Visiting a tropical rainforest can be the most incredible adventure of a lifetime. Rainforests are lush, beautiful places and home to half the world’s plant and animal species. But rainforests are vanishing under human pressures. If you are visiting a rainforest as a tourist, you can help save these special habitats. The tips below will ensure that you’re a part of the conservation solution and that you avoid damaging the very same sensitive ecological environment you’re there to enjoy.

Do your homework. For tips on how to determine which opportunities, hotels and operators are environmentally friendly, check out The Nature Conservancy’s “10 Questions to Ask a Hotel,[1]” the Green Hotels Association website [2] and the International Ecotourism Society website.[3] You can also check out Rainforest Alliance Certified [4] hotels and operators. And make sure that you understand the rules and regulations for the specific site you’re visiting.

Stick to guided tours of national parks or nature reserves. These areas are equipped to handle tourists and were specifically set aside not only to conserve wildlife, but to help connect people to nature. In addition, whatever entrance fee you pay will go toward protecting this important place. 

Hire a well-trained local guide. Not only will you be supporting the local economy, your guide will be sure you know the rules of the site. Ask your guide for other tips on how to travel responsibly throughout your travels.

You’re there for the wildlife. Don’t disrupt the animals. Bring binoculars so you don’t get so close to the animals that they feel threatened or stressed. This applies when taking photos—stay downwind and avoid sudden movements. 

Keep food to yourself. “We know it’s tempting, but do not feed wildlife,” says Ronald Sanabria, vice president of sustainable tourism for the Rainforest Alliance.[5] “No matter how cute or hungry they seem, feeding wildlife disrupts their natural patterns and is detrimental to their health. On the same note, don’t pick flowers or leaves and avoid touching any of the plants.”

Keep trash to yourself. Leave the rainforest with whatever you brought—nothing more, nothing less. You can make this easier by removing all extra packaging from your belongings before you trek into the forest. And if you see trash, pick it up.

Offset your emissions. According to the Guardian,[6] “one transatlantic flight can add as much to your carbon footprint as a typical year’s worth of driving.” Global climate change directly affects the growth and productivity of forests, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency[7] reports. You can green your travel by choosing an airline that offers a carbon offset program.

Spend your money wisely. Learn what you can about animals that are poached in the area and avoid buying wildlife products—crafts, furniture, etc.—that may be illegally sold as a result. Support the local communities that live in or around the rainforest by buying local, wildlife-friendly crafts.

Enjoy the rainforest and become an ambassador. “The rainforest is not always a comfortable place to be, but it is an incredible place to experience,” says GWC Director of Species Conservation Barney Long. “Enjoy it and absorb the feeling of being in nature. Savor everything; the small and the large.”

*The views and expressed opinions in this article are those by Global Wildlife Conservation, and are not necessarily those of TripAdvisor, Inc.  Any cited research is sourced by Global Wildlife Conservation and has not been necessarily verified or independently evaluated by TripAdvisor, Inc.    

Resources

[1] http://www.nature.org/greenliving/greenshopping/travel/ten-green-questions-for-your-hotel.xml

[2] http://greenhotels.com/index.php

[3] http://www.ecotourism.org

[4] http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/green-vacations

[5] http://www.rainforest-alliance.org

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/sep/09/carbon-emissions-planes-shipping

[7] https://www.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-forests

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