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Welcome to the Greenloons Blog, your go-to ecotourism / sustainable / responsible (or whatever term you feel comfortable with) travel resource. Here, you will find eco travel destination profiles, environmentally friendly travel tips, ecotourism certification information, eco trip reviews and much more! Read, share and let us know your thoughts about ecotourism!

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Bulgaria Girl near Belasitsa Nature ParkMy first impression upon crossing the border from Macedonia to Bulgaria was of the sweetness of both the air (its smell of hyacinths) and people of Bulgaria. 

Over the days, almost like a slowly blooming flower, I then began to discover its stunning vistas, burgeoning wine industry (not to mention their fantastic walnut liquor), variety of delicious food, fascinating history, adventure options, and an inherent joie-de-vivre of people who will sing and dance without much persuasion.

To me, Bulgaria is the next “hot” destination for family travelers because it’s safe, family-friendly, offers a very good standard of service, and has many options for hikers and foodies to history buffs and beach bums.

Green River Whitewater RaftingLast month, I, along with my 11 year old son and some other family members, embarked on a multi-day whitewater rafting and camping adventure along the Green River that connects Colorado and Utah.  

We considered ourselves to be relatively experienced for this trip given that I had participated in two days of whitewater rafting on the Pacure River in Costa Rica (Class III-IV) and rafted in the state of Veracruz in Mexico (Class III), my son had enrolled in a couple of day rafting trips around the Washington, DC area (Class II), and another family member obtained her whitewater rafting certification, as a young adult.  

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  • Sarah Smith
    Sarah Smith says #
    Thanks
    My family wants to plan a rafting trip. Thanks for the advice about how you should make sure you know the signals and practice the

Ambassador for the EnvironmentA few months ago, for our Spring Break, our family traveled to the Hawaiian island of Maui.  We chose Maui for a few reasons including the chance to experience Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program, which is affiliated with three of Ritz-Carlton's Resorts (Maui, Grand Cayman, and Puerto Rico), and to better understand how the programs were affecting local communities, ocean conservation efforts, and of course children's understanding (and interest) in environmental issues.

Although we signed up for the Whale Watch excursion as a family, it was cancelled due to rough seas. However, our son did have the chance to participate in the Survivor program.

Monte Rufeno Olive PickingAs we walked along the short trail back from the olive grove, I began to smell fresh mint and other aromatic herbs underfoot, wildly growing on the side of the farmhouse, and instantly felt transported to a simpler time when families had to grow their own food and raise their own livestock to survive.

Although paling in comparison to those more likely difficult times, I still was satisfied with having taken part in the harvesting of an olive tree’s lovely green and purple colored olives ready for the first press. We collected nearly 90 lbs. of olives that morning and, once again, found ourselves at a large family-style Italian table ready for a feast.

For anyone who has traveled throughout the Mediterranean, the scene may be a familiar one. But, once you account for the details, you realize it is anything but common.

Horse BlogWhile I know my son was having a wonderful time at his summer camp in New Hampshire, I was still so glad to be able to have this extended road trip with my daughter.

During part one of this two-part series, I talked about our adventures from Georgia up to New Hampshire. Now, at the half way point of the trip, appropriately spent riding a zip line over the Pemigewassett River and then taking a gondola up the White Mountains to explore some granite caves, we now had to continue back home.

After my son's visitation day, my daughter and I explored D Acres a bit more. We took a dip in the swimming hole, rode our bikes to some surrounding farms to visit some goats and a friendly horse, and hung out in the open-air "Summer Kitchen".

AirBnB Inspired Road TripAs my son was packing up for another season at his summer camp in New Hampshire, I realized I had to do something to make these weeks special for my daughter too. So what better than a grand road trip!

My daughter and I love animals and have been especially interested in raising chickens after our town passed legislation allowing them to be kept locally. My daughter even began lobbying school administrators to create a kind of 4-H club for some students to raise a few hatched chicks.

So, creating a trip to visit chickens along our route seemed like a natural theme for our adventure!

Madagascar Tourism Helping CommunitiesAcross Africa, the transformational abilities of tourism have proven invaluable in helping to repair the relationship between people and planet. Sustainable certification standards, like those instituted by South Africa's Fair Trade Tourism, have ushered in new awareness for tourism that benefits communities socially, economically and environmentally.

This awareness has translated into action on the island of Madagascar. A country of startling contrasts, its incredible natural beauty and unique ecosystems are offset by a rapidly expanding and largely impoverished population, threatening species found nowhere else on earth.

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  • Janet
    Janet says #
    Responsible Tourism in Madagas...
    Madagascar is blessed with its natural beauty and this is an advantage for people in Madagascar to develop ecotourism business. T
  • Vincent
    Vincent says #
    Ecotourism in Madagascar
    I am a tourism student and undergoing ecotourism subject. Madagascar is a beautiful country indeed, from the friendly people to
  • Indrilisa Azwar
    Indrilisa Azwar says #
    Eco lodge that Empower local c...
    currently I'm studying about ecotourism and thanks for this blog. Awareness that being done by South Africa's Fair Trade Tourism i

Car Free Island of Hydra GreeceOne of the easiest ways to support sustainable travel is to select a car-free island for your next family vacation.

Car-free islands, generally, have a healthier population due to less air pollution and a less sedentary population, improved conditions for culture and leisure facilities, more space set aside for gardens and parks, more energy-efficient and water-efficient buildings (due to necessity), higher real estate values, and lower rates of crime, among other benefits.

To provide some additional eco-inspiration, while I've written about our travel experiences in Hydra, Greece and more recently Mackinac Island, Michigan, here is a list of other U.S States and countries who have designated entire islands as car-free.

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  • Syida
    Syida says #
    water pollution
    Hye! Thank you for the information. However, i have few points that are related to your post. I was thinking if the island is car

Approach to Ferry Port on Car Free Mackinac IslandThe more I travel, the more I appreciate, downright relish, the unhurried feeling of a pedestrian zone, where locals and visitors alike can only traverse by foot or bicycle (or maybe by an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage).

One can usually find a pedestrian zone within an historic center, such as we did in Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Krakow (Poland) or within a national park, such as Maria Island in Tasmania (Australia).

However, lately, I've started to gravitate toward car-free islands where it is downright acceptable to slow down, meander through roadways and scenic areas, think, and even strike up a conversation with a passer-by or two.

Hoi An 1 vietnamOur new partner in Vietnam, Easia Travel, has taken the concept of green travel one step further than what is traditionally seen in southeast Asia by supporting specific environmental awareness, aquaculture training, heritage preservation, and gender equality initiatives aimed at improving the living conditions of local communities as well as enhancing the travel experience for their clients.

We asked them to provide some additional perspective and insight into their sustainability goals, based on the results they are noticing from these various projects.

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  • Chihiro
    Chihiro says #
    Easia Travel’s actions and vis...
    By reading this article, I have a lot of interest about this travel agency, Easia Travel since their projects which they are takin

Horseback riding at the foothills of Cotopaxi volcano

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Quito, Ecuador to give a presentation at the Ecotourism & Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC). Many speeches and declarations were made during the conference, but the most notable was when the Minister of Tourism, Sandra Naranjo, announced that Ecuador was partnering with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) to create standards for sustainability in tourism.

A fantastic step forward indeed! But, what does that mean to you as a traveler?

As you consider traveling to the beautiful country of Ecuador, here's some practical examples of boutique hotels located in the Cotopaxi region that are already implementing standards of sustainability, namely Hacienda El Porvenir, Black Sheep Inn and Chilcabamba Eco Lodge.

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  • Nilufar sheikh
    Nilufar sheikh says #
    Sustainable Travel Through Cot...
    Sandra Naranjo, the Minister of Tourism announced that Ecuador collaboration with Global Sustainable Tourism Council about Creatin
  • Stacey Stovall
    Stacey Stovall says #
    Missed you at ESTC
    Hello Irene! I must have missed you at the ESTC in Quito. You and I talked a year or so ago re: your project to gather data on eco
  • Irene
    Irene says #
    RE:Missed you at ESTC
    Hi Stacey, It was a beautiful venue for a conference, but difficult to find people. Happy to share my ESTC presentation with you,

Wild Atlantic Way SceneThere's so much that surprised me during my trip to Ireland last October from the people (extraordinarily friendly souls who have a penchant for going out of their way to help others) to the vistas (there's a reason people call it the Emerald Isle) to the music (celebrating humanity's full range of emotions from sadness and tragedy to joy and passion) to the food (sustainably sourced by necessity and simply delicious) that it's hard to pick out a moment that stood out above all!

But, I can and that moment was during an e-biking trip along the Wild Atlantic Way.

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  • Mu'izz Naa'im
    Mu'izz Naa'im says #
    Ecotourism is not only 'greene...
    Hello Irene Lane, This post really attractive because I have always wanted to visit Ireland. Ireland has ability to be top ecotou

Highland Games CompetitorsIf you are the parent of a pre-teen, then most likely you have heard of the online game, Clash of Clans. For the uninitiated, the premise of this game is to build a village, join a clan and then smash another player's village for its resources so your village grows larger and stronger.

For our son, the village has the honor of being the first thing he checks in on the morning, right after school and again after he's done with his homework. If this scenario sounds familiar to you, I would recommend incorporating this theme with the unique history and fun of the Highland Games into your next family summer vacation.

ParenzanaViewTake the imagery of Tuscany (without the crowds) and combine it with a family-friendly biking and hiking trail that meanders through various villages offering comfortable accommodations and fantastic culinary delicacies, and you have Croatia's Parenzana Trail in a nutshell.

The 123 kilometer (approximately 77 mile) biking and hiking trail's history is quite comical. Originally built as a train rail line that transported goods and passengers throughout the region of Istria to and from the Italian port of Trieste, the slow train operated from 1902 to 1935.

Scotland BikingThis past summer, our European family vacation was dedicated to experiencing all things local. Whether it was touring a family-owned organic vineyard or seeing a cultural dance performance just outside of Dubrovnik in Croatia, spending a sun-drenched few days on the island of Hydra in Greece, or enjoying the spectacular Highland colors and absolutely delicious family-style meals at the Fraoch Lodge in Scotland, we wanted local and sustainable, and we wanted it to be the best.

So, when my nine-year-old son declared that of the many great experiences he had "Scotland was my favorite because (Fraoch) lodge felt like home", that was saying a lot!

Bus Travel from Split CroatiaWith classic rock music playing, reliable Wi-Fi access, and spectacular scenery (think of the Pacific Coast Highway in California times two for beauty), who knew bus travel in Croatia could be so fun!

Last summer, my nine-year-old son and I traveled for 17 days throughout Croatia. We started out in Dubrovnik and continued on to Split, then Opatija, Rovinj, and finally to Zagreb.  It was a fantastic trip filled with historical sites, great food, outdoor adventure, and friendly people.  

Taking a bus, however, was not my original plan for traversing the coastline.  Instead, I wanted to travel by train or boat as I thought it would be more fun for my son and more green. However, I quickly figured out that the only reliable form of public transport in Croatia is taking a bus.

Picking Vegetables and Fruits from Backyard Farm on Family VacationOver the years, I've come to realize that one factor that makes a family vacation a fantastic vacation is picking out the right accommodations.

For us, that means renting a locally-owned home, wherever possible, as it is more environmentally conscious and more fun.  We've rented apartments and villas in many countries including the United States, Italy, Canada, and Spain, and during this past summer, we rented a villa in Cyprus.

Rock Farm Slane Communal AreaI had just landed in Dublin, after an overnight flight from Washington DC, on a sunny morning a few weeks ago and found myself once again caught in those beautiful in-between hours when the adrenaline for starting another sustainable journey kicks in and the complete exhaustion that I knew was going to set in during the late afternoon.

Well, I certainly made the best of those beautiful hours thanks to the help of Carina Mount Charles at Rock Farm Slane!

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  • Mary Mulvey
    Mary Mulvey says #
    Glad you got to experience one our our Gold members , a really great natural experience and all aspects of sustainabilty covered f

View of Dubrovnik from FortressDubrovnik, Croatia is high on many people's travel bucket lists – and with good reason!

When our family traveled there this summer, I was awestruck by this beautiful coastal city from the moment we first walked through Pile Gate into the Old Town.  The sound of the birds, the lively chatter of families strolling along the Straden, and the lack of advertisements and restaurant hawking were apparent.

I also was immediately struck with the idea that Dubrovnik was completely different from any other southern European city we've visited because of its compact layout, focus on local products and provision of numerous family-friendly activities.

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  • Mike
    Mike says #
    Hydro Nano Gas could be the Answer for Neutralizing Carbon Fuel Emissions Hydro Infra Technologies (HIT), a Swedish clean tech co

Travel SkillsI'm of the belief that children need to start traveling while they are still young. The mere act of going to a place that is unfamiliar in terms of landscape, food, culture, history and maybe even language encourages children to develop organizational skills, a sense of independence and greater responsibility.

This was put to the test this summer when, armed with one rollaway bag and two backpacks, my 9-year-old son and I went on a seven week trip through four countries: Cyprus, Greece, Croatia and Scotland.

GreeceSwimmingWith almost 10,000 miles of coastline and 6,000 islands to swim, snorkel and sunbathe the days away, you may find it hard to narrow down your vacation options when traveling to Greece.  In my opinion, Athens is a must for the first-time visitor to Greece.  

Seeing the Acropolis, having a fresh fish meal beside the sea, visiting the Panathenaic Stadium (site of the first modern Olympic Games), learning about local turtle rescue center's conservation efforts, listening (and dancing) to bouzouki music, bargaining with the Plaka shopowners - it's all part of the fun of Athenian life!  

But, when the crowded city gets a bit too stifling and you want to take a break that's not far and car free, the island of Hydra is a great green getaway choice for the entire family.

Alaska AdventureAlaska is one of the least-densely populated places in the world, and much of the state remains wild and road-less. Travel to Alaska typically focuses on these remote areas, and enjoying the stunning scenery and abundant wildlife they offer.

To ensure that nature and eco-travel can continue, we must be stewards for the natural environment so that wild places like these remain for future generations to enjoy.

It's amazing how travel can inspire that moment of clarity for a young child where s/he understands a bit more about their world! That's what happened to our son during a recent trip to Rome, Italy when he suddenly realized the technical contributions made by the Romans (and Greeks).

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Blizzard Wikipedia CommonsIt's been quite a winter! Last week alone saw a huge ice storm in the southeastern US, impressive snowstorms elsewhere in the country, a rare heavy snowfall in Tokyo, and in London, after the wettest January on record since 1766, the Thames River burst its banks causing massive flooding throughout the region. Here's what you can do if you're faced with weather disruptions during your vacation.

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  • bencep
    bencep says #
    Thanks for the tips Irene. I should secure a travel insurance just in case.

No doubt, you've seen interesting and wonderful photos of the Himba women of Namibia.  Their skin and hair that are completely covered in a reddish hue, the lack of clothing apart from a loin cloth, and their beautifully braided hair covered in ash and jewelry intended to convey social status. 

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