As travel opportunities have become increasingly global, travelers are often looking for authentic experiences beyond the rote “tourist” destinations and activities. Enter ecotourism. Does that mean that you have to backpack to a hut with no electricity or forego the comforts of personal service? Absolutely not! Ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural places, which conserves the environment and sustains the well being of the local people.” But you don’t have to forfeit luxury to be an eco-responsible traveler.
So how can you indulge without being self-indulgent? It’s more than simply reusing your bath towels. Responsible tourism includes choosing eco-friendly tours and lodging. But how do you know if a program is eco-responsible? Here are some guidelines of eco-practices that you can use to make informed choices for your travel.
- Preserve the natural setting and indigenous landscape – Construct the physical property with minimal impact to the site.
- Use locally sourced and sustainably harvested or recycled building materials – Design rooms and common areas that reflect local heritage.
- Use renewable energy and environmentally sensitive water and waste disposal systems.
- Support local businesses – Purchase food from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen. Use local craftsmen.
- Support the local community – Employ and train local workers.
- Build environmental and cultural awareness – Offer excursions to natural and cultural sites.
- Respect and interact with the local culture – Introduce guests to authentic local cultural activities and festivals.
Excellent ecolodges can be found in nearly every eco-system and budget. From beach to jungle, mountains to savanna, ecolodges can offer great service and comfort to the responsible traveler looking for the adventure of authentic cultural engagement and a low environmental impact. Because, by definition, ecolodges are in tune with their local environment and way of life, no two are the same. Each one proudly supports and preserves the location’s indigenous culture and natural beauty that makes it unique, giving guests a genuine experience and appreciation of the place and traditions.
For a family-friendly jungle experience, try Lodge at Chaa Creek in the Maya Mountain foothills of Belize, where you can walk the medicine-plant trail, visit the iridescent butterfly farm or take day trips to Maya temples. For unbridled romance in the grasslands of the Serengeti of Tanzania, the luxurious Singita Sabora Tented Camp is the perfect base for a wildlife safari. A unique agrotourism project that combines reforestation, an animal farm, organic agriculture and sea turtle conservation on their beautiful beach all in one sumptuous resort is found at Morgan’s Rock in Nicaragua. And the list goes on and on.
If you want to lighten the impact of your travel, but not give up exquisite accommodations, fine food and personal service, make your next trip to a socially and environmentally responsible ecolodge. You will enjoy the natural beauty of the area, support the local communities and learn about the environment. With ecotourism you can indulge and feel good about it.