Eco Tours: Protecting Nature and Sustaining Economies

Malaysia Tropical Landscape

If you are a lover of the world’s natural, untouched beauty looking for an opportunity to visit and see first-hand the sights and wonders of creation, you are in great luck. There are an abundance of opportunities to join eco-tours that will take you to the most virgin territories with the barest of necessities, or to more luxurious settings with all the accommodations. Eco-tourism is big business, especially for developing nations. Eco tour operators have to balance the need to preserve nature sites for generations to come, while at the same time bringing more awareness and tourists to see and carry forward the message of the importance of preserving these gifts of the world. Fortunately, there are many good tour operators and government agencies who have succeeded in achieving both of these objectives.

Alaska Wildland Adventures has been in the ecotourism game for more than 30 years. Every facet of their operation is dedicated to sustaining the environment, educating tourists who are treated to the most remote and virtually untouched environments of Alaska’s wildlife, and economically developing the local economies of Alaska’s residents. Alaska Wildland Adventures is not just engaging in dialogue, they have put their words into action, doing what they can to improve infrastructure to protect the environment and conserving natural resources. Proof in point is the hydro-electric system they installed to provide electricity at their Kenai Backcountry Lodge. Eliminating power consuming generators, the hydro-electric system operates all the lights, bathhouse, water and laundry facilities, teaching guests about alternative energy, as well as providing them with a quiet stay in this remote lodge.

The Sakau Rainforest Lodge in Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia is an award-winning tourist destination for ecotourism and sustainability. Visitors can enjoy the most stunning vistas and diverse wildlife in the pristine setting of the Sakau Rainforest. The Lodge is constructed from hardwood native to Sabah, erected on stilts, and relies completely on naturally produced energy sources. All water is collected from the rain. Solar panels are used for heating. All of the facility’s components, from electricity to garbage collection is designed to minimize environmental impact. River Safari guests are treated to the experience of a quiet ride on the river since all the boats utilize electric motors, protecting the river waters, plus minimizing disturbance to wildlife. The Lodge is one of the holdings of Borneo Eco Tours, a Malaysian ecotourism company that focuses on generating models for sustainability, reducing impact on the environment, driving economic benefits to local communities and enriching the diverse native culture of the region.

Forbes magazine, which has a “best of” list for just about everything, also has a top ten list of “Best Green Vacations,” based on international ecotourism industry standards, including, minimal disruption to the ecosystems, employment opportunities for native residents, and protection of wildlife. On the list are: Compass Cay, in the Bahamas, where you can swim with the sharks; Alsek River in Alaska, a 160 mile river raft trip; Santa Cruz Island, one of the eight islands of the Galapagos; Campi ya Kanzi, a Kenyan Safari developed in partnership with the Maasai Tribe, spread out over a 280,000 acre of protected land known as Kuku Group Ranch; Hotel Paraiso Cano Hondo, in the Dominican Republic’s Los Haitises National Park; a Mountain Travel Sobek trek through the Nepalese Himalayas; a hiking, boating, and horseback riding excursion with Natureco through the Brazilian Wetlands; a tour of Costa Rican volcanoes with Terra Incognito Ecotours, including a “hot” dip in the volcanoes’ thermal pools; and snorkeling in Indonesia at Misool Eco Resort, located on a private island that is five hours by air from Jakarta. The resort is surrounded by 248 square miles of water forbidden to fisherman, meaning that the seas are teeming with the most incredible collection of ocean fish and plant life.