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The Bahamas is one of the most eco-friendly destinations in the Western Hemisphere. There are some, of course, who still eat endangered species like the turtle and pollute the environment, but the government is aware that the pristine beauty of the islands, both the sea and the land, is one of the main reasons their vital tourist industry exists. Officials want to preserve it for future generations.

Conserving the wetlands has become of prime importance to the government. These wetlands are the source of potential for an expanded ecotourism industry and of vital importance to birds, animals, and fish.

The fishing industry is the third largest in The Bahamas, generating millions of dollars in exports because the vast coastal wetlands serve as marine nurseries.

Hurricanes, along with the destruction of wetlands by people, remain a constant threat to the environment. The flood-and-surge destruction from hurricanes alone can exceed $500 million in damage during a particularly destructive year when Mother Nature vents her fury on the archipelago.

Ecotours and adventures await you throughout The Bahamas. In Nassau and Paradise Island, Bahamas Adventure Glass Bottom Kayaks (tel. 800/688-5871; http://bestonbahamas.com for bookings) allows you to sail the clear waters of New Providence Island while enjoying the marine life beneath you. Guided tours with equipment costs $77 or $40 for children 11 and under.

At the same number, you can also book a Blackbeard Cay Stingray Adventure, snorkeling and interacting with these gentle aquatic creatures. Prices are $42 or $37 for children 11 and under.

Nassau Segway Nature Tour takes you on a ride through Earth Village, a 162-acre preserve acclaimed by botanists as one of the most diverse ecosystems in The Bahamas. The cost is $75 for per person. For reservations, call the number above.

On Grand Bahama Island, you can experience ecotourism by taking the Lucayana National Park and Cave Tour (www.grandbahamanaturetours.com), discovering the pristine beauty of the 42-acre Lucayana National Park for $40 ($25 for children 10 and under). You can also take part in guided kayak expeditions through this tropical Eden for $79 per person. For reservations for both tours, call tel. 866/440-4542.

Some hotels are obviously "greener" than others. Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros Island has long adopted the ecotourism philosophy. The lodge conducts ecotours and is a nature-based resort. The lodge's aim is to protect the environment while still granting access to visitors who can enjoy it but also work to maintain and not destroy the surrounding nature.

Also on Andros is another eco-friendly resort, Tiamo. On 4.9 hectares (12 acres) of land, this resort combines eco-sensitivity with first-class comforts in a setting of mangroves, wild sea grapes, and coconut palms. Some of its environmentally friendly elements include solar power and composting toilets. The staff also serves as nature guides, helping guests explore the bonefish flats or the inland "blue holes."

General Resources for Responsible Travel

  • Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com) is a great source of sustainable travel ideas; the site is run by a spokesperson for ethical tourism in the travel industry. Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices, and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
  • Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Cool Climate (http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gases emitted during flights.
  • Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Environmentally Friendly Hotels (www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com) offers more green accommodations ratings.
  • Sustain Lane (www.sustainlane.com) lists sustainable eating and drinking choices around the U.S.; also visit www.eatwellguide.org for tips on eating sustainably in the U.S. and Canada.
  • For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org). For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.wdcs.org).
  • Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.volunteerabroad.org and www.idealist.org.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.