BY Advocate.com Editors
February 02 2009 1:00 AM ET
These two trips were at opposite ends of the eco-spectrum, and I needed something in between. In order to hit the bull’s-eye, I ditched the gay element. Staying at the Inkaterra eco-resort in Peru (Inkaterra.com) was just right: super comfy tree house–style accommodations in the cloud forest of Aguas Calientes near Machu Picchu, Wi-Fi access, a stocked fireplace, and Pisco sours everywhere I looked. It may sound more vacation than eco, but the property is entirely carbon-neutral and Peruvian-owned, and it supports many forward-thinking sustainability programs, such as the Andean Spectacled Bear Rescue Project. Ditto for And Beyond Africa’s newest properties, Xudum and Xaranna (AndBeyondAfrica.com), in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. The company (formerly CC Africa) gets an A-plus for its socially and ecologically progressive plans like spearheading HIV/AIDS initiatives and opening a skills and health center near its Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, but vacationing at one of its resorts will cost you from several hundred dollars to $1,375 (fully inclusive) a night. Still, the luxury and intimate interaction I got with elephants, lions, giraffes, and crocs was priceless. I also convinced my eco-ranger Mompati to bring me across the border to Zambia, which was slightly illegal but a great way to get a glimpse of the real world (I witnessed a wine-smuggling operation on the Zambezi River) outside the luxury property’s eco-plushness. After all, the world outside a resort is the path to understanding the eco-sociological aspects of any given area, and a true eco-resort shouldn’t protect or separate you from it entirely.
Top Green Getaways
“Ecotravel” can mean many things to people, but we’ve defined our top ten eco-tourism in terms of immersing oneself in overwhelming environmental beauty, be it trekking through a towering rainforest or listening to crickets chirp atop a windswept mountain. And of course, when traveling, we like to keep the lavender mixed with the green.
1. The Cloud Forests of Costa Rica
The Eco-Adventure: The Monteverde Biological Cloud Forest Reserve is perhaps the most famous wilderness spot in Costa Rica—a country that is at the forefront of protecting its more than 10,000 identified species of plants, 850 species of birds, and 800 species of butterflies, among others. This reserve in the north-central part of the country is made up of about 26,000 steep, cool, misty acres that harbor jaguars, pumas, monkeys, the legendary quetzal bird, and the golden toad, a species only known to exist in the Monteverde reserve.
Do It Gaily: Gay operator Hermes Tours (HermesTours.com; 877-486-4335) teams up with Global Volunteers in offering a weeklong volunteer vacation in Monteverde, where travelers help to build various community projects like health care centers and additions to schools. There’s also plenty of free time to explore local butterfly gardens, orchid nurseries, horseback trails, and coffee cooperatives. The trip is even tax deductible. Add on a side trip to the gay-popular Manuel Antonio and Quepos region on the Pacific Coast for some R&R at a mellow gay beachside B&B like La Posada Casa & Bungalows (LaposadaJungle.com; +506-2777-1446) or Hotel del Mar (GoHotelDelMar.com; +506-2777-0543).