Where to go for a guilt-free summer vacation


(Photo: elnidoresorts.com)

Worrying about your carbon footprint can put a downer on a vacation – but fret no longer, with our guide to holidays that high-five the planet

Taking a vacation to some foreign land can be fraught with guilt for those of a more eco-friendly mindset. For some, it’s worrying about the environmental damage of all that unnecessary travel – for others, it’s acknowledging the vast wealth inequality between the tourists and the locals in some exotic locations. Feel good about your next trip by visiting one of the spots on this list; you’ll either be doing some good where you stay, or at least taking comfort in knowing that the resort itself is set up to offset whatever damage you’ve done.


Take a hike

Take a hike, buster. No, really – it’s a fun holiday, whether you’re called Buster or not


Once you volunteer with the American Hiking Society, you can be placed virtually anywhere in the country, enjoying glorious views while helping to repair and maintain the thousands of trails that wind through the country’s National Parks. You can also enjoy the stern looks from other hikers who mistake you and your friends for convicted felons on a work release order (okay, that was me. Sorry for triple-checking my bag was tightly zipped when I walked past you in Acadia National Park, guys).


Big sky, small footprint


A majestic, noble elk, solitary in the Montana plains. A magnificent beast (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ryan Hagerty)


For a slightly less back-breaking experience of the real America, you could try staying in The Lodge at Sun Ranch, Montana. Built by local contractors from recycled materials, the 26,000 acre property serves its guests organic, free-range food from the ranch itself, or at the very least, obtained from nearby. Enjoy horse riding and fly fishing, then go ‘educamping,’ where you spend the night outdoors, learning about the ranch’s sustainable practices. You may even encounter one of the elk freely roaming the grounds. Try not to shit yourself if this happens.


Turtle-y awesome

turtle leatherback

A leatherback turtle grabbing some beach time in Parismina (Photo: parisminaturtles.org)


What’s better than spending your vacation strolling down the beaches of Costa Rica? Doing the same thing while volunteering for Turtle Patrol with the Asociacion Salvemos Las Tortugas De Parismina (ASTOP), a charity that aims to preserve the endangered giant turtle population that nests there. Learn all about the adorable sea beasts as you walk the nesting sites, keeping an eye out for poachers, especially ones with purple capes and razor-covered gauntlets.


Putting on Ayers


The not-too-shabby view from a Longitude 131 balcony (Photo: longitude131.com.au)


Uluru – more commonly known as Ayers Rock – has been drawing tourists to its remote, majestic location for decades, which hasn’t done the surrounding area much good, ecologically speaking. To cut down on soil erosion, stay at Longitude 131, a solar-powered resort built on stilts so as not to disturb the desert sands. Admire the incredible view as the sun goes down, then regret watching Wolf Creek and hide under your sleeping bag.


I Belize in miracles

Kind of beats that treehouse you spent your childhood summers in, huh? (Photo: chaacreek.com)


Describing itself as “wildly civilized,” Belize’s Chaa Creek allows guests to stay in the lap of luxury, while remaining thoroughly green. Everything that can possibly be recycled is recycled, some areas run entirely on solar power, and they even produce their own water through a state-of-the-art filtration system. The resort also runs a scholarship program for local children, and is involved with several conservation projects. It sounds like paradise, only nicer.


Under the dome

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Under the stars in an eco-dome. Dreamy (Photo: kibbutzlotan.com)


When school’s out, you can stay in the solar-powered Eco Campus Domes at Israel’s Kibbutz Lotan. Despite being constructed from earth-smeared straw, you’ll still have Wi-Fi and air conditioning, as well as access to communal showers, toilets and kitchens. You can also take it a step further and volunteer at the Kibbutz, helping out with the cooking or landscaping. Alternatively, just plonk yourself in a hammock and stay there.


Safari, so good

It’s literally impossible to be sad while looking at a giraffe: fact (Photo: maranaboisho.com)


How does a sustainable safari in the beautiful Masai Mara National Park sound, courtesy of Mara Naboisho Conservancy? If you need convincing, consider that one Barack Obama and family stayed there in 2006, or that Mara Naboisho was named the overall winner of the 2016 African Responsible Tourism Awards. The conservancy works closely with the local Maasai people in the area to ensure that job opportunities are provided and animals are protected. Speaking of animals, it’s estimated that Naboisho’s 50,000 acres has the highest lion density on the planet. Boom. Or rather, ROAR, which is the noise you have a good chance of hearing, maybe even while you relax in one of the eco-friendly camps, designed for minimal impact on the area. And speaking of eco camps – Campi Ya Kanzi, in Kenya’s Chyulu Hills, is another solid option for an ethical safari, featuring an eco-lodge built out of found materials.


Sloop foggy slog

Let’s get nautical, nautical… (Photo: clearwater.org)


For something slightly closer to a city break (or a city, at least), get onboard with the Clearwater volunteer program. You’ll spend two weeks crewing the Clearwater sloop on the Hudson River, on which guests are educated about environmental issues and conservation. The days are long and the work is tiring, but it’ll all be worth it when you find your sea legs. Well, estuary legs, anyway.


El neato

It’s probably cleaner than the Thames (Photo: elnidoresorts.com)


“This is nice and everything,” we hear you say, “but is there anywhere I can go to just swim and snorkel and explore crystal clear oceans full of tropical fish, guilt-free but without having to actually, y’know, do anything?” The answer, happily, is yes, at El Nido Resorts in the Philippines. Built using renewable materials and serving only sustainable food on its menus, the resort also works with local agencies to monitor wildlife and educate others on conservation – all of which means you can ride that paddle board with a song in your heart and a squeaky clean feeling in your conscience.


Lava java


We hear that this is where Mother Nature kicks back when she needs a weekend off (Photo: fincarosablanca.com)


The coffee farm/luxury getaway Finca Roda Blanca Inn isn’t just a place where you can find Jacuzzis, private verandas and decks that look out over a valley dotted with volcanoes: it’s also Costa Rica’s first ever certified-sustainable hotel. The water is heated by solar power, the linens are made from recycled bamboo fibre, and the resort itself was constructed largely from recycled materials. On top of this, the Inn has several donation programs set up to help the local schools and community. But we’re guessing you stopped concentrating after the part about “decks that look out over a valley dotted with volcanoes.”

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