By Robin Andersen, Ph.D.

Robin Andersen, Ph.D., professor of Communication and Media Studies and director of the Peace and Justice Studies program, is working on a book on ecotourism. Photo by Gina Vergel
Robin Andersen, Ph.D., professor of Communication and Media Studies and director of the Peace and Justice Studies program, is working on a book on ecotourism.
Photo by Gina Vergel

One of my favorite eco-lodges in the Caribbean is the elegant Bucuti Beach Resort, which sits on a wide expanse of sugary sand on the leeward side of Aruba. Your water is heated with solar panels, and the suites are built from recycled materials with ample, comfortable furniture made of sustainably farmed wood and recycled plastic. A local conservation NGO works with the resort to preserve turtle nesting habitat and help guide guests through the extraordinary experience of watching nesting mothers and ensuring that their hatchlings find their way to the sea.

2. The Chumbe Island Coral Park is Tanzania’s first reef sanctuary. The park manages seven self-sustaining eco-bungalows built using local mangrove poles, with palm-thatched roofs, each with its own rainwater catchment and composting toilets. Shower water is recycled through plant beds to prevent seepage into the reef. The sanctuary supports 90 percent of all species recorded in the region. With almost 400 species of fish, every day of snorkeling is a good day!

3. If you stay at the Baghvan Pench Jungle Lodge in the heart of India, you will help fund sustainable agriculture in the area and also experience rare beasts such as the magnificent Bengal tiger. Set in the Pench National Park at the foothills of the Satpura Range in Madhya Pradesh, you will be immersed in the sights and sounds of the Indian jungle, including four-horned antelope, leopards, sloth bears, and striped hyenas. The &Beyond Foundation, owners of the lodge, use organic gardens and gray water systems to supply the lodge.

4. For an entire country that is an ecotourism destination, try Bhutan. Instituted in the 1970s, the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index makes it the only country in the world to measure progress through happiness. GNH and sustainability guide Bhutan’s tourism industry. One of the least visited places on earth and the only Vajrayana Buddist country, this Last Shangri-La is one of the top biodiversity hotspots on the planet.

5. You may encounter a mantled howler monkey or a keel-billed toucan when you venture out from the Selva Verde Lodge & Rainforest Reserve in Costa Rica. Of the country’s many eco-lodges promoting sustainable tourism, this one stands out. The lodge works with the Sarapiqui Conservation Learning Center to promote conservation and environmental education. Birders, naturalists and zipliners will love the 500 acre preserve.

6. Tassia Lodge is part of the Lekurruki Community Conservation Ranch in the northern frontier lands of Kenya. The rooms are built not on, but into the edge of an escarpment overlooking a vast, open African plain. Walking safaris are a welcome change. On the drive from the small airstrip of Lewa, you’re likely to see giraffes, gazelles, zebras, and maybe a troop of baboons. Visitors describe the place as magical and the owners as eco warriors obsessed helping local communities, such as the Maasi.

7. A waterfall, a lush, tropical rainforest, and the wild, rugged shoreline of Dominica, W.I., are a few of the amazing attractions at Jungle Bay Resort & Spa. The spacious wooden cottages, elevated on stilts, are nestled into the undisturbed forest along footpaths and stone stairways. Local farmers provide fresh ingredients for the Caribbean cuisine. The owners helped found a local NGO, the South East Tourism Development Committee, to preserve the rainforest while providing economic development.

8. From the Cotton Tree Lodge in Belize you can get up close and personal with the artisans who make Cotton Tree Fair Trade Chocolate, or you can scuba dive in a protected caye of the Mesoamerican barrier reef, the second largest reef system in the world. You can also take a canopied Mexican skiff down the Moho River and experience the mangrove ecosystems that line the river’s banks. When you get there, snorkel the shallow, crystal clear waters and see corals, fish, turtles, and lobsters.

9. Sarinbuana Eco Lodge is located on the slopes of Mount Batukaru in central Bali. Take a tour of the lodge’s edible gardens, walk along the edges of rice patties to the nearest temple, or trek along mountain paths through the rainforest where you might encounter monkeys, black eagles, armored anteaters and much more. You’ll share the lodge with only 15 other guests, but you won’t find a television.

10. If you want to experience the unhurried life of indigenous villagers you can stay up to five days with the Embera Puru along the banks of the Rio San Juan de Pequeni in Panama. Your guide will pick you up in Panama City and travel upriver from Chagres National Park through the jungle in a dugout canoe. The traditional housing does not offer showers or flush toilets, but you can learn how to weave a basket, and villagers will share their rituals, music, and meals of fried plantains, fish, and chicken.