I love a good holiday. Who doesn’t? The only problem is that when I start totting up the carbon emissions from the aeroplane, the rent-a-car and even the theme park we would likely visit, I start to wonder if two weeks of enjoyment is really worth the damage I’m doing to the planet.
So this year, I made a resolution that our annual family break would be an eco-friendly one. At first, this prospect was met by my kids with a mixture of dismay and horror when they realised Disneyland was off limits, but they soon came around to the idea when I pointed out some very cool, very eco holiday destinations we could visit.
Check out these seven eco wonders of the world – and remember to make your flight there as green as possible too!
1. Eden Project, UK
If you, like me, live in the UK then you won’t even need to worry about aeroplane emissions as this must-see botanical wonder is right on home soil. Adults can take in the (literally) millions of plants on display while kids can gaze in wonderment at the lizards and butterflies flitting about inside these enormous, golf ball-esque domes made from giant inflatable ‘pillows’.
2. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
If you think your kids would love the lizards at the Eden Project but you’re longing for a warmer climate, take them overseas to this giant park that’s made up of 29 islands plus a small section of the Flores Island coastline. As its name suggests, the park is home to the world’s largest lizard species, the komodo dragon.
With no carnivorous predators on these islands, the komodo dragon evolved over millions of years to grow from typical lizard size to a whopping three metres long! The park was created specifically to provide safe housing for this species, and it’s a wonderful way to see an animal in its natural habitat rather than locked up in a zoo.
3. Acros Fukuoka Building, Japan
What do you do when a city requires more offices and shops but there’s only a small amount of green, open space left to build on? In wonderful, eco-friendly style the planners designing the Acros Fukuoka centre decided to create a structure that had plenty of commercial space on the inside but stayed green and natural on the outside.
The towering structure is dripping with 35,000 plants and has a subtle staircase zig-zagging all the way up so you can hike your way to the top for breathtaking views of the surrounding city. Inside, there’s a museum, theatre and shopping centre so you can easily while away a whole weekend here.
4. California Academy of Sciences, USA
Somewhere between a natural history museum, a planetarium and an aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences makes for a great day out that is as fun as it is educational. Housed inside a structure built from recycled materials, the 2.5 acre roof is home to 1.7 million plants plus bird and butterfly species. The best bits? The alligator swamp and miniature rainforest inside!
5. Altamont Pass Wind Farm, USA
This breathtaking wind farm has an incredible 4,500 wind turbines lined up in rows across undulating hills, making for a great photo opportunity and a unique backdrop to a family picnic. Opinions are divided on whether wind farms are an eyesore or not, but you can’t say they’re not eco-friendly – and I think this particular farm is beautiful.
6. Puerto Princesa Underground River, Philippines
Putting wind-farms, museums and other man-made structures aside, if you prefer to visit a totally natural wonder of the world then you can’t choose better than this 5.1 mile underground river system.
Start early in the morning as it’s a full day’s worth of rowing, and take one of the guided tours through the system of caves from mountaintop to seaside. It’s a mini adventure you’ll never forget, and a great chance to teach your children about the need for preservation and protection of natural wonders such as this one, that could otherwise be destroyed by human activity.
7. Amazon Rainforest, South America
Last but by no means least, if it’s a ‘complete’ eco experience you’re looking for rather than just the odd attraction or two, get back to nature and enjoy the simple things in life by staying in the stunning Amazon rainforest.
Around 55 million years old, this rainforest is known as the ‘lungs of the Earth’ due to the fact it’s a critical player in keeping the entire planet’s carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in check. Stay in one of the many eco lodges at the edge of the rainforest from which you can take river tours and potentially catch sight of one of the Amazon’s unique pink river dolphins!
These are the top 7 must-visit places on my list, but I’d love to hear which eco wonders of the world other people would recommend – simply leave me a comment below.