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my 3 top eco tours that not only feel good – they do good

When it comes to family travel, finding an authentic way to immerse your kids in another culture is always a challenge. But if the thought of sitting on yet another theme park tour bus rates L for Lame, then a no-holds-barred, cultural adventure could just fit the bill. As less and less of us are temped by a ‘fake break’ where our kids are charmed away by nannies and nurtured in a corner of the resort well out of ear-shot, I’m offering a round-up of the top eco tours that won’t scar and pollute the natural beauty you come looking for – a visit with your kids might even help.

1. South Africa Sacred Sites Hikes

Southern Africa’s San Bushman – ‘the Khomani’- are genetically linked to all the peoples of the earth. They are the First People. Yet Southern Africa’s ancient & prehistoric Sacred Sites are being degraded at an alarming rate. Now The Sacred Site Foundation of Southern Africa (SSFSA) is setting out to protect ancient & prehistoric Sacred Sites around Table Mountain, the Western Cape & Southern Africa. And they do this by organising Sacred Site day hiking tours lasting from 2 hours to several days. The Sacred Site Foundation of Southern Africa – led by author & researcher Dean Liprin – is working hard to advise, research, protect, develop and raise public consciousness about the prehistoric sacred sites and heritage of South Africa. The top eco tour culural hikes are a big draw for visitors interested in more than sundowners and simply topping up their tan.

2. Whale Watching

Whales Worldwide specialises in small group excursions and each whale watching adventure includes first class accommodation and private transfers as well as the services of a qualified and experienced guide throughout.

With over twenty five years’ experience of observing marine wildlife Nic Slocum combines his expertise and passion for adventure, wildlife and the environment by offering exclusive, fully guided whale watching adventure tours worldwide. “From swimming with Humpback Whales off the Dominican Republic or Tonga to close encounters with Pacific Gray Whales in Mexico or Southern Right Whales off Patagonia…our sole objective is to achieve, quite literally that ‘once in a lifetime’ encounter.” Nic told me. An authority on the threats facing these unique marine mammals, Nic Slocum has reviewed whale watching guidelines around the world and established one of the most comprehensive codes of conduct for boat based whale watching operations. His education and first-hand knowledge of the animals make him a simply outstanding environmental and educational leader and this one of the world’s top eco tours.

3. Phillippines Home Stays

A new and fast growing homestay network, run by Flip Flop Tours Inc., provides adventurous travellers with a front row seat into this unique and welcoming culture. FlipFlop’s aim is to give visitors an experience very different to what they might find in their own country. For only 600PHP (that’s just £9.50 or $15) per night, travellers get to live like a local, staying with a Filipino family, experiencing their way of life. These top eco trips homestays can be booked online and are located in the islands of Malapascua, Bantayan, Palawan and Bohol around the Philippines. The Filipino-New Zealand team who operate Flip Flop Inc. is led by Anna Cleal, who first travelled to the Philippines for civil engineering work in 2008, and was amazed that so little was known about this tropical paradise. She has made it her mission to encourage more travellers to hit the Philippines shores in ways that benefit local communities. “Often beach resorts have serious environmental impacts and pop up in areas where the average income is $1 per day,” Anna Cleal told me. “The homestay program aims to direct money into the heart of some of these communities, as well as hoping to provide travellers with more of an experience.”

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