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    Top 10 Ecotourism Destinations

    By ShermansTravel Editorial Staff
    June 9, 2012; 2:59 PM ET
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    Our editors have rounded up 10 ecotourism destinations to get you thinking green. Two on our list may seem like obvious choices (the Amazon and Galapagos), but you'll also find some up-and-comers, like the Caribbean island of Dominica, which is turning itself into the region's primo environmental destination; Australia's Blue Mountains, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site just over a decade ago; and Botswana, a model of sustainable tourism in Africa. If staying at eco-friendly lodges in the midst of a rainforest sounds appealing, consider Borneo or Costa Rica. If getting up close to wildlife and glaciers is more your speed, Alaska and Antarctica offer intrepid travelers the chance to experience both from the deck of a ship or an inflatable zodiac. And if you'd rather sleep in the great outdoors and trek to some of the world's highest plateaus, plan a camping trek in the Himalayas (and be sure to take your trash back to base camp with you). For a list of environmentally friendly tour operators, hotels, and more, visit the International Ecotourism Society website (www.ecotourism.org). Get a preview of our favorite green getaways with our Ecotourism Destinations slideshow.

    Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with the Brooks Range as a backdrop. Courtesy of USFWSHQ.


    Referred to as "The Great Land," Alaska is home to soaring snowcapped mountains, sprawling tundra, and a remote Arctic north - all of which shelter a wide range of wildlife that is otherwise threatened or endangered in the continental United States. Humpback whales, brown bears, lynx, sea otters, sea lions, bald eagles, and blue whales are just some of the vulnerable species protected in this ecotourism destination; in many parts, caribou and moose outnumber people and the echo of a grizzly's roar can be heard in the distance. With over 100 state parks to explore, Alaska's vast, pristine wilderness beckons naturalists who can rejoice in all its splendors, whether it's cruising through majestic Kenai Fjords National Park (www.nps.gov/kefj), sailing past colossal glaciers in Glacier Bay National Park (www.nps.gov/glba), glimpsing whale flukes slapping the water, or rafting down the Copper River while bald eagles soar overhead. The ongoing controversial political call to drill for oil in the state's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (arctic.fws.gov) has brought even more attention to this beautiful natural resource; visit yourself to see firsthand why environmentalists would prefer to leave it untapped.

    Deal: From $649: 7-night Alaska & Sawyer Glacier Cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line. Click here to book.

    Inside the Amazon rainforest, Amazonas State, Brazil. Courtesy of Jorge Andrade

    The Amazon

    Often described as the "Lungs of our Planet" - as it alone produces 20 percent of the earth's oxygen - the remarkable Amazon rain forest surrounds the world's largest river system and supports thousands of plant, bird, mammal, and aquatic species in the 1.2 billion acres it occupies. While this ecotourism destination stretches across several South American countries, the Amazon's densest section (60 percent) is found in Brazil, where eco-lovers can explore a terrific mosaic of ecosystems: You can literally walk among the treetops in Bahia's Atlantic forest, along a 66-foot-high suspension bridge surrounded by scores of wildlife, sights, and sounds; it's the ultimate canopy tour for those who want to really understand how the rainforest works. Back down below, you can rent a canoe and paddle down the river, past local ribereños (shore dwellers); fish for piranha (which is apparently quite tasty); or venture out on a bird-watching excursion. Come nightfall, the forest speaks for itself, emitting a symphony of sounds beneath a starlit sky - no doubt, one of nature's finest spectacles.

    Deal: From $2,160: 7-night Rio de Janiero and Amazon tour with lodging, air, and transfers. Click here to book.

    Gerlache strait in Antarctica. Courtesy of Rita Willaert.


    An Antarctic winter may not conjure up images of vacation paradise, and rightly so - the continent is surrounded by densely packed ice, near-perpetual darkness, unpredictable blizzards, and temperatures that dip as low as 90 degrees below zero. With the seasons flipped, wintertime in the Northern Hemisphere is as close to summer as it will ever be on the White Continent, and also the only time of year when voyaging to this last great frontier is possible, as the warmer weather melts the ice barriers that otherwise block access to Antarctica's savage landscapes and exotic wildlife. More than 46,000 tourists now head to the South Pole each year to witness its monumental glaciers and icebergs, comical penguins, and majestic whales. Cruising is the most popular way to reach this off-the-path ecotourism destination, on lines like Holland America (www.hollandamerica.com) and National Geographic-cooperative Linblad Expeditions (www.expeditions.com), which operate sailings from Buenos Aires. Both lines are also members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (www.iaato.org), a voluntary organization created in 1991 that aims to limit the impact of tourism on the continent by adhering to strict environmental guidelines.

    Deal: From $3,479: 20-night South America and Antarctica cruise on Holland America. Click here to book.

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