Being an eco-conscious tourist doesn’t mean you have to volunteer to clean up the world. Simply abide by TripAdvisor.com’s green travel-planner to minimize your vacation footprint.
Stay back: Don’t feed elephants.
u Look for certification from organizations such as Sustainable Tourism International and the International Ecotourism Society to distinguish between hotels that simply have a “nature” location and those that follow specific plans to minimize impact on the environment and promote the local economy.
u Buy food at local markets. In subscribing countries, seek information about fair trade and sustainability practices at shops.
u Use public transport or bicycles.
u Switch off lights, fans, ACs when you leave the room.
u Plan so that you take away everything that you brought in. No exceptions.
u Don’t feed wildlife. Human food isn’t always the best thing for animals.
u And yes, continue to reuse towels and sheets.
So far as eco-friendly destinations go, TripAdvisor members shortlist the following (in no particular order): Kenya (for promoting minimal-impact tourism), Kerala (for multiple protective regimes), Queensland (for the proximity of the Barrier Reef, a 4-mile beach, a rainforest and a wildlife sanctuary), Costa Rica (for its very successful blend of ecology and economy), St John, Virgin Islands (for the 7,000 acres of beaches, parks and highlands protected by the US National Park Service), Chilean Patagonia (for mountains and seas unspoilt by industrialization), Croatia (for successfully protecting a staggeringly beautiful landscape despite a disturbed history) and San Francisco (for its dedicated conservation department and excellent public transport system).
The other Goa
Forget sun-drenched beaches and tripping, all-night parties. This is about palm groves, sprawling paddy fields, a gently flowing river, and twittering birds. While shacks and sunbathers stack up cheek-by-jowl on Goa’s beaches, Divar island remains tranquil.
Take a dip: Devaaya Ayurvedic Retreat.
Devaaya Ayurvedic Retreat, a tasteful, well-maintained hotel on the 18 sq. km island on the Mandovi river, is the place to stay. Its architecture is Old Goa-Portuguese, colours Mediterranean, gardens beautiful and hospitality warm. Even in blistering October, a pleasant breeze picks up in the afternoons and cools things down. In any case, the air conditioning at Devaaya is one of the most optimal I’ve experienced—not warm and never too cold.
If you’re lucky enough to snag a room overlooking the river, you must catch at least one sunrise. Then, since you’re awake anyway, head out for a walk (local guides can be booked, though ours, in true Goa style, didn’t show up). Just outside Devaaya’s gate, there’s a ferry to Vashi island, a paradise of green, with numerous abandoned mansions and a slice of Goan village life far from the tourist buzz.
Also visit the village of Piedade on Divar, with beautiful old villas and snippets of a charming world gone by. It’s on the islands here that, in 1510, Portuguese settlers decreed that the locals must turn Christians to keep their land. Chorao island nearby offers the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary on its western side.
On your return, cool off in the pool and book yourself a massage or other Ayurvedic treatment at the hotel’s spa.
Devaaya Ayurvedic Retreat is only accessible from the mainland via ferry. Free ferries run every few minutes from Ribander and Old Goa jetties (both are about an hour from the airport). From there it’s a 15 to 20-minute drive to Devaaya. A three- nights, four-days “regular” package (including breakfast and dinner, boat cruise, sightseeing tour) costs Rs14,999 for two through 31 July, and Rs15,999 from 1 August. An “apex” package for the same duration and heads costs Rs9,999 through 31 July and Rs10,000 from 1 August. Multi-day wellness and panchkarma packages are also available. (www.devaaya.com; Tel: 0832-2280500).