Source: Sherman’s Travel
Referred to as “The Great Land,” Alaska is home to soaring snowcapped mountains, sprawling tundra, and a remote Arctic north – all of which shelter a range of wildlife that is otherwise threatened or endangered in the continental United States. Humpback whales, brown bears, lynx, sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, and blue whales are just some of the species protected in this ecotourism destination; in many parts, caribou and moose outnumber people and the echo of a grizzly’s roar can be heard in the distance. With over 100 state parks to explore, Alaska’s vast, pristine wilderness beckons naturalists who can rejoice in all its splendors.
9. The Amazon
Often described as the “Lungs of our Planet” – it produces 20 percent of the Earth’s oxygen – the remarkable Amazon rain forest surrounds the world’s largest river system and supports thousands of plant, bird, mammal, and aquatic species in the 1.2 billion acres it occupies. While this ecotourism spot stretches across several South American countries, the Amazon’s densest section (60 percent) is found in Brazil, where eco-lovers can explore a mosaic of ecosystems.
More than 46,000 tourists head to the South Pole each year to witness its monumental glaciers and icebergs, comical penguins, and magnificent whales.
7. Blue Mountains, Australia
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, Australia’s Greater Blue Mountains Area is a popular ecotourism trip for Sydneysiders seeking to trade in the buzz of the city for the calm of the great outdoors. A mere 90-minute car ride from Sydney, the Blue Mountains (named for the blue hue cast by the eucalyptus oil produced by the region’s native trees) cover some 550 square miles of valleys, swamps, rocky outcroppings, and narrow canyons – topped off by stellar vantage points from which to ogle Australia’s beauty. A handful of national parks and reserves comprise the area, hosting dozens of trails through breathtaking terrain loaded with unique flora (don’t miss the ancient Wollemi pine, one of the world’s rarest species) and fauna (some 400 species, including koalas, call the Blue Mountains home).
You may remember this ecotourism destination from the first season Survivor. Whichever accolade piques your interest, Borneo has plenty to captivate you (when you’re not forming your own tribal council or searching for the world’s newest carnivore). The slopes of Mount Kinabalu (one of Southeast Asia’s tallest mountains) and the dense forest trails of the Bario Loop offer prime hiking terrain; mangroves and wetlands provide aquatic vistas; and the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre will make anyone go ape.
Take a walk on the wild side, eco-style, with a trip to Africa’s backcountry. With the wide-open savannah plains stretching to the horizon, sprawling deserts, riverine forests, transient lakes, salt pans, and an entrancing display of wildlife, Botswana offers natural beauty and deserves its reputation as the “jewel of Africa.” Safaris take you into the northern region, where unspoiled wilderness protects a spectacular range of wildlife: Elephant herds, leopards, lions, zebras, hippos, white rhinos, and chacma baboons are just some of the creatures you will encounter here.
4. Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s renowned back-to-nature ethos has helped make the country synonymous with the concept of ecotourism. Leveraging the extraordinary natural and cultural wealth it packs into its small swath of Central American territory, it’s held up to the moniker Christopher Columbus gave it – Costa Rica, meaning “Rich Coast.” Said riches include four active (but not dangerous, if you heed the warning signs) volcanoes; an abundance of rainforests (some so high up they’re wreathed in clouds); thermal hot springs; more than 750 miles of fetching and often-uncrowded beaches, especially along the Pacific coast; the Amazon-like Tortuguero National Park complete with jungle lodges; and abundant wildlife, from monkeys to sea tortoises.
Between Martinique and Guadeloupe is the lush island of Dominica (aka “The Nature Island of the Caribbean”), and it’s easily our top pick for Caribbean ecotourism destinations. The island’s green efforts kicked off largely in 1997, when it participated in Earth Check – the first country in the Caribbean to do so – and its recent title of “Whale-Watching Capital of the Caribbean” only adds heft to its vaunted eco-status. The island is often visited by 40-ton whales, who like to socialize, mate, and play off its shores; visitors are promised a 90 percent chance of spotting one up close. Major draws such as this, combined with some of the Caribbean’s best diving and most pristine rain forests – superb hiking trails lead to an eerie boiling lake, gorgeous waterfalls, and more – are what make the island such an ecotourist haven.
2. Galapagos Islands
Visiting the Galapagos Islands is the eco-travel equivalent of making a pilgrimage to Mecca. When Darwin visited these unspoiled islands 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador in 1835, he was so struck by the variation in life he saw he went on to posit his theory of evolution. Nearly two centuries later, this incredible archipelago remains home to some of the planet’s most unique creatures – no wonder, then, that the ecotourism destination was declared the world’s first Natural World Heritage Site in 1978 (it went on to become a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1984). Environmentalists and eco-conscious travelers alike have dedicated themselves to preserving the precious ecosystems found on the 13 major islands here.
1. Himalayas, Nepal
The spectacular Himalayas comprise the highest mountains on earth and boast a surreal landscape of snow-covered peaks sure to leave a powerful impression. The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, situated between India and China, offers some of the best access to these mountain peaks, where landscapes vary from subtropical valleys (complete with banana trees) to alpine forests (home to grazing yaks).