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ACTIVITY & ADVENTURE ECO TOURISM


Forward-thinking Thailand has plenty of ‘green’ experiences and hotels on offer, making it a leading light when it comes to eco-t0urism


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rotection and preservation of Thailand’s natural assets are some of the nation’s main focuses in 2014. The Green Leaf programme benchmarks sustainable accommodation while the Foundation for the Protection of Environment and Tourism, supported by TAT, promotes eco-experiences like cycling and conserves resources like coral reefs while educating youth ambassadors.


There are plenty of opportunities to travel more greenly, from scrubbing down an elephant to relaxing in a luxury eco-hotel.


GET BACK TO NATURE Thailand has over 80 national parks and 20 marine parks awaiting exploration. Operators like Intrepid, HF Holidays, Travel Indochina, G Adventures and Explore offer trekking, cycling, kayaking and off-the-beaten track tours (see Activities p11). Hiking in Thailand often focuses on community interaction, visiting hills tribes and the King’s Royal Projects – community agriculture schemes which have replaced reliance on opium crops. Using a reputable firm is important, so look for accreditation schemes like AITO’s Sustainable Tourism or ABTA’s Travelife. For responsible Thailand companies, check out Green Leaf and www.teata.or.th, or www.greenfins-thailand.org for diving.


PICK AN ECO-HOTEL Thailand’s Green Leaf accreditation programme (www.greenleafthai.org) assesses hotels on environmental criteria like waste management and energy use. There are over 120 classified properties to choose from, including well-known brands (Dusit Thani Pattaya recently achieved top Five Leaf accreditation). In fact, you can go ‘eco- chic’ at some of Thailand’s most luxurious resorts, like Six Senses’ Soneva Kiri, and Koh Kood even has a self-sustaining eco-villa.


SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY Homestays take B&B-style accommodation to a different level, helping guests experience their hosts’ lifestyle. The


GREEN AWARDS


Thailand Green Excellence Awards 2013 (Awarded by TAT in association with Wanderlust magazine)


VOLUNTEERING


Global Vision International, Chiang Mai Province


www.gvi.co.uk/location/chiang-mai


COMMUNITY-BASED TOURISM Lamai Homestay


www.thailandhomestay.com


NATURE, MARINE AND HERITAGE Intrepid Travel


www.theintrepidfoundation.org ANIMAL WELFARE


TAKE THE TRAIN Not all cross-country travel requires planes or buses. Good train routes for tourists include Bangkok to Chiang Mai or Hua Hin. See www.seat61.com/Thailand or www.railway.co.th


Gibbon Rehabilitation Centre www.gibbonproject.org


BOOK WITH AWARD WINNERS! Every year at World Travel Market, TAT gives out Thailand Green Excellence Awards to hotels and operators. See below for the 2013 winners


award-winning homestay programme on Koh Yai Noi off Phuket (www.koh-yao-noi- eco-tourism-club.com) gives locals an alternative to damaging fishing methods. Similarly, Baan Mae Kampong near Chiang Mai (www.mae-kampong.com) uses money from homestays and tourist visits to offset the decline in tea production. Tourists can support Thai communities simply by eating in local restaurants and buying local produce. Look out for Doi Tung Coffee, created through a foundation created by the Thai King’s late mother to divert farmers from opium production.


HELP ELEPHANT UPKEEP Elephants were once used in Thailand’s logging industry. Today, tourism largely funds their upkeep, but elephant experiences need choosing with care. Helping care for them at a reputable camp is a popular option. The government’s own Thai Elephant Conservation Centre (www. thailandelephant.org/en) is at Lampang near Chiang Mai, while Sir Chris Hoy has been among recent guests at Elephant Hills (www.elephant-hills.com) in Khao Sok national park, north of Phuket, which offers mahout experiences and other adventures.


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SHADES OF GREEN


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