Eco-tourism comes in many forms, from hotels run completely on green energy to cities that strive to be carbon neutral. Here, we’ve collected the best, but all too often overlooked, destinations that are quietly helping travellers change the world.
Meet the free bears of the Carpathian Mountains, Romania
Help give these bears a chance at the “Libearty” Bear Sanctuary
The primeval forest covering the Transylvanian Carpathian Mountains aren’t just good inspiration for horror stories: it’s also the home of the wonderfully-named “Libearty” Bear Sanctuary.
The sanctuary has over 100 rescued bears, most of whom were previously used to entertain tourists. Today, visitors to the area can tour the sanctuary and are encouraged to donate, in order to mitigate some of the harm tourism has done to both the bears and the region.
There are also plenty of other wildlife-spotting opportunities, from birdwatching to moonlight tracking with local guides. Stay at the Pensiunea Cetatea Craiului for mountain views and easy access to the forest trails.
Save the seas in Malapascua, Philippines
Fishing boats in Malapascua, Philippines
Malapascua is one of the only destinations in the world where it is possible to see the endangered species of the thresher shark, though scuba-diving visitors may notice the toll mass tourism has had on their environment. Although, thankfully, the tide is turning.
Over the last few decades local- and tourist-focused volunteer programs have sprung up. These programmes range from one-day projects to extended, month-long stays – depending on how involved visitors want to be.
The Thresher Cove Dive Resort offers information on these programmes and when you’re not scuba-diving to save the seas you can relax on the resort’s private beach.
Take home inspiration from Växjö, Sweden
The towers of the Växjö Cathedral
Växjö is a small town in the south of Sweden that has won awards for its efforts to create a sustainable environment and is also aiming to be fossil fuel-free by 2030.
Other schemes currently underway include a renewed push to make the town cycle-friendly and to have buildings powered by the residents’ body heat.
To see all these fascinating and high-tech advancements for yourself, the town’s newest boutique hotel (PM & Vänner Hotel) offers free bike rental.
Admire the fauna and flora in Ometepe, Nicaragua
Take a kayak tour through the island of Ometepe
Nicaragua is a less high-profile ecotourism destination than neighbouring Costa Rica and Panama but the country’s relatively mild climate makes it possible to enjoy eco-friendly activities here all year around.
The ecological diversity of the Nicaraguan island of Ometepe makes exploration – either by foot, kayak or boat – an unforgettable experience. And, thanks to the residents’ concern with maintaining the local ecosystem, the options for environmentally-conscious travellers are many and varied.
Guests at the Casa Mauro will be offered bike and car hire, with local guides available to ensure that your exploration takes in all the wildlife the island has to offer, without causing any harm.