Top 6 Ecotourism Destinations to Visit

 
Credit: Masai spree, by Panos Laskarakis

Credit: Masai spree, by Panos Laskarakis

Ecotourism, also known as ecological tourism, is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of local people, and involves interpretation and education.” Another definition of ecotourism proposed by the World Conservation Union is “environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.”

According to The Nature Conservancy, principles of ecotourism are:

  • Conscientious, low-impact visitor behavior 
  • Sensitivity towards, and appreciation of, local cultures and biodiversity
  • Support for local conservation efforts
  • Sustainable benefits to local communities
  • Local participation in decision-making
  • Educational components for both the traveler and local communities

What’s the difference between ecotourism and sustainable tourism?

Ecotourism is more so a form or type of vacation directed towards often threatened and remote areas of the world and sustainability can refer to all types of tourism. 

I just threw a lot of information at you, but hopefully, you now understand the idea behind ecotourism if you weren’t sure what it was before. As tourism is now the world’s largest industry and nature tourism its fastest growing segment, ecotourism is becoming more and more important.

Why should you care?

Ecotourism aims to stimulate the economy in developing nations, which in turn strengthens the global economy. 

Now with today’s technology and wealth of information available on the internet, even the most remote places around the world are within reach of travelers. These places and communities, experiencing an increase in visitation, may be facing resource depletion and/or are in need of conservation. We need to do our part to leave a positive impact behind instead of a negative one. 

Ecotourism provides long-term sustainable solutions to economic challenges and preservation needs faced by locals. It also gives travelers the opportunity to have unique, authentic experiences in new places. Ecotourism opens the door to making a difference in communities and places you visit. How awesome is that? While having a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you can also give back, in a way, to the place you visit.

How to become an ecotourist and how to spread the word about it?

The saying goes like this “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” That is definitely part of ecotourism but there is so much more you can do or not do. First, pick a destination that supports ecotourism. Then the key is being mindful about everything you do during your visit. For example, you want to take a shower? Well, take one that is shorter than your usual, to reduce the amount of water and energy you use. Maybe even camp during your visit instead of staying in a hotel. Follow the principles of Leave No Trace and when hiking, walk along paths that are already there, don’t leave your trash behind, and pick up any trash you see as you go. No gesture is too small because it’s all of these small changes that create a bigger impact. 

Our 6 best destinations for ecotourism

1. Costa Rica

Credit: Tortuguero Sunset, by Beatriz

Credit: Tortuguero Sunset, by Beatriz

Costa Rica is very well-known for ecotourism. Visit the cloud forests, black sand beaches, lush rainforests, and more for some outdoor activities and adventure. The biodiversity is unreal, including creatures such as monkeys, sloths, jaguars, sea turtles, and crocodiles. Costa Rica has countless wildlife refuges and national parks that one can volunteer at during their stay.

2. Palau

Credit: Pirate's hideaway, by Florian Holub

Credit: Pirate's hideaway, by Florian Holub

A great divers’ destination located in the westernmost corner of Micronesia. There is incredibly diverse sea life in Palau waiting to be discovered and on land, one can explore the dense jungle and pristine beaches. Because of Palau’s remote location, it has been protected from mass tourism. Locals work hard to make sure their island stays unspoiled and lush.

3. Norwegian Fjords

Credit: Room with a view, by Jørn Eriksson

Credit: Room with a view, by Jørn Eriksson

The famous fjords of Norway host hiking, mountain biking, scenic boat rides, and more. There are snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, crystal clear waters, and a variety of wildlife that blow the beholder away. Small fishing villages still holding on to local cultural traditions call the fjords home too. Norway has very strict environmental regulations to protect its unique coastline. 

4. Kenya

Credit: Mount Kilimanjaro, by Dale Johnson

Credit: Mount Kilimanjaro, by Dale Johnson

Ecotourism Kenya oversees all tourism in Kenya and they work to protect the environment through community outreach and education projects. Kenya is known for its expansive savannas, but it also has mountains, rainforests, beaches, and deserts! There are more than fifty national parks and reserves across the country to explore and you can also relax on white sand beaches and dive along the coral reefs. 

5. Iceland

Credit: Like a diamond, by Zinaida Sopina

Credit: Like a diamond, by Zinaida Sopina

Iceland has recently become a very popular destination because of its remote beauty. Many travelers camp instead of staying in big hotels to reduce their footprint during their visit. One can even hike, bike or horseback ride instead of driving around the country to witness its remote beauty.

6. Madagascar

Credit: Madagascar, travel portrait, by Papdi Zoltan Silvester

Credit: Madagascar, travel portrait, by Papdi Zoltan Silvester

Located off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world’s 5th largest island. Once known as the Kingdom of Madagascar that was ruled by Merina nobles, the monarchy collapsed under French colonialism. In 1960, Madagascar regained independence and has since undergone four major constitutional periods. The population of Madagascar is estimated to number at 22 million, 90% of whom lives off of subsistence farming. Ecotourism is one of the key elements of Madagascar’s development.

Ecotourism is more than a travelers’ fad. It is a real solution to helping the financial growth of struggling economies around the world and it allows travelers to make a positive impact on somewhere they visit. Ecological tourism fosters a more mindful way of traveling. How can you change the way you travel in order to adopt some ecotourist ways?