Careful research is vital when choosing green holidays
Take only photos, leave only footprints – then offset your carbon ones. These are some of the mantras of ecotourism, one of the fastest growing segments in travel today. Family travelers in particular are seeking more environmentally friendly experiences around the world, which bodes well for a budding generation of eco-aware planet protectors.
But the term “ecotourism” means different things to different people (including wily travel marketers who know how to put a green spin on any offering). To some, it simply refers to nature-based travel and leisure – anything involving flora, fauna and the great outdoors. To others, the term pertains to responsible, sustainable travel with minimal impact on the environment. Still others add a social element to the definition, striving to protect fragile cultures and economies as well as environments while traveling.
While there is some overlap in these viewpoints, they aren’t necessarily the same thing. A particular lodge may be set in the heart of the rainforest but its very construction may have destroyed the habitat of an endemic tree frog.
Some tours proudly promote opportunities to interact with indigenous people but the staged, costumed photo ops feel more like objectified exploitation than authentic encounter. It can be a challenge to separate the wheat from the chaff where ecotourism is concerned.
Ecotourism done right is an effective tool for environmental education – but don’t tell the kids that. Let them have fun in Mother Nature’s theme park and the learning will be a side-benefit. Ecotourism is a major sector of the economy in some developing countries so supporting local businesses is vital.
Be wary of unscrupulous tour operators who talk green but are more about the greenback. Economic opportunities in ecotourism are acceptable as long as they’re not at the expense of the very environment they are capitalizing on.
You’re never too young to revel in nature learn about the environment’s delicate balance. The more active, adventurous eco-trips might be best suited for ages 8 and up.
Depending on where you go, the range of family ecotourism activities may include sea kayaking, snorkeling, white water rafting, mountain climbing, orienteering, jungle treks, zip-cording, wildlife viewing, safaris, caving, nocturnal walks, turtle watching, camel trekking, boogie boarding, hiking through cloud forests, rainforests, deserts and beaches and more.
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- the Maldives
- Puerto Rico
Journeys International organizes comfortable yet adventurous eco-friendly trips to worldwide destinations that coincide with school holidays. Flexible age-appropriate activities take physical abilities and attention spans into consideration.
Thomson Family Adventures specializes in small guided tours to exotic locales like Costa Rica, Alaska, Panama and Ecuador, featuring plenty of outdoor exploration, wildlife viewing and cultural interaction.
Wildland Adventures puts together intimate family adventure tours around Africa, Central America, the Pacific, South America, India and more.
Sierra Club is an American environmental organization with chapters around the US and Canada. They organize some amazing eco-trips around the world, some of which are suitable for families.
Butterfield & Robinson had a tread-lightly approach to global travel. Renowned for their exceptional hiking and biking trips, B&R have put together active, flexible, guided family-oriented trips for a range of ages in such ecologically significant locations like the Galapagos Islands, Belize and Costa Rica.