ByEmily Scorer

Dec 28, 2016 ,

Love our planet and want the chance to see all it has to offer without making a negative impact? There are ways to travel responsibly, and there are some spots that are changing so quickly that going now is imperative. For a little travel inspiration, Eco Companion presents six of the world’s top ecotourism destinations for the new year:

The Amazon: The Lungs of the Planet

Photo: Eco Companion

Covering parts of Brazil, Colombia, Peru and other areas of South America, the Amazon Rainforest spreads over 1.4 billion acres and is the largest forest in the world. It’s a nature lover’s dream; brimming with more than 10 million species of plants and animals, the diversity is almost unbelievable. Yet this impressive habitat and huge range of species are under threat. It’s estimated that every second an area the size of a football field is destroyed, which translates into a lot of sloths, jaguars and monkeys having their homes torn down. The Amazon ecosystem itself is so fragile that these changes make it a struggle for many species to keep on surviving.

Visiting the Amazon is on many travelers’ bucket lists, but without efforts to preserve this magical forest, it would cease to even exist. Ongoing positive changes are being made to ensure these ecosystems stay alive, and there are now ways for tourists to experience this fascinating place while also making a positive impact on local communities and supporting ongoing conservation efforts. You can contribute to preserving the Amazon by collaborating with NGOs on projects such as this one in Ecuador, or head to Peru with this project that aims to battle the unsustainable use of natural resources in the area, as well as alleviate poverty.

Evolutionary Inspiration on the Galápagos Islands

Photo: Eco Companion

Ancient giant turtles, sunbathing penguins and swimming iguanas? Only in the Galápagos Islands do you find such a bizarre array of animals living side by side. It’s no surprise that Darwin was fascinated by the species on these islands, and they were in fact his source of inspiration for the theory of evolution. These volcanic islands lie 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and are world-famous for the unique species that inhabit them and the amazing scientific discoveries related to them.

Yet these islands’ popularity and population have come at a price. The rich diversity of marine life has led to illegal industrial fishing, and the famous creatures on the island have made the area so popular with tourists that this fascinating archipelago and the fragile ecosystems within it are under threat. However, there is a way to visit these islands and contribute to conservation and sustainable development. Working alongside WWF, the Galápagos Islands now encourage ecotourism — so you’re in luck! To cross this must-see off your list, check out some amazing and eco-friendly trips, such as this cruise or this tour.

Monkeying Around in Borneo

Photo: Eco Companion

Borneo, the largest island in Asia, has a lot to offer, especially to any primate enthusiasts! The Borneo rainforest is an impressive 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest on Earth. With 15,000 species of plants and seven different “eco-regions,” there is a huge amount of nature and wildlife in this area, which is being added to all the time as new and fascinating species are discovered.

Unlike anywhere else, you can find elephants, clouded leopards, rhinos and tigers all living together under one canopy. Yet some of these rare animals are under threat due to deforestation and illegal poaching in the area. This rainforest is also one of the last remaining homes of the endangered Borneo orangutan, which has lost 55 percent of its home in the past 60 years. If you’d like the unique opportunity to volunteer with orangutans in the wild and explore the luscious jungles of Borneo, then visit the Samboja Lestari Orangutan Volunteer Project.

Sun and Snow in Sweden

Photo: Eco Companion

As part of its commitment to sustainability, Sweden has introduced not one but two different organizations dedicated to ecotourism: an eco-tourism charter and Nature’s est’, an eco-label that certifies travel companies. It’s hardly surprising how eager they are to protect their landscapes when you look at the fantastic nature in Sweden. Throughout the year, whether you want to kayak across glassy lakes, head off on a lobster safari in Western Sweden, or dogsled on a snowy Arctic getaway, there is an adventure for everyone.

Many may think of it as more of a winter destination, but the Swedish countryside is a beauty to behold in the summer months. You can join locals as they forage for wild berries in the forest or take a dip in a cooling lake. In fact, due to the Swedish institution of “Allemansrätten,” which means “Right of Public Access,” you are free to hike across the country wherever you so wish, as long as you leave it as you found it.

But Sweden is home to more than just nature and tranquility. If you’re looking for animal encounters and an adrenaline rush, then look no further. Huskies are a given, but it’s easy to forget the huge amount of other wild animals that you can find in Scandinavia: wolverines, brown bears, moose, lynx and more. Amazing trips tracking these creatures, such as this moose and wolf experience, offer you the chance to see impressive animals in their natural habitat during the day and under moonlight, giving you a real taste of the wild.

God’s Own Country: Kerala, India

Photo: Eco Companion

Who wouldn’t want to visit God’s own country? This is the name commonly given to Kerala, a tropical paradise in Southern India. Squeezed between the divine shoreline of the Arabian Sea and the luscious mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. Beaches and backwaters make Kerala uniquely beautiful, with a 600-kilometer-long palm-tree-filled shoreline contrasting with winding, delicate canals you can boat along.

Within the forests of Ghat, you find amazing national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. These house impressive and often rare creatures, such as Bengali tigers, Indian elephants, leopards and rhinos, as well as one of the rarest butterflies in the world: the Travancore Evening Brown. There’s even a shrub here that blooms only once every 12 years!

Within the parks, there is a focus on scientific conservation methods to ensure protection to the creatures within them, while also benefiting the local tribal people who live in the mountains. On top of the beaches and forests Kerala has to offer, you can explore the highlands, which are filled with the scents of coffee, tea and cardamom. Kerala is a truly magical place, full of luxurious forest, spice-scented hills and revitalizing trekking trails. To experience it all, take a look at this exciting eco-tour.

Turtle-y Tortuguero in Costa Rica

Photo: Eco Companion

Welcome to the Land of the Turtles, a village on a small sand island in Costa Rica. Despite its size, Costa Rica contributes to more than 5 percent of the planet’s eco-diversity and is famed for being home to exotic (but cute) animals, like the three-toed sloth, the capuchin monkey and ocelots — wild cats, about double the size of a normal house cat. It is the dream destination for anyone with a love of wildlife and concern for protecting the environment.

Tortuguero has a population of a mere 1,200 people and can only be reached by boat or plane. The tiny village is sustained almost entirely by ecotourism, which is unsurprising as it is a turtle haven! During the summer, you can witness inspiring scenes, as green sea turtles head to shore to lay their eggs. There’s also a national park, which is home to an impressive 11 different types of habitat, offering a huge range of biodiversity perched on the edge of the Caribbean coast. If you want to see the turtles hatching for yourself and contribute to the ecotourism that keeps this village thriving, you can find out more about visiting Tortuguero here.

To learn more about how you can make a positive impact on a variety of sustainable experiences in nature, visit Eco Companion.

Now that you have six ecotourism destinations to consider, read these six tips to be a green globe trotter.

By Emily Scorer

Eco Companion's Emily Scorer is a Londoner who loves sustainable traveling, photography and good food. An Oxford graduate, she previously worked in Germany and China but has now set up base in her home city. Find her on Twitter at @emscorer.