Planning a 2012 getaway? Now is the perfect time: more and more eco-friendly destinations are popping up left and right on the radar.
Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, there are so many choices for travelling sustainably. Luckily, organizations like ResponsibleTourism.com are there to help. They believe that responsible tourism is a better way to travel, where you get a more authentic experience, and your holiday benefits local people and the environment. As they say, “Responsible tourism simply means holidays that care about local communities and culture, as well as wildlife conservation and the environment.”
Here are some of our favorites:
If you like adventure…
The site features over 1268 adventure holidays, from sea or river kayaking and surfing, to cycling and horseback riding. It will take you up Mount Kilimanjaro, across the Galapagos or through the rich culture of the Middle East.
Try this: Peru Multi-Sport Vacation
They say: Perfect for the active adventurer looking for a challenge, this trip will have you hiking, biking and paddling through Peru’s Andes Mountains and into the jungle below. Conquer a whitewater river by raft and hike the Inca Trail to the cloud forest citadel of Machu Picchu and spectacular views. Tear it up on mountain bikes on a descent into the Manu Cloud Forest, raft wild rivers and get your adrenaline pumping on exciting optional excursions.
How it helps: The crew ensures minimal social and eco-impact, uses local transportation, and stays in locally-owned hotels. They also work with local guides. While in Cuzco, you’ll support two non-profit organizations, including the Inca Porter Project (IPP) and the Inti Runakunaq Wasin (House of the People of the Sun). On this tour you’ll also visit two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the city of Cuzco and the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
If you want to help a charity…
The site features many types of travel based around charity challenges, which are ideal for people who want to travel responsibly, as well as give that little bit extra and help contribute towards a favourite charity. These trips are either run by charities, or contribute a significant proportion of the cost of the holiday to a charity.
They say: Transfer to Livingstone the home of breathtaking Victoria Falls – the planet’s largest curtain of water, considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. In Livingstone you will spend 3 full days volunteering at a school or centre for HIV+ children in Lusaka. Then experience the journey of a lifetime, as you experience a five day waterborne safari, as you canoe down the Zambezi River, spotting wild game as you go!
How it helps: This unique tour doesn’t just let you “see” Africa, but provides you with the chance to help local people suffering from the onslaught of AIDS by making their community centre, school or place of work a more enjoyable place to be. All hotels you travel in are eco-driven, the hotel workers are treated fairly, and you’ll help the locals while you’re there.
If you’re bringing the family…
Good thing there are 831 family holidays to choose from, including activity for the kids, relaxation for the grownups, and everything in between. There are adventure, peace and quiet, beaches, and safaris.
Try this: Tanzania wildlife and beach holiday
They say: This itinerary has been carefully designed to sample some of the incredible contrasts of Tanzania – from the lushly forested Usambara Mountains to the exotic palm-fringed beaches of Zanzibar.
Begin your holiday relaxing and walking around the tranquil Usambara Mountains, exploring their rich biodiversity. Enjoy the company and knowledge of the local villagers as they guide you on a walk up to the Irente Viewpoint from where there are spectacular views over the Maasai plains more than 1000m below. You then move on to Arusha, to begin a 4 day private safari covering the Tarangire National Park, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. You will have a highly knowledgeable local Tanzanian safari guide accompanying you on these days to help you make the most of the incredible landscapes and diverse wildlife that you will encounter. Amongst many others, you can hope to spot lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffe, hippo, zebra and if you are lucky perhaps even black rhino and leopards.
Following safari, you will fly to Zanzibar, and spend a few nights in exotic Stone Town. Guide yourself through the maze of narrow streets and you will find something fascinating around every corner – from the old slave market to the former palace of the Sultan. Enjoy a trip to Jozani forest where you can watch the rare red colubus monkeys playing in the trees. The itinerary ends with a few days relaxing on the east coast of Zanzibar, enjoying the exquisite white palm-fringed beaches and clear turquoise sea.
How it helps: The programs are run entirely by local people, with all proceeds going to the local communities. The accommodations used are all small-scale local hotels, and the safari company is owned and run by a Tanzanian couple only employing Tanzanian guides, drivers and cooks. All food is local as well. The travel guides also give basic responsible travel advice to help bring guests into direct contact with locals from a range of different tribes and cultures across Africa.
If you want to learn something new…
These holidays combine amazing sightseeing with developing your knowledge and skills, through crafts, languages, sports and music, and are operated by worldwide specialists committed to the local environment and communities.
Try this: Wild food cookery weekend in Scotland
They say: Over the weekend we will experiment with ancient ways of cooking. You will forage for greens during the day, cook a wild lunch and have an evening feast on Saturday night. You will learn to cook on an open fire and using a stone lined pit -a fantastic technique for cooking meat or slow stews. You can also try outdoor bread baking and preparing clay baked fish. These ancient techniques have been pieced together by studying archaeological evidence and comparing it to different cooking methods still in use elsewhere in the world -plus a bit of common sense!
How it helps: Their course has been designed to have a very low impact on the environment. They offer wild camping, a compost loo, locally foraged and locally purchased foods, and encourage guests to use public transport and the train versus flying. They teach ancient techniques of cookery using local sourced ingredients which require little or no packaging, minimal waste, and recycle or compost (on site) as much waste as possible. They have sustainable woodland practices, protect, improve and expand the niche habitats and food sources of rare species, and are committed to using local services wherever possible.
If you love yoga…
Specialist yoga holidays and retreats are available in extraordinary locations, with responsible specialists who are committed to your well-being, the local community, and the environment.
Try this: Yoga holiday in Malta
They say: You’ll be staying on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean. A secret gem, you’ll be taking in the stunning scenery, the friendly people, the fresh local produce and the sun sparkling off the sea. Time is slower here and you’ll soon become acquainted with Gozo Time. Your host and teacher is resident on the island and there is no better person to show you around and share their love with the place. Malta gets the most sunshine in the whole of Europe and whether you want to lounge by the pool with a book and a bottle of suntan lotion, or put on your sun hat and explore the many faces of the island, we are on hand, all the time to help you make the most of your holiday.
You’ll practice yoga twice a day in our underground yoga studio. It’s peaceful, quiet and air-conditioned and perfect to focus on your practice. There is also a meditation session once a day. Included in your package are private airport transfers which include your passage across the sea from Malta to Gozo. Included in the week are 2 evening meals, one of which is a 3 course meal in a local restaurant, a guided hike along the rugged and isolated coast with a professional hiking company, and a sunset yoga class held at the breathtaking Azure Window. What you will bring home with you is a thoroughly stretched and relaxed body, a calm and clear mind and some great memories. What you will remember most is the quality of service, with your host organising fun trips to beaches, blue lagoons and fascinating local festivals.
How it helps: The trip supports local companies and the accommodation is locally owned and run. It uses a solar panel heating system to heat the water, and guests are briefed on waste management, and energy-saving practices. Local produce, restaurants, and shops are highlighted, and on your guided hikes, you will learn about animal and plant life endemic to the island. You’ll also learn much about the culture and meet the locals, as well.
The company donates 10% of their annual profit to Tsunami affected regions, operate as a paperless office, have strict recycling policies, planst a tree in a new forest in Africa for each guest, and off-set the carbon emissions for return flights within Europe. Overall, very impressive!