Mass tourism has been hammering away at the Mediterranean coastline for decades. To help protect his native Greek island of Zakynthos, Yannis Vardakastanis launched Ionian Eco Villagers in 1993. The retreat’s cottages are a short hike from light blue water and long stretches of white sand— the nesting grounds of choice for 80 percent of the Mediterranean’s endangered loggerhead sea turtle population. "We believe in long-term sustainability, minimizing the effects of tourism on the environment, and undertaking conservation work on the ground," says Vardakastanis, who also spearheads a local sea turtle advocacy group called Earth, Sea and Sky. Today, the beach at Laganas Bay remains accessible to loggerheads—and the ecotourists who give them the right-of-way (doubles from $600 a week; relaxing-holidays.com).
Published: April/May 2009World Class: Lodges + Escapes
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Photograph by Doco Dalfiano/Age Photostock