Introducing Conservation Travel
If you’re like me, you’ve been missing exploring new landscapes and cultures during the pandemic, and you’re itching to travel again.
But have you ever struggled with how to travel ethically?
Travel has come under the global spotlight recently – and for good reason.
There is growing awareness about the negative impacts travel can have on the environment and people – particularly through climate change, unsustainable pressure on wildlife and habitats, distortion of local economies, or even changing local customs and cultures.
But is the answer to stop travelling?
COVID-19 has highlighted ecotourism as a powerful tool to conserve wildlife and landscapes – many of which otherwise are under direct threat from illegal or unsustainable activities.
Ecotourism can channel resources into conservation, and create employment opportunities for local people who need them most, while valuing and preserving local culture.
Travel also connects us with nature and each other, building awareness and support for conservation and sustainability at a global community level.
Sadly, unsustainable tourism and greenwashing (misleading information used to create an environmentally responsible public image) have tainted a sector that has HUGE potential to do good.
As travel opens up post-pandemic, we at Conservation Careers want to help it drive positive outcomes for wildlife, people and the landscapes they share.
To do this, we’re putting the spotlight on the ‘good guys’ – tours and operators who make conservation and sustainability a core mission of their business.
What is Conservation Travel?
Conservation Travel is for people who want their travel choices to have a net positive contribution to conservation. In other words, if these companies and tours didn’t exist, we would achieve less for conservation overall.
We’ve partnered with Terra Incognita to bring you tours and adventures that meet an Ethical Code of Conduct for Ecotourism, recognising their commitment to wildlife and local communities.
Conservation Careers is a Founding Partner of the Ethical Ecotourism Code of Conduct, which has been generated by a global community that includes over 80 ecotourism operators, industry experts, media representatives, local and Indigenous people and tourists.
The Code is made up of seven principles which seek win-win solutions for wildlife, local communities and the landscapes they share. They are:
We help wildlife
We work with local people
We strive for overall positive impacts
We share our knowledge
We work together
We respect boundaries
We keep improving
Meet our Conservation Travel tours and operators
So far we’re working with seven inspiring partners, who support conservation initiatives like:
Directly protecting 200+ acres in private conservation reserve in Panama.
Supporting a 1 million acre forest reserve, with a sustainable use area and wilderness preserve in Guyana.
Protecting a forest reserve in Ghana, through reforestation, building schools for over 600 children and environmentally friendly farming.
Conserving populations of rare and endangered bird species in Bulgaria.
Protecting amphibian populations worldwide, plus educating millions of people about amphibians.
- Founding a not-for-profit association to help migratory birds, their habitats and local communities along the East Atlantic Flyway.
As one of our Conservation Travel Partners says so well, “Many people hear the word conservation and think that we must conserve, or, in other words, use and do less… The solution [is] not doing less, but rather doing more while using less. This is progressive conservation.”
So far we’ve listed 20 tours across Central & South America, Europe and Africa.
They include experiences like snorkelling pristine tropical islands reefs, marvelling at bird migrations, walking rainforest canopy suspension bridges, photographing frogs and searching for jaguars and caiman (yes, my wanderlust is awake now too!)
Here are just a few examples of our Conservation Travel tours:
Jungles and Seas of Belize
The Ultimate Jungle Adventure (Guyana)
Costa Rica Frogs & Wildlife Ecotour
Birding Two Continents (Spain and Morocco)
Birding Western Panama Eco Adventure
Birds of Prey in Bulgaria
Lynx Quest (Spain)
Mammals of Ghana
What’s your happiest travel memory?
Since I first ventured abroad for work in 2005, many of my best memories have come from travel, and particularly conservation travel.
Here are two of my favourites…
In 2016 I visited an island wildlife sanctuary in New Zealand, Tiritiri Matangi, that had restored a once-barren, heavily farmed landscape into a haven for birds – including the notoriously shy Little Spotted Kiwi.
One evening I was spotlighting (looking for wildlife using a head torch), when a sudden rustle nearby froze me.
I waited as a Little Spotted Kiwi emerged from the regenerating forest into the moonlight and – to my astonishment – snuffled and snorted its way over to me.
Utterly oblivious to my human-ness, it circled me, sniffing the air, before tottering up to my right foot, stretching out its neck and nudging the tip of its long beak into my right leg.
I was left stunned by this unlikely encounter with a shy, nocturnal bird (most New Zealanders have never seen one in the wild!)
Two years later, deep in the Peruvian Amazon (2.5 days’ travel from the closest city), I had the privilege of staying with a Native Community, Shipetiari.
This community uses ecotourism to generate income to protect its forest and people. If not for tourism, they would need to log their rainforest to provide money for essentials like medical services.
After one meal we had a long conversation with one of their leaders about the community’s experience with ecotourism.
This glimpse into tourism through the community’s eyes, and their courageous, progressive commitment to sustainability, has never left me.
As conservationists we spend a lot of time, energy and sweat achieving vital conservation impact through our work.
But in my experience, sometimes these ‘off-duty’, in-between moments have taught me just as much about conservation, people and myself.
The in-between moments have taught me:
Awe and respect for nature, and our place within it
Openness, compassion and connection with others
What it means to be truly alive and in the moment
Confidence and trust in myself
The human core of conservation
The power of ecotourism to do good
What is your favourite travel moment, and how has it changed you?
After more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, I can’t wait to explore, adventure and discover again. I’m building a list of places (near and far) that I plan to explore as restrictions open up and travel becomes safe.
As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to roll out and more borders open up, now could be a good time to start planning your next adventure. Tour operators make safety a priority and most offer flexible booking – so you can adapt if travel restrictions change.
Where will you go? What will you experience? How will you help?
Find out more about our Conservation Travel tours and how you can make your next travel memories count for the planet.
Author profile | Kristi Foster
Kristi is the Head of Engagement at Conservation Careers and has a Master’s in Conservation Biology. She has worked for organisations including Fauna & Flora International (UK), the World Agroforestry Centre (Kenya) and Ecotourism Australia in everything from field work and environmental education to project management and communications.
Over the past 10 years her conservation work has led to Africa, UK, Australia and Latin America – where she realised that travel has enormous potential to support conservation and communities, if we can connect conscious travellers with ethical tours.