Tourism with a green conscience dominates

Green tourism, encompassing eco and voluntourism, is increasing in popularity as travellers seek more meaningful holidays, while adventure activities get more and more whacky. CHERYL MANDY reports
Abu Camp in Botwana

The annual TripAdvisor survey has revealed that green tourism issues will dominate traveller choices this year, and this was backed up by statistical information received from a variety of other sources.

Another top concern for 2008 according to the TripAdvisor survey was for travellers to have a germ free environment when on the road.
“The major trends we're observing are that travellers value cleanliness above all else and are becoming more environmentally conscious,” said Michele Perry, director of communications for TripAdvisor.
The green trend is evident in people’s choice of transportation - 22 per cent said they would go biking while holidaying this year, compared to 13 percent last year. Forty-seven percent of travellers plan to go hiking this year, up from 43 percent last year.
The rise in active, adventure and philanthropic travel was also a growing trend within the luxury market according to the ILTM Industry Report, as luxury travellers “increasingly feel the need to take action to help sustain or enhance the character of the place being visited – its environment, culture, heritage and the well being of its people.”
These travellers were seeking longer stay holidays that provided enriching and unique experiences. That usually means staying longer at a destination to get to know, and immerse oneself in, the local community and surroundings,” said the report.
Angelina Jolie may have sparked traveller passion for voluntourism, but it is the individuals themselves - from school children to the luxury travel market - that can be credited for choosing to embark on this type of meaningful break.
Tour operator i-to-i  based in the UK have introduced another angle – that of offering companies meaningful sabbaticals for their weary employees. It predicts a growth in companies offering employees this type of trip, giving them the opportunity to stay away longer to recharge their batteries. Bruce Haxton of i-to-i says sales for volunteering projects in Madagascar, Mozambique and Swaziland were doing particularly well. “It’s all about staff retention and staff rewards,” Haxton says.

Endangered wildlife
The Lonely Planet guidebook publishers forecast two big themes in travel for 2008: travelling to Muslim countries and seeing endangered wildlife. It recommends visiting countries such as Brunei, Mauritania, Tunisia, Turkey and Uzbekistan to discover the facts and dispel the hearsay surrounding Islam. For those interested in helping endangered animals trips to the Komodo dragons in Indonesia, Siamese crocodiles in Vietnam and giant armadillos in Bolivia were suggested.
Viewing wildlife from the back of an elephant has always been on the agenda at Abu Camp in Botwana, and now visitors can also spend time interacting with the resident elephant family, a herd of seven elephants, and walking with them as well as riding on top. For really close encounter with game, bush walking safaris in Zambia’s remote Luangwa Valley are offered by the Zambezi Safari and Travel Company which specialises in diverse safaris within southern Africa and east Africa including Tanzania.
Virtuoso Life magazine’s survey determining the trends for luxury travel in 2008 found that Americans were increasingly favouring active holidays in authentic natural surroundings, and the favourite adventures this year were predicted to be a safari in Serengeti National Park, sailing in the Caribbean, biking in the French countryside, white-water rafting on the Colorado River and scuba diving in Belize.
Traditional adventure activities globally are still fishing, biking, walking, backpacking, rock climbing, camping, motorcycling, horseback riding, snorkeling, whitewater rafting and kayaking, yet The Times newspaper believes adventure travel will get even more risky in 2008. It suggests that for more thrills travellers should try mountain biking in Kyrgyzstan, meeting remote tribes in Angola and exploring jungles in Colombia.
Curious additions in the adventure tourism stakes come from Cape Town, where visitors can go aquarium diving at its Two Oceans Aquarium. Guests are predicted to get an adrenalin rush of note encountering a ragged-tooth shark. Scuba qualifications are essential.

Shark cage diving
Still on the shark theme, a more leisurely pursuit could be white shark cage diving from Shark Africa in Mossel Bay. A four man viewing cage is permanently attached underneath the dive platform. Diving qualifications are not necessary as a hookah air supply system is used.
On Cape town’s terra firma, Cape Sidecar Adventures offer quirky tours in a Vintage World War II, 750 cc sidecar motorbike.
Much further north in the Magaliesberg Mountains an hour from Johannesburg visitors can take a canopy tour eco-adventure. This essentially involves zigzagging down the mountain and stopping at each of the 11 platforms constructed within the forest to admire the expansive views and surrounding ecology.
Canopy Adventures in Thailand offers much the same sort of thing, and in Malaysia the Langkawi Canopy Adventure company calls it air trekking or flying foxes, a novel way to experience the rainforest. Visitors travel from point to point in the tree canopy along steel cables using special runners that are attached to the person via a climbing harness.
One off adventure activities incorporated into holiday breaks these days include bungee jumping with Shearwater Adventures off Victoria Falls Bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia, zorbing in New Zealand - where a person straps and secures themselves in a clear plastic, air-cushioned ball and bounces fast downhill - and experiencing free falling without a parachute in the UK. Called body flying, a person lies in a 30 metre wind tunnel containing an airplane propeller, the participant jumps into the airflow and basically flies in the air.