>>Audubon Travel Issue 2006


Take the High Road


In this summer’s travel issue we plunge deep into the heart of the Peruvian Amazon to see some mind-boggling birdlife; splash down in southwest Alaska to rub shoulders with one of the hemisphere’s most fearsome and awe-inspiring carnivores; and trace the footsteps of legendary explorers through Australia’s Northern Territory, a region rich in aboriginal culture and some of the world’s most unusual—and dangerous—wildlife.

Do these trips qualify as genuine ecotourism? We think so, though as you’ve likely discovered, “eco-travel” can come in many shades of green—a “do not wash my towel” policy does not make an ecolodge. Without a global certification label—something as recognizable as, say, the USDA Organic sticker on produce—it’s hard to be sure.

The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) is working with conservation groups and the sustainable-travel industry to come up with ecotourism certification standards that might one day make planning an environment-friendly vacation as easy as picking a pear that wasn’t sprayed with pesticides. In the meantime, TIES defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

While this issue’s three very different and far-flung destinations remain untrammeled and filled with culture and spectacular wildlife, all are facing a variety of environmental threats, from global warming to invasive species to hunting. But whether you follow our writers’ leads or enjoy their journeys from your easy chair, you can help safeguard unspoiled places by knowing what to look for when planning your next nature trip.

—Rene Ebersole


The International Ecotourism Society, or TIES (www.ecotourism.org), can tell you what you need to know about planning your next eco-trip. TIES defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." This means that those who implement and participate in ecotourism activities should follow the following principles:

  • Minimize impact
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate
  • Support international human rights and labor agreements



© 2006 National Audubon Society

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