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Eco-trip tips friendly holiday An earthTexT by FrAN WEAVEr Off the beaten track in India: The award-winning Indian responsible travel firm The Blue Yonder organises thematic trips in Kerala (a two-week tour starts at 880) and other Indian regions, always ensuring that local communities benefit. Income is also channelled into the restoration of local rivers. Costa Rica's national parks: Earnings from ecotourism in Costa Rica's stunning national parks are steered into conservation projects preserving their natural attractions (see www. The Rainforest Alliance's eco-index recommends sustainable tourism providers in Latin America and the Caribbean (see Trekking on top of the world in Nepal: Visitors to the Annapurna range can contribute to local environmental projects, use local guides, and enjoy homely accommodation in locallyowned tea houses, creating benefits for both nature and local communities. A two-week trek starts at 750 (search for Nepal at www. PAN Parks in Finland and Europe: In collaboration with the WWF, this network of spectacular national parks combines wilderness protection with responsible and sustainable tourism. The network includes two Finnish parks: Oulanka near Kuusamo and the unique Archipelago National Park. PAN Parks certify ecologically responsible local accommodation and service providers for each park ( For more on Finland's national parks, see International Ecotourism Society: BELOW Earnings from ecotourism in Costa rica's national parks go to benefit local conservation projects. C M Y CM MY Finland's national parks attract travellers who want to minimise their holiday footprint. CY CMY K C onscientious holiday-makers are increasingly seeking out green destinations and tour providers. But these days, when the "eco-"prefix is widely used to denote minimal sustainability measures at hotels and resorts or any tourism activity involving contact with nature ("greenwashing"), taking the right steps can be a confusing process. The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people." Mari Mero, of the Finnish Association for Fair Travel, says that local communities should always be the beneficiaries of ecotourism. "Trips are more memorable when you 'go native,' and seek out local services like typical foods and locally made souvenirs." Mero also runs Avara Maailma, a small agency that plans tailored tours together with partners in East Africa and other far-flung regions. She stresses that in many destinations water 32 BLuE WiNGs MAY­JUNE 2010 scarcity can be a life-and-death issue, even if tourists may not notice the problem. "Travellers should use water sparingly ­ and it's important to make sure you safely dispose of harmful wastes like batteries and medicines when visiting places with poor waste facilities," she adds. "When choosing hotels, it's worth looking for environmental certifications from independent schemes like Green Globe." Long-haul flights make up a large share of a trip's ecological footprint, at least in terms of emissions. Mero urges keen green travellers to fly fewer times a year and enjoy longer stays at their chosen destinations in order to get to know them better. "It's also important to use direct flights wherever possible, and choose airlines with fuel-efficient planes," she says.

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