5 of the Best Eco-Friendly Tours You Can Take

Sustainable travel doesn’t have to involve roughing it—there are plenty of ways to go beyond green on luxury adventures these days. But when planning an eco-friendly luxury tour, it is always best to book with a respectable company, where you can ensure your carbon footprint will be kept to a minimum. They'll also be able to assist in how to choose the most sustainable resort possible. Whether you want to float down the Mekong River in Cambodia or hike to the edge of a volcano in Nicaragua, these four luxury tour companies go above and beyond to leave only footprints while creating invigorating, creative one-of-a-kind adventures.

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    Peregrine Adventure Cruising

    In a move to lessen the footprint of humans on the oceans, small tour company Peregrine Adventures — a sister company to Intrepid Travel — announced in 2018 that it would eliminate the use of all single-use plastics (like straws, water bottles and plastic bags) on board its  adventure cruising exclusive charter trips. And in an effort to contribute to the economies in the company's ports of call, the vast majority of the food supplies on each trip will be locally sourced. Peregine is already a carbon-neutral company — the brand purchases carbon credits to offset its emissions, and keeps groups small in order to limit use of large vehicles or expansive hotel properties. 

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    Vietnam, Mekong Delta, Can Tho, Cai Rang Floating Market
    Michele Falzone/Getty Images

    Aqua Expeditions focuses on luxury eco-friendly boat cruises down the world's most famous rivers—from the Amazon to the Mekong. Interacting with locals and learning about their culture is one the most rewarding kinds of travel experiences, and this is something that Aqua Expeditions excels at and prioritizes on its tours. On a recent adventure, we learned about everything from earning a livelihood at a  floating market to the personal journey from childhood to becoming a monk. Check out the Mekong River adventure through Cambodia and Vietnam, which has you interacting with locals at every turn.

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    Red-backed Squirrel Monkey
    dataichi/Simon Dubreuil/Getty Images

    From exploring a cloud forest to hiking to the rim of a volcano, look no further than Panama-based operator Namu Travel for customized eco-friendly luxury luxury adventures to Central America. Namu won’t recommend eco-friendly lodges or experiences they haven’t personally vetted, which means if they tell you a spot is the best in town, it will be. Plus everything is completely customizable, so you’ll usually have a few different choices in lodging and activities when planning your trip.

    Namu's trips cover Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua—one of the company's most exciting adventures is the Eco-Friendly Costa Rica tour. Each hotel included in this itinerary demonstrates sustainable practices by using local operators for on-site tours so more of your money goes directly back into the community. Additionally, expect restaurants chosen to be sustainable, using locally grown and sourced produce. These trips also give you an opportunity to interact with the local community through a day of volunteering.

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    Kuoda Travel

    Kuoda Travel is another excellent boutique luxury pick for customized travel journeys throughout Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. What we especially love about Kuoda is their incredible passion for the people and environments of the countries they work with—they often arrange for travelers to participate in philanthropic efforts, cultural interchanges and other mutually enriching experiences.

    “We take our ethical and social responsibilities seriously and are 100% committed to sustaining the character and integrity of each place—not only those we visit, but the places we consider ‘home,’” Kuoda Travel Founder Mery Calderon said. “Elements such as culture, heritage, and ancient traditions of our local communities are our main focus; we believe that tourism in South America should do more good than harm.”

    So in 2006 when Calderon stumbled upon an isolated Andean community in the Sacred Valley, she recognized a need for an educational facility in the village, and opened the Andean Children's Learning Center in 2007. Today, more than two-thirds of the community’s school-aged children visit the Andean Children’s Learning Center for after-school educational support and mentorship, and a host of Kuoda travelers have experienced the joy of sharing their time to support these students on their educational journeys, many of whom will be the first in their family to go on to high school and university.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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    Malawian Style

    Fishing boats at dusk, Cape Maclear, Lake Malawi; Malawi
    Ian Cumming/Getty Images

    Just because you’re going green, doesn’t mean you can’t bring back something to remember your adventure by. Just make sure your purchase helps the local economy, which a good luxury tour company should be able to do. Malawian Style, for example, works shopping with a purpose into its trip plans.

    On the African based company’s South Luangwa National Park tour in Zambia, guests are introduced to three sustainable companies based around its confines: Project Luangwa, Tribal Textiles and Mulberry Mongoose. Mulberry Mongoose’s founder Kate Wilson and her local team take snare wires laid by illegal poachers that have been found in the park and transform them into beautiful pieces of statement jewelry that also incorporate everything from Zambian coins to guinea fowl feathers in their design. Tribal Textiles is located just outside the park, and the shop provides jobs to the local community, who design the traditional Zambian designed textiles for sale. Also in the area is Project Luangwa, which sells various African crafts and supports the local community through education and gender equality initiatives.

    Malawian Style also arranges local immersion experiences in Cape Maclear on the shores of Lake Malawi, which is home to Sustainable Cape Maclear, an organization working to create sustainable jobs for residents and giving travelers an opportunity to connect authentically through the arts and music. Through the program, you can sign up for everything from private drumming lessons to a cooking class with a local family.