Whether you decide to spelunk through the world’s largest cave system in Vietnam, tread lightly amid tens of millions of Monarch butterflies in their mountainous Mexican breeding grounds, or hike up Zion National Park’s Angel’s Landing—a 1,488-foot tall narrow fin of rock—nature travel has a way of demonstrating just how much bigger, more marvelous, and very delicate our world is. Travel + Leisure evaluates nature-oriented touring companies, outfitters, and accommodations based on their value, quality, and environmental stewardship.
The rise in ecotourism goes hand in hand with an increased popularity of nature destinations among travelers. What do wildlife travel holidays have to offer? Many tour companies aim to educate tourists about the surrounding local ecosystem they’ve traveled to see as well as the global ecosystem of which we, as tourists and as locals, are all a part. Many outfitters and organizations involved with nature travel emphasize the work they do to protect the environment, from constructing sustainable buildings to directing a dedicated portion of revenue towards preservation.
The purpose and impact of nature holidays are wound up in larger ethical discussions of sustainability, preservation, and respect. Just being among nature, on elaborate wildlife adventure vacations or lengthy solo hikes along distant mountain ridges, can be helpful in raising environmental awareness—but is far from a panacea. While many an organization’s goals may be admirable and their actions measurable, many have yet to solve common dilemmas. What’s an ecofriendly way to get rid of a whole hotel’s worth of sewage? How to best protect an area so popular that visitors trample it underfoot? Even though these questions remain unanswered, the fact that vendors and travelers are asking them signals something important.
Ultimately, nature travel gifts sights and experiences tourists simply could not see or feel anywhere else: taking a nature cruise through the Galapagos Islands; being lifted into the canopy of the Amazon rainforest; watching sea turtles hatch in the sand and wiggle their way to the shore; riding along with a Yellowstone park ranger on a wolf tracking tour.
Whatever your passion, our news, tips, and recommendations can help you choose the path that lets you see and experience the natural world a little more closely.