Every time you travel, your goal should be to craft the experience of a lifetime. This is especially true in the world of ecotourism, where the nature of a location carries more importance than the hotel or the nightlife around it. Your goal as an eco-traveler is to discover the nature of this world in a way you have yet to experience, and it is our aim to guide you along that path. From the rain forests of Costa Rica to the icy shores of Antarctica, these seven ecotourism destinations could make for the vacation of a lifetime. If you’re ready to travel off the beaten path, join us to explore the beauty below…
At Sal Salis Nigaloo Reef, Australia, you spend your days snorkeling a pristine natural reef, hiking the rolling dunes and observing the friendly local wildlife. By night, you fall asleep with the sound of the tide just a few meters away from your canvas domicile. To vacation here is to escape the ordinary, but to do so with the finest in rustic comforts. It’s rare that the words “rustic” and “comfort” find themselves in equal employment, but they blend well at Sal Salis. This is either the finest form of camping or the most adventurous form of resort living available. Either way, rarely can an ecotourism traveler find such a deep connection with coastal nature than in this little hamlet down under.
There is no greater frontier on the Earth’s surface than the icy reaches of Antarctica. This frozen continent at the southern base of our planet is home to resilient animals, hearty plant life and massive ice structures that rival man’s greatest architectural achievements. Several times a year, the people at National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions carry a few dozen ecotourism passengers to the world’s coldest extremes to explore this frozen frontier.
The National Geographic Expeditions cruise leaves Argentina to explore the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and the shores of the Antarctic peninsula in an intimate fashion. On board this ship, you’ll do a lot more than gazing from the top deck, you’ll walk on icebergs, kayak through thawing waters and come face-to-face with penguins and albatrosses alike. While the price tag carries a bit of sticker shock (trips can start around $10k per traveler), you will rest assured that few other ecotourism travelers will ever experience the natural world quite like this. Bon Voyage!
In an otherwise untouched reach of the forests of Sweden, a strange mirror cube floats in the pine needle canopy. This might be the world’s most unusual hotel– a large reflective cube that welcomes guests to an intimate forest experience. The Tree Hotel – Sweden features a collection of tree house suites that include the mirror cube above, a UFO-shaped saucer, a branch-covered cube and a fairytale red tree house. It is a prime destination for design and ecotourism travelers, where architecture and natural immersion meet in the same location. It’s an other-worldly escape, one that is near the top of our own personal bucket list.
If you’re planning a visit to the Joshua Tree National Park in California, there may be no better way to experience it than the Rosa Muerta Desert Retreat. This stunning home was designed by architect Robert Stone to serve as a rentable vacation shelter for ecotourism travelers to Joshua Tree. The goal was to allow visitors to experience the desert firsthand in an architecturally-progressive structure with an unparalleled connection to its environment. The open windows, doors and exposed skylights make this shelter a part of the environment, not a point of escape from its character. At $200/night, its rental price beats most vacation rentals in nearby LA. Don’t expect a maid service, but that’s not what you came to the desert for…
When taking to the snowy Alps for a winter-time ski retreat, your traditional chalet may not be the optimal ecotourism option. The WhitePod Alpine Ski Resort features 15 geodesic dome rooms with their own wood-burning fireplace, raised wooden floors and soft, cushy furnishings. These domes make a minimal impact on the mountainous environment of the Swiss Alps, while providing a comforting and quiet escape from the cool temperatures of the local climate. Each dome features a wide, panoramic window to the hills and valleys below while the sun sets on the snow-kissed mountains beyond.
If a safari is on your horizon, the Naibor Luxury Safari Retreat is an ideal African escape. This prime place of Kenyan ecotourism welcomes guests who wish to explore the African continent without giving up the creature comforts. Like others on this list, Naibor is part camping, part luxury resort– it features fine dining and personal relaxation while also offering deep African exploration. It’s the kind of destination where one can observe lions and hippos go about their day while enjoying the romantic quiet at night. It’s hard to beat Naibor if Kenya is on your itinerary.
In the lush jungles of Costa Rica, you’re welcome to visit, vacation or even live in this vibrant treehouse community. This community, lovingly named Finca Bellavista, welcomes visitors from the United States and beyond who wish to experience life amongst the trees and the animals of the jungle. Finca Bellavista was founded by visiting Americans and expatriots who built a vast network of treehouses that are connected by bridges and zip lines in a large section of forest. Visitors are welcomed to stay in one of the Finca Bellavista guest houses, provided that they help out around the community and immerse themselves into the jungle experience. That includes bathing in freshwater waterfalls, hiking to the nearby Pacific Ocean and understanding the jungle environment. It’s an experience we’ve all dreamed about since childhood– living amongst the trees far above the ground in a land where no one could touch us. It’s quite idyllic, isn’t it?
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