Good Beach Guide names best British beaches

The United Kingdom generally isn’t the first place people think of when they decide to go to the beach. Indeed, the beaches of Spain, France, and Cyprus are filled with lobster-red Brits, so it appears the locals agree, but the Good Beach Guide, published by the Marine Conservation Society, says the UK’s beaches are improving, at least in terms of water quality.

The latest report reveals that 421 of the UK’s 769 beaches have “excellent” water quality, up 33 from last year. In addition, fewer beaches are getting a failing grade. This is a positive trend after heavy rainfall in the past three years made sewage systems overflow and sloughed off fertilizers and agrochemicals from farmland.

The UK can’t sit on their laurels, though, because starting in 2015 the EU is going to enact tougher standards for water purity, and many beaches that are now borderline cases will get failing marks. The BBC has published an interactive map showing what regions do best. Of the two most famous beaches, Blackpool didn’t get the highest “MCS recommended” rating, but Brighton Pier did, which is interesting because the area recently elected the UK’s first Green Party Minister of Parliament.

Now if they could just do something about the weather. . .

Image of Blackpool beach courtesy zergo512 via Wikimedia Commons.

Mountainfilm Festival announces special guests for 2010

The Moutainfilm Festival, held annually in Telluride, Colorado, is an amazing mix of art, culture, adventure and environmental responsibility. Now in its 32nd year, the festival has become one of the top spots for photographers, filmmakers, explorers, and adventurers of all types to congregate and share their latest creations, while discussing important issues of the day.

One of the centerpieces for Mountainfilm is its Moving Mountains Symposium, which focuses on a different environmental issue each year. For 2010, the topic of the symposium, which will kick off a full weekend of events on May 28th, is the Extinction Crisis. Speakers will include mountaineering legend Rick Ridgeway, philanthropist Greg Carr, and National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore, amongst others. These speakers will host lectures and discussions covering the alarming rate at which plants and animals are dying out on our planet. It has gotten so bad in fact, that some scientists are predicting that as many as 30-50% of all species on Earth could be gone by the middle of the 21st Century.

The festival has announced a host of other special guests who will be making their appearance in Telluride on that weekend as well. Those guests come from a wide variety of backgrounds ranging from environmental activists, social anthropologists, photographers, writers, and more. A few of the big names that will be on hand include Greg Mortensen, author of Three Cups of Tea, National Geographic Explorer in Residence Mike Fay, who once walked 2000 miles across Africa, and America’s top mountaineer, Ed Viesturs, who has summitted all fourteen 8000 meter peaks without the use of supplemental oxygen.

If you would like to attend the Mountainfilm Festival, which runs from May 28th-31st, there are a wide variety of options when it comes to buying passes, including excellent discounts for students and teachers. More information can be found by clicking here. The Mountainfim website also has good information for travelers who are planning to attend, with details on the best ways to travel to the town and where to stay when you get there. That information can be accessed by clicking here.

But if you’d really like to get involved in one of the best adventure film festivals anywhere on the planet, perhaps you’d consider volunteering. Volunteers have the opportunity to help make this one of the best events around, and earn themselves passes to attend any of the films being screened and take part in the other wonderful events that will be taking part that weekend.

And if you simply can’t make it to Telluride in May, then keep an eye on the Mountainfilm on Tour page, where they’ll announce dates for when the films will be arriving near you.

Fairmont asks for a dollar, offers the ocean

Next month, look for something new coming from kitchens across the Fairmont chain. Chefs at these upscale properties will be showing off their skills not only with seafood but the sustainable variety. So, when you cut into your fish of choice, you’ll be experiencing both culinary and environmental bliss. Throughout April, Fairmont will be inviting guests in its dining rooms do donate merely $1 to the National Geographic Society to support ocean conservation and other sea wildlife initiatives.

Seriously, only $1. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve been a big fan of Fairmont’s corporate social responsibility initiatives for a while, and since I enjoy seafood, I’m particularly fond of this latest measure. The move will help to preserve aquatic habitats without detracting from your dining experience – something we used to call a “win-win” back in my consulting days]. If you aren’t staying at a Fairmont, find one near your home and dash off for a great meal.

And please kick in the extra buck.

Five new travel ideas from Intrepid: get off the beaten path!

After a year of “travel slumps,” “staycations” and other cringeworthy words and conditions, let’s plan to get out on the road next year. Hey, economists are saying that the recession’s already over, and the job market’s recovery can’t be too far behind. So, there’s your motive. Opportunity? That’s your vacation time; you probably have enough. All that’s left to pull the perfect trip together are the means … which Intrepid Travel is happy to provide.

Intrepid Travel has big news for next year, from green travel to exciting excursions in Iceland and North Africa. So, if you’re looking for some ideas for 2010, check out the five below. Intrepid’s definitely making it interesting.

1. Travel green: carbon offset
Intrepid Travel is moving more than 500 of its trips to “Carbon Offset” next year. In 2009, the company played around with the idea on 38 excursions, after having announced in December 2006 that it wanted to be carbon neutral by the end of 2010. With next year’s offering, Intrepid is certainly making progress.

2. Timor-Leste: tops for adventure
Spend 15 days in Dili and its markets, trekking out to Mt. Ramelau and wandering the Suai-area rainforest. Timor-Leste hasn’t been swamped with tourists yet, redefining “off the beaten path.” If you’re looking for the sort of experience where Intrepid excels, this is it.


3. Cairo to Casablanca: epic journey
Travel through Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as you see North Africa virtually from end to end. Along the way, you’ll trace the routes of legendary rulers and see how civilizations unfolded and fell. For 39 days, you will gain an incredible understanding of this part of the world.

4. Johannesburg: the urban experience
Intrepid’s Urban Adventures package provides short bursts of insight — from half an afternoon to a full day. Use this time to explore the South African capital on foot or by bicycle. This is a great way to get a quick taste before planning your longer excursion later.

5. Iceland: value for money
Despite the cold fall and winter seasons, Iceland‘s economy still melted down, actually making it an affordable destination. So, get the most of your experience on the ground, starting with the 22 percent discount on Intrepid’s trip up north next year. The 10-day run is available in June, July and August.

[Photo via Migrant Blogger]

National Geographic ranks 133 destinations

National Geographic Traveler has released the results of its 6th annual survey of authenticity and “destination stewardship”. The survey, ranks 133 places on earth according to how well (or how poorly) the local governments, businesses and residents are protecting the area from degradation, along with other factors like risk of natural disasters.

437 panelists scored each destination according to: environmental and ecological quality, social and cultural integrity, condition of historic buildings and archaeological sites, aesthetic appeal, quality of tourism management, and outlook for the future.

The highest-rated place: the Fjords region of Norway, followed by locations like the South Island of New Zealand, Slovenia, Ancient Kyoto in Japan, the Bavarian Alps and Vermont. Other places listed as “doing well” include Tuscany, Cappadocia, Easter Island, South Africa’s Kruger National Park, and Kentucky’s Bluegrass Country.

There are some places “in the balance” that need work in multiple areas. Destinations such as Costa Rica, the Great Barrier Reef, Prague’s Old Town, Petra and St. Lucia are included here. From there, it gets worse. Places with “troubles” include Ha Long Bay, Giza, Venice and Siem Reap.

The bottom of the barrel: Cabo San Lucas, the West Bank, and Spain’s Costa del Sol.

More interesting than the rankings are the reasons behind them. For example, Costa del Sol rates so low because it’s a “textbook example of mass tourism run amok”, overdeveloped, unattractive and straining local water resources. And what makes the Fjords so great? Few visitors, environmental quality, and a tourism industry that benefits the local people yet allows them to preserve traditional ways of life.