There are eco-friendly and eco-"unfriendly" ways to visit any adventure destination. For example, you can hop in a helicopter -- what locals drolly label a "Kauai mosquito" --- to scope out that Hawaiian island's lush valleys and oceanside cliffs; in the process, you burn gallons of aviation fuel and subject the area to emissions and noise. Alternately, you can wander Kauai's Na Pali or Awa'awapuhi trails, smelling the damp earth and ducking under native rainforest foliage that arches over your path. (See References 1) Eco-friendly means "eco-fun" if you are in reasonable shape and have a curious outlook on the world.
Follow your interests and inspiration to pick your destination and activity. If you love wild animals, take a trip to visit the bears and wolves of Yellowstone National Park or the cheetahs of the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. If you crave a physical challenge, hike, trek, climb or raft in Hawaii or Nepal.
Learn about the animals and vegetation and how they interact from knowledgeable local guides, who can tell you how to find game or birds without disturbing them and how to leave the area as you found it (see References 2). For example, in the Amazon, tours with local Indians teach you how to obtain water from vines in the jungle (see References 6). In Kenya, Luo and Masai tribesmen, often with two-year college accreditations in leading safaris, can spot rock-still resting lions and know where the baboon troops gather in the afternoon. In Alaska, natives from the state's interior run tours of Denali National Park (see References 3).
Pick non-mechanized travel for your best chance of getting up close to the local ecology and at the same time not impacting it negatively. Hike instead of "flight-seeing" by helicopter. Snowshoe or ski cross-country rather than renting a snowmobile. Walk past the jet-boat ticket stand in the Everglades and rent a canoe (see References 2, page 30).
Stay in lodging that lies lightly on the environment. In Vietnam, for example, eco-lodges offer lovely views of mountains and valleys and heating and light provided by solar panels behind each of the bungalows (see References 5, page 151). While adventure tourism and eco-tourism don't always overlap, doing your homework can help you find a good balance between the two --- places like Bokeo Nature Reserve in Northern Laos, which has zip lines and hiking, offer treehouse lodging 200 feet up in the forest canopy (see References 4, page 405).
- Check that your eco-friendly adventure has remained small scale and not escalated into "mass tourism" (see Resources 1, page 202). In East Africa especially, places such as the Ngorongoro Crater have gone from being an Eden-like jewel to becoming overrun by 300 Jeeps and trucks a day, descending a single narrow road to the crater floor (see Resources 2).
- "The Hiker's Guide to the Hawaiian Islands"; Stuart M. Ball; 2000
- "National Parks"; The Road Less Traveled; Michael Tennesen; May-June 1998
- Doyon Tourism's Kantishna Wilderness Trails: Denali National Park
- "Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring"; China Williams; 2010
- "Frommer's Vietnam: Including Angkor Wat"; Sherisse Pham; 2008
- Moon Travel Guide Brazil: Ecotours and Excursions
Rogue Parrish is a writer and editor with Demand Media Studios.
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