Eco-Homo 

City slicker Adam H. Graham travels all the way from the Galapagos Islands to Alaska to find an eco-oriented vacation that fits him just right. 

BY Advocate.com Editors

February 02 2009 12:00 AM ET

10. The Napa Valley of Northern California

The Eco-Adventure: Hundreds of wineries are nestled in the sunbaked, oak-filled, golden Napa Valley (a couple hours’ drive north of San Francisco), a region that includes bubbling mud hot spring spas and forested state parks. Gay life is centered on the nearby redwood-shaded village of Guerneville, in a resort area better known as the Russian River.

Do It Gaily: Gay Napa Getaways (GayNapaGetaways.com; 707-927-5115) is a local tour and concierge service that helps you live out your wine region fantasies with creative and exclusive excursions like lunch on a 300-acre horse ranch, an elegant dinner in a wine cave, and special tours of winery owners’ private estates. Added bonus: They can coordinate legal same-sex marriages in gorgeous outdoor settings. You can also check into gay-owned Napa lodges like the Chateau de Vie (CDVNapaValley.com; 877-558-2513) on two acres of vineyards with a 40-foot heated lap pool and hot tub, or the Meadowlark Country House (MeadowLarkInn.com; 800-942-5651), on 20 gently sloping acres with a mineral pool, covered bridge, red barn, and grassy fields for picnics.

 Bonus trip (but hurry it's happening spring 2009)South African Bush Tracking

The Eco-Adventure: African lions are all about pride. The most social members of the biological cat family (which also includes the house kitty), they travel in prides—or tribes—of up to thirty lions, and usually hunt at night. They share Kruger National Park with 517 species of birds and more species of mammals (147) than any other African Game Reserve. The hot, dryness of the bush is a perfect complement for Victoria Falls; at nearly a mile wide, it’s the largest curtain of water in the world, plummeting more than 350 splendid feet into the Zambezi Gorge.

Do It Gaily: There are no set trails through Kruger, so you’ll definitely appreciate the guidance of Hermes Tours (HermesTours.com; 877-486-4335) in tracking—on foot—a pride of lions returning from their night hunt in the bush. You’ll also thrill to afternoon game drives, a full day of tasting among the 106 Stellenbosch region wineries, and a tour of the Cape Peninsula and Robben Island. Luxurious accommodations are four- and five-star, and your trip could culminate in the gay hub of Cape Town, but you wouldn’t want to miss the optional extension to Victoria Falls.

 Tips to green up your trip

Both travelers and tour operators tend to get confused on what exactly is meant by “ecotourism,” so here are some questions to ask to find out how green your trip actually is.

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  • Check to see if your hotel or tour company is green certified. A number of regional certification programs exist on a voluntary basis, some more stringent than others, but all have defined guidelines. The best internationally recognized organization is Green Globe (GreenGlobeInt.com).
  • Is your lodge an ecolodge merely because it’s near trees? To find out how environmentally aware your accommodations are, you can ask questions about their recycling programs, water and waste management, solar power, use of local building materials, and ongoing eco-education of the staff and guests. Any true ecolodge worth its weight will have a written environmental policy available to guests.
  • Does the company give back to the local community? Although this falls more under the banner of sustainable or responsible tourism, many eco-aware travel businesses have programs that support indigenous populations with local community projects, employment, and education, and involve them in the management of local resources. Good companies support local food industries and farmers, use nearby and recycled materials in their buildings, protect their native environment and cultures, and are generally sensitive of the impact tourism has on the surrounding population.
  • Tags: Travel

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