It's good to be green: ecotourism holidays

by Helen_Cross

 A recent UN Biodiversity Convention ended with a stark warning: that biodiversity loss would become unavoidable unless strict measures are imposed. The degradation of land is not only a loss to holiday makers and naturalists: it affects everything from economics to quality of life. Ecotourism is a current buzzword in travel and tourism and seeks to reverse halt the damage done to areas of natural beauty by irresponsible tourism. An eco-holiday is one that doesn’t damage fragile natural environments and, in some cases, results in a positive effect on both the ecosystem and local economy. Eco-tourists return home both more educated and with a clear conscience.

Mafia Island, TanzaniaRas Mbisi lodge is a sustainably built lodge built on the west coast of Mafia Island, Tanzania. The focus of this resort is ‘barefoot luxury’: in harmony with nature yet utterly decadent. Ras Mbisi offers the chance to swim with the rare and beautiful whale shark, explore the Indian Ocean from a dugout canoe or spend the evening on your own deserted island with only a personal chef and your holiday companion for company. Prices are also lower than one would expect for what is on offer. The Ras Mbisi blog is a really good read and gives some great extra information about the area.

Manicou River Eco Resort is located on the Caribbean island of Dominica and offers the chance to buy a piece of 100% eco-friendly paradise including soil untouched by chemicals, 24 hour security services and organic gardening training for tending to your own crops. The area is in close proximity to snorkelling opportunities and the Creole-influenced town of Portsmouth, which also has nightlife and markets. There are also numerous creative and spiritual residents offering services such as ‘Gene Key Therapy’, natural cosmetic making classes, and rainforest yoga.

Thailand is well known for its powder soft white sand beaches and lush green flora; arguably certain parts of the country have been damaged by swift and unsustainable tourism (the once peaceful island of Koh Samui in some areas resembles a typical Spanish seaside resort town). However it is not hard to get off the beaten path and into the wild; Wild Bird Eco provide birding holidays in Thailand and recently launched its own eco-store to prepare ornithologists for the trip!

Yoga at Manicou River Resort Dominica

Fiji is a ‘too-good-to-be-true’ South Pacific gem that attracts beach lovers of all demographics: from honeymooners to backpackers. With such stunning natural beauty,it is little surprise that numerous ecotourism operators have set up on the island. Fiji Eco-Tours offer cultural village stays, trips to therapeutic mud pools and tours to the ‘garden of the sleeping giants’. These tours give you the chance to explore the beauty of Fiji hearing traditional Fijian legends and learning about local medicinal plants.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most famous Eco-destinations with many endemic species including the Galapagos Shark and the, much photographed, Blue Footed Booby. As such a rich area of biodiversity, the Galapagos Islands are a natural fit for eco-tourism and strong efforts are being made to protect this area from the damaging effects of mass tourism. Galapagos Eco-Tours offer luxury yachts to the islands and tours around the rest of Ecuador.

Mexico offers more than just spring break fun and the party scene of Cancun: the Mayan Riviera offers crystal clear water, ancient ruins and fantastic wildlife spotting opportunities. Witness the migration of 300 million Monarch Butterflies in Chincua or ecovolunteer with sea turtles and help to conserve this endangered species. Ecotours de Mexico offers eco-friendly tours in Puerto Vallarta Mexico and Banderas Bay.. scuba diving, snorkeling, hikes, whale watching, turtle camp, kayaking and... ever wanted to bird in Puerto Vallarta? Book your trip and go with Mexico´s top birders! This region hosts about 315 species in its diverse ecosystems and habitats. This company has been a Nature Tour Operator since 1991.

The stunning vistas of PatagoniaPatagonia is one of the world’s great wildernesses and is one of the places to head to if you want to feel dwarfed by nature. Known as ‘The Land of Giants’, Patagonia covers part of Argentina and Chile and is a favorite with hikers and outdoor pursuits enthusiasts. Perma Hue eco-resort  is located is located near the Gutierrez Lake and seeks to preserve the forests, waters and animals of the area. The resort blends perfectly with its wild surroundings with animals roaming freely and activities such as horse riding, kayaking and trekking on offer.

Costa Rica is an ecotourist’s paradise; containing 95% of the world’s biodiversity in just 0.25% of the world’s landmass. There are also plans afoot to make Costa Rica the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2021. Pavones Eco Beach Resort is located in one of the country’s best surf spots and opportunities to explore the area on horseback, by hiking or in a 4X4. Surfers may even have the company of dolphins as they ride the Golfo Dulce’s left break; one of the longest left breaks in the world.

My Backpacking Buddies features user submitted articles and questions and is a great site to find out more about any given area.

Whether you want to give something back to the local community, are concerned about your environmental footprint, or just prefer the feel of a resort that is in harmony with its environment as opposed to fighting it, there are an ever growing number of eco-resorts to choose from. Ecotours often focus on healthy, locally produced food and activities as opposed to sunbathing and partying; therefore, an eco-holiday may not only appease your conscience, it may help to keep the pounds off too!