You don’t have to be a superhero to save the world. If we want future generations to enjoy the same standard of living we’ve experienced, we need to look after our environment. But that doesn’t mean we all have to ditch the family car and turn off the heating, fear not. Simply recycling more, choosing to shower over water-wasting baths and switching off the light when you leave the room will make your everyday lifestyles more eco-friendly.
But why should this good work stop when we go on holiday? We’ve asked 10 of the world’s leading eco-bloggers to share their favourite places for a truly ‘green’ experience. And with ethical Thailand tours and off-grid retreats in South Africa on the agenda, these are ideas you definitely won’t mind recycling year after year.
“Rwanda has reinvented itself as a burgeoning ecotourism haven”
Just 22 years after a horrific genocide, Rwanda has reinvented itself as a burgeoning ecotourism haven. The Mountain Gorillas of Volcanoes National Park are world-renowned, with trekking limited to just 80 hikers per day. But for wildlife encounters with no crowds, there are exceptional alternatives. Nyungwe Forest National Park is a vast, untouched tropical rainforest whose dense canopy is home to Chimpanzees, Colobus and a half-dozen other monkey species. East Rwanda’s Akagera National Park offers a traditional African safari experience, with lions re-introduced last September. And Lake Kivu, on the border with DR Congo, offers a serene place to wind down after a week of hiking in the picturesque Land of 1000 Hills.
“Rock Farm Slane is a gold-certified Ecotourism Ireland campsite offering an authentic green travel experience”
Located just north of Dublin, Rock Farm Slane is a gold-certified Ecotourism Ireland campsite offering an authentic green travel experience. Here you’ll find a newly opened 4-star eco guest lodge, five luxurious yurt camping sites, two shepherd’s huts that overlook the grounds of the famed Slane Castle and an organic farm. Guests can use the wood-burning hot tub, go hiking, rent electric bikes to embark on a culinary tasting tour, and use the private river access point for swimming or kayaking. Following “Leave No Trace” ethics including using straw, clay and lime for building construction, rainwater for showers, composting, habitat conservation, and environmental landscaping methods, the experience is nothing short of good fun matched with serenity. Come for the weekend, but don’t be surprised if you want to stay all week!
“The sanctuary hires locals and buys local produce to feed the animals and people who visit and work at the park”
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly and amazing animal experience in 2016, head to Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This elephant sanctuary offers not only a chance to get up close to rescued elephants, but also dogs, cats and more. Entirely sustainable, the sanctuary hires locals and buys local produce to feed the animals and people who visit and work at the park. For even more eco-friendly experiences in Thailand, you can always come with me this August as I lead a special tour through the country!
“If you think treehouse means rustic, you’re mistaken”
If you’d like to see a different side of Bangkok and have a unique, eco-friendly experience in this usually smog-choked city, I recommend checking out the family-run Bangkok Tree House. This small yet luxurious eco-hotel is located far off the beaten path, in Bangkok’s Bang Nampheung neighbourhood, on the western shore of the Chao Phraya River. However, if you think treehouse means rustic, you’re mistaken: the individual ‘treehouses’ are in fact three-story houses that blend in naturally with their environment, surrounded by coconut palm trees with outdoor showers, making you feel like you’re in an actual jungle. The glass floors allow for views of the wildlife in the canals below, while the rooms are made from sustainable bamboo.
“All electricity is produced via solar panels and the cabanas are built with mud and materials from the island”
One of the eco-friendly places we’ve liked best is Danjugan Island, in the Philippines. The Philippines are well known for their amazing islands, but sadly their attention for the environment is not quite enough – there’s lots of traffic and rubbish everywhere. Danjugan is a great exception. This tiny island off the coast of Negros Oriental is a marine sanctuary, all electricity is produced via solar panels and the cabanas are built with mud and materials from the island. It’s not luxury, but it really doesn’t matter. Who needs five stars when you can have millions in the sky?
“This is a place to slow down and allow nature to restore your natural rhythm and energy”
Farm 215 is a small eco retreat located in a pristine protected area where nature takes centre stage. The buildings have been designed to blend into the landscape, allowing guests to feel completely immersed into the vegetation. This is a place to slow down and allow nature to restore your natural rhythm and energy.
This special place operates completely ‘off-grid’, using solar energy and water heating directly from its source within the nature reserve. Herbs and vegetables are grown on the farm, and everything from biodegradable detergents to organic meat and dairy is sourced within a 60km radius.
The surrounding area, Gansbaai, offers many more eco-conscious choices and was recently awarded ‘Best Destination for Responsible Tourism’ at World Travel Market, London.
“A retreat for nature lovers and offers comfy accommodation with delicious hospitality”
Think New Zealand and you envision open expanses of lakes, mountains and rolling green paddocks sprinkled with sheep and cattle, all surrounded by ocean wrapping the country in beaches like salt around a margarita glass. Godzone is all that and more. You’ll find luxury accommodation through to campsites and hostels. Explore the hidden nooks of New Zealand’s wilderness in the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound on the northern tip of the South Island.
I recommend taking a boat trip from Picton to the eco Lochmara Lodge, hidden in lush hillside surrounded by native forest and hiking tracks for short walks or several days. Lochmara is also a wildlife recovery centre, a retreat for nature lovers and offers comfy accommodation with delicious hospitality.
“If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring the jungle, there’s no better time to head to Sabah, Borneo”
If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring the jungle, there’s no better time to head to Sabah, Borneo, than right now. Unfortunately, the forest keeps shrinking because of oil palm plantations, so go soon!
Sukau Rainforest Lodge is a luxury ecolodge located by the Kinabatangan River, 2 ½ hours by boat from Sandakan, and is run by Borneo Eco Tours, the most sustainable tour operator I’ve ever met.
You will go on two daily boat safaris where you’ll be able to spot the “Big 5 of Borneo”: proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, hornbills, crocodiles and, the kings of the forest, the orangutans! And let me tell you, the sunsets on the river alone are worth the trip…
“The park helps to protect a number of endangered species, such as the argali wild mountain sheep, Siberian white crane and red falcon”
Only two hours from Ulaanbaatar, the Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve is one of Mongolia’s best eco-friendly success stories. Established in 2003 and covering around 20,000 hectares, the park now helps to protect a number of endangered species, such as the argali wild mountain sheep, Siberian white crane and red falcon. Activities such as hiking, horse riding, kayaking and birdwatching allows visitors to responsibly experience this beautiful region. Staying at the Steppe Nomads Ger Camp ensures that your money goes towards the maintenance of the nature reserve and the support of the nomadic locals.
“It’s an amazing experience and showcases the Australian outback at its best”
Last year, I visited the Red Centre of Australia – the southern region of the Northern Territory. It’s the heartland of the country, where Uluru rises from the flat rust-coloured earth and the West MacDonnell Ranges stretch for hundreds of kilometres from east to west. Here, I spent six days walking the Larapinta Trail with Epicurious Travel, a responsible tourism company. Each day, we walked along the ridges of the ranges, over billion-year-old fossils, through steep gorges and multi-coloured ochre pits once used by the indigenous people. It’s an amazing experience and showcases the Australian outback at its best. It’s too hot to do the trek in summer, so tours only run in the winter months, from May to September.
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