In the past, it was rare that the words “luxurious” and “eco-conscious” could be used in tandem. But, as travellers become increasingly inclined to find accommodations described by the latter at the expense of the former, the tourism industry has been working hard to green their practices. In fact, 2017 has been dubbed the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations.

Here, we give you a head start on eco-tourism companies and destinations that offer everything from community-sustaining lodges to conservation-focused wildlife tours.

Pangulasian Island at El Nido Resorts

A member of the El Nido Resorts group, Pangulasian Island in Bacuit Bay, Palawan offers nothing short of first-rate self-indulgence. But what really puts this resort on the map of discerning travellers, then, is its commendable commitment to sustainability.

The villas were designed to let in natural light to reduce energy use, and were also fitted with efficient bulbs for when you can’t make do with the former. To keep a lid on water consumption and sea contamination, El Nido Resorts runs a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant and a rainwater catchment system while also making use of low-flow devices in its restrooms.

The most notable aspect of the resort’s eco-conscious thrust, however, is that it has built the guest experience around the environment, rather than allowing natural resources to take a hit for the sake of a memorable vacation. Absent are any jet-skis and motorized marine sports equipment, while boats are fitted with eco-friendly engines that are consistently maintained and upgraded to keep harmful emissions at a low. Majority of the menu also makes use of locally and organically produced vegetables and locally reared livestock.

Learn more here

Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean International 

Royal Caribbean Cruises has understood its obligation to the oceans since its establishment in 1969. In the last few years, the company whose luxurious tours include trips to Alaska, Cuba, and the Bahamas, has taken this commitment several steps forward, reducing their carbon footprint by 25 percent in the last decade.

They intend to drive this number down further still by retrofitting old ships and building new ones to meet rising environmental standards. For instance, they make use of scrubbers, machines that do away with much of the environmentally harmful elements of a ship’s exhaust system. In addition, new ships will be powered entirely by natural gas, a less harmful fossil fuel than carbon dioxide.

The company also has a newly established partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to forward their cause of ocean conservation. In line with this, by the end of 2020 they have committed to using only seafood from fisheries and farms that have been certified sustainable.

Learn more here

Photo courtesy of Gondwana EcoTours

Gondwana EcoTours

Founded by serial humanitarian Jared Sternberg, Gondwana EcoTours is built on the mission of sustaining remote communities through proceeds from visitors. Each of the company’s packaged expeditions—a list that includes tours of Ecuador, Tanzania, and Iceland, to name a few—makes an effort toward sustainability, from offsetting travelers’ flight emissions to teaming up with local non-profits that benefit the communities.

In their nine-day Argentina tour through Mendoza and Patagonia, for example, guides take small groups from the wine country in the North to the glacial lakes of Patagonia in the South. The first half of the trip explores the local vineyards and includes walks with sweeping backdrops of the snow-capped Andes mountains; the second half is far more rugged, involving day-long treks over the surreal peaks of Patagonia’s glaciers. For each leg, they make sure to use only local guides, accommodations, and restaurants respectful of the local environment and culture.

Learn more here

Photo courtesy of Bisate lodge

Bisate Lodge 

Set to open this coming June, the Bisate Lodge in Rwanda, Africa is a camp dedicated to sustainable biodiversity conservation and community engagement.

Situated nearby the Volcanoes National Park, which is known for the presence of mountain gorillas, the lodge is founded on its vision of reforestation and rehabilitation. Guests at the camp are invited to learn about the iconic and critically endangered great apes—which involves daily expeditions to track one of 10 of the habituated gorilla groups—engage with the area’s local community, and participate in the reforestation program that spans over 60 acres.

To facilitate the latter, the area surrounding the base of the camp will be host to a bamboo forest intended to mimic the volcanoes’ natural vegetation, while further up indigenous trees will recreate the rainforests. The intention is to bring about the return of endemic and indigenous animal species that have been in increasing decline. At the core of all their offers, Bisate Lodge’s goal is to drive the local sustainable conservation economy—thereby driving gorilla conservation.

Learn more here

Photo courtesy of visitcopenhagen.com, Morten Jerichau

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is easily one of the world’s most environmentally progressive cities. Marvel at the 360-degree views from the Scandinavian capital’s highest viewpoint, Christiansborg Tårnet, or take in the vibrant colors of the views of historic ships at Nyhavn harbor—because sustainability is so deeply ingrained into the city’s fabric, whatever comprises your agenda works in support of this environmental thrust.

With a plan to ensure that by 2015 at least 90 percent of residents must be able to walk to a green space within 15 minutes, sustainable infrastructure and transportation is central to the city’s policies. Copenhagen is the world’s top cycling city, made possible by a network of some 350 kilometers of bike roads, a free bike-sharing program, and high taxes on petrol and cars. In addition, many of the city’s buildings feature plant-covered roofs to control the building’s interior climate, ultimately reducing both energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

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