The phrase “environmentally responsible traveller” can sometimes sound like something of an oxymoron. After all, a quick look online will reveal the hideous amount of CO2 emitted by the average overseas flight, and even a drive into the Lake District or the Brecon Beacons will leave its environmental footprint.
However, there are ways to explore new locations that do not have to cost the earth. Here, we take a look at five ecologically friendly destinations that you might want to consider for a guilt-free travel adventure.
If you are serious about your eco-tourism, then a trip to the Galápagos Islands has got to be near the top of your list of must-see destinations.
To say that a place feelsas if it is on another planet is a well-worn cliché, but in the case of the Galápagos, it really fits. Situated more than 600 miles from the nearest civilisation, this volcanic archipelago in the Pacific is a designated national park, almost in its entirety. Tourism is, of course, important, but it is managed with ecology as the number one consideration.
As such, visitor numbers are strictly controlled, and accommodation facilities are among the most eco-friendly anywhere in the world, with water and energy conservation at the forefront.
There are a number of eco-friendly hotels, and it is even possible to camp, provided that you obtain prior permission and follow the rules by refraining from smoking, drinking, littering or getting too close to the wildlife.
Caving in Wales
Of course, we can’t all go jetting off to the Galápagos, so next, something a little closer to home. Bryn Elltyd Eco Guest House in Snowdonia was among the very first in the UK to receive a platinum rating in TripAdvisor’s well-publicised GreenLeaders Programme, and as such, is deserving of a spot on our list.
The family-run guesthouse is powered 100 percent by renewable energy sources, and features two nearby hydro stations that are intriguing to visit. It also encourages guests to use the most eco-friendly means of transport, and has three electric charging stations for cars on site.
Your host, John Whitehead, is a qualified mountaineer, and the tallest mountain in England and Wales happens to be right on your doorstep. He is also an experienced kayaking coach, and can even supply caving gear. Just make sure that you have the rest of the kit that you need, particularly if you are a little rusty – a shoulder-centric support shirt, worn-in hiking boots and appropriate back posture support kit are absolute essentials.
Of course, if you have youngsters with you, mountaineering and caving might be a little too adventurous, at least for this year. Kinderhotels Europa provides a family-friendly alternative that is ecologically sound and still includes plenty of fun activities.
There are a range of facilities from which to choose, but if you’ve never given Austria a try, the hotel in Moar Gut is situated in a beautiful spot in the Grossarltal Valley. The hotel is based on sound ecological principles when it comes to renewable power supply and recycling processes, and there is so much to do that there really is something for everyone.
The young (and the young at heart) will be kept amused for hours with the soft play area, trampolines and swimming pools, while there is also a petting zoo on site. For the adventurers, the area is also fantastic for skiing, horse riding and mountaineering. And given that they throw in up to 70 hours of free childcare per week, there is nothing to stop you sampling a bit of everything, and also enjoying some adult downtime.
An African Safari
Nothing cries “conservation” more than contributing towards the preservation of some of the world’s most endangered creatures,and it really is the experience of a lifetime. These days, the vast majority of game reserves are strongly focused on conservation – after all, for them, it is a pragmatic choice, as well as an ethical one, as they rely on the survival of these creatures for their livelihoods.
As such, it seems harsh to pick out one reserve above another, but if forced to do so, Thakadu River Camp, located within the Madikwe Game Reserve close to South Africa’s border with Botswana, is hard to beat.
The camp is owned and operated by the local community, and runs an eco-tourism partnership with the reserve and an experienced tour operator. In case you think “river camp” sounds a bit Carry On Up the Jungle, rest assured that the facilities are second to none, and take glamping to a whole new level.
The tents have all the facilities of a good hotel suite, along with private balconies that overlook the Marico River. Best of all, it lies in a malaria-free zone, so there is no need to worry about the anti-malaria tablets.
A rainforest adventure
Let’s finish where we started, in the South America region. Everyone understands the plight of the Amazonian rainforest and the effect that deforestation is having on the entire planet. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to bear witness and contribute in any small way towards preserving this essential resource.
There are a number of eco-lodges that run organised treks into the rainforest, educating visitors and bringing sorely needed income to these remote communities. Again, it seems tough to single out just one, but on this occasion, Refugio Amazonas has to get a mention. Situated in the middle of the Peruvian rainforest, the 32-room lodge is certainly remote, but the facilities are incredible. Also, it has a strong family focus, providing a whole variety of activities for kids as young as six.
Best of all, it operates on sound ecological principles, and with the participation of the indigenous Ese-Eja tribe. It is truly an experience for the whole family that will bring memories to last a lifetime.
These are just a few of the eco-friendly locations around the world – where will you visit next?