I love to travel.
The most amazing place I've been to is the Galapagos Islands. I bought a zoom lens and never used it because frigate birds, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, and sea lions were always under foot!
Unfortunately, there are limited resources to help you find eco-friendlier resorts and vacations, even green hotels. But generally speaking, the more rules, the better. Don't allow your presence to compromise the last tract of intact Amazonian rainforest or the only nesting area for a rare species!
Beware of eco-tourism gone awry.
The motor of the craft I was on in Costa Rica on a howler monkey and bird extravaganza boat tour leaked fuel the entire time. We were surrounded by 20 others all doing the same, and together generating a cacophony of noise pollution.
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But on the same Costa Rica trip I witnessed leatherback sea turtles nesting at night. This outing was packed with rules; no white t-shirts, no flash photography (nesting sea turtles navigate by the stars so they're sensitive to light pollution), only eight people at a time, stay behind the park ranger, don't make any noise and don't touch anything! The small fee also went directly to support the park.
How to find eco-tourism done right
- Read the "environment" or "sustainability" section of company websites
- Read reviews by other tourists
- Ask questions like: What's the resort's waste-reduction policy? Where does wastewater go? What about transportation options? How are they reducing their impact? How does a resort protect the species they're planning to show you?
- Respect the rules. They exist to help an endangered species, landscape or culture, and so that others like you might catch a glimpse.
- Find out if a resort or tour company gives back to a non-profit or the local community through funds or jobs. One resort I visited in Costa Rica employed the locals who were previously out collecting endangered leatherback sea turtle eggs to sell on the black market as aphrodisiacs.
If a place is advertising ATV tours at night to see the turtles, trust your hunch—this is not a sustainable activity!
Where in the world have you stayed and enjoyed eco-tourism gone right?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green