The last great expanse of rain forest in Africa was being gobbled up by multinational timber consortiums when ecotourism crashed the party. Conservationists made the case that living trees were better for Gabon's economy than a massive log sale. In 2002 President Omar Bongo agreed, turning 11,000 square miles (28,490 square kilometers) into 13 new national parks that offer a glimpse of Africa as Stanley and Livingstone saw it.
Do: Track lowland gorillas, forest elephants, chimpanzees, and mandrills ($7,595 for 15 days; journeys.travel).
While neighboring Thailand races down the chain-hotel superhighway, Laos has tracked in the opposite direction. In 2005 it adopted ecotourism as its official strategy. Twenty national parks, 49 ethnic groups, 650 bird species, hundreds of mammals, and a roster of affordable ecolodges are part of this vision.
Do: Jungle trek and kayak between villages ($174; greendiscoverylaos.com).
Sleep: The Boat Landing Guest House ($35; theboatlanding.com)
Thinking Inside the Box
The 1998 Belfast Agreement ended 30 years of conflict, but mistrust and a stagnant economy lingered. Enter Greenbox. This ecotourism partnership, launched with Peace and Reconciliation funds, established an enclave of unspoiled countryside that borders Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Once divided communities have formed an alliance to preserve the area's natural and cultural heritage and rebuild its rural economy.
Do: Biking, surfing, hiking, canoeing ($45; greenbox.ie)
Sleep: Ard Nahoo Eco Cabins ($280 for two nights; ardnahoo.com)
Subscribe now and save!