The problem with so called eco-tourism is that the carbon emissions of flights kind of negate the point of an eco-holiday. Putting this aside, there are many positive aspects of eco-tourism, such as the preservation of nature. You can always try and find an eco-camp close to home but this article looks at three great camps from around the world.

If you’re the sort of person who thinks a holiday lying on a beach towel is boring and you long for the great outdoors, the sounds of the forest and the scent of the campfire, then these 3 back-to-nature style retreats are for you. I’ve tried them all and can personally recommend each one for different reasons. The atmosphere in each forest in unique and surviving in different forests around the world requires totally different skill sets. These eco-friendly camping trips also involve learning about bush craft, wildlife, survival and getting in touch with your hunter-gatherer roots.

  1. Bush Craft and Yurts in English woodland

Surrey and Sussex are the most heavily wooded counties in Britain and they happen to be right on London’s doorstep. If you are visiting England then it’s worth going off the tourist trail and seeing the real English countryside.

There is an eco-camp close to the Surrey/ Sussex border in Shadow Woods near Billingshurst. You can take a train directly to Billingshurst from London if you don’t have access to a car. You can learn bush craft and survival techniques from the Woodland Skills company in this beautiful old forest.

They offer yurts for sleeping and run seasonal courses for foraging, coppicing (making fences from living hazel), nature awareness, charcoal burning and making fire by friction. It’s fascinating to learn these ancient skills before they are lost to mankind. The forest is still managed in the traditional way, just as it was by medieval peasants and Anglo-Saxon tribes long before. You are likely to see several species of deer in these woods, as well as a variety of birds.


  1. Woodland Cabins in Sweden


These traditional charcoal burners’ forest huts are even more rustic and adventurous. I visited in summer so it was hot every day, but it a very different experience during the freezing Swedish winter. You may be surprised to learn that Swedish forests are plagued by huge mosquitoes and other biting insects during the summer months. Fortunately though, Kolarbyn is relatively free from their irritating presence.

The Kolarbyn lodge is near a large lake in which you can take a refreshing dip and there are also many pleasant walks in the area. There’s even a floating, wood fire sauna on the lake! There are fresh blueberries growing all over these peaceful woods in which moose, wolves and even bears are said to frequent. The only animals that visit the camp itself are small birds and squirrels but you can pay extra for a safari if you want to see beavers, moose, wolves or bears.

It’s a moving experience; living with nature, washing in the lake, drinking water from a well and cooking on an open fire fuelled by wood you have chopped yourself. Rowing on the lake at sunset is very romantic and you can make use of the traditional floating sauna day or night.
There is no electricity on the camp so at night you light your cosy little cabin by candle light. Dispense with electric torches, mobile phones and the trappings of modernity so as to fully immerse yourself in the tranquillity of Nordic nature.


  1. Surviving in the Amazon Jungle


This is by far the most extreme of the three. Madidi national park is deep in the Amazon jungle of Northern Bolivia. It’s easiest to arrange tours in the nearby town of Rurrenabaque, but most of the excursions available are not eco-tours. These usually just take you camping with a large group of tourists, cooking meals of pasta and tinned tuna and often leave a mess behind. The most eco-friendly tours available are called “survivor tours” but they are not the faint of heart.

The survivor tour is much smaller and quieter. In my case, it was just me and a guide from the indigenous Tacana tribe. You are issued with a mosquito net, a blanket and a machete, and then sent into the jungle to survive. Most go for a 3 day tour, but you can stay for longer if you think you can handle it.

The tours typically involve long treks through the rainforest, building a raft to travel down river, collecting fruit and insects to eat or use as bait to catch fish, making a bow and arrow to catch fish and finding dry wood to make fires to cook your food. The indigenous guides are also experts at identifying which plants have medicinal qualities and teach you about these as you go. You will typically encounter plenty of wildlife such as monkeys, jungle pigs and huge rodents called capybara. If you are very lucky, you may even see a jaguar!

The downside of such tours is that you go hungry if you don’t find any food. Finding water is much easier, as the guides can either cut down “cat’s claw” vines which contain fresh water or simply boil river water inside bamboo stalks until it is safe to drink.

Make sure you pick your guides carefully. There are cases when the guides have gotten people lost in the jungle for days without food! Not all the guides can speak English, so you must request one or you might need someone to provide translation services.

Tom Rowsell