GUYANA In 1989, the government set out to prove that a rainforest can yield social and economic profits without being systematically destroyed, and turned the 916,800-acre Iwokrama Forest into a development-free zone. The Trip Iwokrama Rainforest Adventures ($425 per person; 011-592-225-1504, www.iwokrama.com) offers a four-day canoeing excursion on the Essequibo River, where you can fish for piranha, paddle rapids, and spot black caimans.
PANAMA Forget about Noriega, the canal, and that little invasion we spearheaded in 1989. Panama is angling to be the next Costa Rica, with nearly 6,000 square miles of public lands and a wildlife population (jaguars, tapirs, giant sea turtles, sloths) that'll make any tropical nation green with envy. The Trip From your treetop-level bed at the Canopy Tower eco-lodge (a five-story former radar tower) in Soberan'a National Park (doubles from $200; 011-507-264-5720, www.canopytower.com), you'll wake up eye to eye with purple-throated fruitcrows.
THE GAMBIA Its large beach resorts have drawn sun-worshiping Brits for decades. But lately tourists are aflutter over this tiny English-speaking West African nation's avian activity: It's possible to see up to 300 bird species in a two-week trip. This popularity is largely due to companies like Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, which has joined forces with Clive Barlow, one of The Gambia's best-known ornithologists, to provide bird-watchers with ample sightings. The Trip Take a 16-day birding excursion with Victor Emanuel Nature Tours ($4,295; 800-328-8368, www.ventbird.com) to Abuko and Tanji forest reserves and Kiang National Park.
VENEZUELA Once the current political crisis has been resolved, Venezuela is equipped for an eco-renaissance: In 2002, Angel-Eco Tours, a Caracas-based outfitter, formed ecotourism advocacy group EcoAlianza to better market the country's 43 national parks. The Trip Bravely carrying on through this winter's unrest (besides, the Caracas airport is 20 miles from downtown), Angel-Eco Tours ($1,499; 888-475-0873, www.angel-ecotours.com) offers an eight-day excursion to 3,212-foot Angel Falls led by local Pem-n Indian guides. Guests live with the Indians in their camps and visit other sacred waterfalls.
ACCESS & RESOURCES
The virtual vanguard of intelligent ecotourism
www.planeta.com A comprehensive site that provides information on travel books, eco-forums, special reports, and other musings on the green scene. www.sustainabletravel.org Business Enterprises for Sustainable Travel, a spin-off of The World Travel & Tourism Council, was developed in 2000 to promote sustainable business practices in the travel and tourism industries. www.ecotourism.org The official Web site of the International Ecotourism Society gives a glimpse into the industry. For a $75 annual fee, join and gain access to its global network of 1,600 members. www.tourismconcern.org.uk This UK-based Concern campaigns for ethical tourism. The current cause is convincing trek operators to commit to guidelines that protect porters. www.manaca.com This Washington, D.C.-based travel retailer sends employees around the world to evaluate a resort's worthiness. If the property is up to Manaca's "Eco-Assessment" standards, it gets a juicy online write-up.