The magic of travel is that it has the ability to open our eyes to the world around us. When we visit new places we are introduced not only to new languages and landscapes, but also to different ways of thinking, living, and interacting with the natural world. However, no matter how far we venture, the mounting challenges related to conservation, such as land mismanagement and loss of biodiversity, are inescapable. As our global ecology reaches a tipping point, it is more important than ever to educate ourselves and support science based conservation efforts both at home and abroad. In particular, when we couple conservation with travel, we can directly support local populations and their efforts to protect local ecosystems, promote biodiversity, and support the sustainable growth of their local communities.
In creating a more sustainable world, education is an essential first step. We can only do better once we know better and education empowers us to transform our values and behaviors. When it comes to conservation education, there are four main areas of focus, as determined by the Nature Conservancy: tackle climate change, protect land & water, provide food & water sustainably, and build healthy cities. These four focus areas provide a great framework for learning more about conservation, which leads us to feel more empowered to do our part to protect the planet and it’s invaluable resources.
Fortunately, there are many ways to contribute to conservation and science while exploring our beautiful planet! In this guide, you will be introduced to a variety of unique eco-accommodations and ethical experiences that contribute to conservation in regards to sustainability, science education, research, and sustainable community development. So, when you’re ready to embark on your next adventure, take the opportunity to tap into your inner scientist by supporting these amazing businesses and destinations.
Price Range – $$$
Gayana Marine Resort is a stunning destination that combines luxury accommodations with conservation ecology. Located on Gaya Island’s beautiful Malohom Bay, just off the coast of Borneo, this awe-inspiring resort features 45 tropical villas that are specially designed to harmonize with nature. What makes this resort especially unique is the on-site Marine Ecology Research Center, which strives to protect the local ecosystems and educate others about marine life. Run by marine biologists, the center has achieved impressive success with its efforts in giant clam propagation. Environmental education is a top priority for the center as they enjoy teaching visitors about the importance of protecting the local coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds with their tours and full-day programs.
Price Range – $$$
The Gibbon Experience in Northern Laos provides an opportunity like no other. Made up of a collection of tree houses connected by zip lines, this unique destination gives travelers the opportunity to sleep in the trees amongst diverse rare and diverse wildlife, including gibbons! A true ecotourism destination, The Gibbon Experience uses the profits from overnight stays and experiences to protect the rainforest and its biodiversity. The business also employs over 120 people, giving local guides and workers valuable incomes. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to sleep in a tree canopy, The Gibbon Experience is for you! Connected by zip lines, the treehouses are set high in the forest on wooden consoles and are suspended on rope wires. With four different accommodation options (Classic, Waterfall, Express, and Honeymoon) visitors are given the chance to pick whatever works best for their needs and preferences. No matter which option you choose, you are in for an exhilarating and incomparable experience.
Price Range – $$$
Located within a private forest reserve in the southern part of the Brazilian Amazon, Cristalino Lodge is a paradise for nature lovers. Everything at the lodge is designed with sustainability in mind, including its eco-friendly bungalows and sustainable building design that utilizes solar energy. The lodge is committed to practicing responsible tourism and works closely with the Cristalino Foundation, a foundation that is committed to promoting the conservation of the area’s natural resources. The foundation, with support from the lodge, also runs The School of the Amazon education program which hosts students from regional schools to participate in forest immersion activities, which provides the opportunity to learn more about local ecosystems while fostering a positive relationship with the forest. The foundation also oversees responsible management of the area’s forest and conducts important research on the biodiversity of the Amazon.
Price Range – $$$
Great Ocean Ecolodge is a stunning sustainable ecolodge and ecology center on Cape Otway in Southern Victoria, Australia. The ecolodge and adjoining Conservation Ecology Center are committed to providing meaningful experiences with nature and wildlife to foster an appreciation of the natural world. In keeping with their commitment to sustainable living, both buildings are entirely powered by solar energy and utilize rainwater collected on-site for operations. The ecolodge keeps a small carbon footprint by growing their food and sourcing additional ingredients from farms across the Otways when creating their seasonal menus. The lodge is surrounded by 165 acres of grasslands with many trails and offers guided walks with the center’s ecologists.
Price Range – $$$$
Three Camel Lodge is a gorgeous luxury ecolodge in Mongolia’s breathtaking Gobi Desert. The lodge is a leader of sustainable tourism for its valiant efforts to conserve natural resources, preserve cultural traditions, and improve the quality of life for Gobi residents. Over 50% of the lodge’s supplies, services, and ingredients are sourced within 50 miles, with additional food supplemented by the lodge’s onsite organic greenhouse. In keeping with Three Camel’s commitment to supporting the local community, the one-of-a-kind lodge was built entirely by locals and continues to be staffed entirely by Native Mongolians. For accommodations, there are 40 luxury gers, which are outfitted with wood stoves and custom furnishings to allow guests to relax and unwind. This world-renowned destination provides an unparalleled desert experience and has been featured in numerous publications including Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes Travel Guide, and Architectural Digest.
Price – $$
The Seacoast Science Center is a nonprofit organization and marine science center that seeks to inspire conservation through marine science education, recreation, and resources. Located on the rocky coast of Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, New Hampshire, the center utilizes the coastal environment’s sandy beaches, rocky shores, freshwater habitats, and woodlands to teach about the growing challenges our planet faces today. With a walk through the center’s aquariums, indoor touch tanks, and other interactive experiences, you will be able to learn more about amazing marine animals and what you can do to protect them. You can also venture outside and deepen your connection to the natural world by exploring the state park’s unique beaches, tide pools, and woodlands.
Price – $$
Borneo Eco Tours is a world-class tour company that offers a multitude of sustainable tours around Borneo, a large rugged island just off the coast of Indonesia. The company offers cultural, adventure, wildlife, and nature tours that take guests around Northern Borneo and the beautiful surrounding islands. A truly incredible region of the world, Borneo is home to pristine beaches, some of the world’s oldest rainforests, mountains, caves, and so much more. The tours at Borneo Eco Tours take into consideration all aspects of safe nature and wildlife interactions while maintaining a strong commitment to conservation and environmental efforts. Even more, part of the proceeds from the tour bookings goes towards helping the local community and social projects through the company’s nonprofit, BEST Society. Borneo Eco Tours also partners with two local lodges, Sukau Rainforest Lodge and Borneo Rainforest Lodge, which offer amazing accommodations for those who want to spend an unforgettable night in the rainforest.
Price – $$$
The Northern Aegean Dolphin Project is a citizen science and volunteer research project that was created in the summer of 2013 to evaluate the conservation status of dolphins and whales in the beautiful National Marine Park of Alonissos in Northern Sporades, Greece. Each summer, the project enlists the help of volunteers from around the world to conduct research on the dolphin and whale populations that inhabit the area. In a truly unforgettable experience, volunteers are taken on daily expeditions for 7 days to participate in field surveys at sea, which includes collecting and processing important biological information and photographing amazing wildlife and landscapes in the Aegean Archipelago.
Price – $
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary near Freetown, Sierra Leone that provides rescued chimpanzees with a place to recover from abuse, injury, mistreatment, and trauma. In addition to providing hands-on treatment and care for the chimps, the sanctuary works with local communities to promote natural resource management and wildlife conservation through the Tacugama Community Outreach Program. The sanctuary, which has been supported by noted primatologist Jane Goodall, has made amazing progress towards greater conservation of chimps and their habitat through education, advocacy, and outreach programs. You can explore the sanctuary by joining in on guided sanctuary tours, activities, and events or you can take advantage of the several lodging options if you’d like to experience a night in the jungle!
Price – $$
Sea North Tours is a family-run tour business in Churchill, Manitoba that provides visitors with safe opportunities to interact with friendly beluga whales and other marine life that inhabit the Hudson Bay. Founded in 1977, Sea North Tours is committed to protecting marine life, and all of the boats at Sea North Tours are free from exposed moving parts, which protects even the friendliest belugas from being harmed when swimming under or around the boat. In addition to paddle boarding and kayaking, Sea North Tours offers different ways to interact with the friendly beluga whales that swim in the bay’s waters. These include Beluga Whale Watching Tours and Zodiac Boat Charters led by local tour guides.
ecomadic is a sustainable tourism brand that empowers travelers to make more conscious decisions. By curating a marketplace to easily find and identify responsible businesses to support, and providing educational publications through our online green travel magazine, ecomadic is committed to helping empower travelers make responsible choices throughout their journeys.