Compassionate Traveling: SustainableTrip.org
I ran across this website, SustainableTrip.org, quite a few months ago and was impressed with it. I get monthly email updates from them that make me want to jump out of my office chair and hop on the next plane to South America. Their photos bring back fond memories of jungle cabins and tropical adventures; of rain so hard it rendered umbrellas useless, and of heat so sweltering it rendered sleep useless. This may not sound appetizing to you, but if you've ever been to the tropics and fell in love with it like I did, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
SustainableTrip.org is a website that features destinations or businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean that are making outstanding efforts to conserve natural resources and improve livelihoods in their local community. Whether its a hacienda 9,600 feet above sea level in Ecuador, a bed and breakfast lodge smack in the middle of Amazonia, or a tourism company that leads jungle expeditions, these businesses are certified by the Rainforest Alliance and are sure to show you a good time.
Here are just a few examples that make those ferrocious travel bugs bite:
Ecoventura yachts - Galapagos Network (Ecuador)
Ecoventura's yachts take you to the Galapagos (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) in style. They offer a total of 38 rooms on 4 boats, each with luscious ammenities and breakfast included. Activities include dive boats, kayaking, snorkeling, photography, and bird-watching, as well as intimate guided visits to shore while treading lightly on the environment.
These guys are certified in sustainability, and have made many adjustments in order to pollute less and have less of an impact on the environment. They are carbon-neutral and their carbon emissions are offset by a variety of projects in other parts of the world. They have helped establish the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity Fund in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, to support environmental education and marine conservation. They also proudly participate in the Pack for a Purpose program, where guests can bring school supplies, medical supplies, and other small items from home to donate to the local community. Guests simply drop off their donation with the staff, and Ecoventura will deliver it for them.
Selva Verde Lodge and Rainforest Preserve (Costa Rica)
Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve is home to possibly the largest almendro tree in all of Central America. This enormous tree provides food and habitat for the endangered great green macaw. The lodge offers daily guided hikes with local nature guides in the reserve, and on the grounds of the lodge there are self-guided trails and botanical gardens for visitors to explore. The Sarapiquí River flows right through the property and offers swimming and whitewater rafting on class I-V rapids.
The lodge is located next to La Selva research station (where I myself spent a week or more when I was in Costa Rica doing research), and visitors can visit and learn about the various research happening there while taking guided tours on the property. I can tell you firsthand how many tropical frogs you will see while you're walking there, including red-eyed treefrogs (they're everywhere!) and the popular poison dart species like the tiny blue and red "blue jean" frog. There was also a resident coati (begging for bananas), sloth, and iguana on the premises. Other nearby attractions to the lodge include the Braulio Carrillo National Park, Heliconia Island, Tirimbina Rainforest Reserve, pineapple and banana plantation Tours, canopy zipline tours, and a serpentarium.
Today the center is a fully independent nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a sustainable future for the people of Sarapiquí and is focused on four main areas --environmental education, community development, conservation, and tourism -- in order to help form future environmental leaders, raise the organizational capacity of local communities, promote sustainable land use, and connect tourists to the local community.
Bodhi Surf School (Costa Rica)
Located in the beautiful town of Uvita-Bahía Ballena on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, this surf school offers personalized surf and yoga lessons that help connect individuals with nature and increase environmental and social awareness. The surf school focuses on inner awareness through yoga and on social justice through community work, and also incorporates conservation into its business practices. Uvita-Bahía Ballena is part of Ballena Marine National Park, one of Costa Rica’s many nature reserves. This park includes several kilometers of undeveloped coastline where visitors can see some of Costa Rica’s famed wildlife.
Porta Hotel Del Lago (Guatemala)
Framed by three majestic volcanoes, and beside beautiful Lake Atitlan, this hotel puts the visitor smack in the midst of local community life. Small businesses harboring local merchannts, artisans and weavers are active in this little town, and boats come and go from the lake's harbor. The public beach and recreational area is not far away and houses the San Buenaventura butterfly garden, whose trails lead to waterfalls and historic churches.
Activities which the visitor can take part in from this hotel are numerous, and include horseback riding, canopy tours, bike-riding, river rafting, scuba diving, visits to conservation projects, volunteer activities, and lake tours. This hotel si certified sustainable from the Great Green Deals program, because it supports many local businesses and provides jobs for local community members. Its local habitat tours educate visitors on the importance of the natural wilderness of the country.
Sustainable businesses are those that are profitable while conserving natural resources and benefitting local communities. Examples of sustainable business practices include conserving water and energy, supporting community conservation projects, recycling and treating wastes, hiring staff from neighboring towns, paying them just wages and providing additional training, and, sourcing locally-produced products in restaurants and gift shops. Why not support the conservation of local habitat and wildlife while you travel, so that these beautiful people and places can stay around for future generations to enjoy.