A slow float through Utah’s canyons. A meditative moment on the Tibetan Plateau. A chance encounter with a hawksbill sea turtle. We looked into dozens of adventures and picked eight of the most tempting, responsibly-planned, low-impact journeys from some of...
A slow float through Utah’s canyons. A meditative moment on the Tibetan Plateau. A chance encounter with a hawksbill sea turtle. We looked into dozens of adventures and picked eight of the most tempting, responsibly-planned, low-impact journeys from some of the most forward-thinking tour operators. Most of these companies offset their emissions, and many of them reinvest a portion of their profits in conservation groups and other nonprofits, or use their purchasing power to foster community development. Some do both. All go well beyond recycling soda cans in their commitment to sustainability. Prices are per person, double occupancy.
Meditate in tranquil monasteries, trek over high passes, and meet local shepherds on a 21-day odyssey to one of the world’s most remote places: the dry, starkly beautiful Tibetan plateau. Life in Ladakh still revolves around ancient agricultural ways and small villages, though you might spot a solar panel here or a small water turbine there, thanks to recent projects by international aid groups. KE Adventure offers several trips to Ladakh; this one, Zanskar’s Wild West, isn’t the most strenuous but does follow a hardy trade route over 12 days on foot. $2,295; 800-497-9675
Standing on top of Mt. Kinabalu to watch the sun rise, lazing in jungle hot springs after a long trek, and spending a night in a traditional Malay village are all part of Intrepid Travel’s 22-day Borneo Adventure itinerary. On this jungle island, the company supports organizations that fight trade in illegal wildlife products and encourages villagers to live off the land without destroying it. The trip includes a look at conservation efforts—travelers visit hawksbill turtle nesting areas and an orangutan rehab center. From $1,322; 866-847-8192
Get up close and personal with Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest on GAP Adventures’s 16-day Inland & Amazon tour. You’ll stay with a family from the Quichua tribe, canoe the Napo River (an Amazon tributary), and ride horseback in the jungle that stretches over the Andean foothills. Most of the country’s visitors flock to the Galapagos Islands, so you’ll have the lush mainland rainforests largely to yourself, though the government is trying to change that situation by encouraging more community-based tourism with Amazon tribes. $795; 800-708-7761
Polar bears may be among the early casualties of climate change—and their plight may teach us something about ourselves. On Natural Habitat Adventures’s six-day Classic Polar Bear Expedition, scientists from the World Wildlife Fund discuss climate change and polar bear life, while guests, safe in buggies, watch mothers tend to cubs and giant males brawl. On these outings, the tundra appears stark, but careful observation also reveals Arctic foxes and hares. Come evening, the Northern Lights flare across the sky. $3,795; 800-543-8917
San Juan River, Utah
Use gravity as your motor on a six-day rafting trip down Utah’s San Juan River organized by OARS. This stretch of the river meanders through crimson cliffs along the northern border of Monument Valley, and the long glide is interrupted by occasional rapids as well as hikes to ancient cliff dwellings. At night, camp on sandy banks under a sky thick with stars. All outfitters in this region follow the rules of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, including limits on the number of rafters plying the river, but OARS stands out for its offsets program and contributions to conservation projects. $1,515; 800-346-6277
After a disastrous experiment with large-scale, high-impact tourism, community-run lodges and services are now the norm in Kenya, and U.K.-based Journeys by Design arranges custom itineraries that sample some of the country’s best sustainable developments. A 12-day itinerary might start in a lava-rock lodge that sits amid fig orchards at Lake Naivasha; then move on to the Masai Mara, where millions of impala, zebra, buffalo, and wild cats roam the savanna; and culminate with a stay in a white-washed thatched cottage by the sea. From $4,894; 212-568-7639
The South Island of New Zealand is a study of heady, pristine landscapes: farmsteads and charming towns, glacial lakes and misty mountains that drop precipitously to the sea. Adventure South’s Milford Wilderness bike tour takes you on a scenic ten-day journey from Christchurch to Milford Sound and back to Queenstown. Most days involve about six hours of cycling, but there’s time, too, for off-road hikes and a day in Queenstown reserved for more exhilarating pursuits, like bungee jumping and jet-boating. $2,792; 011-64-3-942-1222
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