With so much of Switzerland made up of mountains and lakes, it’s little surprise that it tops the enviro-charts. If you want to experience Switzerland’s alpine beauty in a low impact way, try WhitePod Village – a collection of eco-friendly pods, tucked away on a Swiss mountainside. Complete with cosy wood burning stoves, comfy beds and incredible views, this is eco-camping in luxury.
‘Powered by nature’ is the slogan of Norway’s tourist board and if you take a trip through fjord land you’ll see why. Steep cliffs plunge into deep blue fjords whilst waterfalls cascade down the mountainsides creating a landscape of sheer beauty. The best way to experience Norway’s nature with minimal impact is by foot and Bergen is a great base for hiking the area. You can also explore the region by train which takes you through the fjords and up the mountains.
In joint second with neighbour Norway, Sweden offers cascading northern lights, white sandy beaches, mountains, meadows and a glittering array of over 24,000 islands. Sweden was the second country in the world to introduce an eco-tourism charter, and also created Europe’s first eco-label that assures the quality of around 180 holidays and activities run by its 80 eco-certified tour operators around the country.
Finland’s Lapland is one of Europe’s last true areas of unspoiled wilderness, with vast swathes of forest and hundreds of pristine lakes, visitors can enjoy the midnight sun, stunning natural scenery and see bear and lynx. A paradise for campers, hikers and bikers, Finland was recently named ‘Best Country in the World’ by Newsweek, and is one great escape.
5. Costa Rica
This Central American country has been deemed the world’s ‘most natural conservation area’ having protected more than 27% of its land by creating a network of Wildlife Refuges, Biological Reserves and National Parks. Costa Rica offers a diverse range of ecosystems and activities; trek through million-year old rainforest, hike volcanoes, raft wild rivers, and spy jaguars, reptiles and multicoloured birds.
If you’re looking to learn something on holiday, visit Kalchkendlalm, Austria’s most unusual school. Located high on a mountain pasture with a backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks, toy town houses in the valley, thick forests and craggy cliffs, you can join the ‘bread and butter’ class, bake your own loaf, milk a cow and churn butter.
7. New Zealand
Ever since Frodo Baggins and Gandalf introduced us to Middle Earth, New Zealand’s vast open spaces filled with stunning rugged landscapes, gorgeous beaches and spectacular geothermal and volcanic activity have captured the world’s imagination. Take a sea kayak tour in the Abel Tasman National Park, an exquisite area of coastline between Marahau and Takaka, and explore the bays, beaches and headlands of the park. Campsites occur regularly along the way, so you can pull into shore and pitch a tent at the end of each day.
Visit an ‘open farm’ where you can learn how food is produced, try your hand at some of the eco-friendly farming techniques, and buy fresh and healthy foods which are not available from the city supermarkets. There are many types of different open farms to choose from: livestock farms, mushroom farms, fish farms and flower farms. Visitors can stay in beautiful farmstead log cabins and enjoy horse riding, hiking or canoeing on Latvia’s various lakes.
This south American country has a diverse selection of nature holiday options; go diving in Colombia’s coral reef (which claims to be the third biggest in the world), see snow capped summits surpassing 5000m in the volcano region, then relax in the soothing thermal waters of a natural hot spring. Or visit Colombia’s coffee region, which showcases the country’s biggest (legal) export, and where eco-adventures abound in a landscape of rolling hills and coffee plantations, which can be explored by bike or horseback.
With scenery as diverse as high Alpine peaks to Atlantic Ocean islets, France has plenty of pristine countryside to offer. One of the less visited areas that is gaining attention is the Lot Valley in southern France. Whether you’re looking for flatlands or fields, forests or fens, foothills, gorges or valleys, following the River Lot as it meanders down a 481km long valley is a great way to see a clean and green part of France.
You can help in a hands-on way through volunteer travel to improve the lives of the survivors of May’s Cyclone Aila – at least 500,000 people have been made homeless in the Sunderbans (shared by India and Bangladesh).
It is a very very hard work.
And the monsoon is in full force.
Areas where you can volunteer:
1.Helping doctors and medical volunteers in the medical camps that have been running since 25th May, and on mobile camps on boats which can support remote villages where there is no medical centre.
2.De-watering of ponds
3.Reconstructing dikes and repairing villages
4.Checking damage to wildlife and take part in rescue as and when needed
5.Helping local people in repairing their wells and hand pumps
6.Reaching relief materials and keeping a complete database of the same, making reports and updates, monitoring the progress, preparing a list of beneficiaries
7.Planting mangroves where the damage was severe.
We have assembled a meaningful 8-day voluntourism itinerary for you:
Sunday – Day 1: Arrive at Calcutta International Airport.Transfer to hotel.
Monday – Day 2: Morning drive to Sonakhali and transfer to boat.Cruise to Bali Island.Briefing meeting
Tuesday- Day 3:Visit the affected villages and check relief and reconstruction activities to get a complete orientation of the situation and also to establish rapport with the affected villagers and relief teams.
Wed,Thurs,Fri,Sat – Day 4, 5, 6, 7: Volunteering (medical, dewatering of ponds, helping farmers, distribution of relief materials to other affected islands, rebuilding village houses, quick visit inside the national park to take stock of the situation, reconstruction of embankments wherever needed)
Sunday – Day 8: Transfer back to Calcutta Airport.
The price is US$990 per person, based on twin-share accommodation, excluding flights to and from Calcutta. This trip can go anytime, with just two people. The price is US$1,450 to run this trip for one person.
-01 night accommodation in Fairlawn Hotel, Calcutta on a half board basis
-06 nights accommodation with all meals in Sunderbans Jungle Camp
-all boat journeys
-carbon offsets for your flights
If you would like to book this, please email me directly. You can read about our ‘standard’ trip to the Sunderbans here.
Of course, if you cannot make it, you can help with a financial donation. If you would like to help in this way, please let me know (email@example.com) and I will send you the bank account details.
You have probably heard that Madonna has been given Malawi’s High Court permission to adopt 4-year old Mercy James…I do not want to enter into the rights and wrongs of this now, and am certainly not emailing you about how to adopt a child, but want to give you the opportunity to make a real, meaningful difference in Malawi in a hands-on way through voluntourism.
Malawi is one of Africa’s hidden gems, and we offer two scheduled trips to Malawi, and can tailor-make a trip to your exact requirements.
All of our trips in Malawi enable you to have authentic interaction with the Malawian people through your volunteer adventure.
You can assist in a fulfilling way at a registered charity in villages around Lilongwe, with:
· Orphan and other vulnerable children care (OVC) – help feed children under six, as well as give them basic education. You can help cook for the children and serve them;
· Home Based Care (HBC) – our Volunteer Project partner takes care of patients and people living with AIDS. You can go into the communities and help care for the patients, such as cleaning their homes, fetching water, and generally making their lives easier;
· Community Development Construction – you can help build Community Child Care Centers (provided your stay coincides with the timing of building work);
· Other teaching opportunities at all levels, including academic level;
· Gardening, planting and maintaining vegetable gardens and trees;
· Maintenance and renovation in the school buildings and sometimes in the huts of elderly or vulnerable people who can’t do the repairs themselves.
For scheduled trips, we offer:
1. A luxury adventure (“Malawi Magic“) that counts that combines the volunteering with sailing on Lake Malawi, relaxing on gorgeous Likoma Island, exploring wildlife in Mvuu Wilderness Safari Lodge in Liwonde National Park, and canoeing in Mumbo Island.
You can read more about this inspiring luxury trip by clicking here.
2. A budget camping adventure (“Malawi, Parks and Falls“) that takes you to Zambia, where you can enjoy game drives in search of the ‘Big 5’ in Luanda National Park, be in awe of the Victoria Falls, and visit tribal textiles workshops.
You can read more about this enriching camping trip by clicking here.
As noted above, you can also tailor-make your own Adventure That Counts to meet your exact requirements – just reply back to me and I will be glad to be of assistance.
The Oscar-winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ has inspired tours of Mumbai’s slums, and Barack Obama’s Kenyan heritage has sparked interest in visiting Nairobi’s slums.
The townships are often culturally rich, and visiting there can help remove a lot of prejudices and misconceptions about life in the townships.
If done well and sensitively, these tours can be enriching for the participants, and beneficial to the communities visited.
However, in my view it is even better is actually volunteering in a township or slum, and properly getting under the skin of the locals – I founded Hands Up Holidays to make it easy for you to volunteer with the locals in a safe and meaningful way!
Doing Good Together, a non-profit organization has posted a list of its “Ten Reasons to Start Doing Good Together Now” (for the original story, see: http://www.doinggoodtogether.org/tenreasons.html) for family volunteering travel trips, and I think they’re great!
1. Family Volunteer travel is a chance for busy parents to spend time with their kids while giving back to the community.
2. A family volunteer vacation enables parents to pass on key values to their children, such as good citizenship, community responsibility, compassion and kindness.
3. It can help your kids stay out of trouble: Studies show that children who volunteer just one hour per week are less likely than other kids to get involved in destructive behaviors, such as smoking or drug and alcohol abuse. Another bonus: Adults who volunteer are happier and healthier than those who don’t.
4. Family volunteer travel helps with family bonding, gets you all talking to one another, and can spark meaningful discussions about important personal and social issues.
5. It can make you smarter. Hosting a foreign student can teach you about another culture; working to save the rainforest can teach you about ecology and biodiversity. Not to mention the lessons in responsibility and team work.
6. Family Voluntourism can make us grateful for what we have, especially if the volunteer job involves homeless families, lonely seniors or hospitalized children. There’s nothing like volunteering for putting our own problems into perspective.
7. It breeds a generation of future volunteers. According to a 2002 report, adults who volunteered as children were two times more likely to be involved in community service as adults who didn’t.
8. It helps children appreciate their own talents, gain self-confidence and feel good about making a contribution.
9. It helps break down stereotypes at a young age, and teaches greater tolerance and understanding. Through volunteering, children often meet people from diverse cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, ages and income levels.
10. Volunteer vacations are fun. There can be great joy in serving others, especially when you’re doing it with the ones you love.