What is ecotourism? To most people, it’s a confusing and only vaguely familiar term. Some ask “Does ecotourism mean staying in ecolodges?” Yes, it does, but that’s not all. Ecotourism is an approach to travel that embraces all the principles of responsible tourism, not just choice of accommodation.
Still, if you’re new to eco-travel, ecolodges are a great place to start. Frame your trip around an ecolodge that stands out. Look for places that have gained international recognition and awards for the conservation and community work they are doing. Look for places that meet third-party green certification standards. Find your fantasy ecolodge, then make it the centrepiece of your trip.
Here are a few ideas for inspiration.
Ecohabs Santa Marta in Colombia
Think outside the resort box and opt for one of the three ‘ecohabs’ at Ecohabs Santa Marta, a chic addition to one of Colombia’s most prized natural areas, Tayrona National Park, where lush green forests and stunning coast are just waiting for exploration near the popular beach town of Santa Marta.
If you go with Ecohabs Tayrona or Ecohotel, you get a beachfront spot without any high-rise interference. Or venture a little farther inland to Ecohabs Minca, and you’ll be immersed in thick vegetation against a mountain backdrop.
The #1 reasons to stay at Ecohabs Santa Marta: they’re designed to be visually integrated into their surroundings, built primarily with local materials and include ethnic aspects inspired by the huts of Tayrona’s indigenous tribes.
San Miguel del Bala in Bolivia
When people think Bolivia, they often imagine jagged snowcapped mountains, dizzying altitudes and a vast white plain of salt. But to the northeast of La Paz, Bolivia shares the low-lying Amazon basin with Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Here you can visit Rurrenabaque, Bolivia’s gateway to Madidi National Park in the Amazon jungle, where you’ll find some of the most lauded ecotourism projects in South America.
One great example is San Miguel del Bala, a lodge owned and operated by an indigenous Tacana community. With help from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a few large nongovernmental organisations, the group of 35 families built the lodge and provided themselves an alternative to traditional extractive trades like logging and hunting.
The #1 reason to stay at San Miguel del Bala: after taking in the incredible biodiversity of Madidi National Park, you can relax with a weaving class with women from the local community.
Chumbe Island Coral Park in Zanzibar, Tanzania
Off the coast of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania is the hypnotic Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar. Although officially part of Tanzania, the island is very much its own place, with a strong cultural identity and amazing natural assets.
A short boat ride from Zanzibar takes you to Chumbe Island, a coral sanctuary. Here you’ll find the Chumbe Island Coral Park lodge that is using the latest in eco-technology. For example, each eco bungalow has a water catchment system that allows it to capture its own freshwater supply during the rainy season. The water is then filtered and pumped for use.
The #1 reason to stay at Chumbe Island Coral Park: It meets the standards of Global Ecosphere Retreats, which certifies it as a long-run destination.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Borneo, Malaysia
Go wild in Malaysia with a visit to Borneo’s most prestigious ecolodge, the Sukau Rainforest Lodge. Getting there takes some doing – the last leg of the trip involves a short boat ride down the Kinabatangan River and into the depths of the Sukau Rainforest. It’s ideally located as a jungle trekking adventure home base.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge has been turning heads since 1997, when it won its first award: the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award. Since then, it has gained distinction from major players like Trip Advisor, Ecoclub.com and most recently the World Travel Awards.
The #1 reason to stay at Sukau Rainforest Lodge: guests can join its reforestation campaign by taking a moment to plant their own rainforest tree.
Adrère Amellal in Cairo, Egypt
In the deserts surrounding Cairo, Egypt, a desert ecolodge called Adrère Amellal has the fantastical beauty of a nomad’s weary hallucination. The handcrafted buildings of stone and clay blend into the natural landscape surrounding them, as if they could disappear at any moment. This is an upscale retreat with top-notch culinary options.
The #1 reason to stay at Adrère Amellal: with no electricity, the rooms are softly lit with a dozen beeswax candles and the starry desert sky.