Photo: © YAMNUSKA MOUNTAIN ADVENTURES
TRAVEL HAS ALWAYS HAD A WAY of connecting people to the land, literally stepping us out of our comfort zones and onto an entirely new terrain with different sights, sounds and adventures. Exploring makes the world seem both bigger and smaller at the same time, and now, with more ecotourism options than ever, we can expand our horizons without widening our footprint.
Ecotourism is a term coined back in 1990 by what has today become known as The International Ecotourism Society, a nonprofit organization that defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the wellbeing of local people.” Ecotours today range from off-the-grid luxury retreats with bespoke itineraries to adventurous daytrips designed with sustainability in mind.
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures operated out of its Alberta home outside of Banff National Park in Canada for more than 40 years, maintaining a focus on sustainable tours since its inception. Today it continues to specialize in self-propelled mountain experiences like ice climbing, trekking and mountaineering. The eco-focused company is a member of Leave No Trace, and its deep respect for nature and the environment is seen in its partnerships with local nonprofits working to create safe climbing environments with projects like implementing natural erosion protection measures at the base of cliffs.
Many tour operators, like Kind Traveler, adopt a Give + Get platform where simply booking a vacation through that company unlocks an exclusive rate while also donating a portion of profits to a local charity or community close to the destination. Along with offering a full range of amazing ecotours that support wildlife conservation efforts, Responsible Travel offers a Trip for a Trip program that allows travelers to opt in when booking a vacation so the team at Responsible Travel can in turn organize a daytrip for a disadvantaged youth.
The Australian travel operator Intrepid Travel has long been a leader in offering ecotours around the world, operating as a carbon-neutral business since 2010. Today the business operates 27 carbon-neutral offices around the world and offers more than 1,400 carbon-offset trips made possible by the company’s investment in renewable energy projects like reforestation programs in Kenya and Australia, wind turbine projects in Turkey and the United States and water filter initiatives in Cambodia.
In 2002 Intrepid Travel also began giving back to the communities it serves and today supports more than 50 local grassroots projects ranging from improving sustainable development to protecting the rights of children and women in impoverished areas and working to improve education and health care.