1) BONITO – BRAZIL
Bonito, surrounded by lush forests and wetlands, has a vast variety of wildlife. With its impressive sustainable tourism model the city proclaims itself as “Capital of Ecotourism” within Brazil. All popular activities, like snorkeling in the Rio da Prata or rafting on the Rio Formoso are closely monitored. Swimmers and scuba divers are banned from using flippers to avoid disturbing the seabed or wearing pollutants like sunscreen or insect repellent. Most of the region’s natural attractions also regulate the number of visitors and restrict access to non-cooperating guides. Bonito was selected as the “Best destination for responsible tourism” at the World Responsible Tourism Awards at the World Travel Market in London, 2013.
2) PHONGSALY PROVINCE – LAOS
Laos adopted ecotourism as its official strategy in 2005. There are 20 national parks, 49 ethnic groups, 650 bird species, hundreds of mammals and a variety of affordable eco-friendly accommodations. Phongsaly province, a very remote province located in the north of Laos, is still merely unexplored by tourists. Its dramatic mountainous terrain, cool weather and a very diverse population of ethnic hill tribes make it a tremendous area for trekking. Many of the province’s forests are uninhabited and are reported to have lots of wildlife. The thick jungles are abundant with bird species and the province has some of the best hot springs in the country.
With one part planted in the Central American jungle and the other part dipping the Caribbean Sea, the country packs more than 87 distinct types of ecosystems into less than 24.000 square kilometers. The Belize Barrier Reef is the second largest reef in the world, with more than 100 different kinds of coral and some 500 species of fish. It houses the world-famous Blue hole, over thousands cays (islands), abundant wildlife and excellent water for fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving and kayaking. With its 40 percent of the country classified as protected, Belize is one of the top eco destinations in Central America.
4) LOPÉ NATIONAL PARK – GABON
Located in the center of Gabon, Lope national park is mostly covered by rain forest. In the north of the park the last remnants of the grass savannas are situated, created during the last ice age. The 4910 square kilometers measuring area is home to mammal species like the forest elephant, leopard and forest buffalo. Bird species include the crowned hawk eagle, great blue turaco and the rosy bee-eater. Highlight of the park is the Mikongo Camp where zoologists have been studying and preserving the environment for the groups of primates – including the western lowland gorilla, chimpanzee and mandrill.
5) CHIANG RAI PROVINCE – THAILAND
Chiang Rai province is the northernmost province of Thailand with a diverse landscape. There are dramatic mountains in the east and flat Mekong River plains to the northeast.
Visitors can follow a biking or hiking trail along the paths of the mountain ranges of the province or meet the many indigenous tribes living on the Mae Kok riverbanks.
6) KERALA – INDIA
Kerala province, also known as “God’s own country”, attracts tourists by its palm fringed beaches, pristine backwaters and tropical forests. The province focuses on sustainable and eco-friendly development of tourism. The Lake Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, a national park and tiger reserve, is one of the oldest and most popular in India. The park is home to elephants and tigers and diverse flora and fauna surrounds the beautiful lake.
7) PANTANAL REGION – BRAZIL, PARAGUAY, BOLIVIA
The Pantanal is the largest wetland on earth, housing the largest concentration of wildlife in the Americas. The area is home to 80 species of mammals like the jaguar, the giant anteater and the South American tapir. Furthermore 650 bird species, 400 fish species and more than 1100 butterfly species can be found. The Caiman Ecological Refuge has a program for protecting the region with a sustainable approach to ranching. Guests can take safaris and horseback tours, or participate in the Onçafari Program that protects the jaguars living in the area.
8) DUBAI DESERT CONSERVATION RESERVE – DUBAI
Dubai and eco seem to be two words that can only contradict. However, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve has put almost 5% of Dubai’s total land area under official eco-protection to remain its pristine desert landscape. The desert is home to a variety of animals that have unique and fascinating adaptations to the harsh environment, such as the Arabian oryx, the Arabian red fox, the sand cat and the spiny-tailed lizard. Visitors can explore the country via camel treks, guided desert safaris or falconry.
9) GALAPAGOS MARINE RESERVE – ECUADOR
The Galapagos Islands and its surrounding waters formed the basis of Darwin’s evolution theory, due to its remote location. The area has one of the world’s most unusual ecosystems and is rich in biodiversity. More than 20% of the terrestrial and marine species are found nowhere else on earth than on the Galapagos Islands. The 70.000 square kilometers measuring Galapagos Marine Reserve is the second largest Marine Reserve on earth and home to 3000 species of marine plants and animals. Marine life is abundant on this small island, and the emphasis on low-impact tourism and blending in with the local tribes makes it a unique destination.
10) HULA LAKE PARK – ISRAEL
Hula Lake Park, located in the Galilee, is one of the most important bird-watching sites in the world. Many of the migrating birds here are endangered or threatened. Visitors are drawn to Hula to observe millions of migrating cranes, covering the skies above Hula every winter. They stop one last time in the area before they head of to the Sahara Desert. Besides bird watching, visitors can also cycle through the park or watch the birds from a camouflaged tractor.