Top Spots for Southeast Asian Ecotourism

Forbes lists its eco-tourism top spots in South East Asia. "Responsible travel" is an ecotourist's mantra. From cultural awar... thumbnail 1 summary
Forbes lists its eco-tourism top spots in South East Asia. "Responsible travel" is an ecotourist's mantra. From cultural awareness to volunteer opportunities to conservation projects, these Southeast Asian vacations and resorts combine the altruistic with the adventurous.

I'm aiming to visit Indonesian destinations for the next 2 years. So far, the only place on the list that I've visited is Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia. It is truly breathtaking and a week is not enough to absorb the beauty of this place. I've even met one German architect there and he said "Angkor Wat is unbelievable! It's so imposing and artistically done that I can't believe there is such a structure here in Asia as this one."

1. Cambodia - Tour Cambodia's countryside during this two-week trip, which includes visits to Angkor Wat, a 12th century temple, and the Royal Palace. London-based tour operator Carpe Diem Travel can purchase carbon offsets, works closely with the local community and uses local materials. Prices start at 750 pounds ($1,510), not including airfare. more info, visit Carpe Diem Travel.

2. Gunung Rinjani National Park, Indonesia - The national park, tourism industry and local community have partnered to offer tours of this stunning landscape, which features hot springs and an active volcano. Local residents, who share village stories and legends, have been trained as guides in an effort to provide employment opportunities. Training and credit are also provided to small businesses and craftspeople through this project. more info, click here.

3. Thai National Park, Thailand - Participants on this 10-day tour will receive an intensive education in regional ecology and conservation efforts, which range from using biogas to discourage local logging and creating communal farms to decrease poaching. Highlights include trips to the Erawan, Budo Sungai-Padi and Khao Yai national parks, where tropical birds, elephants and Asiatic tigers live. Prices start at $2,300 (not including airfare or two nights' lodging in Bangkok). more info, visit Manaca.

4. Bali Barat National Park - The Mimpi Resort Menjangan, which uses local products when possible, and has created a scholarship program for impoverished students, offers quick access to the Bali Barat National Park. Tourists will enjoy exploring the neighboring coastal forest with a guide and then returning to their private villas for a dip in a hot-spring tub. Rates range from $95 and $325 per night. more info, visit Mimpi Resort.

5. Sumatra, Indonesia - The Satwa Sumatra Elephant Eco Lodge, on the outskirts of the Way Kambas National Park, offers guests solar-powered rooms and ranger-led safaris. The local habitat supports rare Sumatran elephants, rhinos and tigers, and the lodge strives to protect their habitats through donations to local conservation programs. Room prices start at $50 per night. more info, visit Sumatra Elephant Lodge.

6. Luang Namtha, Laos - The Boat Landing Guest House in Luang Namtha is an ecolodge certified by Green Globe, a company that rigorously evaluates a hotel's environmental practices. Guests at the riverside bungalows can rest assured the lodge is working to reduce its output of solid waste through recycling and composting. Tourists can spend their time trekking, rafting and biking in the nearby protected forests. Rates range from $30 to $45 per night. more info, visit The Boat Landing.

7. Komodo National Park, Indonesia - The Nature Conservancy has partnered with local villages and the parks authority to create an ecotourism program at this area, which encompasses about 500,000 acres of land and sea, and is home to more than 1,000 animal and plant species. Patrols now thwart illegal fishing; the partners have worked to create jobs in seagrass farming and tourism-grade training to decrease the dependence of the local community on destructive fishing practices. more info, visit komodo national park.

8. Sukau, Rainforest, Malaysia - Crossing jungles, paddy fields and rivers, travelers on this week-long tour will intimately experience the Sukau Rainforest. Tourists will also spend time at a local conservation center, where baby turtles are released into the sea, and stay at a lodge where the water is heated with solar power. Prices start at $945 for the week, depending on the exchange rate, and do not include airfare. more info, visit Sukau.

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