Looking to escape the winter weather or the humdrum work-from-home routine? You might want to veer away from resort life and schedule a hands-on vacation helping conservationists with beautiful species in extraordinary locations. Many Eco Tourism companies now cater to those who want to learn about the planet and get a once-in-a-lifetime experience with saving turtles, rewilding koalas, or tracking whales, just to name a few. You would be surprised just how luxurious accommodations and views can be while in the middle of wilderness. Take a look at this list of hands-on eco vacations that are sure to give you a transformative experience.
1. Galapagos Islands
Immerse yourself in the iconic species endemic to the Galapagos Islands while swimming in crystal clear waters, snorkeling, birdwatching, and cruising. Booking with Natural Habitat Adventures (certified by the National Wildlife Foundation) to get an in-depth look at the many islands’ unique animals—such as the giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, and penguins—with experienced guides.
2. Lost City of Colombia
Looking for a rugged adventure? Take an eight-day trek to the Lost City of Colombia, a pristine island terrain with stunning clear water views and endangered river species. Traveling with WaterAid will allow you to visit a local water conservation project and volunteer at the La Guajira school.
If making transformational connections with people closest to our Earth piques your interest, you can head straight to Panama. Many lush ecotourism stays boast first-class accommodations powered by solar power and stunning views while contributing to the seven indigenous peoples of Panama—the Ngäbe, the Buglé, the Guna, the Emberá, the Wounaan, the Bri bri, and the Naso Tjërdi. Check with the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs to find your ideal location.
4. Himalayan Mountains
If a long plane ride to a remote destination doesn’t deter you, you’ll be rewarded with a truly one-of-a-kind experience in Bhutan’s Himalayan Mountains. Here, you can opt to stay a few days at a meditation retreat with Buddhist monks. While you cannot stay in a temple, the locals are happy to show tourists around and guide them through the surrounding National Parks where you may see unique and adorable species such as the Himalayan black bear, takin, red panda, and Tibetan wolf. Learn about and join monks as they meditate in these breathtaking mountains for a few hours or a few days. But fair warning: you’ll never want to leave!
Want to meet a desert elephant? You can join an award-winning, volunteer-based project that tracks desert elephants and works on a community construction program in Damaraland, Namibia. Besides taking part in awesome safaris, volunteers help build protection walls around water sources that allow these dwindling elephants to drink water, but prevents their access to the windmills, water storage tanks, or pumps that cause conflict with the livelihood of locals.