​The top eco-friendly countries to visit in 2017

​The top eco-friendly countries to visit in 2017

Eco-tourism is about much more than just beautiful scenery and socialising with the friendly locals. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that doesn’t exploit the indigenous community or its natural environment. It’s about preserving and protecting what is unique and precious. Previously I’ve spoken about choosing both your destination and activities very carefully, well here is the perfect bucket list for any traveller that is looking for an eco-friendly destination:

Costa Rica – Costa Rica is well known in the eco-traveller’s community as the leaders in eco-tourism. Not only is it one of the most beautiful countries you will ever visit but it boasts a long list of protected national parks. They have also now implemented a brilliant new system whereby it grades lodgings according to their environmental conscientiousness. It truly is a shining beacon in this industry, proving that you do not have to compromise on luxury and beauty to achieve a sustainable relationship with your natural environment.

Norway – This might not come as a big surprise but Norway is one the leading countries when it comes to living sustainability. The country might be very small but it is one of the leaders in terms of switching its consumer energy to renewable sources. And if that’s not enough to convince you, I have two more words for you, Norwegian Fjords.

Kenya – I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that there are few countries in the world that could offer you such a rich diversity of the animal kingdom than Kenya (or most African countries for that matter). But far more impressive is Kenya’s unprecedented effort to combat illegal poaching and preserve its natural habitats.

Palau – Palau is known for the most spectacular oceans. It’s no secret that our oceans are suffering immensely as a direct result of pollution, global warming and over fishing. The Palau nation has declared most of its reefs no-fishing zones and has been breading a culture of conservation and preservation in the youth with projects, like the Palau Project, that focusses on teaching the youth about these oceans.   

Galapagos Islands – About 90% of these islands are actually national parks where conservation is key. They also restrict the number of visitors to these islands. You can expect to be treated to breathtakingly beautiful views and world renowned snorkelling sites. 

Peru – This one is definitely next on my bucket list. This mountainous country is rich in unique fauna and flora that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, about 30% of its plant species are exclusively endemic to Peru. Then there is the rich history, and the vital role it has played throughout the decades in modern day civilisations, known for having archaeological sites containing evidence of one of the world’s oldest civilisations.

Iceland – Iceland was recently declared as the cleanest consumer energy country in the world, top that with breath taking scenic views and the infamous northern lights, how can it not be on your list already? 

Amazon Rainforest – The Amazon is known to provide 20% of the earth’s breathable oxygen. It stretches across several South American countries and is home to literally thousands of micro and macro ecosystems. Make sure that you choose eco-friendly accommodation and activities as it is well known that the Amazon is one of the hardest hit regions by global warming.

Lithuania – 22% of this beautiful Baltic country’s energy consumed is generated renewably. It is seen as the pioneer in its region when it comes to embracing and achieving the U.N. sustainable development goals. Naturally, the country boasts a long list national parks that can be visited.

What would you add to this list?

Responsible “Touristing”

Responsible “Touristing”

RT01

For me traveling is a way of discovering one’s true self, with every new adventure I embark on, or every new place I discover or soul I come to meet, a little of my own soul is tweaked ever so slightly sculpting the person I dream of becoming one day. I mean, I have a bucket list longer than the Trans-Siberian railway line, but as tourists, I don’t think we always realise the impact we have on the communities we visit, and it’s not necessarily a positive one. There is such a thing as being a responsible tourist:

Use public transport when possible

With a little research on the best/safest/cheapest mode of transport and the best routes to take most of the touristy towns can be discovered by public transport. This isn’t just applicable to the bigger cities in first world countries. Plus, it’s one of those win-win situations, you’ll be saving a lot of money, AND it’s much better for the environment.

Stay away from the roads less travelled

In many places the natural habitat can be very stressed and on an extremely delicate equilibrium, especially in water scarce areas. Wandering off the designated pathways and roads set out might seem innocent enough but in some of these areas nature is not able to recover as quickly. In semi-dessert areas, for instance, if you damage the ground covering vegetation it can quickly lead to more serious issues such as erosion.

Do not litter

This might seem like an obvious one, but surprisingly enough, this is not a concept instilled in everyone. Throwing your trash in a designated bin makes a bigger impact than you might think. We’re all very quick to comment on the cleanliness of a place so let’s all make the vow to leave a place the way we want to find it. Leaving your trash everywhere goes much further than just being uneasy on the eye. It spreads and soils areas all around and can eventually have serious health risks to both people and wildlife in the area. I’ve heard many horror stories of animals dying a long and slow death indirectly or directly as a result of trash lying around.

Do your homework

It’s very easy to be fooled when you’re in a foreign country, where you’re most probably not fluent in the native language or don’t know the area too well. Often, we might visit a popular tourist attractions that is actually doing more harm than good. So-called animal shelters are some of the more common smoke screens. Before you visit an attraction do the homework and make sure what they’re doing is legal, ethical, and most importantly not exploiting anyone or anything.

Respect their rules, religion and culture

Before you visit the area make sure you are familiar with their customs and cultures. It’s true what they say, knowledge is power, by being prepared you will be less likely to offend someone. For me, respect for other cultures and religions is of the utmost importance.

Think twice before you support these popular tourist attractions

Think twice before you support these popular tourist attractions

TT01

On my recent travels to Turkey I came to realise just how destructive tourism could be to these communities and nature, suddenly I felt so guilty that I too was contributing to it. A large number of tourist attractions around the world are more often than not natural wonders or phenomenon’s. It not only attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year, but is also often the biggest source of revenue for many of the 3rd world or developing countries. Sadly, these people and places are often exploited, partly due to ignorance and partly because they are just so desperate for the income.

The internet can also do a lot of [unintentional] harm. The World Wide Web is full of dreamy eyed travel bloggers and agencies telling us just how wanderful the world is out there. To top it all off, traveling has become somewhat of a culture nowadays so there are tons of special offers and tour groups making it so much more affordable for us laymen.

Another ‘new culture’ that is becoming more and more popular these days is conservation and protection of wild life and indigenous communities. Needless to say, there will always be someone that’s seeks an opportunity to make some easy money, people who will exploit others to make a few extra pennies, more often, these days there are people making all kinds of claims to either protect or conserve in some way and then the opposite turns out to be true. Some of these traps may include:

Wildlife sanctuaries

Tourism and conservation often goes hand in hand and it’s a great way to raise funds and awareness on critical issues in specific areas, but you need to be very careful which ones you support. Countries usually have very specific laws around wild and captivity. I’ve now, more than once, almost found myself in a situation of supporting an institution with a less than favourable reputation in the industry. Unfortunately, there have been some people now that have seen the income potential from such institutions, and there have even been instances where they kidnap the young from their mothers and raise them in the sanctuaries as so called rescued animals, or even start breeding with once rescued animals. This gives the whole industry a bad name, this is, however, not the norm and we should by no means let it discourage us altogether from supporting such institutions.

Animal performance acts

I myself have been to shows where animals are trained to perform certain acts for entertainment purposes when I was younger. Historically, circus acts coming to town or dolphins playing with little red balls were very popular attractions. However, times change, and I think it is important to ask yourself: Is this natural? These animals will spend the rest of their lives in tiny enclosures, sometimes traveling very long distances and forced to practice the same unnatural routines repeatedly.

Feeding and petting of wild animals

Wild animals should only stay in captivity if they were rescued and would not be able to survive in the wild if released again. When masses of people interact with wild animals it often stresses them out, not to mention all the foreign germs we bring with us from wherever we come from. Then there is the fact these animals remain wild and we never know when instincts might kick in and people get seriously injured, or worse… Then, it becomes very easy to justify that the animal should be put down, but when do we turn to ourselves and realise where the error in judgment originated from?

Visiting Orphanages

Children should never be used as amusement or a tourist attraction. If you feel the need to contribute and make a difference, then do a legitimately co-ordinated volunteering program. While there are millions of children that needs our time and money, parading for day visitors will not help them at all, it is demeaning and inhumane.

As with anything in life, if you are unsure about a trip you are about to take or an activity you want to take part in, a little research will get you a long way. Read the reviews, compare to other similar trips available, and most important of all trust your instincts, if it’s telling you something is off, it probably is.