In 2018 we set out to find, recognise and promote examples of ethical ecotourism. We believe strongly in tourism that creates a positive impact by supporting conservation and local communities, and educating all involved.
But we also know that many authentic tourism operators struggle to have their voices heard amidst greenwashing – and that even for experienced and eco-savvy travellers, true ecotourism experiences are hard to find.
We could not have predicted the resulting journey – or the growing global community of people who share this belief in ethical ecotourism.
Not only have we discovered and promoted ethical ecotours (who make us proud every time we hear about their work!), but we’ve grown a network of 150 eco-bloggers who collaborate and support each other to promote ecotourism. We’ve also joined forces with some amazing partners including ecotourism experts, conservation organisations, tourism boards and more.
Today we’re on a mission to empower a global community that travels for good. As we begin 2020 we’ve taken a moment to reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far, and to thank every single one of you who supports positive change for people and planet through travel.
Wildlife Blogger of the Year
We kicked off 2019 by announcing the winners of Wildlife Blogger of the Year, a competition designed to raise awareness about our planet’s incredible wildlife through the power of storytelling.
The competition engaged over 24,000 people worldwide, attracted nearly 100 entries and built a network of nearly 100 Eco-Bloggers who have since gone on to collaborate for conservation and ethical ecotourism.
In total, Wildlife Blogger of the Year awarded two Winners and five Runners Up in our Judges’ Choice and Readers’ Choice competitions. Judges’ Choice Winner Gianluca Cerullo, who wowed the judging panel with – believe it or not – a story about a bag of poo (!!), impressed us so much that we invited him back as a judge in 2019.
Reader’s Choice Winner Oyebamiji Ayoku Uthman was so thrilled to receive his prize of SWAROVSKI OPTIK binoculars that he sent us a photo of himself and his binoculars being put to good use.
The Wildlife Blog Collection
While reading the Wildlife Blogger of the Year stories, it struck us that these stories were too important to let them disappear after a few months. So we reached out to their authors with the idea to produce a book that gave their stories more lasting impact.
The result was The Wildlife Blog Collection, a special collection of 70 stories entered into the competition from across the globe, published as an eBook.
The book was sponsored by Global Vision International and dedicated to the memory of Alex Chalkley (with 10% of the proceeds donated to the African conservation charity Tusk) and features one-of-a-kind wildlife line drawings by talented multimedia artist Pooja Gupta.
Meeting our Mission, Vision and Values
A year after officially launching Terra Incognita in 2018, we wanted to formally define who we are and what we stand for: our mission, vision and values.
As an enterprise that believes strongly in the power of storytelling for positive change, we figured, what better way than to use stories to help define our mission?
Our mission is to empower a global community that travels for good.
Our vision is a world where tourism drives positive change for people and wildlife.
Top Ethical Birding Ecotours 2019
First launched in 2018, our Top Ethical Birding Ecotours 2019 list is a community-generated collection of amazing tours that seek to conserve the environment, support local people and educate guests and hosts.
In its second year the list grew to include over 80 tours in 40 countries across six continents, highlighting bird experiences like Golden-collared Manakin leks in Panama, reintroduced blue ducks in New Zealand and the autumn Vulture migration across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Launched during the British Birdfair 2019 – an annual event for birdwatchers – the list aims to recognise outstanding birding tour operators and help birding travellers make more informed choices.
Top Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tours 2019
This year we launched a brand-new search for top eco tours in the country nicknamed the ‘poster child’ of ecotourism, Costa Rica.
The resulting Top Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tours 2019 List features 40 tours across the country committed to conservation, communities and education, including some of Costa Rica’s hidden gems – small, up-and-coming tours that haven’t yet been picked up by international tourism radar.
Experiences highlighted include kayaking in bioluminescent waters off Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, observing dolphins on the Osa Peninsula, exploring Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park in search of the Critically Endangered tapir, sloths, monkeys, crocodiles, caimans and much more.
To offer a new benefit to our growing ethical ecotourism community, we began sharing ecotourism jobs, volunteering opportunities and courses, through a partnership with Conservation Careers.
Ecotourism is a fast-growing sector with enormous potential to positively impact people and planet through travel. There’s also a need for a diversity of skillsets – from guiding and environmental education, to marketing, sustainability, consulting and more.
We hope to grow this area of our website into a resource for those considering a career in ecotourism, planning their next career move or looking to make a career change – as well as helping ecotourism operators and organisations find talented people to advance their work.
Travel Blogger of the Year
We had such a blast running Wildlife Blogger of the Year, and felt it had such a positive impact on the bloggers and writers who participated, as well as by raising awareness about wildlife, that we decided to expand our second competition. Our new theme goes beyond wildlife to include nature and landscapes more broadly, as well as the human and social side of travel.
We received a staggering 150 entries to Travel Blogger of the Year 2020 from writers and bloggers around the world. Their stories span the map – from the turtles of Ningaloo, Australia and the human heart of Lima, Peru, to searching for wolves in Zululand, South Africa and exploring mystery and modern life in Nagaland, India.
As our journey continues, we gain more and more clarity as to how we can best create the biggest impact for people and planet through travel – together.
As a community of passionate people, we’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and we’re inspired every single day by your efforts, stories, initiatives and ideas.
On 31st January we’ll announce the Winners and Runners up of Travel Blogger of the Year 2020 | Judges’ Choice & Readers’ Choice, supporting storytellers worldwide and sharing important messages about ethical travel.
We’ll be releasing updated and expanded editions of our Top Ethical Birding Ecotours and Top Responsible Costa Rica Eco Tours lists, as well as brand new lists as we actively discover new ethical ecotours and experiences.
We’ll be working with our operators to further develop simple criteria to recognise ethical ecotours, and to expand our membership offerings.
We’re also excited by the first collaboration between an ethical ecotourism operator and an influencer. At the close of 2019, we sent our first Eco-Blogger and Social Media Mentor Glenio Araujo to visit Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge, the first of what we hope to be many collaborations that pair ecotourism operators and ethical travel writers and influencers. Watch this space, especially on Instagram!
As you know we’re agile, so you can expect us to keep creating and innovating to continue empowering a global community that travels for good.
And to everyone who’s been on this journey with us so far, we’ll be looking for and listening to YOUR ideas! Thank you for continuing to inspire us as we take the next steps in our journey together.