10 new eco and responsible travel experiences for 2024

Wilderness vows to use tourism to help lift local communities by providing jobs, lease fees and small business grants. Solar-powered Mokete Camp will have nine en-suite canvas tents (for a maximum of 18 guests) with retractable roofs for stargazing, a tented communal lounge and a pool.

Prices start at $US1145 ($1800). See wildernessdestinations.com or email enquiry@wildernessdestinations.com

Buffalo at Mababe Marsh in Botswana. 

Carbon offset | Iceland
Adventure holiday company Much Better Adventures helps clients travel with a clearer conscience by publishing the carbon footprint of each itinerary it offers. It also plants enough trees to pull at least twice the amount of carbon out of the atmosphere for every trip completed. They work with 100 per cent locally owned, independent businesses, so more of your travel dollars stay in the local economy. And 5 per cent of their revenue goes to their conservation and reforestation-focused foundation.

Much Better Adventures has taken the added step of acquiring B Corp certification from not-for-profit global entity B Corporation, which has been operating since 2006 to help companies and individuals hold themselves to greater account, while also supporting their efforts with a network of like-minded people.

Consider one of Much Better Adventures’ new itineraries, such as five nights of back country hiking and wild camping in remote Iceland, trekking through canyons, past waterfalls and across lava fields in Vatnajökull National Park.

From $3446 per person, twin share. See muchbetteradventures.com or call +44 020 3966 7597.

A hiker takes in the scene around Skaftafell Glacier, Iceland. Getty

Low-carbon ballooning | The stratosphere
Space tourism and the strongly associated chest-thumping billionaire space race will get a rebrand when the Céleste – a pressurised luxury capsule lifted by a gigantic balloon — launches into earth’s stratosphere, most likely late next year. (The hype has been such, you’ll find many stories on Céleste over the years).

OK, it won’t come cheap. But it’s an interesting new product in the space tourism category.

Created by Zephalto, a low-carbon space travel company founded in 2016 by French aeronautical engineer Vincent Farret d’Astiès, the Céleste will produce just 27 kilograms of CO2 (equivalent to driving a car for about 110 kilometres) when it takes its six passengers to an altitude of 82,000 feet. While this is below the boundary of space, it will allow passengers to admire the curvature of the Earth, which astronauts have described as fostering a deep sense of interconnectedness.

The six-hour journey, including three hours of stratospheric floating, includes Michelin-starred dining and will cost $200,000 per person. Tickets and more information at zephalto.com.

Zephalto is expected to launch into Earth’s stratosphere in late 2024, allowing passengers to gaze down from a pressurised capsule with luxury fittings. 

Sustainability-focused hotel | Manchester
Manchester is popular with eco-minded urban explorers. This year, it was the site of the UK’s second sustainable living festival, The Sustainability Show, and it’s home to the 65-hectare Northern Roots, the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park. A few years ago, Manchester City Council released a blueprint to become net-zero by 2038, 12 years ahead of the UK government’s 2050 target.

Manchester will take another step towards that goal when the city welcomes the 216-room Treehouse Hotel at Deansgate in April.

This eclectic hotel, operated by luxury group SH Hotels & Resorts, is redeveloping the city’s old Renaissance Hotel on the River Irwell – recycling the bones of an outdated brutalist building that many had considered beyond salvage. The £200 million ($381 million) project will prove otherwise.

Treehouse Hotel will feature reclaimed and recycled materials throughout, including the furniture, and will operate using strict energy and carbon savings. Its sustainability practices are all listed on the website. Expect roof gardens, a rooftop apiary, indoor living green walls, a rainwater-fed kitchen garden, and more.

From $380 per night, see treehousehotels.com/manchester.

There will be plenty of greenery in the entrance of the riverside Treehouse Hotel in Manchester.  

Wildlife education | Kenya & Tanzania
If you want to take more than a suitcase full of souvenirs home from your next holiday, luxury African safari company andBeyond’s new WILDeconomy masterclasses (just introduced) are food for thought.

The five-night, six-day experiences include discussions about the role of Africa’s “wildlife economy”, slotted in around the usual safari routine of game drives, walks and other activities.

On a WILDeconomy trip to Tanzania’s Lake Victoria to be hosted by the Africa Foundation next year, for example, travellers will learn about the positive impact that sustainable fishing practices have had for both the lake, and the local Lukungu community.

The Masterclass will be hosted by Richard Vigne, executive director of the African Leadership University’s School of Wildlife Conservation. It includes three nights at andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti River Lodge in Tanzania, and two nights at Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara.

Priced from $21,700 per person, twin share, departing October 30, 2024. See andBeyond.com.

Go on a game drive to see a lioness and cubs during a stay at andBeyond Grumeti Serengeti River Lodge in Tanzania. 

Feed your soul | Central America
In 2022, Costa Rica generated 98 per cent of its electricity from renewables for the eighth consecutive year, a figure verified by the Climate Action Tracker among other bodies. So it’s a natural fit for global sustainable luxury hotel chain Our Habitas to open its first-ever property in Costa Rica early next year – with a focus on nature immersion.

Habitas Santa Teresa will be located on the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast side of the country, and is fronted by a private surf beach, with dense jungle to the rear of the eco retreat.

It will feature 10 luxury canvas tents and 45 “low-impact” rooms – meaning they’ll be built from local, ethically sourced organic materials. Habitas will plant equal numbers of trees to offset the wood used in construction.

Guest adventures on offer will include underwater volcano snorkelling, horseback beach rides and waterfall hikes, as well as meditation classes and farm-to-table food.

From $632 per night, twin share. See ourhabitas.com/santa-teresa, or call +52 415 215 9399.

Habitas Santa Teresa will be located near one of Costa Rica’s popular surf breaks, Playa Santa Teresa. 

Hang with the chimps | Uganda
Uganda has never pulled the same number of cashed-up western tourists as the likes of Botswana, Kenya or South Africa. And yet, its location in the Great Africa Lakes region makes it one of the continent’s most picturesque, wildlife-rich countries.

For a conservation-aware stay option in Uganda, put Kibale Lodge on your list. When it opens in May, Volcanoes Safaris’ fifth property will help travellers enjoy the surrounds, while also educating them about the area’s issues through visits to community and conservation projects. With lodges located in Rwanda and Uganda, Ugandan-owned Volcanoes Safaris is celebrating 25 years of operation this year.

Kibale Lodge will sit on 60 hectares, located on a ridge-top site close to Kibale National Park, in the western part of Uganda, a five-hour drive from the capital of Kampala. The park is home to more than 1500 chimpanzees.

With just eight deluxe rooms and a single villa – all run off solar power and rainwater – Kibale Lodge will keep it small and responsible.

From $1897 a night, see volcanoessafaris.com or email enquiries@volcanoessafaris.com

Kibale National Park in Uganda is home to more than 1500 chimpanzees. 

Support artisans & craft | Colombia

Delightfully named Thread Caravan focuses on preserving heritage craft traditions and putting travel dollars directly into the pockets of locals. The company was started in 2014 by American Caitlin Garcia-Ahern, who is based in Mexico. She leverages her background in social development and working with not-for-profits in the United States. Overheads are kept to a minimum given it’s just Garcia-Ahern and one assistant running the show.

Thread Caravan puts together multi-day artisan workshops around the world, helping shine the spotlight on local craft communities. Think hammock-making workshops in Mexico, sailing and embroidery in Panama, or natural dyeing and back strap weaving in Guatemala. (The latter involves weaving with a strap looped around your back, then tethered to a pole or tree.)

Thread Caravan’s new six-day trip to the Colombian mountain town of Barichara departs in April, and includes indigo dyeing and paper-making workshops, visits to local ateliers, and hiking.

From $4430 per person twin share, see threadcaravan.com. Price includes boutique accommodation, most meals, all workshops and excursions, and carbon emissions offset.

Creative workshops at Thread Caravan’s new six-day trip to the Colombian mountain town of Barichara. 

Improved train journeys | Italy

International travellers are forecast to make 75 million trips to Italy in 2023, up from 56 million last year. To encourage travellers to explore the country with a smaller carbon footprint – and to give lesser-known regional destinations an economic boost – Italy’s state-owned railway holding company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (FS Group), is in the process of launching a series of new and refurbished trains and itineraries.

In July, FS Group announced the creation of a new company, FS Treni Turistici Italiani (Italian tourist trains), to oversee the project.

The FS Treni Turistici Italiani will offer three tiers: luxury trains, including the hotly anticipated Orient Express, La Dolce Vita express and historical trains, and omnibus-regional services with more, and longer, stops in small villages included.

Look out for the express and historical trains, which will consist of 1980s and 1990s wagons that have been upgraded in the Rimini railway workshops, solely for tourist use. They will feature roomy luggage carriages for transporting bicycles, skis and vehicles. Sustainable mobility, here Italy comes.

Visit fsitaliane.it for updates and timetables.

Suite on The Orient Express La Dolce Vita. 

World’s greenest countries | Scandinavia

With its generally progressive politics, high standard of living, and prioritisation of clean energy and environmental responsibility, Scandinavia has long provided a leading model of communal sustainability.

No surprises, then, that the top four spots in this year’s Global Destination Sustainability Index, which ranks global destinations based on their sustainability performance, were Nordic. Sweden’s Gothenburg came in at number one for the seventh year in a row, followed by Oslo and Copenhagen.

Helsinki took the most impressive leap, jumping eight places from number 12 to fourth spot – thanks to its commitment to inclusive (accessible) tourism and efforts to measure the carbon footprint that travellers leave – and the goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable travel destination by 2025.

If you need yet another reason to visit the Finnish capital, note the fabulous food scene. See visitfinland.com.

View of Styrsö island in the southern Gothenburg archipelago. Getty

This is one of five Travel Hot Lists compiled by five specialist writers that is rolling out all week on afr.com. The lists will be published together in full on November 17, both in print and online.

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