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7 Offbeat Eco Trips

You’ve slept in a yurt in Big Sur, cruised the Galapagos and roared with the grizzlies in Denali. Ready for some new eco-travel ideas? Here, seven unexpected trips worth a look.

7 Offbeat Eco Trips
Courtesy: Wild Echo Bison Reserve Courtesy: Wild Echo Bison Reserve

1. Commune with a camel in India

Sure there’s the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple. But how many people that you know have gone on a camel safari across the Great Indian Desert? Starting in the western state of Rajasthan, the three-day-and-up tours are a fun and carbon-friendly way to see the old havelis (temples) of India. Be prepared to camp in the desert.

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Getting There: Tours commence and end in India’s capitol city, New Delhi, accessible by the Indira Gandhi International Airport. Taxis and private cars are available for hire in most parts as well.

Accommodations: Tours range from a few days to a month. EcoIndia, an eco-tourism group based in New Delhi, offers a 15-day tour starting at $1275 U.S., including food and lodging but not airfare.

For More Info: ECO India Tours and Travel

2.Roam with the Buffalo in Montana

You can enjoy the company of buffalo—or eat one—at Townsend, Montana’s Wild Echo Bison Reserve, an all-inclusive, 480-acre resort where the 2,000-pound woolly creatures roam nearby. Once an endangered species, the North American Bison (often referred to “buffalo,” and you can learn the legend behind the misnomer on your trip here) have repopulated themselves enough to bounce off the lists and onto your dinner plates. A guest’s first meal at the ranch, primarily powered by wind and solar energy, is traditionally a Dutch oven Buffalo feast including bison steaks, kabobs and ribs. Think of it as a spa vacation: along with hot springs and massage treatments, bison is healthier than beef, with far lower fat and cholesterol.

Getting There: The closest airport is Helena Regional Airport approximately 37 miles northwest of Townsend in the state capitol, Helena. The resort provides all airport transportation.

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Accommodations: Accommodations include an “old West” log cabin with a bedroom, private bathroom, a loft, and a Native American tipi with no electricity (more eco points!). Cabin lights that are powered by solar panels. “But if folks are looking for electricity to run hair dryers, televisions, etc, then no, we make no attempt to provide for such high energy usage,” says Pam Knowles, a wildlife biologist at the Reserve. There is enough electricity for laptops, though Knowles “can’t imagine why anyone would want to be on a computer when they can be outside with the bison and wildlife.” Rates for a four-day/three-night package start at $1899 per adult (within a group of 3 or more) and $1300 per child.

For More Info: Bison Quest Sanctuary & Spa

3.Go wild in Honduras

Birdwatchers flock here to catch a glimpse of the rare Band-tailed Barbthroat and the Black-headed Trogon, but they’re not the only exotic inhabitants of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. A breathtaking patch of mountainous rainforest sloping down to white-sand beaches along the Caribbean coast, the reserve is also home to 2,000 indigenous people, including the Miskito and Garífuna tribes. Don’t expect much electricity-availability on this trip. Sites are remote and tour companies advise that your only contact with the outside world will be a satellite phone. Hike the trails, take a siesta on the beach or go on a guided wildlife cruise in a small, dugout canoe called a pipante. In 2007, conservation efforts helped remove the site from UNESCO World Heritage danger site list.

Getting There: The nearest airport is Golosón International Airport near La Ceiba, which is a few hours from the forest by car. It is advised not to visit during Easter or Christmas, as most bus companies do not operate around these holidays.

Accommodations: Local villages such as Ibans, Cocobila, and Belén have motels catering to Reserve tourists. 14-day tours start at $2,850 per person, including all food, lodging and ground transportation — but not airfare.

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For More Info: Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance

4.Make a splash in Wisconsin

There’s no getting around the fact that water parks waste a lot of water, but if you’ve got kids, you’re pretty much obligated to go at some point. At Wilderness Territory, the largest water park resort in the United States, your eco-conscience can rest a little easier knowing that the park’s newest indoor pool is warmed with solar heat and lit by the sunlight that pours in through a transparent roof. (Don’t forget the SPF—you can actually get a tan through this UV-permeable plastic material.) While there, take a whoosh down “The Hurricane,” A 58-foot, fog- and wind-filled tunnel that simulates a category fiver. If that part doesn’t sound so eco, well, there are always carbon offsets.

Getting There: By car, it’s Exit #92 off of Interstate 90/94. The closest airport servicing commercial airlines is Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, approximately 60 miles away.

Accommodations: Wilderness Territory has its own lodging. Prices start at $99 for a double room and go up to $725 a night for a three-bedroom, lake-front condo with a sleeping loft.

For More Info: Wilderness Resort

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5.Go caving in Laos

Some of the world’s most beautiful limestone and stalactite-filled caves can be found in Laos. At the spectacular Kong Lor Cave in the central region of the country, visitors can make a day of riding a small boat on a 4.6-mile route through the cave. Bring a good raincoat and sturdy shoes, as conditions inside are quite wet. Also, don’t forget the flashlight and batteries since there isn’t much light or electricity used in the cave. You can also opt to hike over the mountain for a four-hour (strenuous) trip, but you can also hire a local guide for a few U.S. dollars to help you get around.

Getting There: Laos has three major international airports: Wattay International Airport in Vientiane, Pakse Airport in Champassak and the Luang Prabang International Airport, which are all served by major carriers including Bangkok Airways, Thai International, and Eva Air.

Accommodations: Lodges and home-stay accommodations are available in both the Kong Lor and Natan villages. Home-stays start as low as $5 U.S. per night, and a group tour starts at $50 per person, which includes ground transportation, accommodations and food.

For More Info: Ecotourism Laos

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6.Get animalistic in Ghana

Farmers, settlers and loggers have already claimed more than 80 percent of it, but recent efforts to turn the Upper Guinean Rainforest into a national park have made it a perfect tourist destination for wildlife lovers. Considered by the World Conservation Organization as one of the planet’s 25 “hotspots of diversity,” the forest is home to more than 200 species of birds, 400 types of butterflies and 40 different species of animals including elephants, leopards and the Bongo antelope, an auburn-haired, white-striped creature native to western and central Africa. A new 131-foot high canopy walkway is a dramatic vantage point for watching all the sights. Camping is a low-impact, eco-friendly lodging style, and the more tourists that visit can ensure that this eco-reserve can remain economically-viable.

Getting There: The Kakum National Park, encompassed within the Guinean Rainforest, is approximately three hours by car from Kotoka International Airport in Accra, where car rental and tour buses are available.

Accommodations: Camping is available at the forest. The campsite can accommodate 12 adults or 16 children. Visitors are responsible for bringing their own tents, mosquito nets, and sleeping bags. A mix of hotel-stays and camping 12-day tours start at $1800 with Ashanti African Tours, including all food, lodging and park entrance fees.

For More Info: Official Website for Ghana Tourism

7. Get sheepish in New Zealand

In a country with 10 sheep to every person, someone was bound to make a tourist destination of this vast homestead —and this place has more to offer than just a gift shop full of wool sweaters. At Sheep World, spread across 30 acres of the New Zealand countryside, Guests can help reel the wild sheep into their pens, hike along the area’s “Eco-Discovery Trail,” which includes natural wetlands and streams, and roam a farmyard full of alpacas, emus and, you guessed it, sheep. Also, all of the woolly products sold on the ground are made from “EcoWool.” All of the materials are made from plants and animals live and grow outdoors in clean environment, sweater makers use renewable sources and no harmful chemicals are used in production.

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Getting There: Sheep World is 2.5 miles from the city of Warkworth and 40 miles from Auckland, the nearest international airport.

Accommodations: A campsite adjacent to Sheep World has apartments, chalets, cabins and campgrounds for rent. Prices range from $11 per person for a campsite to $38 U.S. per person for an apartment (which sleeps 4) with private bath and cooking facilities.

For More Info: Sheep World

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