Eco-tourism and travel have been steadily rising in popularity, and for great reasons. There are some countries though that have really stepped up their efforts to protect and preserve their natural environment not only for the locals and visitors, but for the wild inhabitants and for the greater good of our planet. These are some of those places, as well as a few places to stay and a few things you must do while you are there.
Over the years, Iceland has continued to hold its ground as one of the most environmentally-conscious countries in the world. Iceland has made it a top priority to utilize its natural geothermal resources for heat and electricity production, vigorously fight against ocean pollution, and instill sustainable fishing practices. Iceland is a breathtakingly beautiful island that is well known for its fjords, natural hot springs, volcanoes, Northern Lights, whale watching, and glacier hiking.
Finland and Iceland seem to switch back and forth between who is the greenest country. Their rankings are very closely matched year after year. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Finland ranks high on its “societal commitment to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.” It has also continued to score high on its dedication to water and sanitation, as well as biodiversity and habitat conservation. Finland is home to 40 national parks, a population of almost 200,000 reindeer, and over 1,000 species of flowering plants. It is the most forested country in all of Europe.
For the past twenty years, the Netherlands have had a National Environmental Policy Plan in place and have since met over 70% of their goals. The country is working hard to reduce carbon emissions, reduce air pollution, clean up the rivers, and improve waste management. Amsterdam was awarded the ranking of 5th most environmentally friendly city in Europe by the European Green City Index. One of the best ways to tour around the cities and smaller towns is via bicycle, which you will notice a large number of the population does. The Netherlands has more than 15,000 kilometers (9,320 miles) of bike paths!
New Zealand is on a quest to be completely free from fossil fuels by 2025. The country is working to better utilize its abundant geothermal energy sources instead. New Zealand is made up of two islands that are both incredibly diverse in landscape, ecosystems, and wildlife. Eco tourism is quite synonymous with New Zealand, as there are an abundance of opportunities to experience the unique and awe-inspiring natural wonders of the islands, including glowworm caves, whale and dolphin watching, and exploring pristine beaches and ancient forests.
Australia has recently stepped into action and devised several plans to reduce its carbon emissions and dependence on coal. By 2020, 1/5th of Australia’s energy will come from solar, wind, and geothermal sources. They are also promoting large-scale carbon capture and storage programs and efforts to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. Between the Great Barrier Reef, Gondwana Rainforest, Fraser Island, and Kakadu National Park, among so many other must-sees, Australia is an amazing eco-destination.
Lizard Island Resort
Lizard Island Resort is the ultimate Earth-friendly accommodation for exploring the Great Barrier Reef. This exemplary eco-resort instills an impressive amount of environmentally friendly practices, including using solar power and LED lights, composting and recycling, and serving locally sourced and sustainable cuisine. They are also dedicated to protecting and preserving Lizard Island and the surrounding reef, which is part of a national park.
Chumbe Island, Zanzibar
Chumbe Island is a privately owned nature reserve near Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. It is one of the most inspiring examples of coral reef conservation and sustainable management of a protected area. The island includes a coral reef sanctuary, a forest reserve, a small eco-lodge, and nature trails. The island utilizes eco-technology, such as solar water heating, photovoltaic energy, rainwater catching, and composting toilets, to greatly reduce environmental impact.
Chumbe Island Eco Bungalows
There is only one small eco-lodge located on Chumbe Island. The lodge is comprised of seven bungalows that are outfitted with everything to minimize the impact on the environment. Eco-friendly operations are instilled throughout the island to ensure the island stays healthy and pristine. Since there are only seven bungalows, the island is never busy!
The Republic of Palau is a series of more than 200 volcanic and coral islands in the Pacific Ocean. When you dream of a tropical paradise, you might be dreaming of Palau. The waters surrounding the islands are crystal clear and teeming with marine life. The islands themselves are covered in lively forests and pristine beaches. Palau is dedicated to sustainable tourism practices, as well as to protecting its coral reefs. The reefs of Palau are no-fishing zones. The diving in Palau is one of the major draws to visit, including diving in the famous Jellyfish Lake.
The Azores Islands
The Azores are an archipelago of nine islands located 1,288 kilometers (800 miles) off the coast of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands are mixed with rugged coastline, lush mountains and valleys, volcanoes and thermal hot springs, waterfalls, and exceptional bird, whale, and dolphin watching, among many other wondrous draws. The islands have maintained a laid-back and environmentally-conscious way of life. There are no towering resorts, most of the food is locally sourced and unique to the specific part of the Azores you are dining in, and there are plenty of eco tours to embark on.
Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Ecuador is home to over 5,000 species of mammals, a variety of thriving ecosystems, and let’s not forget about the famous Galapagos Islands. In 2008, Ecuador’s new constitution included rights for not only humans, but for the environment, too. While Ecuador has only recently begun to take critical steps towards protecting its environment, the directional course has been set forward. Eco-tourism in Ecuador is on the rise and places like the Galapagos Islands should not be missed.
Finch Bay Eco Hotel
Finch Bay Eco Hotel on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Archipelago is leading the way for sustainable tourism and accommodations in the Galapagos. They are dedicated to providing guests with an extraordinary experience while leaving a very light footprint. Finch Bay employs locals, sources food locally when possible, funds coastal clean ups, hosts environmental conservation meetings amongst several organizations, and has created several educational initiatives.
Costa Rica has stood at the forefront of the eco-tourism and travel movement. This captivating country in Central America has protected roughly 25% of its territory as national parks and biological reserves, is using 95% renewable energy sources within the country, and is working to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021. With twelve main ecosystems, 5% of the world’s biodiversity, a warm and inviting culture, and a great selection of eco lodges, Costa Rica is a must-visit destination.
British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia has earned the rank as the “greenest” province in Canada. According to the quarterly Green Provincial Report Card, B.C. has topped the charts as far as green jobs, buildings, energy efficiency, and organic food. Between the vast and rugged coastline, dense forests, beautiful lakes, and national parks, British Columbia is a nature and adventure lover’s ideal destination. There is exceptional hiking, rafting, canoeing, fishing, horseback riding, camping, skiing, snowboarding, and wildlife viewing opportunities throughout this exquisite western province.
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort
Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is tucked into the Great Bear Rainforest on a secluded shoreline. The lodge is made up of a petit collection of spectacular wooden chalets. The food, wine, and energy are all sustainably and locally sourced. The lodge hires local guides and offers guests a variety of educational cultural activities. Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort is a slice of Eden and the owners and staff are continuously working to keep it that way.