Discover how different countries are tackling sustainability
The urge to explore and enjoy our beautiful planet is strong in most of us. But as sea levels, global temperatures and piles of waste continue to rise, travelling more sustainably has become more crucial than ever. From accommodation to activities, a number of luxury eco-lodges and sustainable boutique hotels are making it even easier for conscientious tourists to travel. Here are some of the countries taking the lead in helping to protect their natural environments.
Treading lighter in Iceland
Straddling two tectonic plates along the mid-Atlantic ridge, Iceland is renowned for its remote beauty: Northern Lights, glaciers, geysers and the volcanic, lunar landscape. Geo-thermal energy and hydropower supply nearly all of the country – making its capital, Reykjavik, one of the 'cleanest' cities in the world. In fact, compared to other nations, Iceland runs on the largest amount of renewable energy.
Visitors can help reduce their footprint even further by camping or staying in smaller, hotel hideaways crafted from sustainable wood. While, hiking, biking and horseback riding are also being encouraged as an alternative way to explore in spring and summer, instead of driving around in soil-eroding cars and buses.
Botswana: the eco jewel in the African crown
With the vast expanse of Chobe National Park, Selinda Reserve and the Okavango Delta to preserve, Botswana has been practising sustainable tourism for a long time. 38% of the land is now officially protected, with game hunting banned since 2014. This is where wild animals such as big cats and herds of migrating wildebeest roam free, including the world's largest elephant population.
In amongst this astonishing biodiversity, tourists can enjoy authentic, traditional experiences that support both the environment and local communities. Many of Botswana's eco-lodges and camps are fuelled by solar power. Vehicles often operate on a mix of vegetable oil (85%) and diesel (15%). And instead of plastic bottles, drinking water is treated using a UV filtration system. The delicate balance between preservation and profit is also actively encouraged through an ecotourism certification system – rewarding businesses that leave as little impact on the land as possible.
Caring for nature in Costa Rica
It could be the unique sanctuary which rescues abandoned, orphaned and injured sloths. Local Costa Ricans guarding the beaches, day and night, to help nesting turtles and their newly-hatched babies return safely to sea. Or groups of tourists being guided through forests to watch birds, visit hot springs, or zip-line across the treetop canopy. Over half a million species of animals and plants call this jungle environment home, with conservation and eco-friendly tourism playing a vital role in looking after its eight biological reserves and 20 national parks.
The country is also hot on the heels of Iceland when it comes to running on fully renewable energy. In one year alone, Costa Rica generated 99% of its power from wind, geothermic and solar energy, and managed nearly 300 days without burning fossil fuels. And with eco-lodges to be found right in the heart of these forests, guests staying in them get to learn about and appreciate nature first-hand.
Building on eco-friendly principles in Malaysia
Malaysia's palm oil industry continues to wreak havoc on the jungle habitats of orangutans and other endangered animals. Mining has also stripped patches of wetlands and forests bare. This is where ecotourism plays a vital role in helping repair and protect against further damage to some parts of the mainland and Malaysian Borneo.
Kuantan on the east coast has a boutique resort constructed from eco-conscious materials. Featuring private villas built on stilts over a tranquil lake, Mangala Resort & Spa is a beautiful example of how luxury and sustainability can work hand in hand.
While over in Borneo, Gaya Island Resort is a prime example of how a hotel can be sustainably built without harming the surrounding tropical rainforest, mangroves and delicate coral reefs. Guests are also asked to donate conservation fees when they check out – to help with the ongoing preservation of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park where Gaya Island is located.
Travelling further inland, and along Borneo's Kinabatangan River, safaris take place on boats fitted with quiet electric motors. These minimise noise and any resulting stress to nearby wildlife, including proboscis monkeys, Bornean pygmy elephants, rare hornbills and orangutans swinging by.