Eco-Tourism in Thailand: A Guide to Sustainable Travel


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Rising global environmental concerns, like climate change, have led to an increase in the popularity of eco-tourism, as many travelers now look for opportunities to explore natural areas with as little impact on the environment as possible. For reasons which you’ll soon see, Thailand as a prime tourist destination occupies a unique position in sustainable travel, and the opportunities for eco-tourism Thailand provides abound. 

Are you an environmentally-conscious traveler looking to explore this Land of Smiles in southeast Asia, and experience its wonders? Then you’re in good hands! Our Eco-tourism Thailand Guide reveals the most important things you need to know about sustainable tourism within this destination.

First, a look at eco-tourism in general.

Understanding Eco-Tourism

Eco-tourism, according to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”

In other words, an eco-tourist is one who – during their travels – is committed to respecting nature, promoting sustainability by not harming the environment, and supporting local cultures.

It’s important to travel sustainably or in an eco-friendly manner because this:

  • Reduces all forms of pollution
  • Combats climate change
  • Helps in the preservation of natural wildlife and resources
  • Promotes biodiversity

On the whole, sustainable travel is focused on minimizing the negative impact of tourism, while maximizing its benefits. So, for those who’ve been thinking that “eco-tourism” is just a buzzword, it really isn’t.

Why Thailand is an Eco-Tourism Hub

Eco Tourism Activities Thailand

Like we mentioned at the start of this Eco-tourism Thailand Guide, there are several reasons why many travelers prefer the country as a responsible tourism destination. 

One is the fact that it’s a natural fit for eco-tourism, with its rich cultural tapestry as well as diverse ecosystems including dense jungles and serene beaches. Thailand boasts many green and natural spaces, including homestay villages offering many exciting eco-friendly activities, and animal sanctuaries where one can support endangered wildlife.

As part of its Seven Greens of Tourism campaigns, the Government of Thailand supports and leads the push for responsible tourism; it’s also making long-term strategic policies to maintain the country’s ecosystem, while identifying new eco-destinations, promoting, and developing basic infrastructure for them.

Eco-Tourism in Thailand: The Top Destinations

The eco-tourism Thailand offers has always been attractive to responsible travelers; here are a few top destinations we recommend you check out as an eco-tourist interested in exploring the country.

1. Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Eco Tourism

Famous for its historical temples, cool weather and scenic landscape, this city amidst the mountains of northern Thailand is the ideal place for several eco-friendly activities, including trekking or hiking on nature trails, visiting hill tribe villages, and exploring nature parks like the Doi Inthanon National Park.

2. Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay Thailand

A well-sheltered bay between southern Thailand’s mainland and Phuket Island, great for sea kayak expeditions, with fascinating caverns, limestone karsts, emerald waters, and a National Park which is an absolute geological wonder. Conservation efforts here prioritize marine life preservation and responsible tourism promotion.

3. Khao Sok National Park

This nature reserve in southern Thailand hosts one of the world’s oldest rainforests – a dense virgin jungle prime for jungle treks, wildlife spotting, and sustainable camping experiences. The unique ecosystem includes towering limestone karst formations; a man-made lake; plus rare species like gibbons, tigers, and the giant, parasitic Rafflesia flower.

4. Pai

Eco Tourism in Thailand

Pai, a quaint town within the mountains of the Mae Hong Soon Province of northern Thailand, offers hot springs, waterfalls and gorges. Pai is also a hub for organic farming, where you can participate in farm stays to savor farm-to-table meals and learn about permaculture.

5. Koh Yao Islands

Koh Yao Islands

The Koh Yao Islands (Koh Yao Noi and Koh Yao Yai) are just a short boat ride from Phuket. Community-based tourism is the focus on these islands which offer much to experience and learn about traditional fishing techniques and mangrove conservation.

Eco-Friendly Activities to Try

Now let’s talk about the sustainable activities to try in Thailand, as the country offers a plethora of them.

Wildlife Watching

Sustainable Tourism in Thailand

There are several places where you can feast your eyes on Thai wildlife. Chief among them is the Kui Buri National Park boasting a variety of wildlife, like monkeys, elephants, water buffaloes, sambar deer, etc. Other interesting wildlife hotspots include the Mu Ko Chang National Park and the Pranburi Forest Park.

Trekking & Hiding

Sustainable Tourism Thailand

With the country full of jungles, you’ll have your fill of sustainable trekking or hiking. Popular hiking spots include Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, Khao Yai National Park, and Krabi’s Tiger Cave Temple. The trails in Khao Sok also promise an unforgettable trekking experience.

Organic Farm Visits

Thailand offers some of the best organic agro-tourism farm stays and rural retreats. Visit one and enjoy the fresh mountain air, lush jungles, and organic home-style dishes, while learning about local farming practices, arts and crafts, natural construction, yoga, and even helping with the harvest.

Traditional Craft Workshops

Another eco-friendly, exciting activity to try is to learn a traditional craft from local artisans. You can learn to make many things, like jewelry, traditional Thai garlands, and silk; lessons can also include Moken weaving, leather designing, and traditional Lai Rod Nam. 

Traveling Responsibly: Tips for the Conscious Tourist

Eco-Tourism In Thailand

We can’t wrap up this Eco-tourism Thailand Guide without including a few tips for the road. Here are ways to make your eco-travels as sustainable as possible.

  • Choose eco-friendly accommodation: Eco-friendly lodges use renewable energy and adequate waste management systems; they also make local employment a priority. Choose such accommodations as they’re a vital aspect of sustainable travel.
  • Respect local cultures and traditions: Be sure to respect the customs of any locality you find yourself in. Eco-tourism is as much about respect as it’s about fun and adventure.
  • Minimize your environmental footprint: Try to keep the amount of waste you generate to a minimum, and dispose of same properly.
  • Support local economies: You can do this by purchasing as much locally made products as you can.
  • Choose activities that prioritize sustainability: Such activities as we mentioned earlier are great examples.

The Future of Eco-tourism in Thailand

The eco-tourism Thailand is popular for offers excellent opportunities to experience wholesome living, and these opportunities will only get better with time, more government initiatives, and increased community involvement; so expect a brighter, greener future for Thai tourism.

We hope our Eco-tourism Thailand Guide will make your sustainable journeys within and even outside the country smoother.

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