PHOTO: Help study the decreasing population of bottlenose dolphins in Croatia. (Photo via Flickr/Rob Schleiffert)
Earth Day, just a week away, is always a great time to reflect on how to make the world a better place.
For travelers, plenty of companies offer ways for you to participate in a little feel-good voluntourism while also helping to affect real change.
If you're looking to go extra green on April 22 or beyond, the data researchers at Cheapflights.ca, the Canadian sister site to Cheapflights.com, have identified some of their favorite ways to roll up your sleeves on your next eco-tourism getaway"
Monitor Climate Change in California
Team up with the scientists of the EarthWatch Institute and help them monitor the effects of climate change on the famed vegetation at California’s Joshua Tree National Park. EarthWatch says there’s a very real possibility that the Joshua Tree could become extinct by the end of the century. As you hike through the park you’ll monitor and collect data on various park plants, while also noting sightings of area reptiles and amphibians, including desert tortoises.
Research Global Warming the Canadian Arctic
If the desert heat isn’t your thing, head north to Canada’s Mackenzie Mountains, which runs between Canada’s Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Here you can study climate change alongside researchers from the EarthWatch Institute to take soil and permafrost samples. You’ll explore how retreating glaciers, shrinking sea ice and less snowpack affects the health of vegetation and animals living in the area.
Study Bottlenose Dolphins in Croatia
Instead of swimming with the dolphins, why not play a crucial role in protecting their future. Join researchers from Go Eco and set your base in the village of Zambratija, Croatia, alongside the Adriatic Sea., where there are less than half the dolphins than there were 50 years ago. While you observe and tracking dolphins, the data you record will also help future studies. While on-site, you’ll also observe the habits of other marine animals, including sea turtles and sharks.
READ MORE: Why You Should Avoid Swimming With the Dolphins
Care for Wildlife in Hawaii
If you want to combine a little beach time with your eco-getaway, Fronteering, a Canadian adventure travel company specializing in voluntourism, offers a program that incorporates a stay at a Hawaiian wild animal sanctuary. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, you’ll care for native and exotic wildlife housed at the center, with the goal of returning them to the wild (if possible) and educating visitors and locals about Hawaii’s ecology and native animals. When you’re not working, the sanctuary is located near some of the Big Island’s top beaches, for optimal downtime.
Island Conservation in the Galapagos
If conservation is your thing, why not explore one of the most naturally diverse environments in the world, the Galapagos Islands. Volunteers will with work with Projects Abroad in partnership with the Galapagos National Park. The programs are based in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island, where you’ll help remove invasive plant species, participate and collect data on native plant and animal species. Depending on the schedule and season, you might even get to help out at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center.
READ MORE: In Search of the 'Big 15' in The Galapagos
For more information on these and other eco-adventures, including helping with elephant research in Sri Lanka, working on a mountain conservation in Nepal and rehabilitating sea turtles in Australia, visit the Cheapflights.ca blog at www.cheapflights.ca/news/top-ecotourism-destinations.