up of thousands of endemic and unusual species of flora and fauna. Understandably so, the islands have become a very attractive holiday destination. In order to minimize impact, the authorities practice low-impact tourism. This means that only a limited number of visitors are allowed access every day, and they must be accompanied by a registered guide.
5. Costa Rica
As one of the pioneers of ecotourism, how can anyone forget Costa Rica? Almost 40% of its territory is protected, and 25% of its landmass are national parks and reserves. Costa Rica is a world leader in conservation policies. They have a wide variety of ecosystems, from tropical dry and cloud forests to wetlands. The country also boasts an incredible number of eco-lodges and a deep respect for nature is evident no matter where you travel. Of course, there are tons of ecotourism activities to do. From volcano excursions, nature hikes, whitewater rafting, coffee field tours and wildlife experiences, Costa Rica is truly the destination for conscious travellers.