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A Guide to the best sustainable travel trips

Melissa Hobson

Contributor

Awareness of the importance of responsible, sustainable travel is probably at an all-time high - we all know how important it is to minimise our impact on the environment and local communities when travelling. But how do we know which trips are truly benefiting the people and nature you're visiting and which are just greenwashing. Here, we explore five great responsible trips and help you understand what type of things you should be looking for in an eco-friendly holiday.

Get hands on with ground-breaking marine conservation research

Experienced scuba divers looking for their next adventure can learn more about the ocean’s secrets on an expedition with expert marine biologists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF). You’ll explore some of the world’s most sought-after dive sites on Mozambique’s spectacular southern coastline, including exclusive visits to some dive sites which are not open to the public. During the six diving days, you’ll have the chance to spot some of the many magnificent creatures that can be found in Mozambique’s unique underwater ecosystem, including whale sharks, manta rays, small eye stingrays (the world’s largest and rarest ray), turtles, humpback whales and reef sharks.

As well as seeing these graceful creatures, you’ll be able to assist MMF’s researchers in their vital conservation work. Whale sharks and manta rays have unique spot patterns which can be used to identify individuals and aid in vital population studies. You’ll learn to take ID photos and how to identify an animal’s gender and maturity. This knowledge will allow you to get hands-on with ground-breaking research by taking ID photos during boat-based and aerial surveys. These pictures will be added to MMF’s photographic database; directly helping the charity in its pioneering conservation work to protect ocean giants from extinction.

Protect Rhinos from the Devastating Effects of Poaching

The threat of rhino poaching is at an all-time high and these critically endangered animals desperately need protection. Leave a positive legacy by supporting Rhinos Without Borders in its mission to relocate rhinos from heavily poached South African reserves to one in Botswana with much lower poaching rates. Impact Destinations offers unforgettable trips where you’ll be able to see the stunning savannah in utmost luxury on a tailored trip as well as getting the satisfaction of seeing the direct impact your donation has made.

Search for the Big Five on private game drives in Phinda Game Reserve, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, before joining Rhinos Without Borders to witness the translocation of the rhino your funds have saved. How many people can say they have truly played a part in saving a species from extinction?

Join an Antarctic whale research voyage

Join one of the world’s last frontiers on an Aqua-Firma natural history expedition to Antarctica. In this stunning wilderness, join an expert team of marine scientists and professional crew with an in-depth knowledge of this dramatically remote destination. Against the backdrop of glaciers, icebergs and mountains, your luxury vessel will sail past incredible wildlife including seals, albatross and macaroni, Gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie penguins.

Whales – including orcas, humpbacks, blue and sperm whales – come to these nutrient-rich waters to feed so expect the chance of once-in-a-lifetime close encounters. This close observation lends itself well to the purpose of your mission – alongside cetacean scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, you’ll help the researchers with whale tracking and data collection. Previous voyages have even hosted the BBC Blue Planet Live film crew. Examine what and how the whales feed, listening to their underwater vocals via a hydrophone, tracking and taking scientific samples for analysis back home before learning more about the lives of these gentle mammals through inspiring onboard lectures from world-leading experts.

Immerse yourself in the Galapagos

The Galapagos is one of the most unique places on the planet and one only a select handful of people are lucky enough to see in their lifetimes. Those who do visit often travel on larger ships but, for something really special, join one of Natural Habitat Adventures’ small-group voyages on a private, deluxe catamaran. The carbon-neutral travel company is a proud partner of the World Wildlife Fund. As such, they provide environmentally conscious trips where special permits offer exclusive access to areas not visited by other visitors.

Be prepared for an active trip: getting up close and personal with the Galapagos’ flora and fauna through hikes, snorkelling trips and kayaking expeditions, all guided by experts. Wildlife you might be lucky enough to encounter includes sea lions, turtles, sharks, rays, Galapagos tortoises, penguins, iguanas and a multitude of birdlife. 

Support Community Tourism in the Amazon

Sustainable tourism often focuses on incredible wildlife but it’s also important to help community projects in the areas you visit. At the Napo Wildlife Centre, you can do both. Head deep into the Amazon rainforest to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Yasuní National Park to experience the Amazon’s staggering biodiversity. During your stay, meet the Kichwa Añangu Community and learn about their day-to-day lives, native ancestral culture and traditional customs.

Join forest excursions, canoeing trips, hikes and bird spotting tours, see incredible wildlife and enjoy the community’s welcome as you experience their food, entertainment and handicrafts. What’s more, know the proceeds of your trip are reinvested into education, healthcare and renewable energy projects for the community.

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