THE coronavirus pandemic has made us reconsider our place on the planet and, with vaccines offering hope that lockdowns may lift, here are eight travel on Earth Day.
First celebrated in 1970, it’s an annual event marked around the world each April 22 to demonstrate our support for environmental protection, and make us think. Fittingly, this year’s theme is ‘Restore Our Earth’.
And, although it’s unlikely we’ll be travelling freely for some time yet, they’re eco-ideas to add to your post-pandemic bucket list.
The notion of travelling responsibly includes taking part in a destination’s conservation initiatives. You might stay at an eco-resort, build relationships with the locals and learn about the community and its culture.
1. Follow in the footsteps of rhinos with an anti-poaching team in Namibia
Namibia leads the way as the first country in Africa to incorporate conservation into its constitution and today more than 43% of the country’s surface area is under conservation management.
With the largest quotient in the world of free-roaming animals including the rare black rhino, lion and zebra, Namibia offers endless opportunities to participate in wildlife conservation.
You can help anti-poaching efforts during the 14-day “Rhino Rangers” programme set in the 7,600-hectare Zannier Reserve.
Tailored to emphasise the necessity of protecting threatened wildlife, you join the anti-poaching unit on patrol, master firearm skills, learn about navigation and tracking techniques and discover the science of poaching itself.
After getting to grips with the challenges of living and surviving in the bush during the day, you can rest under Namibia’s star-studded skies surrounded by the sounds of the night.
2. Conquer and conserve the Appalachian National Scenic Trail
The Appalachian Trail is the world’s longest hiking-only footpath, stretching 3,500 kilometres and across 14 states including Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia and more.
Not only are you able to embrace the great outdoors and spectacular scenery, but there’s also a wide range of conservancy initiatives you can take part in.
Volunteers can sign up to projects hosted by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy team from joining forums to booking on a bespoke five-day course focused on the Leave No Trace initiative.
Then there are the ATC’s regular climate change events which are held in some of the trail’s most scenic spots.
On GoUSA TV series Trails & Trailblazers, Jennifer Pharr Davis shares how the trail helped her overcome confidence issues by building relationships with nature and those she met along the way.
3. Care for coral reefs in Colombia
Incredible coral reefs can be found in Colombia’s warm Caribbean and Pacific waters, but without protection, these natural ecosystems face disruption and damage.
In partnership with diving companies, coral reef research organisation Corales de Paz offers diving experiences with a difference.
Divers not only get to see the observe reefs but also work to monitor and re-weave corals, as well as collecting plastics from the ocean bed.
Visitors spend four or five days taking part in meaningful dive projects that monitor, survey and analyse the health of precious coral reefs to provide crucial insights into the protection of Colombia’s marine life.
Reef repair sessions teach divers innovative coral gardening methods, in which corals are generated in nurseries and transplanted into reefs to repair damaged areas.
Under the leadership of experienced coral reef scientists, divers can explore areas such as Providencia where Colombia’s healthiest coral reef – the second largest in the Caribbean – can be found.
4. Join a carefully curated ecotourism project in Rwanda
Rwanda’s Gishwati-Makura reserve spans 8,400 acres with lush mist-covered forests, primates and waterfalls – but that wasn’t always the case.
In the early 2000s, 98% of the woodland was diminished due to increased human settlement. So the local community, with the help of the Forest of Hope Association, undertook major restoration.
Today, eastern chimpanzees, golden monkeys and side-striped jackals roam freely, alongside dozens of varieties of bats, frogs and birds.
Carefully curated ecotourism projects such as guided nature hikes, chimp and monkey tracking, bird watching and visits to the waterfalls have helped to fund conservation, whilst providing income and enrichment for the surrounding communities.
It’s living proof of the impact communities can have when they pull together, put the planet first and work to restore landscapes.
5. Hear the wolves howl in Ontario
(PIC: Stephanie Brown Photography)
Deep in the Canadian forest, but just a three-hour drive from Toronto, you can discover the plight of grey wolves at the privately-owned 100,000 acre Haliburton Forest & Wildlife Reserve.
As an apex predator, wolves serve to keep the ecosystem in balance but over the years hunting and environmental impacts on their habitat have threatened this majestic animal.
The decline of wolf populations triggered the creation of the Wolf Centre at Haliburton, which aims to revive wolf pack numbers whilst educating locals and tourists alike about the importance of wolves within Ontario’s ecology and to shift perceptions.
A resident wolf pack has lived in a seven-acre enclosure within Haliburton Forest since 1993 and visitors can view the wolves from the Wolf Centre through one-way glass.
The centre also contains exhibits which tell the story of wolves and separate fact from fiction. Visitors have the chance to hear a wolf pack howl on guided walks during the summer months.
6. Restore alpine forestry in Trentino, Northern Italy
The mountainous forests of Trentino are a crucial part of the Dolomites landscape but during a night of extreme weather in 2018, four million cubic metres of trees were damaged or destroyed, proving devastating for wildlife.
The Trentino Tree Agreement was formed to enable the public to play an active role in restoring forests, and each donation works to plant and protect at least one ‘sacred’ tree in Trentino’s mountain valleys, rejuvenating the region’s woodlands.
Forests are essential for life in Trentino. They absorb carbon dioxide, increase biodiversity, counteract soil erosion and provide shade and shelter for wildlife.
Trentino also follows the golden rule of planting more trees than are used, so whilst hundreds of the region’s mountain huts are made from local pine, the utmost care is taken to ensure that woodlands are sustainably managed and maintained.
7. Protect sea turtle habitats in Puerto Rico
Sandy beaches sit seamlessly alongside vibrant cities in Puerto Rico and coastal capital San Juan is the perfect example.
Not-for-profit community organisation CRES is restoring and conserving the city’s delicate ecosystems, particularly the Santurce area, which is home to endangered sea turtles.
By reforesting the neighbourhood and providing better habitats for rare species such as the leatherback turtle to live, visit or nest on the beach, CRES looks to protect them.
A one-day workshop allows visitors to help with reforestation efforts, as well as educating them on how best to treat Puerto Rico’s city-side beaches.
8. Discover how plastic waste is being combatted on the island of Mauritius
The tranquil waters and oceans surrounding Mauritius make the island a paradise for tourists, but plastic waste is one of the biggest threats to natural ecosystems.
Precious Plastic Mauritius is a non-profit organisation that aims to create a recycling economy. After collecting plastic waste from beaches and mangroves, the organisation melts it down to create sports equipment, phone cases and chairs for sale.
The project employs locals who have been affected by the pandemic and the Wakashio Oil Spill, providing vital income to the communities around Mauritius’ Blue Bay.
Since plastic is versatile, easy to shape and quick drying, Precious Plastic Mauritius can easily create new, creative products that actually monetise waste, whilst protecting the ocean and supporting locals all at once.
- Lead picture by Oyen Rodriguez