9 Trips That Make a Positive Impact

From Polynesia to the Poles, these restorative trips also support local communities.

1. Go deeper in French Polynesia.

Kids get more than a sunny tropical escape during Paul Gauguin Cruises’ weeklong Tahiti and Society Islands journey. The round-trip sailing from Papeete aboard the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin includes snorkeling in Bora Bora and dolphin-watching in Moorea, but families with kids ages 7 to 17 can also participate in the Stewards of Nature program, developed with the Wildlife Conservation Society. Naturalists lead a schedule packed with hands-on activities focused on marine life and the efforts being taken to protect it. Educational art projects, scavenger hunts, and a visit to a sea turtle rehab facility round out the environmentally conscious – and unforgettable – trip.

2. Make a polar bear pilgrimage.

Quark Expeditions, long a leader in North Pole journeys, is adding a special 14-day cruise in partnership with Polar Bears International, which works to eliminate threats facing the world’s largest land carnivore in the wild. Up to 128 passengers sail round-trip from Helsinki aboard an ice-breaking vessel, where they’ll hear lectures from PBI experts and scientists, and help them with projects such as polar bear identification; spend a day at the Pole, complete with a hot-air balloon ride (weather permitting); and search for other animals, including walrus and whales, via the ship’s helicopter.
Surveying the Arctic scene.

Johanna Carlo

3. Witness wildlife and glaciers.

A five-day expedition cruise through Tierra del Fuego in Chile with Patagonia specialist Australis feels like a trip to the edge of the world. Along the journey from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, the eco-friendly, 210-passenger Stella Australis – which has systems for treating sewage, organic waste, and gray water, plus less pollutive four-stroke engines – plies the Strait of Magellan and various narrow channels, all for the sake of bringing travelers close to natural elements, from epic glaciers to thousands of penguins. And since protecting the environment is key to keeping the region pristine, the company gives back by hosting scientific researchers and investing in planet-friendly infrastructure, such as wooden walkways on Cape Horn.

4. Seek out innovation in Morocco.

Take a deep dive into the past – with an eye toward supporting local communities’ futures – on a private 13-day Moroccan adventure from Heritage Tours, which includes stops in Casablanca, the ancient acropolis of Chellah, Marrakech, the dunes of the Sahara, and the High Atlas Mountains. Along the way, visit the American Fondouk in Fez, which provides free veterinary care to labor animals, such as mules and donkeys; the UNESCO-recognized Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve, where women’s cooperatives harvest argan oil; and a location of Project SOAR, a nonprofit in the mountains that empowers young women to pursue their educations.

5. Break for Borneo.

Few places in the world are as ecologically diverse as Borneo’s jungle. A private ten-day journey with National Geographic Expeditions takes place mostly in the rain forest, where travelers might see leopard cats, pygmy elephants, and maroon langurs. Also on the itinerary: visits to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. The trip’s final two nights are spent on Gaya Island, where a marine biologist shares information about conservation efforts and invites travelers to lend a hand through activities such as diving into the sea to help restore coral.

A Borneo resident.

7. Live in a Peruvian village.

Two days of quality time in the community of Mullak’as-Misminay – an hour-and-a-half drive north of Cuzco – yield a truer understanding of real life high in Peru’s Sacred Valley. Thanks to Condor Travel (and its nonprofit, Wings), visitors stay in a local’s home and have the chance to participate in everyday activities, such as harvesting with ancestral tools, weaving on a backstrap loom, making adobe bricks by hand, and preparing a meal. Larger groups can organize volunteer projects – planting a vegetable garden, say, or building bathrooms or systems to harvest rainwater. The village experience makes a meaningful addition to time in Lima or Cuzco.

8. Embrace la dolce vita, authentically.

The Franco Zeffirelli International Centre for Performing Arts, the Piaggio Museum (home to rare Vespas and other iconic motorcycles), and an open-air theater in Monticchiello are just a few of the culture-focused stops on a five-day escape to Tuscany from Florencetown, a Virtuoso on-site tour connection in Italy. At the European headquarters of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Florence, visitors have the chance to discuss how tourism and human rights go hand in hand. And then there’s the food – in the town of Lari, watch pasta being made at the artisanal Pastificio Famiglia Martelli factory, where eight employees (all Martellis) use only vintage machines and their hands.
The Piaggio Museum in Italy.


9. Safari with a purpose.

Travelers have the chance to spot the “big five” on a seven-day Tanzania safari with G Adventures – but spying lions and elephants isn’t the only goal. Part of the company’s Jane Goodall Collection and National Geographic Journeys line, the trip also takes adventurers to see scientists and researchers at work at the Serengeti Wildlife Research Centre, as well as to the village of Mto wa Mbu – where the Planeterra Foundation (established by G Adventures’ founder) helps to employ locals as farmers, artisans, and more. Guests visit the farmers’ market and fields, connect with local artisans, see how huts are built, and share a meal with villagers. The trip also includes a stop at a Maasai village to meet women who build fuel-efficient stoves in order to combat deforestation and the unhealthy effects of indoor smoke.

10. Break the ice in Greenland.

When Hurtigruten’s new hybrid-powered, 530-passenger Roald Amundsen launches in 2019, it will cut fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent – a feat that’s especially important when navigating the fragile polar regions for which the expedition ship was designed. (Hurtigruten also recently did away with single-use plastics.) Passengers on a 16-day journey departing from Reykjavík will travel through the Denmark Strait and the iceberg-filled waters around Greenland’s fjord-lined tip, with excursions to Viking-era sites and natural hot springs, before disembarking in the small town of Kangerlussuaq.