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An eco tour is a vacation to a beautiful or unusual part of the natural world that involves environmentally friendly modes of transportation. It is also common for these sorts of tours to focus on education and volunteerism. The key purpose of this kind of tourism is to allow people to experience impressive environments without impacting them in a way that will destroy them for future generations. A person who chooses an eco tour may stay in accommodations that are designed to consume as little energy as possible, and to also cause the least possible disturbance to the surrounding environment.
It is quite common for an eco tour to inform tourists about their surrounding environments while also educating them about how they can reduce their impact on the environment both during the trip and when they return home. Accommodation features that are environmentally friendly, for example, are likely to be pointed out. Eco tourists might learn that their rooms are built with local, sustainable materials, that their lodging relies on solar power, or that the water systems within their residence are energy efficient.
As part of an eco tour, travelers are likely to commute via modes of energy-efficient transportation. In many cases, an eco tour may involve walking, hiking, or bicycling. In other cases, eco tourists may travel on horseback. In some very exotic locales, tourists may even move from place to place atop elephants. In cases where vehicles are necessary for transportation, an eco tour will usually arrange for the use of those that are outfitted with hybrid engines or engines that run entirely on fuels that are less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels.
For an eco tour to be a truly "green" experience, it is important that the destination does not receive a large influx of tourists. Even if a tour were to offer environmentally friendly lodging and transportation, a throng of tourists could cause a negative impact on the environment. For this reason, there has been a great deal of criticism of some companies that offer experiences billed as "eco tours" without restricting the number of people who can participate in a given period of time. There has also been criticism that some companies have "greenwashed" their tours, meaning that they give the appearance of being environmentally friendly without actually focusing on sustainability.