Posts Tagged ‘ecotourism’

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!
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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/

Ecotourism: Environmentally Friendly or Greenwashing?

A Pipe Breaks Killing 300 Turtles (c) WSPA

A Pipe Breaks Killing 300 Turtles (c) WSPA

In recent years, we all know that eco-tourism has become a hot buzzword for environmentally minded travelers, but these days, groups like the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) advises tourists to research visitor attractions to ensure they are operating responsibly, keeping in mind the welfare of animals and the environment, and avoid those that are simply greenwashing.

So, using the Cayman Turtle Farm as an example, Elizabeth Hogan, oceans and wildlife campaigns manager at WSPA, put together a list of five tips that can help tourists identify when an eco-tourist attraction is not as animal- or environmentally friendly as it claims. We’ll admit, this news comes at a great time as we can’t always tell at first look what programs are legitimately helping versus those that are simply greenwashing.  What’s the problem with the Cayman Turtle Farm? It’s a popular tourist destination that alleges to focus on the conservation and the protection of endangered sea turtles, but it also sells them for food and has a poor track record on animal protection issues.

1)      Avoid direct interaction with the animals.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t be touching animals at an eco-tourist attraction. Whether it’s swimming with dolphins or holding sea turtles, this kind of contact with hundreds or thousands of tourists can traumatize the very animals being protected and compromise their health, sometimes in serious ways. Be wary of any eco-tourist attraction that encourages or allows this kind of contact and know it may also pose a health risk for you personally. For example, at the Cayman Turtle Farm, tourists are encouraged to handle the sea turtles, putting themselves at risk of contracting E.coli and salmonella.

2)      If there is a high entertainment to science ratio, stay away.

Eco-tourist attractions must balance science and entertainment. Unfortunately, some lean too heavily on the latter. If the eco-tourist attraction you’re considering has too much entertainment, such as snorkelling with sea turtles in small artificial ponds as the case at the Cayman Turtle Farm, it may not be paying enough attention to welfare of the animals it’s supposedly protecting and the science of conservation.

3)      Don’t eat any of the animals supposedly being protected.

Done properly, there’s nothing wrong with farming. But it’s a very different thing than conservation. Any eco-tourist attraction that tries to balance conservation of a species with selling it for meat is caught in a conflict of interest. At the Cayman Turtle Farm, it claims to be helping endangered sea turtles while simultaneously selling sea turtle meat to local restaurants.

4)      Look for what trusted third parties have to say.

Before you visit an attraction, spend a few minutes on the Internet to see what trusted third-party groups have to say.  In the case of the Cayman Turtle Farm, WSPA as well as other animal and conservation groups have expressed concerns about its policies and practices which are online and come up in any search on the farm.

5)      Ask you travel agent, cruise line and hotel concierge lots of questions.

With the four points above in mind, come armed with questions for anyone recommending you visit an eco-tourist attraction. Ask members of the travel industry to investigate the attractions they are promoting and provide proof that the property is operating with animal’s and the environment’s interest at its core. If they can’t answer all of your concerns, look for other animal- and eco-friendly options.  WSPA says keeping these five simple tips in mind will help environmentally minded travelers avoid eco-tourist attractions that fail to meet industry standards.

“Ultimately people want to do the right thing and eco-tourism sounds good, it feels good, and people like the idea that they are helping make the world a better place while they are on vacation,” added Hogan. “But it’s not that simple. Luckily if you know what to look for it’s fairly easy to spot problem places even if no one tells you.”

To learn more about WSPA’s campaign to end sea turtle cruelty visit: http://www.StopSeaTurtleFarm.org.

Ecuador & Eco-Travel Voluntourism

The Amazing Yasuni National Park

In the mood for a little eco-travel and voluntourism? Brand spankin’ new programs in the field of international volunteering have just been launched… hurrah! United Planet, a leader in the field, has recently added to its offerings in the beloved country of resource rich Ecuador. United Planet is an international non-profit based in Boston that strives to create a world in which all people understand, respect, and support one another. Their global network of leaders and volunteers fosters cross-cultural understanding and addresses shared challenges to unite the world in a community beyond borders.

Sue, a Nurse, Volunteering in Ecuador

Over the past ten years, they’ve worked with local communities all over the world to find meaningful work for volunteer travelers; and have placed thousands of volunteers in those communities to live and work – for periods ranging from a week to a year. Volunteers may now work with wildlife/animals in the Amazon; indigenous people in the Amazon jungle; or in environmental conservation in the Galapagos.

Amazon River Dolphin!

These programs supplement the long-standing and popular programs in Quito and the Cloud Forest, where volunteers can work with children (teaching, childcare, working with at-risk youth);healthcare; or on environmental projects. We likey. Did we mention our father-in-law has lived there for the last 20 years. Ecuador is one of those still-off-the-beaten-track countries for mainstream tourists so it’s managed to hold onto it’s indigenous culture (and it’s inexpensive prices), unlike some it’s competitors.

Why are these new programs so great? you ask.

Because volunteers ‘get to experience more of Ecuador’s diversity,’ says Theresa Higgs, Vice President of Global Operations at United Planet. “United Planet is looking to provide its volunteers with new experiences in a variety of projects. Ecuador is a wonderful place for almost anyone seeking to volunteer: it’s easy to get to, the dollar is strong, and the people are famous for their warmth and hospitality. ”

At the Wildlife Project, volunteers have the opportunity to care for animals that have suffered from maltreatment or been victims of animal trafficking. Volunteers can work at an Animal Rescue Center and help protect the wildlife of Ecuador’s Amazon. Volunteers also have the opportunity to island-hop through the Galapagos.  At Tortuga Bay, they can observe marine iguanas and turtles, sharks and hike through an ecologically diverse rainforest. If they’re looking to relax, volunteers can enjoy the stretches of white-sand beaches.

The White Sand Beaches of Tortuga Bay - Galapagos Islands

In Floreana, volunteers will be exposed to the history of the island, having the opportunity to explore caves once inhabited and used by pirates. Snorkeling in the crystal bay after a day of new discoveries in the caves is also available. At the Charles Darwin station, volunteers will continue to explore the history of the Galapagos and enjoy the clear-water that yields sights of reef sharks. There is also a chance to see colonies of Galapagos Penguins who have recently been relocated to this site.

So, I don’t know about you, but taking off to give and receive some Amazonian love sounds really good right about now.

http://www.unitedplanet.org/volunteer-in-ecuador


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