Best Destinations for Ecotourism

Montserrat Volcano

Montserrat Volcano

Ecotourism is no longer trend that started in the 90’s to describe responsible travel to largely untouched areas. Now, it has largely realized its aim by creating an industry of conservation that offers clear benefits to the local community.  Recently, it’s become even more popular as traveler demand has driven a desire for destinations that are eco-friendly and modeled after sustainable practices. Plus, there’s nature and for those who can afford it, they want to escape. These destinations also often offer a bit more in terms of cultural activities and a means to learn more about the soul enriching ways of a local community.

With this in mind, we’re featuring three destinations that inspire: Montserrat, Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica –  with unspoiled beaches, uninhabited areas, and archeological sites that can only be accessed by hiking, biking or kayaking.

Lime Tree Cottage 1

Lime Tree Cottage – Montserrat

MONTSERRAT

With its mountainous terrain, hiking the trails on Montserrat is the best way to see the untouched areas of the island. Additionally, diving excursions allow visitors the unique opportunity to see beautiful volcanic rock formations and vibrant marine life that now thrives after the 1995 eruption of the previously dormant Soufriere Hills volcano.

Montserrat’s villas offer prime accommodations for couples, families, friends and even colleagues who long for an affordable upmarket Caribbean getaway with all the amenities of home. The secluded destination provide visitors with the ideal opportunity to experience a traditional Caribbean vacation in tranquil surroundings and away from large chain resorts, crowded beaches and traffic-jammed streets.

Most of the villas offer airport and ferry transfers, car rentals, stocked kitchens, housekeepers, baby-sitting services, cooks, and  villa-specific organized activities during your stay.

http://www.visitmontserrat.com/villas/

Rates start @USD $1,000/per week

From mid-April through mid-November for a three-bedroom, three-bathroom villa with a housekeeper, swimming pool, wet bar, wireless internet, washer and dryer. These villas are perfect for visitors looking to immerse in Montserrat’s volcano-viewing experience (considered a modern-day Pompeii), rich Irish heritage, bird-watching, hiking trails, aquatic adventures and more.

Argyle Waterfall_Main Ridge Rainforest

Argyle Waterfall – Trinidad & Tobago

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

Unlike its Caribbean counterparts, Trinidad & Tobago’s biodiversity is most similar to that of Venezuela. The best way to see its local flora and fauna is by hiking through its many trails, especially the Northern Mountain Range of Trinidad that was once attached to South America and the Main Ridge Rainforest in Tobago, the oldest protected reserve in the western hemisphere. The underwater scenery in Tobago is just as spectacular as it boasts more than 300 different species of coral, especially the largest brain coral in the world.

brain coral - credit Oswin Browne.jpg

Brain Coral (c) Oswin Browne

Acajou Hotel, Trinidad

This small, eco-friendly, family run hotel is situated in a little fishing village called Grande Riviere located on the beautiful and dramatic northern Coast of Trinidad. Flanked by the wide expanse of vegetation on the steep hills of the Northern range, Acajou (the French for ‘tropical wood’) offers travelers the opportunity to be one with nature, view it’s beauty in its simple majesty, rest to the soothing rhythms of the ocean, meditate on its treasures or simply have a unique candlelight dinner. The hotel is built as a group of traditional cottages nestled between the beach, a crystal clear river and mountains covered by lush rainforest. Influenced by Indonesian, Polynesian and Japanese architecture, the cabins are made of local and imported woods, including bamboo and are designed to create a feeling of complete privacy.

www.acajoutrinidad.com or call 868.670.3771

Asa Wright Nature Center Lodge, Trinidad

The original estate house of the former coffee-cocoa-citrus plantation has been beautifully remodeled over the years as a comfortable headquarters where guests gather to watch the incredible bird-life from the fabled verandah. Your observation time there is punctuated by a high tea in the afternoon and ends with a traditional complimentary rum punch cocktail as the sun sets over the Arima Valley. This main house and its several cottages nestled nearby in the lush flower-filled grounds are your home for one of the world’s best birding adventures. Not your classic Caribbean resort, the Centre’s “swimming pool” is a natural grotto on a free-running rain forest stream where guests can relax and escape from the tropical heat. All of the cottages feature rooms with private verandahs and guests can also retreat to their private oasis to observe the brilliantly colored birds found on the Centre grounds.

www.asawright.org

Cuffie River Nature Retreat and Ecolodge, Tobago

Located on the island of Tobago, this small yet intimate lodge is equipped with ten rooms, two of which are executive suites. Each has been tastefully furnished with private balcony. The design of the building has been carefully chosen to facilitate natural lights and air currents. Low wattage bulbs and solar lighting are also used throughout the grounds.  Conservation of water is of great importance given that the property uses rain and spring fed systems and successful practices have included short flushing toilets, rationalized washing and towel changes only when indicated by guests. To further maintain its natural ambiance smooth faced clay blocks and tile are used while furniture and other fixtures are all made from locally manufactured products. The lodge is situated on the edge of Tobago’s forest-the oldest in the western hemisphere. It is surrounded by bamboo groves, fresh water springs, exotic flowers and wildlife.

www.cuffieriver.com or call 868.660.0505

Footprints Eco Resort and Spa, Tobago

This 62-acre property is a designated nature preserve with hiking and bird watching trails galore. With the use of materials such as teak, wallaba slabs, and native recycled hardwood the resort has maximized the consumption of local, yet natural building materials. All rooms are equipped with solar water heaters, gas stoves and photovoltaic lighting. The hotel grows fresh organic herbs and vegetables throughout the property and prepares breads, ice creams, cakes, sauces, and even condiments, fresh daily. Surrounded by the virtually untouched Culloden Reef that begins a few feet from the shoreline of the property and is available for guests to snorkel and scuba dive, the resort offers the comfort of a modern hotel in a purely natural setting.

http://footprintsecoresort.com 

Footprints also makes properties as environmentally sensitive, and in connection with our environment, as possible by:

• Using traditional architecture, and reclaimed, recycled and local materials to a maximum

• Waste management  for grey water, runoff water, sewerage waste, and solid waste

• Fresh water conservation measures including sea water pools

• Kitchen waste and yard waste composting to reduce solid waste and provide organic fertilizer for gardens

• In-house organic garden produces fruits, vegetables, herbs, eggs, chicken, and honey for restaurant use to reduce food miles

• Bird and butterfly gardens with local wildflowers, fruit, food, and forest trees to attract wildlife and support the recovery of beneficial insects, such as butterflies and honeybees

• Support for local fishermen and farmers by showcasing local ingredients and traditional cuisine.

As they say, “Food shares the story of our culture through a medium that everyone can enjoy.”

Kariwak Holistic Haven Hotel, Tobago

A holistic haven and hotel, Kariwak Village has carved a distinctive niche with its award winning 2 acre garden bursting with tropical shrubs, foliage and flowering trees filled with bird song, dominated by the thatched roof ajoupa and its teak floor … the venue for Tai Chi, yoga, gentle stretching exercises, Buddhist meditation sessions and similar holistic activities. The Kariwak kitchen is supplied with abundant fresh herbs from the garden, those same herbs are lovingly transformed into delicious Caribbean meals which are served with a friendly smile in the open air restaurant.

www.kariwak.com or call 868.639.8442

Diving in Costa Rica

Diving in Costa Rica

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica’s ecotourism is one that enthusiasts cannot miss, featuring lush forests, thriving ecosystems and breathtaking waterfalls only accessible by foot. Just like Montserrat, Costa Rica has underwater volcanic rock formations which are home to various species of fish, rays, turtles and white-tip reef sharks alongside vibrant coral reefs.

Environmental sustainability is at the heart of Costa Rica’s tourism industry. For that reason, the Costa Rica Tourism Board introduced the Certification for Sustainable Tourism program in 1997. This program differentiates businesses of the tourism sector based on the degree to which they comply with a sustainable model of natural, cultural, social and economic resource management. Visitors who choose to visit CST designated tourism companies such as hotels, tour operators and car rental companies support businesses that take proactive measures to avoid the negative impacts on the environment, culture and society. There are currently 346 hotel, tour operators, car rental agencies and theme parks certified under the program here, so check it out!

http://www.visitcostarica.com/ict/paginas/sostenibilidad.asp?tab=0

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Volunteers Rebuild Nepal, Brick by Brick

nepal travel

One year has passed since the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in April last year. While Nepal is doing everything it can to recover and rebuild, the country is still in need of significant aid and resources.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Projects Abroad initiated a Disaster Relief Project to assist with the recovery process. Since the project began in June 2015, hundreds of Projects Abroad volunteers have made incredible progress in helping with the organization’s goal of restoring a safe learning environment for children in the Kathmandu Valley. Currently volunteers’ efforts are focused on reconstructing Yashaswi Gurukul English Secondary School, the sixth Disaster Relief site to date. Their help has been invaluable.

volunteer nepal

When the work at Yashaswi Gurukul is completed, the new building will also serve another purpose. As aftershocks continue even nine months later, and the fear of another large-scale quake remains, the school building will be able to serve as a safe gathering space for the local community, in case of further disaster. Projects Abroad staff estimate that work at this site will conclude in the next month or so, and then volunteers will move on to the next site where they are desperately needed.

Projects Abroad has made a commitment, not only through Disaster Relief but also through Teaching and Care Projects, to restore stability to the education of young students. In working with dedicated local experts and volunteers, the organization is striving to get Nepalese communities back on their feet, brick by brick!

For more information on how to get involved yourself with Disaster Relief work in Nepal, have a look here:

www.projects-abroad.org/volunteer-projects/building/disaster-relief/volunteer-nepal

 

Experience Queensland at Its Best

Brisbane

Brisbane

The Land Down Under certainly offers countless explorations and possibilities, and Queensland is becoming particularly interesting to numerous globetrotters. Some of them are eager to see a whole different culture from the most distant part of the world whereas some others are searching for the adrenaline rush and different adventures related to the ocean. No matter what, Queensland is definitely a very desirable destination for anyone who cherishes exciting vacations and natural wonders. Here are some top destinations everyone should visit. Enjoy!

Brisbane

Being the third largest city in Australia, Brisbane indeed has very much to offer. Some of the top places are City Botanic Gardens and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is one of the top ten zoos in the world. As its name says, it features the largest number of koalas in the world. This zoo also offers tourists the option to be a “keeper for a day” – to take care of all the animals and interact with them. On the other hand, the City Botanic Gardens is the most amazing place to relax. Take a long walk and learn about its history, or just sit and relax in one of the garden’s shaded areas. For the best view of the city, visit Mount Coot-tha Lookout. It offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the whole city as far as Moreton Bay.

Gold Coast

Gold Coast

Gold Coast

Gold Coast and Surfers’ Paradise are known as true havens for surfers all over the globe. 70 magnificent kilometres of fabulous beaches, together with four point breaks, are the main reasons for that claim. These are appropriate for both beginners and professional surfers – there are limitless possibilities for everyone! If surfing is too extreme – try Zorbing! This activity consists of basically riding down a massive hill in a huge transparent ball, which is appropriate for kids as well.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Being the largest living structure on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef can even be seen from outer space! It is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands, which make this structure very impressive. Its crystal clear waters and incredible diversity of sea life are the main reasons for numerous people from all over the globe to explore it. Scuba diving is definitely a must, simply because it allows visitors to see interesting underwater creatures and the rich sea life first-hand.

Noosa Biosphere

Noosa Biosphere

Noosa Biosphere

The hills and valleys that surround Noosa are just perfect place for a spiritual retreat in the Land Down Under. It offers unforgettable sunrises and sunsets, which contribute to the overall feeling of blessedness. Its diverse wildlife makes it perfect for a getaway from the everyday life, which largely contributes to mind, body, and spirit rejuvenation. Numerous spa treatments here are very refreshing and relaxing, and they will definitely pay off.

Whitsunday Island

Whitsunday Island

Whitsunday Island

This fantastic island is best known for its exquisite beaches, and the best way to explore it is to go sailing and snorkelling on a catamaran. The gem of this island is certainly Whitehaven Beach, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is secluded and everyone will be stunned with the peaceful simplicity of this gorgeous place. White sand and a turquoise sea will make everyone feel at peace.

Harvey Bay

Harvey Bay

Harvey Bay

This place is certainly unique for one good reason – humpback whales come to it regularly to play and enjoy themselves! This is exactly why tourists love visiting it – such a fabulous experience should not be missed. Experience the marine life at its finest by booking a tour that seems the most interesting to you. Experienced guides will provide a breathtaking adventure by getting as close as possible to these marvelous creatures. Of course, what is very important, neither the whales nor the tourists will be in danger.

A trip to Queensland definitely means making memories that lasts a lifetime, everyone should know that. It is up to you to choose what type of destination you would like to explore. Queensland indeed has it all, and you will certainly not regret if you decide on visiting it.

By: Nicole Noel

Nicole Noel is an avid traveller. She enjoys discovering different cultures, exploring new things, and sharing her ideas with others. You can find her on twitter and FB.

Honduras: An Eco-Resort’s Latest Organic Offering

The Lodge at Pico Bonito’s New Organic Spa and More…

Honduras Eco Hotel

Dinner at The Lodge at Pico Bonito (c) Small Luxury Hotels of the World

We’re back from the holidays and we’re already ready to plan our next vacation. You too? If getting back to the grind is inspiring daydreams of ditching it all for a trip away from it all, we have a great suggestion for you…

The majestic jungles of Honduras!

Because really… there’s nothing like being in the middle of the glorious jungle filled with over 40 different types of tropical butterflies, toucans, motmots, and miles of private trails through canyons, waterfalls, and swimming holes. If that’s not reason enough, how about a mystical Temazcal (Mayan sauna) in the center of the jungle to get your trip – and your soul – steered in the right direction?

The Pool at Pico Bonito

The Pool at Pico Bonito (c) Small Luxury Hotels of the World

Temazcal, which comes from the Nahuatl Word temacalli, means ‘house of heat.’ Originating in the pre-Hispanic indigenous culture in Mesoamerica, legend has it that the dome shape of the steam house represents Mother Earth’s womb, and those taking part in a Temazcal are said to experience a rebirth.

Honduras’ top eco-resort, The Lodge at Pico Bonito, is inviting travelers to abandon the stresses of home, ignite a new outlook on life, and increase circulation of the senses with their new organic spa offerings and we think it sounds like an excellent idea. It’s also been named one of the top 50 eco-lodges by National Geographic Traveler.

Honduras Eco Resort Lodge Pico Bonito

The Lodge at Pico Bonita’s Standard Room in the Center of the Jungle

The new outdoor spa, set to debut on January 15th, will have three circular cabins on stilts to maintain balance and harmony with the natural energies of the environment (one cabin for individual massage, one cabin for couples massage, one cabin with a Vichy shower, one Temazcal, and a nearby plunge pool).

Here some just a few deliciously organic spa offerings:

Revitalizing Cotinga, in the Temazcal, begins with an aromatic steam therapy to oxygenate the pores of your skin. The treatment continues in their Vichy shower with a pineapple exfoliation and a therapeutic anti-inflammatory chamomile mud wrap. (Note: Temazcal rituals need two people per session so bring along your partner for a truly liberating couples experience)

Aromatherapy, or Essential Oil therapy, is also on offer. Taking a holistic approach of using extracts from plants to balance, harmonize and improve the mind, body and soul by using essential oils such as spruce, rosewood spruce, rosewood, frankincense, and blue tansy. Detox relaxes muscles, improves circulation and relieves joint pain by using essential oils such basil, grapefruit, cypress, marjoram, mint, and lavender to drain and remove toxins.

Organic spa treatment

Organic Ingredients Good Enough to Eat!

Organic Fruit Facials incorporate seasonal fruits like cucumber, melon, banana, lychee, papaya, pineapple and passion fruit, along with cacao and honey, to refreshen your face. The best part? Their 50-minute facial only costs US $45. For those feeling even more romantic, there’s the Romantic Rio Coloradito Treatment, a lavender-fused massage to delete back and neck tensions from all those days sitting at the computer. It’s followed with a warm foot purification scrub (using honey and flowers for her and herbs for him) while sipping on a delicious tea from local fruits and aphrodisiac spices.

Honduran Rafting Excursion!

Honduran Rafting Excursion! (c) Small Luxury Hotels of the World

The eco-lodge is worth the escape alone. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World™, its five-star amenities are set on the edge of Honduras’ second largest National Park, ten miles from La Ceiba. There’s a trio of four-story observation decks overlooking the jungle canopy and adventures like white water rafting and jungle safaris through protected mangroves make it an unforgettable experience. Plus, with only 22 private cabins, it’s the perfect place to escape city life, in eco-chic style.

www.picobonito.com 

Sustainable Cruising in the Galapagos

Sustainable Cruising on the Galapagos

Sustainable Cruising on MV Origin 

Sustainable cruising. It’s something we like to promote because, in addition to trains, it’s a great way to make the journey the destination. Plus, who doesn’t want to see big turtles in style? To that end, Ecoventura, a leader in sustainable cruising through the Galapagos Islands, has just announced inaugural departures for its newest premium class vessel, MV Origin, whose maiden voyage departs from San Cristobal Island on January 17, 2016. 
The newest and only vessel of its kind, MV Origin is positioned to redefine the cruising experience by combining modern sophistication with environmental responsibility, alternating between seven-night A & B itineraries to reduce the impact of visits to the islands’ most popular sites.  On January 17, MV Origin will join Ecoventura’s existing fleet on the B itinerary through the northwestern route. Its maiden voyage on the A itinerary departs on January 24, taking guests around the southern central route through the islands. Both itineraries include daily, personalized excursions with optional snorkel and kayak tours led by two onboard, certified naturalists.
A snapshot of the islands

A snapshot of the islands

The 20-passenger mega-yacht (we must admit, we love anything that marries sustainability… with mega-yachtdom) will feature 10 deluxe staterooms distributed throughout one deck, and a variety of onboard amenities designed especially for the discerning traveler. These will include locally inspired gourmet cuisine, and recreational equipment such as a Jacuzzi and fitness center. MV Origin will also feature expansive indoor and outdoor social and observation areas allowing for easy comfortable viewing of the islands’ unique scenery and topography.  
Rates for 2016 start at $6,500 per person, but are all inclusive. Based on double occupancy, that means all meals and snacks, Captain’s welcome and farewell cocktail, all alcoholic beverages, guided shore excursions, snorkel equipment and sea kayaks, as well as transfers in the islands between the airport and dock.

We think that sounds pretty pretty (Dar)winning to us!

Lake Mojave and Cottonwood Cove Resort’s Eco-Dive and Environmental Clean Up Day

Lake Mojave

Lake Mojave’s Cottonwood Cove and Marina

We like a good cause related adventure and in the spirit of keeping our natural habitat looking and functioning great, Forever Resorts, in cooperation with the National Park Service, the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the area SCUBA diving community, will host its annual Eco-Dive and Environmental Clean-up Day at Cottonwood Cove Resort and Marina. It’s a chance for eco-conscious individuals to come out and help clean up the marina, the dock, and surrounding beach areas with others who share their passion for preserving the beauty of our National Park lands.

Did we also mention you can rent houseboats? There’s something Wild West on the Water about Houseboats, isn’t there?

More than 19,500 pounds of debris have been collected over the last seven clean-up days at Cottonwood Cove—that’s nearly 10 tons of trash. Individuals wishing to volunteer for Clean-up Day should remember to wear loose fitted or layered clothing closed toed shoes, sunglasses/hat, and sunscreen. Tools and bags will be provided. The first 100 participants to arrive will receive t-shirts and all who register will be entered in a raffle to receive prizes.

WHEN:
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015

EVENT OVERVIEW:
7:30 a.m. –  Registration

8:30 a.m. – Land volunteer safety meeting and departure

8:45 a.m. – Diver safety meeting and departure

9:30 to 10:30 a.m. – Harbor closure for first dive; land volunteers on beaches

10:30 to 11:30 a.m. – snack/water break

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. – Harbor closure for second dive; land volunteers on beaches

11:30 a.m. – BBQ begins for land volunteers

12:30 p.m. – BBQ for divers

1 to 2 p.m. – Raffle and giveaways

WHERE:
Cottonwood Cove Resort & Marina on Lake Mohave
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
Located 14 miles east of Searchlight, Nev.

Directions to Cottonwood Cove from Las Vegas:
Take US-93 S/US-95 S, and the get off at the exit toward Searchlight, NV. Merge onto US-95. Turn left at W. Cottonwood Cove Road.

Directions to Cottonwood Cove from Laughlin, Nev.:
Go North on NV-163, turn slight right onto US-95. Turn right at W. Cottonwood Cove Rd.

Directions to Cottonwood Cove  from Southern California:
Take 15-N toward Las Vegas. Take the exit for Hwy 164-E (Nipton Rd) toward Searchlight. Hwy 164 turns into Cottonwood Cove Road

www.CottonwoodCoveResort.com

Iceland’s Bill Chill Adventure

Iceland's Miraculous Northern Lights

Iceland’s Miraculous Northern Lights

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a million times before, but we are just a little bit obsessed with Iceland and seeing the Northern Lights.

So, when we heard that Dr. Sarah Aciego, the glaciochemist (yes, glaciochemist!) who pioneered isotope dating of ice cores at the University of Michigan and co-founder of Big Chill Adventures, was unveiling the company’s inaugural “Diamond Circle Tour” tour of Iceland, we had to let our readers know. Northern Lights sightings; exploring lava tubes, volcanic pillars, black sand dunes, stone forests, turf farmhouses, geothermal fields and active volcanoes; and stories of trolls and elves all highlight this unique Iceland adventure.
“High magnetic activity, long nights, and clear skies provide the highest chance of Northern Lights sightings all year long,” said Aciego. “The remnants of past volcanic eruptions provide caves and unique geologic formations, while the heat of the active volcanic fields combined with the meltwater from the glaciers create geothermal phenomenon unrivaled throughout the world.”

Day 1, September 21
Tour the Hallmundarhraun Lava Field and Fljótstunga Farm. Explore the largest lava tube cave in Iceland, Viðgelmir. Meet some Icelandic Horses, take the Lava Circle Walk and possibly see some migrating whooper swans.

Day 2, September 22
Spend the morning visiting trolls — first a drive to 3,300 foot tall Tröllakirkja “Church of the Trolls” and then onto the largest saltwater lagoon in Iceland where guests will investigate black sand dunes.

Day 3, September 23
Travel to Glaumbær Farm to tour traditional turf farmhouses built in 900 A.D. Dine in Akureyri, the largest “city” in northern Iceland, before traveling to the Goðafoss waterfall.

Day 4, September 24
Tour the geologically diverse and spectacular Northeast of Iceland. Continue on to Vesturdalur walking trails and the strange basalt rock formations of Hljóðaklettar, which means “echoing rocks”.

Day 5, September 25
Explore the geothermal field of Hverir, with steaming vents, hissing chimneys and bubbling hot pots of mud. Trek around Lake Myvátn toward the Sigurgeir Bird Museum. Climb Vindbelgjarfjall with spectacular views of the lake from the top.

Day 6, September 26
Visit the “Black Castles” of Dimmuborgir, a huge 2,300 year-old field of twisted volcanic pillars, tunnels and arches made of coagulated rock. Drive to Akureyri, with time to enjoy some lunch before departing for Reykjavik.

The 6-day/7-night tour departs September 20, 2015 and starts at $3,850 per person.

For more information on this Iceland holiday or other tours to Iceland, Greenland, Alaska and the Canadian Rockies:

http://bigchilladventure.com/

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