8 of the Best Ecotourism Adventures

With ecotourism becoming increasingly popular, we take a look at some of the world's best eco-focused adventures. From local trips to far-flung destinations, this guide has got the lot

You’re ready to book your ecotourism adventure, but with the whole world as your metaphorical oyster, how do you go about choosing the destination? We’ve got you covered. All of the below trips include the amount of carbon you’ll be emitting through your return flights.

We used the myclimate calculator. 

Ecotourism essentials

If there is an alternative to flying, take it. Trains, cars and ferries all pollute less than aviation, with train travel coming out lowest in terms of carbon emissions. Don’t take cruises, cruise ships are so polluting they make flying look greener than Greta Thunberg dressed up as a Poddington Pea (the average cruise emits four times more carbon per passenger than an economy class flight). 

If flying, fly direct wherever possible; take-off and landing release far higher emissions than any other part of the flight. Fly in economy and pack lightly, every extra kilogram means that your plane has to use more fuel to get off the ground. 

If booking through an agency, use an agency with good sustainability credentials. Read our piece on ‘what is ecotourism to learn how. 

When in the wild, remember to follow the principle of ‘leave no trace’. 

With some of the ecotourism essentials now dealt with, it’s time to discuss some of the best ecotourism adventures you can go on. Whether you want to stay close to home or travel to the other side of the world, you’re sure to find something to your liking on this list.

Go sailing and beach cleaning on the Helford River, Cornwall

Helford Passage in Cornwall. Credit: Getty Images / iStock
Helford River in Cornwall Credit: Anna Richards

Cornwall’s rivers and beaches are world class, bu the battle against litter is incessant. Join Steve and Monika of Clean Ocean Sailing on board their schooner, the Annette, as they clean up waterways and beaches whilst educating passengers on how litter affects fragile marine ecosystems. Longer sailing trips are sometimes available, to the Isles of Scilly, Brittany and Galicia.

How to plan: 

Camp at Mount Pleasant Ecological Park (from here it’s an easy drive/bus ride to Gweek via Helston). Mount Pleasant Ecological Park hosts tri-weekly vegan feast nights with live music.

Don’t fly. We mean it, unpack those travel miniatures right now, there is no excuse to fly domestically to Cornwall. And even if you do, you’ll end up on the wrong side of the county as the Helford River is on the south coast and Newquay Airport is on the north. 

Return train tickets from London Paddington to Redruth: 0.01 tonnes of CO2.

Summit volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

A Kamchatka volcano. Credit: Getty Images / iStock
Kamchatka’s terrain can be otherworldly at times. Credit: Getty Image / iStock
A Kamchatka bear. Credit: Getty Images / iStock

Kamchatka is somewhat of a legend in the trekking community, spoken about with reverence as the Holy Grail of mountain hikes. A guide is mandatory, but when there’s so much to learn about local flora and fauna, why would you want to go without? In the Kamchatka region, hunting is in the culture and salmon poaching and trophy hunting (particularly of brown bears) are huge problems. It’s best to travel with an open mind, but to ensure that your money goes to the right place, book with a reputable company. 

How to plan:

Secret Compass operates small, group tours working with local guides. In the eight days of trekking you’ll cover landscapes of fire and ice that would put Game of Thrones to shame. Fly to Moscow. From here you can catch a connecting flight to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Return flights from Heathrow to Petropavlovsk: 2.7 tonnes of CO2.

Hike or bike the Maramureş Heritage Green Road in Maramureş, Romania

Where the big outdoors meets a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Credit: Getty Images / iStock

With pixie hat haystacks and wooden churches straight out of a Grimms’ Fairy Tale, Maramureş is the land that time forgot. The wildlife is fantastic (lynx, bears, wolves and wild boars), but for adventurers the 88km Maramureş Greenway is a must. Cover the whole trail in a day by bike, or over several days on foot. It isn’t an overly taxing trail and can be easily split into day hikes. 

How to plan: 

Stay at Babou Hostel and Campsite, Breb. Fly direct to Cluj-Napoca, or make the journey part of the adventure and travel by train. You’ll go through seven countries and the views are spectacular. Trains go from Cluj-Napoca to Baia Mare, from where there are infrequent bus connections to the village of Breb. There’s only one very limited shop in Breb so it’s worth stocking up in Baia Mare beforehand.

Return flights from Heathrow to Cluj-Napoca: 0.7 tonnes of CO2.

Sail to Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina

Ushuaia in Argentina. Credit: Getty Images / iStock
Icebergs in Antarctica. Credit: Getty Images / iStock

How to plan:

Objectif Voile runs sailing expeditions to Cape Horn and Antarctica. Their team of volunteers tour schools teaching students about marine biology and protecting our oceans. You’ll be staying on ship, but it’s worth extending your trip after the expedition as Ushuaia makes an excellent base for trekking in nearby national park Tierra del Fuego. Fly from London to Buenos Aires. Connecting flights run daily from here to Ushuaia.

Return flights from Heathrow to Ushuaia: 4.6 tonnes of CO2

Go on safari and learn about the Vedda tribe in Gal Oya National Park, Sri Lanka

Gal Oya National Park is in the southeast of Sri Lanka. Credit: Anna Richards

Gal Oya is home to one of the last remaining communities of the Vedda tribe, an indigenous, forest dwelling community who once inhabited most of the island. Learn about medicinal plants and traditional cooking methods from tribal elders, and spend your mornings on safari to try to spot Asian elephants or species of the park’s diverse array of birdlife. Early morning day hikes offer panoramic views, and you’ll have them all to yourself.

How to plan:

The only accommodation in the park is at Gal Oya Lodge. Early reservations are essential. Direct flights go to Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital. From here, driving is by far the easiest way to reach Gal Oya. Public transport generally only goes as close as Kandy (three hours from Gal Oya National Park). 

Return flights from Heathrow to Colombo, Sri Lanka: 2.8 tonnes of CO2

Go timber rafting in Klarälven, Sweden

Build your own timber raft in Sweden. Credit: Hipfel Starck Nature Travels
Find a new camping spot every night. Credit: Hipfel Starck Nature Travels
Timber rafting in Sweden is very ‘Huckleberry Finn’. Credit: John van Helvert Nature Travels

Build your own raft with logs and float down the Klarälven River like an intrepid explorer from a novel. One day to eight day adventures are on offer, with optional day hikes to shake off your sea legs. The rafts are deconstructed at the end and the same wood used for the next group, so they’re not wasted. 

How to plan:

Nature Travels are partnered with the Marine Conservation Society and Rainforest Concern, and donate a percentage of their profits annually. All trips are designed to have minimal impact and to use local businesses. Oslo is the closest airport, and from there it’s a three hour train to Karlstad and a 1.5 hour bus to Gunnerud

Return flights from Heathrow to Oslo: 0.5 tonnes of CO2.

Trek the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia

Panorama of the Semien Mountains in Ethiopia. Credit: Getty Images / iStock

Home to gelada monkeys, wolves and ibex, there are few places in the world that offer such awe-inspiring trekking as Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains. There are an abundance of treks to choose from, from day hikes to week long forays into the wilderness.

How to plan: 

Lalibela Eco Trekking organises small, group tours using local guides. Fly direct from London Heathrow to Gonder. 

Return flights from Heathrow to Gonder: 1.8 tonnes of CO2.

Go diving, surfing and kayaking in the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are home to some amazing wildlife. Credit: Anna Richards
The Galapagos Islands are a famous ecotourism destination. Credit: Anna Richards

The Galápagos Islands are one of the best known ecotourism destinations in the world, a volcanic archipelago which inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution, where giant tortoises weigh as much as grizzly bears and iguanas scuttle over black sand beaches. Many feel that the only way to see the Galapagos is on a cruise, but we prefer to island hop and indulge in non-motorised watersports. It’s less polluting and all adds to the adventure.

How to plan:

Pikaia Lodge is as luxurious as ecotourism comes. Beachfront on Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the Galápagos, Pikaia Lodge is solar powered, has achieved operational carbon neutral status and is heavily involved in reforestation projects. Fly from Heathrow to Baltra Island via either Quito or Guayaquil.

Return flights from Heathrow to Baltra Island: 3.3 tonnes of CO2.


Offsetting your carbon emissions

Offsetting carbon emissions has been likened to paying someone else to diet for you. While this might be an accurate analogy, we believe that it’s still good practise to offset your emissions when you fly. The myclimate website has numerous, fully transparent, carbon offsetting projects that you can contribute towards.

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