More than half in Caribbean or South Pacific
Ten countries have been named as The World's Ten Best Ethical Destinations for 2016 by Ethical Traveler, a nonprofit project of the Earth Island Institute. More than half of this year's awardees are small island states in the Caribbean or South Pacific – ideal destinations for a dive holiday.
With its headquarters in California, Ethical Traveler has been researching and observing the political and social conditions in emerging and developing countries. Every year, it publishes a list of the ten most forward-thinking countries in the developing world, in the areas of human rights, social welfare, animal welfare and environmental protection. Needless to say, the countries must be a travel destination as well, offering natural beauty, great outdoor activities and opportunities for interaction with the local people in a meaningful and mutually enriching way.
Here is the 2016 list:
Cabo Verde islands
This Atlantic archipelago is known for having lots of fish, including the larger ones from manta rays and whale sharks right up to humpback whales.
Divers taking the plunge at this Caribbean island are treated to a rainbow of colours underwater, in the form of sponges and crinoids.
Also in the Caribbean, Grenada lures visitors to its shores with shallow coral gardens and deep pristine reefs. And let's not forget the many species of hard and soft corals, gorgonians and sponges, as well as its small marine critters, seahorses, colourful fish and moray eels.
Micronesia (Federated States)
For this island nation in the western part of the Pacific, the most famous destination must be Yap. The highlight about diving here is the experience of diving alongside manta rays, which are present all-year round. And let's not forget the cliff diving as well!
Mongolia isn't exactly a dive destination, but it has set aside almost 15 percent of its land in protected areas, and has one of the lowest unemployment rates among countries in the list.
With 1,120 kilometres of Pacific Ocean coastline and over 640 kilometres of Caribbean Sea coastline, Panama offers a number of notable dive sites.
Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu
Although these three South Pacific countries have much to offer underwater, the dive tourism here is not yet fully developed, and their dive centres are situated in isolated locations. Additionally, it may be advisable to bring along your own dive equipment. Nevertheless, the pristine reefs here are a sight to behold.
Granted that this South American state currently doesn't have an established infrastructure for diving, with its dive tourism industry still in its infancy, it has a gem in the form of the Admiral Graf Spee wreck, which was scuttled in 1939. Today, the former armoured battleship lies in just seven feet of water off the coast of the capital Montevideo.
The selection of a country for the Award depends on a wide range of factors, including input from citizens, politicians and tourists, research into the local media, reports by nonprofit organisations like UNICEF, Reporters Without Borders, etc.
In compiling the annual listing, Ethical Traveler wants to encourage developing nations to do the right thing, and to support their efforts at the political, environmental and social level. “While we acknowledge that no country is perfect, we honour those that strive to build a better, more sustainable society. Their neighbours can learn and benefit from their example – and so can we,” said Jeff Greenwald, co-founder and travel writer.