The evolution of sustainable travel in 2024 is exciting. As the world consciously shifts to protecting our natural environment, as opposed to harming it, sustainable travel experiences can be a catalyst for change.
Before you go: Travelling offers a gateway to incredible experiences, but unexpected situations can arise. Our travel insurance and money management partners offer the protection you need while embracing local tourism:
– SafetyWing, for long-term travel insurance that starts at $42 per month.
– Revolut, for managing international payments with ease.
– Wise, for the most affordable currency conversion fees and a virtual card that you can top-up in seconds.
When considering flights, you can utilise platforms like Skyscanner or Kiwi to compare flight costs and identify flights that minimise your carbon emissions. Additionally, if you are able, you can offset your flight’s environmental impact through Offset.
Recommendations: Here are some companies offering sustainable and responsible tours and experiences:
– G-Adventures, for small group travel with locally based guides, supporting local communities.
– Tripaneer, for wellness experiences and retreats.
– Get Your Guide, for day trips and short trips.
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Cave Exploration in Phong Nha in Vietnam
Contribution by Karla from Colorful Journeys
Cave exploration in Phong Nha is one of the best things to do in Vietnam. The province is home to Son Doong Cave, the world’s largest cave system, and numerous other cave systems. We visited the Tu Lan cave system with Oxalis, the only company with a permit to explore the bigger cave systems in Phong Nha.
Oxalis minimizes the number of visitors visiting these caves, reducing the impact on mass tourism while protecting the caves. This 100% locally owned company employs local guides and porters from the poorest villages. Not only that, but Oxalis also has ongoing community projects. When we took our tour, the proceeds from the sale of their merchandise, such as caving shirts, went towards the construction of septic toilets and libraries for the local community.
We highly recommend the tour, as not only was it an exciting adventure, but the guides and porters were so knowledgeable and professional that we felt safe the entire time. The tour is also conducted in smaller groups, allowing for a more personalized and intimate experience. Additionally, the company’s commitment to sustainable tourism practices was evident throughout the tour. We carried back all of the trash that we had accumulated over our 2-day, 1-night excursion.
If you want to do the cave tour with Oxalis, we recommend booking in advance because slots fill up quickly. Also, no tours are available from September to November, as these are the wettest months and the caves get flooded.
Volunteering at Lanta Animal Welfare in Thailand
Contributed by Amy from The Sunrise Dreamers
When you think of booking a trip, volunteering may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are sustainable experiences around the world that can be just as fun as a vacation. Volunteering at Lanta Animal Welfare is one of the most rewarding travel experiences and you’ll be living in a tropical paradise.
Lanta Animal Welfare is a non-profit organisation (founded in 2005) that helps dogs and cats in Koh Lanta, Thailand. Alongside caring for the injured and sick animals, they also home around 50+ animals at a time, waiting for them to find new homes.
One of the best ways to support Lanta Animal Welfare is by donating, sponsoring and fundraising – but volunteering or visiting the centre is an amazing adventure that should be on your list! Spend your days walking dogs, socializing with kittens, cleaning up and feeding the animals. It’s also possible to be a host for the centre and show tourists around the centre.
When you’re not working, you can explore the incredible island of Koh Lanta by visiting the white-sand beaches, and beautiful viewpoints and exploring the Old Town. It’s also an amazing spot for vegan food and there are many sustainable businesses on the island.
Volunteering at Lanta Animal Welfare as it’s a passionate organisation to support. While some volunteering experiences are only doing it for the money, Lanta Animal Welfare is solely running for the animals and hires both local and foreign staff – the animals need your help.
Community-based Tourism on Valu Beach in Timor Leste
Contributed by Simon from Backpack Moments.
On the eastern tip of Timor Leste, there is a legendary beach that few ever visit. It’s called Valu Beach and it’s as pristine as it is beautiful.
Reaching Timor Leste is a challenge in its own right, but then also traversing through little villages, mountains, and jungles is a real adventure. I hitchhiked to Valu Beach and it was an unforgettable journey.
As you can imagine, accommodation on the beach is sparse. The regional community-based organization keeps a few bungalows in operation and this is where I stayed.
At least 70 people are engaged in community-based tourism in Valu Beach, the nearby town of Tutuala, and the surrounding Nino Konis Santana National Park – the only one in Timor Leste. On a rotational basis, they take care of everything from local transport to lodging, tours, and classes.
Fishermen take visitors to Jaco Island on their boats and catch fish to prepare for dinner, women take care of the bungalows, and others organize treks, produce and sell traditional tais, etc.
The many clans of the region have gotten together despite a lack of funding, and each is in charge of a different natural resource – the beaches, the mountains, the caves, the water, etc. It’s one of the best examples of sustainable tourism in Timor Leste.
I recommend it because it feels like a journey to the end of the world. It’s so incredibly remote and that’s the beauty of it. On top of that, it’s a glimpse into the local Timorese way of life. The way they’ve self-organized to maintain the environment and grow tourism in a sustainable and equitable way is quite laudable.
Become a Trash Hero in Bali, Indonesia
Contributed by Taylor Mallaber from No Trace Travel
Plastic pollution was hard to avoid during the 2 months I traveled in Bali, Indonesia. Plastic cutlery and wrappers were filling waterways and washing up on the beaches, and I knew my personal clean-up efforts weren’t going to fix the problem. I found a Trash Hero local chapter in Canggu, Bali, which hosted a beach clean-up every Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
Trash Hero is a global organization with over 100 chapters involved in educating and inspiring the world to get involved in being an environmental advocate. This actionable organization hosts community clean-up events, has an established water refill network, and is active in the global conversation toward a sustainable future.
During the 1 hour event, 17 volunteers collected 64 kg of trash, and 11 kg of recyclables from Pantai Batu Bolong beach in Canggu. While any amount of debris collected was a success, the greatest accomplishment was inspiring countless beachgoers to think about the waste created. Both locals and travelers helped put trash in our collection bags, sparked conversations about what we were doing and why, and many left feeling like the debris created doesn’t just disappear.
This is a perfect way to get directly involved in a solution, even if you’re only around for a week. If you want to support the amazing work the team in Canggu is doing, head over to the Trash Hero Canggu Facebook Page for event updates, join them on the beach for free every Sunday at 4:30 pm, and all tools are provided.
Volunteer at a Bear Rescue Centre in Bangalore, India
Contributed by Raksha Nagaraj from Bengaluru Prayana
Back in the days when I was a child, the streets of Bangalore were filled with dancing bears. These dancing bears were nothing but the sloth bears that were captured and trained to beg on the streets, by dancing and putting on a show. It was cruelty against the sloth bears as they were poached from the forests and separated from their mother at the age of 3 months, and the training was harsh and physically abusive.
Despite the Indian Government banning the dancing bears and monkeys in 1972, the practices continued. Wildlife SOS, an organization dedicated towards wildlife conservation, rescued these abused sloth bears and set up a rescue centre in collaboration with the Karnataka Forest Department, Zoo Authority of Karnataka, and Bannerghatta Biological Park. The Bear Rescue Centre located as part of the Bannerghatta National Park is a rehabilitation centre for abused bears. Today, they have around 60 bears left.
At this Bear Rescue Centre, you can spend a day or multiple days volunteering and participating in their daily activities. There are many activities we can get involved in such as preparing food for the sloth bears, cleaning their dens, gardening, and nursery maintenance, among others. I suggest spending at least a couple of days to understand and learn about the rescue centre. This experience of volunteering at a bear rescue centre is surely one of the most rewarding things to do in Bangalore.
Volunteer to save marine life in Pondicherry, India
Contributed by Raksha Nagaraj from Solopassport
One of the major crises Pondicherry in India faces is overfishing. Due to this, there has been a major decline in fish populations. To bring back marine life and save the dying coral reefs, the local fishermen and the dive centre Temple Adventures started to build artificial reefs. Using recycled materials such as bottles, palm leaves and concrete blocks, these artificial reefs were created so they can provide a means for marine life to return.
These artificial reefs are monitored by the dive centre regularly and the old underwater palm leaves are replaced with new ones every two weeks. The dive centre also provides a means where you can scuba dive in Pondicherry to participate in building artificial reefs and replacing these palm leaves. Fresh palm leaves are carried underwater and tied to artificial reefs to attract more fish and marine life. And the old ones are carried back to the boats so they can be recycled for other things ashore.
Today, this dedication and passion from the dive centre has ensured that there is abundant marine life in the waters of Pondicherry, including the whale sharks. Participating in replenishing the reefs, there is a huge impact on making sure that the eco-balance underwater is maintained, and the fishermen can have sufficient fish. To participate, you need to be a certified scuba diver as it does require a bit of experience to carry the leaves underwater.