By Rebecca Lange, Planet Green
Many of us love to travel but don’t love the negative impact our traveling has on the environment. All the cars, trains and planes we use require energy and are ever-increasing our carbon footprint. And while going on vacation may still require hopping on a plane or getting in the car, there are plenty of destinations to visit that can contribute to saving the environment.
We’ve picked out the top choices for eco-tourism destinations throughout the world. Not only are these spots home to some of the rarest species of plants and animals, but a visit to them could help preserve their beauty for years to come.
Best known for its savannas teeming with wildlife, Botswana is a top destination for nature lovers looking to go on safari. From the lush vegetation in the Okavango Delta up north to the deserts down south, the country has a variety of habitats and wildlife ready to explore. With a growing number of eco-tourism groups, there is ample opportunity to explore the many national parks and nature reserves by boat, four-wheeling or backpacking.
Snorkelers and scuba divers will love the numerous underwater adventures waiting for them in Belize. Visitors have the opportunity to view the Mesoamerican Reef, the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, complete with chances to view the elusive whale shark and other rare fish species. To help protect the reef and support sustainable fishing, local fishermen have formed a preservation group called the Friends of Nature which has already helped sustain grouper and snapper populations. For those looking to get on land, the area is also home to a tropical forest and several Mayan ruins.
3. Galapagos Islands
Located off the coast of South America, this UNESCO Biosphere is home to many rare species of birds, reptiles and sea life. With over 95 percent of the islands protected, eco-tours to this region insist on minimal impact to the sensitive eco-systems. Visitors can swim alongside penguins and sea lions or go on a hike to a volcano, many of which are still active.
4. Coral Bay, AU
Nestled on the coast of Western Australia, Coral Bay is a marine paradise home to Ningaloo Reef, the nationís largest and most accessible fringing reef. Just off shore, the reef is easily reached by swimming. Numerous boat tours are also available to view dugongs and humpback whales in the area. A breeding ground to manta rays and whale sharks, the reef provides snorkelers and divers with the opportunity to swim with some of the seaís most majestic creatures.
5. Kaikoura, New Zealand
Originally a whaling town, Kaikoura has put its days of unsustainable fishing practices behind with a number of green initiatives as a part of its Green Globe 21 tourism certification. With a strong emphasis on conservation and community involvement, the town offers many green activities run by the locals, including wilderness walks to the surrounding mountains and a one hour tree planting activity. There are also a number of eco-tours that provide guests with a chance to view the regionís sperm whales and endangered dusky dolphins.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Usually associated with luxury and wealth, Dubai is not your typical eco-hotspot. However, guests can still enjoy the simplicities of the outdoors by staying at the Al Maha Desert Resort, located on the grounds of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Initiated in the 1960ís, the reserve protects over 33 species of mammals and reptiles, including the endangered Arabian oryx. Almost near extinction 50 years ago, the oryx is on its way to recovery with the reserveís wildlife re-introduction efforts.
Adventure and travel company, Green Discovery Laos, has been offering travelers over 100 unique activities and tours since 2000. With tours in seven different regions and 20 national parks, visitors can explore many different types of terrain. Day tours are available but many of the packages include overnight camping.