If you’re an environmentally-conscious traveler, you’ll love these top islands for eco-tourism. There are still wild places, where nature is king just waiting to be explored, where the scenery is breathtaking and the wildlife is abundant and awesome. Be prepared to be inspired by these wonderful islands for eco-tourism.
Madagascar is one of the most incredible places on earth. From stunning beaches to rugged mountains, and grass plains to lush rainforests, the diversity of its landscape is breathtaking. It is one of the most unusual islands for eco-tourism but what makes it so fabulous is that it is still being discovered as a tourist destination. Sitting off the southeastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, but underdeveloped so you won’t find a good tourist infrastructure here (another good criteria for islands for eco-tourism). What you will find, however, are so many things to see and do that it’s difficult to narrow down an itinerary. A host of national parks and reserves, including the unique Tsingy de Bemaraha, thousands of different types of plants and, of course, the adorable lemurs provide experiences not so many travelers have enjoyed.
2. Moloka'i, Hawaii
There’s no doubt that all the islands of Hawaii are beautiful, but if you want yours to be a slice of unspoiled Polynesian paradise, you should head to Moloka’i. Protected from the tourist development seen elsewhere in the state, Moloka’i looks to remain one of the great islands for eco-tourism. The island has incredible landscapes, including a forested plateau which rises more than 4,000 feet above sea level, which is wonderful for hikes and wildlife spotting. Scenic mountain trails enjoy wonderful views of hills and valleys, tropical fruit orchards and unlike the main Hawaiian islands where the beaches are littered with surfers and sunbathers, on Moloka’i, many of the beaches are isolated and deserted.
Greenland has the ultimate capacity to surprise. Not the place to visit in the depths of winter, in summer the island is pleasantly green and, in some places, actually floral, while still being dominated by mountains, glaciers and ice shelves. The landscape is stark but that’s part of its charm. There are few people and even fewer roads, so getting around is all part of the eco-friendly adventures to be had in Greenland. Take to the kayak, dog sled or bush plane to explore glorious coastlines to see whales, seals and walrus, or head inland to the plateaus and plains to see reindeer, polar bear (don’t get too close) and oxen. This is a land where nature still rules – but the people are more than friendly and welcoming.
4. Sao Tome and Principe
You may never have heard of this place – no surprise, as it is a small African nation – but it has a growing reputation as one of the best eco-tourism islands, or more correctly, group of islands. Sao Tome and Principe is a former Portuguese colony off the west coast of Africa, closest to Gabon. The island scenery rivals any tropical paradise with towering mountains that rise to 6,000 feet, lush and rare plant life and of course, sublime beaches. There’s not many animals but bird life is rich and diverse and can be viewed on the excellent trails that crisscross the islands. As a developing nation that has in the past relied on its cocoa exports, tourism is well supported but basic, but with sound eco-friendly principles. The resorts are lovely, and the best aspect is definitely the fabulous palm-fringed beaches where the only people you’ll have to share with are likely to be local fishermen.
5. Tasmania, Australia
Relatively isolated from the rest of Australia, the nature and landscape of Tasmania has developed its own unique identity and presents a suitably stunning backdrop for eco-tourism island holidays. Wildlife fans will be thrilled by sightings of Tasmanian Devils, Forester Kangaroos and the shy and unusual platypus, and divers and snorkelers can enjoy a wealth of marine life and numerous shipwrecks. There are huge expanses of forests, massive glass-like lakes and beautiful mountains, many of which are national parks and preserves, offering plenty of thrills for the eco-friendly adventure seeker on foot, bike or in a kayak. And, if it's beaches you’re after, Tasmania has more than a few stupendous examples to rival any tropical island.
6. Iriomote, Japan
One of the islands in the Okinawan chain, Iriomote is home to just about 2,000 people. This small number is dwarfed by the more than 300,000 people who visit Iriomote every year to enjoy its natural paradise. Practically 80 per cent of the entire island is protected reserves of swamp and mango forest and there is a further protected area, designated as Iriomote National Park. There’s no airport so getting there is by ferry and most visitors get back out on the water to visit the few coastal fishing villages and the mangrove swamps. The forests are home to an abundance of wildlife including birds, reptiles, the endangered wildcat and lizards that can grow to over 2 feet long. With very few roads and few people, the beaches are sandy and gorgeous and Iriomote is definitely one of the special islands for eco-tourism.
Borneo is the world’s 3rd largest island and remains one of the wildest places in Asia. Three countries share the island – Indonesia owns the south, a tiny portion in the north belongs to Brunei and there are two Malaysian states in the north (Sabah and Sarawak). The island is so full of contrasts. In places you’ll find highly developed resorts with luxury hotels nudging pristine beaches along with manicured golf courses. Then, there are places where the virgin mountain jungles are so thick they are impassable except to the wildlife, which includes the orangutan. Eco-tourists can stay in rustic camps or in stilted houses, take to snaking rivers in traditional boats, hike trails in Kinabalu National Park and go where so few tourists have gone before.
These are among the very best islands for eco-tourism. They are well versed in the eco-friendly game and set standards for others to follow. Wouldn’t you just love to go?