2 Pacific island nations make Ethical Traveler’s top 10 list
THE organization Ethical Traveler has come out with its annual “World’s Best Ethical Destinations” top 10 list. Though there are no destinations in Asia proper (or Central or South Asia for that matter), two countries in the Pacific have made it into the list: the small island nations of Palau and Samoa.
Palau (population around 21,000) has been on the list the two previous years, but this is the first time for Samoa (population circa 95,000). Composed of mostly beautiful and relatively unspoiled tropical islands, this year’s list includes a few continental entries as well, in the form of Uruguay, Lithuania, Latvia and Ghana – two of whom can in no way be considered tropical. According to Ethical Traveler, the list is island-heavy due to mostly environmental reasons.
Many tropical island nations have chosen to set examples of low-environmental impact and low-carbon living, despite the fact that their contributions to climate change are virtually non-existent. However, the impact of climate change on such countries (in general) is judged to be among the most severe in the world. In the case of our two winning destinations, Typhoon Bopha recently left 300 people homeless in Palau, a large number considering its small population. Similarly, in Samoa cyclone Evan has left 7,000 in evacuation shelters.
During the past year, Palau, Samoa and Mauritius have put a strong emphasis on greening their economies and implementing sustainable development programs. They have shown high regard for the environment, and responsible tourism is being promoted. Samoa, for example, is consulting with local communities to designate national parks and improve coastal management.
But environmental protection is only one category judged in countries making the top 10, with human rights and social welfare rounding out the rest of the criteria.
So what makes Samoa and Palau special?
Well, for starters Palau created the world’s first shark sanctuary and is part of the Micronesia Challenge, a regional conservation initiative including the neighboring Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. It is also home to the Rock Islands Lagoon, an incredible geological feature consisting of a collection of round, muffin-shaped limestone formations, which are covered in vegetation and pop out of the serene blue waters like mushrooms. The Rock Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Though much of the original rainforest of Samoa has been lost since humans begin inhabiting the islands, the nation now plans to keep 15% of its land protected. It is home to many marine reserves, national parks and other protected nature zones. Despite the loss of primeval forest, most of the islands are covered in lush vegetation. Samoa is actually made up of two main islands, Savai’i and Upolu. Savai’i is the larger and less developed of the two and considered by many to be “the real Samoa”, while Upolu is home to the capital city, Apia, the airport and most of the country’s population. However, natural attractions such as national parks, waterfalls, caves, beaches and lava fields abound on both islands.
Check out the rest of Ethical Traveler’s 2013 list along with a detailed explanation of its criteria here.