As interest in sustainable travel grows, there are an increasing number of destinations and providers seeking to respond to the purchasing power of the responsible traveller, so I asked some of my favourite travel bloggers to share their top ecotourism experiences…
Ecotourism is responsible travel to a natural setting, where the hosts actively protect the environment and seek to better the lives of local people, conserving environmental resources and ensuring minimum impact on natural assets.
1. Ecotourism in Costa Rica
by Stephanie, from My Quarter Life Epiphany
While the entire country of Costa Rica felt like one big ecotourism bonanza, the best ecotourism destination I found was Monteverde.
I stayed at El Bosque Hotel, which is located amidst 23 acres of private forest (60% being primary forest), with trails for guests to wander down at their leisure, and guided bird watching tours and night hikes for spotting animals daily.
It was a true paradise, with the grounds covered in beautiful flowers and native plant life, and I saw hummingbirds and agoutis every morning on my way to breakfast. If that’s not enough, the Bat Jungle (an indoor bat cave) is a few minutes’ walk down the road, and the Selvatura Eco Park is a short bus ride away for ziplining, hanging bridges, butterfly gardens, insect museum, and reptile zoo.
2. Colibri Camping, Jupapina, Bolivia
by Steph, from Worldly Adventurer
Built from recycled materials and with renewable energy sources, with the assistance of a group of volunteers, Colibri Camping gets its name from the hummingbirds which can be spied in the plants there in the late afternoon.
It combines eco credentials with exceptional comfort and stunning views: the Valley of Flowers below, the Devil’s Molar looming above, and the distant lights of La Paz further along the valley. I arrived here in August 2015 to camp and savour the peace away from the overpowering energy and noise of La Paz – and didn’t leave for six weeks.
3. The ‘Enchanted Islands’
by Tamara, from Globe Guide
One of the world’s best spots for ecotourism is Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. The ‘Enchanted Islands’ are home to an incredible number of endemic species, and it is possible to see sea lions, sharks, tortoises, penguins, flamingos, iguanas and exotic birds all in one day.
The Ecuadorian government takes great pride in protecting this bucket list-worthy spot, and does so through conservation programmes and strict limits on the number of visitors to the archipelago.
Tour operators such as Ecoventura also do their part, giving their guests biodegradable bath products to ensure no harmful chemicals make their way into the fragile ecosystem, and using hybrid yachts.
4. Hotel Mockingbird Hill, Port Antonio, Jamaica
by Ryazan, Two Monkeys Travel Group
On my recent visit to Jamaica, we stayed in Hotel Mockingbird Hill, the award winning eco- boutique hotel in Port Antonio, Portland Parish. Jamaica has plenty of natural wonders to offer.
The local communities are taking actions to promote sustainable tourism in their country. The hotel arranged for us to visit different natural attractions in Jamaica like the Blue Mountains, Reach Falls, Long Bay Beach, Boston Bay Beach, and Winnifred Beach. We also experienced the gentle rafting in the Rio Grande.
Jamaica is more than just the all- inclusive resorts, you just have to go out and experience the natural good vibes of this country in the heart of the Caribbean.
5. Jicaro Island Ecolodge, Granada, Nicaragua
by Jen Sotolongo of www.longhaultrekkers.com
Just a short boat taxi from Granada, the Jicaro Island Ecolodge sits on a serene island in Lake Nicaragua. The casitas and furniture are made entirely from felled wood by Hurricane Felix, all food is locally-sourced when possible, and the staff is 100% Nicaraguan.
The lodge strives for zero waste, refraining from the use of plastic bottles, using solar to heat water, and passive design building eliminates the need for air conditioning. Further, the lodge gives back to their local community by installing solar panels and a water filtration system for the neighboring Padre Nello School and implementing sustainable food projects like a bio-digester, pig farm, and edible garden for community members.
6. Xel-Ha Eco Water Park, Mexico
by Dominic, from Flashpacking Duo
Xel-Ha is an award winning natural aquatic paradise, we have had the pleasure of visiting. The park consists of a giant lagoon where underground rivers mix with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean.
7. The Galapagos Islands
by Lance and Laura, from Travel Addicts
The most remarkable ecotourism destination we’ve ever been to was the Galapagos Islands. Off the west coast of South America, this archipelago is a biologist’s dream – numerous species have evolved into completely separate endemic groups.
Ever since Charles Darwin put the Galapagos on the map, they have been at the top of many travelers dream list. The Galapagos Islands were recognized as the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site for its pristine environment and undeniable contribution to our natural world. Both above and below the water, the Galapagos amazed us at every turn!
8. Mayoka Village in Nhkata Bay, Malawi
by Heather, from Travelationship
Mayoka Village in Nhkata Bay, Malawi is one of the best accommodations in Eastern Africa. Run by 2 members of a larger co-op, Catherine & Gary have turned the resort into a prime example of an eco-friendly resort.
The resort is kept by locally hired employees and houses a compost toilet, fire-heated water, solar electricity, composting and recycling. They also farm their own fruits and vegetables for their homemade salads, chutney and spreads.
Best of all, they continuously give back to the community. They built a school and regularly assist to place travelers in volunteer positions in Nhkata Bay.
9. Bloo Lagoon Eco Resort and Village in Padand Bai, Bali
One of my most memorable ecotourism experiences has to be at Bloo Lagoon Eco Resort and Village in Padand Bai, Bali. Sitting high on a hilltop, with panoramic views overlooking Badung Strait, Bloo Lagoon Village feels a million miles from the frenetic, hedonistic hot-spot of Kuta.
The resort consists of 25 villas; each with a unique design constructed using sustainable principles and built by the local community. Careful consideration is given to the environmental impact of the resort and they work daily to maintain the ideal sustainable village.
The onsite restaurant uses produce from the kitchen garden, yoga retreats are held regularly and artists frequent the creative spaces available. If you’re looking for a little slice of paradise in Asia and want to stay green, Bloo Lagoon should be on your list of places to check out.
10. Mai Chau Ecolodge, Vietnam
by Stefania from Every Steph
You know those places that look so much like paintings that you have to pinch yourself to realise that they are, indeed, real?
Located about 3 hours from the chaos of Hanoi, Mai Chau Ecolodge is the first lodge in Vietnam really caring about the environment and the local communities.
This, though, doesn’t mean compromising on luxury and comfort: rooms are appointed with attention to the smallest details, and when you have a huge wooden tub in the room and a lovely private plunge pool that overlooks the paddy fields, well, you really can’t complain.
EcoRetreats, Tipi Retreat in Wales
The UK has many ecotourism options, including EcoRetreats near Machynlleth in mid-Wales, which comes with the added bonus (for those of us that are UK-based) of having no international flights to run up our carbon footprint!
A visit to EcoRetreats is a treat for the mind, body and soul. By the time you’ve negotiated the four miles of forestry tracks to the site and climbed the hill to your forest tipi, you’ll have forgotten that inbox full of urgent email.
Several miles from the nearest house, there is no electricity or WiFi. A perfect opportunity to reset your circadian rhythms and get close to nature. Passionately committed to the environment, the owners have created a magical low impact retreat in a truly remote and unspoiled natural environment.
Thank you to all of the travel writers and bloggers who have contributed to this collaborative post.
As I have not visited all of these locations myself, to check out their green credentials, I would urge you to do your own research before making any bookings. Well informed sustainable travellers always choose their destinations from a position of sound knowledge and thorough research.