Celebrating our Magnificent Planet on Earth Day
Earth Day is a day for us to reflect on and appreciate our beautiful planet. But nowadays, it’s also a reminder of the ever pressing need to be more environmentally friendly, individually and as a global community. For us travelers that means exploring sustainable tourism and how we can support responsible tourism efforts.
Sometimes this task seems a bit abstract. How do we go about finding environmentally friendly adventures, (aka “green adventures”)? Where do we find eco-trips and activities, or even eco-friendly companies?
To help answer the question of “how to be more green” when it comes to travel, I’ve started asking other travelers: What activities, attractions, or accommodations have you found around the world that are asking that same question? Which environmentally minded companies can you recommend? What creative ways are other travelers combating the environmental challenges we’re facing?
Eight women have agreed to share their recommendations here on Suitcase Six. Read on for 8 environmentally friendly adventures you can feel good about adding to your itinerary!
1. Cancun Underwater Museum
Written By: Eloise at My Favorite Escapes
I wasn’t thrilled when I found out my next trip for my friends’ wedding will be to Cancun, Mexico’s major tourist resort and a terrible example of adverse tourism development. In a few years, it went from an uninhabited barrier island to an overdeveloped purpose-built tourist complex far from the natural places I love to explore.
But in this destination that I would never associate with eco-tourism, I managed to join an activity that supports an eco-project ran by a non-profit organisation: the Cancun Underwater Museum. The number of visitors in Cancun was multiplied by 20 between 1980 and 2010 and made the coral reef near Cancun one of the most visited in the world. The increasing amount of visitors not particularly into responsible tourism showed negative impacts on that reef.
The scuba diver Jason deCaires Taylor used his artistic skills to create an underwater attraction that would take some tourists away from the natural reef. He sculpted and sunk statues so snorkelers and divers can have the unique experience of visiting a museum underwater. The sculptures are designed for corals to attach easily to them; they can develop new colonies to create a new reef in a few years.
Diving the Underwater Museum in Cancun feels very special. It surely is the uniqueness of the site that drove me to try the experience. They sunk the statues where diving conditions are smooth, making it accessible for beginners who are diving for the first time. The eco-activity is not perfect yet as our guide didn’t catch the opportunity to raise awareness about the eco-project and the dangers corals are facing because of human activities. But there’s hope it will open some new underwater explorers’ eyes to help save the Reefs.
Click here to learn more about how to visit the Underwater Museum in Cancun.
Connect with Eloise on Instagram
2. Floating Houses on Khao Sok Lake
Written By: Jenn at The Solivagant Soul
A couple of years ago, I visited Thailand. Right after traveling through the Southern part of the country, I decided to go to Khao Sok. This town is in the middle of nowhere and it is quite hard to reach. The nicest thing about it, though, is that it is the base to visit Khao Sok Lake. In this lake there are several floating houses where you can spend a night or a week, it all depends on you.
They are the perfect eco-friendly spot to disconnect: no phone reception, no internet and barely no light after dark. All the electricity available after nightfall is collected by solar panels during the day and the only sounds around all night are the occasional thunder or monkey far away. A few caves and waterfalls are only a short boat ride away, so you won’t feel guilty by spending a week only taking in the surroundings.
In general, Khao Sok is one of the best off the path places to visit. There are no words to describe the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and being mesmerized by a never-ending blanket of stars and then just cooling down by jumping out of your cabin and straight into the lake. If you have the chance, go for it! It is an amazing experience!
Connect with Jenn on Instagram
3. Samaria Gorge:
Written By: Maro at Akamatra
This is one of the most famous and most visited gorges in whole Europe. It’s a part of the E4 European long distance path and it may be the most gorgeous part of it. You have to walk down from Omalos to Agia Roumeli a length of almost 16kms. Each step will leave you in awe of the natural beauty that lies therein. If you are a fan of stunning geological formations and the calm that comes from connecting with nature then this is a must see for sure.
You will witness forests as ancient as time and rocks that were sculptured by the force of water and gravity. You will get to feed goats by the ancient church of Ossia Maria from where the gorge takes its name. And when you reach Agia Roumeli, you’ll get to rest your muscles floating in the cool clear sea water.
Pack a light lunch and snacks and bring your own reusable bottle to fill from the springs there. You have to wear proper shoes for trekking because the terrain is really rough at places.
If you find the size of the gorge intimidating bear in mind that there is no rush to pass through it. Everyone walks as he or she pleases. It can get crowded but you will not be in the way of anyone else, don’t worry. And remember that it’s the journey that matters, not the destination!
Connect with Maro on Instagram
Read This Next: How to find Eco-Friendly Accommodations
4. Newfoundland, Canada
Written By: Melissa at Suitcase and Heels
Newfoundland, Canada is a sustainable adventure playground. We have whale watching, puffins, zip lines, sea kayaking, and so much more. My favourite would have to be the hiking, especially along the East Coast Trail. It’s a series of 26 interconnected trails totalling over 300km of coastline on the Avalon Peninsula. Back in 2012, National Geographic named it one of the best adventure destinations and I don’t disagree.
One of my favourite things to do in summer is to pack a daypack with a some snacks and go out and explore a new section of trail. The closest section to my house is only a 10 minutes drive away, and I live in downtown St. John’s. The proximity to nature is one of the best things about the city.
Most of the trails are doable as a day hike, though there are some designated camping sites along longer routes. If you really want to be adventurous, you could tackle the whole trail over a few weeks. You’ll pass through or near 30 different communities along the way and on a nice day you’ll meet tons of friendly folks on the trail.
Since most of the trail hugs the coastline, it’s not uncommon to spot whales playing in the bays or find flocks of seabirds. There are sea arches, caves, and even a geyser along the way. It’s truly a spectacular adventure in eastern Canada.
Connect with Melissa on Instagram
5. Rimba Resort: Sustainable Lodging in a Malaysia Marine Park
Written By: Nuraini at Teja on the Horizon
When my friend and I decided to spend a few days in Sibu Island, Malaysia, we stayed at Rimba Resort.
I had a good feeling it was the right choice from the booking confirmation email. Among other practical things, it told me in advance that the resort does not sell plastic bottled water. They advised us to bring our own refillable bottle (or buy at the resort) and have them refilled during our stay.
They encouraged guests to embrace the relaxed, low fuss beach experience and explained their low-waste policy – which is why there will not be many tiny little bits of toiletries and accessories in the chalets, only liquid soaps. We were also made aware of the implications of excessive water and detergent use, in view of a marine park and island ecosystem.
But if you think that this approach means a budget, dingy place, you couldn’t be more wrong. Rimba asks all this, and you still feel like you’re treated to a luxury holiday. You sleep in charmingly rustic Kenyan-style chalets, with exotic roll-up doors. The chef is amazing. The beach is an eccentric mix of rock and sand, and beautiful in the mornings. It’s like a fantasy – different from most other island lodgings I’ve tried.
The staff were magic. We could not fault the service, every guest was made to feel personally welcome. The dive/activity shop is really good, and dutifully asked to see evidence that we paid the marine park fee before letting us book snorkel tours. This kind of stakeholder buy-in is so important to make marine park management a success.
In fact, having your attention moved from “free hotel stuff” to the incredible place you came for in the first place, made for a more satisfying holiday mindset!
Connect with Nuraini on Facebook
6. Doolin Walk: Cliffs of Moher
Written By: Christine at And the Story Goes
While traveling, I love to spend a day getting out of the city and heading into nature. In Galway, I learned of an amazing 8km (2-3 hour) walk from the Cliffs of Moher to a small town called Doolin. What’s great about this walk is you don’t need a car, you can take the bus from Galway to the Cliffs, walk along the cliffs, and end up in Doolin where you take the same bus back to the city. This walk is not for the faint of heart. Along most of the small path, you have a barbed wire or electric fence to one side and a cliff on the other. Exploring Ireland’s natural cliffs and seeing the fun loving farm animals along the way, makes the walk well worth your time.
Connect with Christine on Instagram
Read This Next: 20 Tips for Sustainable Travel
7. Visiting a Marine Sanctuary in the Philippines
Written By: Tara at Tara Lets Anywhere
One of the highlights in my backpacking trip to the Visayan region in the Philippines is visiting Apo Island. Apo Island is an ecotourism location. Its coral reef is declared a marine sanctuary, whose purpose is to protect the marine life and their habitat.
Two of the activities you can do here are diving and snorkeling. I went for the latter, where I spent the day snorkeling in three spots around Apo Island. In the first one, we followed the tour guides and spotted a few sea turtles, some as old as 50 years. We were supervised and required to stay a safe distance from the animals. In the other two spots, I snorkeled in coral gardens sprouting with colors and life. Some of the corals are so big, it’s like they are zoomed in. I’d been to other snorkeling sites in the Philippines, and this is one of the best I’d seen so far.
Overall, I definitely recommend this one to anyone interested in sustainable travel experiences.
Connect with Tara on Facebook
8. Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventure in Borneo
Written By: Kirstin at The Roaming Street
Ah BORNEO! After snapping up a dirt cheap airfare to Kuala Lumpur, I started researching Malaysia and immediately knew I wanted to get the heck out of Kuala Lumpur (cities are just not my jam!) I decided that Borneo was the place to give me the nature fix I was after. It blew all of my expectations out of the water!
I found a three day tour with Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventure for about $600 (AUD) that included airport transfers, two nights at Sepilok Jungle Resort, one night at Bilit Adventure lodge, all meals and tours. I visited in November which is off-peak season and ended up with a totally private tour guide and driver… It was as though the whole three days were tailor made for me, it couldn’t have been more perfect.
We went to the orang-utan sanctuary in Sepilok and learnt a lot about how the palm oil plantations have devastated the jungles of Borneo. We stopped off by the Gomatong Caves which were certainly an experience in themselves. By far the highlight of the tour though was staying in a private lodge by the Kinabatangan River including a dawn and dusk river cruise. I have been on a few river cruises in my time and there is absolutely no better way to view wildlife! The viewing is so abundant and unique when the animals come straight to the river. In the one day we saw various monkey species, including a huge proboscis family, banana snakes, crocodiles, monitor lizards and some exquisite bird species.
The experience allowed me to support the local economy, enjoy the company of a local guide who loved sharing the passion of his home with me, and get back to nature in a completely personal way.
Connect with Kirstin on Instagram
I hope this helped give you some ideas for your next trip. Thanks to the ladies who contributed their recommendations for confirming that it isn’t as hard as it sounds to have environmentally friendly adventures! And of course, a shoutout to Mother Earth for rocking it and giving us such a tremendous place to live.
Want more options? Try these eco- tour groups
There are some amazing companies out there who run tours that are zero emissions, carbon-neutral, plastic free, or otherwise ahead of the game in sustainability. These groups work to find the most sustainable accommodations and support locals however they can. If you want to leave the work of trip planning to someone else, here’s a few tour groups I’d recommend.
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