It's springtime and early bird travelers aren't waiting for summer deals to hit the road. Though flying hasn't become less harmful to the environment, you may be able to minimise your carbon footprint by taking a "green" vacation. Ecotourism has made its mark worldwide as a popular way to see the sights without leaving a trace. Such tourism could grow to 25% of the global travel market within six years and account for $470 billion a year in revenues, according to The International Ecotourism Society.
"Ecotourism tries not only to minimise the negative impact of travel but to maximise the positive impact," says Ayako Ezaki of The International Ecotourism Society. "We all know travel experiences are rewarding for people who take the trips. At the same time we try to give back to the destinations and the people who make these experiences possible."
Ecotourism is defined by The International Ecotourism Society as responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well being of local people. It's often tourism that focuses on the outdoors and gets you out of your hotel room.
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For Forbes' list of the best ecotourism destinations, we chose spots that meet three criteria: All tourism providers or locations respect local wildlife, employ local staff and focus on the outdoors with minimal impact to the natural environment.
These resorts cater to a variety of budgets. On the pricey end, the Misool Eco Resort on a private island near Papua, Indonesia, offers a cabin right on the water for $2,200 per person for seven nights, including meals. That doesn't include fees for diving excursions or the airfare to get to Indonesia.
For smaller budgets, a kayaking excursion in one of the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California will set you back just $175. In general, ecotourists lean toward budget travel. American ecotourists spend $66 per day on travel outside the U.S., compared with $88 for Americans engaging in traditional travel options, according to the U.N. World Tourism Organisation.
Image: Cruise Brazilian Wetlands - The Pantanal, on Brazil's western border, is the largest wetland in the world. It's home to thousands of animals, including the green iguana and the hyacinth macaw.
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