Are you suffering from a little wanderlust during COVID-19 and need some inspiration to get through isolation? Are you looking for a more ethical way to travel that supports the wildlife, communities and culture you experience?
At Terra Incognita we’ve scoured the globe to identify the Top Ethical Ecotours that support conservation, local communities and education for everyone involved. This time around we asked the experts – our Ethical Ecotour Operators – to tell us about their favourite ecotours.
The operators have spoken: here are 15 of the best eco experiences in Africa, Asia, Central America, South America and Europe for responsible travellers to get excited about when travel resumes.
Top Ethical Ecotours 2020 | Tour Operator’s Choice
Serranía de Ronda & Grazalema – Bustards, Eagles & Flamingoes | Spain
Though just a short journey away from Málaga, the remote wooded mountains of the Serranía de Ronda are worlds apart from Spain’s bustling Costa del Sol.
This little-visited but astoundingly beautiful area hosts the densest raptor populations in Europe, during the summer months featuring Griffon Vultures, Bonelli’s and Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Peregrine Falcon and Eurasian Eagle Owl. In late winter, hardy mountain birds such as Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-billed Chough and Alpine Accentor hang out amongst the imposing limestone crags. Spanish Ibex cling to seemingly sheer rock faces. Keep reading
Strait Birding & Cetaceans | Spain
The Strait of Gibraltar is the point at which Africa and Europe are at their closest, and is the epicentre for one of the world’s most spectacular bird migrations. Every year, millions of birds make the 14 km sea crossing, making use of uplifts and thermals rising off the Rock of Gibraltar and the stunning Moroccan peak of Jebel Musa. An estimated 250,000 raptors pass over this rugged terrain during these periods, as well as untold thousands of other journeying passerines and seabirds
This flukey combination of geography and geology means a helping hand for birds and quite simply spectacular birding for us! We will visit the very best places to watch as an estimated 250,000 raptors pass over the area, as well as untold thousands of other journeying passerines and seabirds. Keep reading
Spain & Morocco | Inglorious Bustards Birding & Wildlife Tours | Birding Two Continents.
Legend has it that Hercules used his incredible strength to separate the continents of Europe and Africa, creating the Straits of Gibraltar. The Inglorious Bustards are all set to use our outstanding local knowledge and expertise to bring them back together for you! This is our feature specialist tour, and our experience of the area and local contacts mean we can take you where other guides fear to tread. Keep reading
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Indigenous Kokoda Adventures
Off The Beaten Track | Papua New Guinea
There comes a time in most adventure travelers’ lives when cities and modern conveniences cease to offer any sense of satisfaction. In fact, they start to contribute to a vague sense of dis-satisfaction. Once that part of your adventure travel brain has been ignited, malls, coffee shops and busy city streets no longer hold the same appeal.
If this sounds like you, consider a truly off the beaten track trip with Indigenous Kokoda Adventures. While Indigenous Kokoda Adventures specializes in guiding trekkers along the Kokoda Track, we also offer an opportunity for truly adventurous souls to continue their adventure with us after their trek has been completed and to engage with local people from places not usually visited by tourists. Keep reading
The Kokoda Track | Papua New Guinea
Indigenous Kokoda Adventures is the first wholly locally owned and operated tour operator on the Kokoda Track. We offer an opportunity for adventurous travelers to experience a completely authentic, life changing journey in a safe yet personally challenging way with fully trained porters, guides and historians.
This is authentic sustainable adventure travel at its best set in a magnificent environment.
Proceeds from tour fees go directly back to the villages and communities along the Kokoda Track putting more money directly where it is needed – into the hands of our people. Keep reading
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Tranquilo Bay Eco Adventure Lodge
Birding Western Panama | Panama
Tranquilo Bay has listed over 200 species of birds on-sight and over 500 from our daily excursions to nearby bird-rich environments. Bocas del Toro, Panama is geologically gifted, creating extreme species diversity; there are an incredible variety of ecosystems, habitats and altitudinal zones only a short distance from the lodge. Our guides are passionate about observing wildlife, excellent at spotting as well as identification and frequently work with bird watching groups and individuals with birding specific itineraries. Keep reading
Couples Getaway | Panama
Choose from a four or seven night itinerary with a range of excursions and activities to enjoy: Zapatilla Cayes Beach, Kayak, & Snorkel, Organic Chocolate Farm Visit, Canopy Tower Observation & Wildlife Spotting Hike, Mangrove Kayak & Coral Reef Snorkel and more! Keep reading
Couples Getaway | Family Adventure Vacation
Choose from a four or seven night itinerary with a range of excursions and activities to enjoy: Zapatilla Cayes Beach, Kayak, & Snorkel; Organic Chocolate Farm Visit; Indigenous Village Visit, Jungle Hike, & Snorkel; Canopy Tower Observation; Mangrove Kayak; Wildlife Spotting Hike; and Coral Reef Snorkeling. Keep reading
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Whale Shark Adventures
Whale Shark Adventures | Kenya
We start our annual whale shark research expeditions beginning of October and run daily (minimum 6 participants required) until 15/3. Departure time is 08:00 and we are back around 12:00 depending on the wind. Sometimes we also do afternoon trips: 12:00-16:00.
All our trips are guided by a spotter airplane that guides us to the sharks via radio, hence our success rate. Departure location depends on where the sharks were seen the day before, either Diani North or Diani South.
We also snorkel with encountered dolphins and sometimes whales depending on the approachability, sometimes we come across shy animals, these we leave alone.
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All India Birding Tours
Himalaya 20 days | India
The northeast Indian hill country and the adjacent Himalayas is an important center of endemism and biodiversity in general, full of charismatic wildlife species so as to excite almost any imagination.
The World Heritage Kaziranga National Park is a highly reputed wildlife protected area, located in Assam. A fabulous mosaic of grasslands, forests, and pools backed by misty hills.
The Park also has more than 450 species of birds, 18 of them are globally threatened species. Because of the varied habitat types that the Park comprises of, as also of the strict protection accorded to them, birding in Kaziranga is very special. The varied terrain provides habitat for wetland, grassland, and woodland species The Bengal Florican is the main attraction. You should also be able to see a good variety of raptors. Keep reading
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Birds of Prey Tour | Bulgaria
On this tour you have excellent chances to see all the 22 breeding raptors in Bulgaria, plus several passing, non-breeding and vagrant species, including Eurasian Black Vulture, Eurasian Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Saker Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, European Honey Buzzard, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-footed Falcon, and Levant Sparrowhawk. Keep reading.
Woodpeckers, Owls and Grouse Tour | Bulgaria
This tour gives a great opportunity to see all the nine resident species of woodpeckers occurring in Europe, plus some elusive species of owls and grouse, staying high in the wish-list of many birders. Keep reading
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Jewels of The Gambia | Gambia
The Gambia has been a popular Birdwatching destination since the 1970’s and is still probably the safest African Country to visit. No wonder our tour leader Ashley has visited close to 20 times, leading two trips a year here since 2011.
As with all our trips, this is run at a relaxed pace, giving ample opportunity to enjoy the wildlife and in particular the many colourful bird species that can be found here. With 9 Kingfishers and 8 Bee-eater species for example, this guarantees to be a real feast for the eyes.
With little effort, we can hope to see up to 300 bird species, with the photographers among us expecting to get quality images of a large percentage of these. Keep reading
“Standing at the side of a watering hole and seeing a Shikra take a small bird from a bush just feet away was a magic moment. It was not affected by our presence.
They are very sympathetic to the local environment, uses local providers so as to put money into the local economy. Products were taken to The Gambia to help local schoolchildren and at least one traveller has sponsored a child through university.
Definitely use them! Local guides are used throughout to get the best results. Local drivers are used too and local produce is bought. The guides are all official and some of their fee goes to conservation. The pace of the tour is not hectic and time is taken to appreciate the birds in their environment. Promoting ecotourism demonstrates tourism can help the local economy, environment and conservation.” – Rob Williams. Read more reviews
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Guyrapytâ Birdwatching Uruguay
From the Banks of the Uruguay River to the Atlantic Coast | Uruguay
Eight days itinerary around all the Uruguayan territory
This is a circular itinerary around all the Uruguayan territory in search of the birds restricted to the Pampas biome – Pampa endemics. Keep reading
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Central African Wilderness Safaris
North to South Tour | Malawi
Highlight species of this tour include Thyolo Alethe, Vincents Bunting, Bar Tailed Trogon, Pels Fishing Owl, Yellow Throated Apalis. Keep reading
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Adventure Birding Tours
16 Days Ghana Birding, Wildlife and Photography Tour | Ghana
Ghana with over 760 species of birds. Ghana is an ideal West African Birdwatching Destination as you cover all of the West African core habitats that include Coastal lagoons and Saltpans, moving inland you find excellent Upper Guinea Rainforest protected areas and also the broad-leaved Guinea woodland and Savannah plains in Northern Ghana.
Ghana has 12 of the 15 Upper Guinea Endemic Bird Species recorded, is politically stable and has a well-developed infrastructure that is possibly the finest in West Africa. The star attraction is the Yellow-Headed Picathartes, Egyptian Plover and World famous Kakum National Park Rainforest canopy walkway.
Some of the much sought after species found here include Pel’s Fishing, Akun and Frasers Eagle Owl’s, Brown and Standard Winged Nightjars, Black, Rosy, Northern Carmine and Blue-Headed Bee-eaters, Red Cheeked Wattle Eye, Forbe’s Plover, Brown, Rufous Winged and Puvel’s Illadopsis, Long Tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Violet Backed Hyliota, Black Dwarf, Red-Billed Dwarf, Yellow Casqued, Brown Cheeked and White Crested Hornbills and over 20 species of Greenbul just to mention a few of the gems in store for visitors to this exceptional Birding Destination. Keep reading
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Natural Belize | Belize
Highlights of this trip include:
- Tiger Fern double-waterfall, with the chance to see howler monkeys, tapirs and jaguars! (it is located in the world’s first and only jaguar preserve).
- Nurse sharks, parrotfish, eagle rays, stingrays, and more at the Hol Chan marine reserve
- Hidden, secluded waterfalls in the Cayo District teeming with cecropia trees, exotic palms and giant guanacaste trees.
- Mayan “Tree of Life”, the Ceiba, in the village of Maya Center – where culinary and cultural traditions are kept alive by our good friends there.
- Gorgeous savannas, full of thatch palms, travellers palms and stunning vistas. Keep reading
“Trip of a lifetime’ ‘local experiences’ and ‘super informative’ are some of the thoughts you can walk away with from a TREE experience. TREE is great with planning fantastic excursions while also taking advantage of spontaneous things that unfold on the fly. If you are into learning about the local culture and history, or just want to explore nature, TREE will defiantly accommodate. I would highly recommend taking a trip with this organization. The few extra bucks for a TREE trip vs your own not only contributes to conservation, but will give you a deeper understanding of the country you visit and make lifelong memories that you wont forget!” – Sean Elliot, Calgary, Alberta. Read more reviews
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Save The Snakes
Conservation Ecotour | Costa Rica
The Save The Snakes Costa Rica Conservation Ecotour (August 1st – 12th, 2020) will encompass the rainforest, cloud forest, volcanoes, and an abundance of opportunities to find and photograph snakes in their natural habitat. However, you will also have the opportunity to relax on beautiful beaches, observe nesting sea turtles, go whale watching, learn about the fascinating lives of bats, soak in soothing hot springs and enjoy the pleasures of chocolate. This ecotour combines sustainability with personal comfort, as we will stay in first-class ecolodges that prioritize protecting the environment and creating an unforgettable guest experience. Most importantly, you will discover how this ecotour supports local communities, preserves habitat and protects wildlife populations. Keep reading
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Sacred Valley Homestay Trekking | Peru
Highlights of this trip include:
- The three glacial lakes near Paro Paro
- The agricultural terraces and farming at Amaru near Pisac
- The salt terraces of Maras
- The Inka test farms of Moray
- The Eucalyptus forests and waterfalls along the Huchuy Qosqo trail. Keep reading
“In March this year I had the pleasure of joining Trek Hoppers in some treks around the Sacred Valley from Cusco, followed by the Inka Trail. Matt was very helpful and knowledgeable and did a great job showing us some beautiful spots, a little off the main tourist path. Great care was taken to ensure all levels of experience were catered for. The included homestays made the experience so much richer, to experience the food, culture and warmth of the locals. Prices were very fair. Highly recommend if you are looking for some trekking, adventure and local experiences that you cannot find in an average tour. I had a great time with this crew!” – Teri Asker. Read more reviews