Looking for things to do in Southeast Asia? Focus on community-run tours and companies that directly support locals in the area and promote ecotourism. You might see tours that bring you to tiger farms, monkey photo ops and elephant trekking, but the animals are exploited and it’s harmful.
Do your research, especially with elephant “sanctuaries”. Make sure the money raised is directly helping rehabilitation efforts and there is zero elephant rides. It’s important that you do your bit to help SE Asia with its eco progress.
Best Ecotourism Experiences in South East Asia
This is an amazing elephant sanctuary in north Cambodia. The Mondulkiri Project is a registered NGO, and is 100% Cambodian owned. They raise money to buy elephants to take away from elephant rides and heavy farm work. Interaction with the elephants is very natural and non-exploitive. You can see them being fed and (only if the elephants want to!) feed them bananas as they roam around the jungle.
Their NGO also funds wild elephant protection and supports the local Bunong hill tribes with employment, medicine and food donations.
Did you know that Laos is the most bombed country on earth from the Vietnam War? From 1964-1973 the United States dropped over 260 million cluster bombs.
COPE (Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise) is a small museum and charity that covers the history of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Laos, the way it affects life in the country and how the work of COPE helps local bomb victims. It’s a must-visit for anyone travelling through here.
Trek to remote Chin tribes villages and the mountains south of mighty Mt. Victoria on this week-long trek. You’ll stay in authentic homestays where you’ll see ancient traditions still going strong. Chin tribe women are known for their facial tattoos and decorative amber necklaces.
Highlands Eco is a superb ecotourism company that uses local guides and promotes local communities.
National Geographic listed this beautiful eco lodge as No. 1 on their list of “21 Places to Stay if You Care About the Planet.” The hotel offers trekking and mountain biking through the nearby villages with local guides. Most of the staff are young people from nearby local tribes, so it helps the community.
It’s all about sustainable hotel operation, too. They use a wastewater treatment facility, have their own waste incinerator and use a glass crusher which allows them to recycle 100% of their glass.
The classes here start off in the morning with a visit to a bustling local market, to gather ingredients and learn about the culture. Foodies will be in heaven at this cooking class that highlights local ingredients and employees.
Their classes are small groups and always have a friendly atmosphere. So it’s also a a great way to meet other like minded travellers.
Just a two-hour drive from Yangon, this wetlands reservoir is a wildlife shelter for both resident and migratory birds. It’s ideal for those looking for some peace and tranquility from the city. Simply pack a picnic and relax in nature. There’s also cute eco-lodges near the sanctuary if you want to stay overnight.
You can really just chill out and take in the beautiful nature here.
Take a two-day trek through the jungle and learn about the rainforest and its biodiversity. This trek is ideal for nature-lover’s. You’ll see all sorts of animals on the trek.
If you’re lucky many gibbons, monkeys, flying squirrels, Sumatran peacocks, and even wild orangutans might cross your way! Be sure to bring the camera for this one.
Want to see how else you can help? See how to Travel Sustainably Through Southeast Asia here.