Travellers with adventurous spirits are inclined to run across all corners of the globe, plotting incredible trips to far flung locations: white-water rafting down the Zambezi, glacier-sledding in Alaska, volcano hiking in Chile. The itch to experience the extraordinary in lots of different lands is understandable. But we also have to question the ecological cost of adventuring. How can we make our proclivity to roam and explore a bit more eco-friendly?
What is an eco-friendly adventure?
First of all — what exactly qualifies as an eco-friendly adventure? Does taking a long-haul flight to visit a bee-sanctuary in Costa Rica count? Or going forest bathing in the Amazon?
These kinds of trips might tick the adventure box, but checking that eco-friendly box can be a little bit more tricky, especially if accessing adventurous locations means boarding a commercial aircraft when emissions from air travel represent up to 20% of an individual traveller's carbon footprint.
At the same time, investing money in “green destinations” that prioritise sustainability and ethics is also valuable, as supporting communities working to develop the best ecological practices is important for the future of sustainable tourism and travel.
So, in an effort to pair the adventurous with the eco-friendly, we have put together some travel inspiration for eco-friendly trips and flight-free adventures.
This one is for all those travellers determined to think about how they can make their adventures a bit more eco-friendly.
Ideas for adventurous eco-friendly trips
Follow the Ninki Nanka Trail in the Gambia
Last year, in February 2020, the Ninki Nanka Trail was launched in Africa's smallest country, the Gambia. Due to the impact of COVID-19 the trail still awaits visitors - especially those with an appetite for adventure, as running 225 km along the Gambia River, the trail will introduce intrepid travellers to a beautiful, lesser-visited part of the country and continent.
The Ninki Nanka Trail is part of a larger initiative aimed at promoting responsible, sustainable travel in the Gambia, while building rural economies. You can expect to journey over land and river, past tranquil shorelines to visit small riverside villages and witness an array of wildlife, all while being beguiled by local tales of the legendary Ninki Nanka dragon.
Find a lengthier guide about the trail and how to book here.
Join a Wildlife and Reforestation Expedition in Brazil
Have you ever watched a documentary where naturalists and scientists travel to epic locations and wished that you could be there?
Earthwatch runs expeditions that allow you to get-your-David-Attenborough-on by partaking in epic, intentional travel experiences. Earthwatch is an internationally recognised environmental non-profit organization that has been around since 1971, and the idea behind it is to encourage travellers to participate in important field research programmes by joining scientist-led expeditions around the globe.
For those able to splash out a bit on a trip that combines the eco-ing and adventuring really well, have a look at this expedition to Brazil. You'll be based in the stunning Serra dos Órgãos mountain range of Rio de Janeiro State, and spend time carrying-out mammal surveys and habitat monitoring, with some sightseeing sprinkled in. The cost is $1,775 for one week (includes food and accomodation), and two-week itineraries are also possible.
Go WWOOFing in New Zealand
New Zealand is an amazing place for those predisposed to adventure. One idea to help offset the often hefty carbon footprint that comes when travelling to this part of the world, is to dedicate a portion of your trip (be it a week or so) to helping out on an organic eco farm through WWOOF - an organisation offers opportunities to work on global organic farms around the world.
The benefits are many. Accomodation and meals will be provided in exchange for 4-6 hours work a day - making it a fun, low-cost way to chip in to local sustainability efforts, while also having time to explore the country. Spend half the day working, the other half exploring!
Learn how to surf in Costa Rica
Year after year, Costa Rica has been winning awards for its pioneering efforts in developing a sustainable tourism industry. And In the north-west of the country, in Nosara, lies a surf school heralded as the most sustainable surf school in the world - a place where "sustainability is the stoke".
Safari Surf School is "a sustainable hotel, restaurant, and surf school all in one idyllic location on the edge of a wildlife refuge". It's a great place to learn how to surf and spend time in an environment where a community of surfers are doing their best to protect and preserve the natural environments they ride in.
Choosing alternative modes of transport to flying is a surefire way to find yourself on some memorable adventures. Instead of simply booking that flight, just imagine the unique travel stories you'll gather if you walked, hitch-hiked, carpooled or even cargo-shipped your way to your travel destination...
Train Adventures: Travelling by train ranks as one of the most environmentally friendly ways to get around. If you want to use trains to get from A to B, the first step would be researching train networks in whatever country or countries you want to visit. Websites like Rome2Rio are useful in finding the cheapest land-route possible across the globe.
If you want to experience a famous railway journey, epic routes can be found in nearly every continent. One of the most thrilling rides in Europe, for example, is the Bergen Railway which runs across Norway, with one portion of the route will take you down the steepest railway line in the world.
Bus Adventures: Long-distance bus travel is a curious mix of torture and fun, but there is normally a number of low-cost carriers to choose from wherever you want to go. And while not everywhere in the world has a good train network, whether you are embarking on a cross-country or cross-border trip, there will normally always be the option to travel around by bus or minibus.
If you want to plan the ultimate US road trip, instead of using a car, why not travel on the classic all-American greyhound buses? And there are also more dedicated bus adventures to be had like the very pricey but very unique Longest Bus Ride in the World which goes from London to Delhi.
Cycling Adventures: Using a bike to travel from one destination to another might not be for everyone. It's character building stuff and will be more challenging than most other methods of travel, but the rewards will be high!
Of course it's also much more doable to travel by bike in some places compared to others. A group of continent crossing cyclists have named these countries as the best, and if you live in Europe, we recommend you take advantage of Eurovelo which provides maps for 17 long distance cycling routes in Europe.