Your budget and the location are your biggest choices when choosing a tour. The more isolated the location; chances are the pricier it is to reach. Your comfort level is important as well. Many ecotourists are content with staying in tents and hiking long distances, eating simple food, a guide that may not even speak the same language, and all around basic amenities. Though, many prefer posh jungle resorts with buffet meals, a pool, air-conditioned rooms, and all around luxurious facilities. Be sure to have a written contract stating everything included in your tour from the equipment down to the food. Both options are available and the choice is completely yours. In general, the more isolated the location the better your chances are at seeing rare wildlife, regardless of the quality of your accommodations. If you want to see specific wildlife, check around to see which tour operators and lodges specialize in those animals and don’t be afraid to ask of the latest sighting.
There is a very wide variety of operators. Many are local operators who arrange trips with local guides or stays directly at their own lodges. Others are international booking agents that simply contract out local operators. Others are large, multi-national corporations that design custom luxury trips all over the world and use anyone from leaders in scientific research to unqualified naturalists.
Ecotourism Tour Operators
- Costa Rica Expeditions (http://www.costaricaexpeditions.com, Tel. +506-257-0766)
- One of the largest tour operators in Latin America, specializing in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Combine wildlife trips in jungle and nature lodges and national parks all over Central America.
- Earthwatch Institute (http://www.earthwatch.org, Tel. +978-461-0081)
- The Earthwatch Institute is a leader in organizing wildlife research trips and studies all over the world. You can often join an expedition with many of the world’s scientific leaders.
- Wildlife Travel (http://www.wildlife-travel.co.uk, Tel. + 44 01954 713575)
- A real eco-traveler’s choice as all profits from these expeditions are donated to The Wildlife Trusts.
- Victor Emanuel Nature Tours Tel. (http://www.ventbird.com, Tel. +800-328-8368)
- Victor Emanuel has been leading bird watching tours lead by expert naturalists for decades. Accommodations are at many of the world’s best lodges.
- World Wildlife Fund (http://www.worldwildlife.org/travel, Tel. +1 (202) 293-4800)
- Adventure Eco Tours run by the World Wildlife Fund to support their conservation efforts. Choose a tour based on a species or location.
- Eco Tours (http://www.ecotours.co.nz)
- Wildlife tours include bird watching, whale watching, marine mammals, hiking and alpine flora and fauna.
An ecotourist that takes matters into their own hands is generally going to be satisfied with simple conditions. This type of traveler is searching for specific wildlife in many instances and they no where to find it. They have maps and know where to find local guides. They show up in national parks on their own and carry their own gear, tent, and food on hiking trails. Most nature lodges can be contacted directly as well if you prefer not to go through a tour operator and maintain some level of independence. The prices may be cheaper, although transportation may be non-existent. If you speak the local language and have spent time in a place before you can probably save a good deal of money by putting together your own trip.