Choose Your Own Eco-Adventure

As holiday season and winter's chill-factor kick in, it's hard not to fantasize about the ultimate getaway — wouldn't it be nice to luxuriate in the warm tropical climes of the Amazonian rainforest or beaches of Belize right about now? For more active souls, how about a trek through the forests of Nepal, or safari in the fauna-rich wildlands of Africa? Well, maybe now's the time to plan it.

Here's a bundle of online resources to help you plan — or at least fantasize — about your ideal ecotravel adventure.Getting Started

Ecotourism portals abound online, the trick is figuring out which ones are most reliable. Start with, a user-friendly site with a fancy search engine that allows you to chose from almost any region of the world, an incredible array of water and land-based activities, as well as spiritual experiences you may seek (choice options in the latter category range from "Buddhist Meditation," to "Spa," so let's just say there's a broad spectrum of options.)

Other great resources with a more boutique feel include Greentracks, The International Ecotourism Society, The Rainforest Web, and this impressive personal site of a travel journalist, which has dozens of resources on "travel that respects and sustains the environment and local cultures."

Be Wary

There is, of course, a downside of ecotourism — starting with the fact that it brings cars, busses, boats, and foot traffic to the world's most pristine and untrodden areas. Read the article Ecotourism and Its Impact on Forest Conservation, to get a sense of the risks: "In Nepal, ecotourists have stripped the landscape bare of sticks and twigs for fuel and left trash that spoils the experience for future visitors. In the Galapagos the impact of visitors is manifested by disease, fire, and theft, has altered the natural balance of the island ecosystems."

Sierra Club reviewed the potential environmental impacts in its report Is Ecotourism Good For The Planet? and drafted a set of conservation policies for ecotravel that include proper waste management, energy conservation, and prohibited forms of travel such as helicopter. Conservation International is developing a Tourism Assessment Manual that will evaluate the environmental and biodiversity considerations within a tourism destination.

Outstanding Outfitters

Wildland Adventures
, which will whisk you off to the rainforest, glaciers, desert, or anywhere inbetween, is one of the most respected eco-travel outfitters, and this year won the Conde Nast Traveler's Green List award for its "commitment to preserving natural surroundings and contributing to local cultures." If you want a terrific and very affordable adventure in the Amazon, look no further than Rainforest Expeditions. And if you're looking for a truly lavish experience on the beaches of Belize — not counting your pennies — check out Francis Ford Coppola's Turtle Inn, a study in fabulosity.
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