Set Sail Sustainably: 4 Eco-Friendly Cruises in South America and Asia

Cruising isn’t typically associated with environmental friendliness. With travelers becoming more eco-conscious, the industry is progressing toward a more sustainable future. As 81% of travelers worldwide view sustainable travel as essential and 87% are eager to make efforts towards this, it is crucial for the industry to provide more eco-conscious options. 

Though river and yacht cruises are often grouped with larger ocean vessels under the ‘unsustainable’ umbrella, small ship cruising is actually one of the greenest and most environmentally sustainable ways to travel. These vessels have smaller engines due to their limited capacity, resulting in significantly lower carbon emissions.

If you’re considering cruising but want an eco-friendly alternative to the major cruise lines, keep these options in mind:

Brazilian Amazon – Tucano 

The Tucano is a boutique riverboat that’s leading the way in the environmentally conscious river and small ship cruising by exploring some of the most wildlife-rich areas of the Central Amazon Conservation Complex in Brazil. It is the only vessel that can navigate the complex’s deepest depths, making it a pioneer in sustainable travel.

The Tucano operates on almost entirely sustainable systems, including solar panels powering energy-efficient “on demand” water heaters and the use of fuel-free skiffs that reduce the vessel’s carbon footprint. The boat also implements a “low power hours” policy, turning off generators when they are not required throughout the day to conserve energy.

The riverboat also focuses on waste management, storing all waste materials safely and hygienically on board, including recyclables which are separated and disposed of properly when the boat returns to Manuas. The vessel’s “leave no trace” policy ensures minimal impact on the environment while exploring habitat-dense areas en route.

Indonesia – Jakaré 

The Jakaré liveaboard revolutionizes voyages through Eastern Indonesia. It offers a completely immersive experience in the region’s wild landscapes without compromising environmental responsibility. The two-mast phinisi yacht, which can accommodate 10-12 guests, integrates sustainability and environmental consciousness into every aspect, including its construction.

The vessel was built locally in Sulawesi, using ancient boat-building traditions and techniques passed down for generations. This authentic Indonesian design supported not only local communities but also preserved centuries-old traditions.

The Jakaré’s naturally ventilated building reduces the need for air conditioning and generators, thereby minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution.

The vessel prioritizes local involvement by sourcing its food from local producers and fishermen. The Jakaré proves that travelers need not sacrifice adventure and exploration to minimize their impact on the environment.

Galapagos – Eco Galaxy 

The M/C Eco Galaxy, a 16-passenger vessel that set sail in 2015, is among the most eco-friendly ships to navigate the waters of the Galapagos. Constructed with the latest ecological standards in mind, the ship offers first-class cruising while prioritizing the preservation of one of the world’s most biodiverse marine environments. In recognition of its exceptional environmental practices and principles, the Eco Galaxy has been awarded the Smart Planet Certification.

The ship’s engine is designed for low fuel consumption, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing the vessel’s impact on the surrounding environment, given that the ship sails in one of the planet’s most pristine locations, the Eco Galaxy’s every action plays a crucial role in protecting the delicate ecosystem and ensuring minimal disruption to the destination and its inhabitants.

Moreover, even small-scale measures are implemented to decrease the cruise’s environmental impact. The ship sources food from local islands, supporting native communities and populations, and uses biodegradable cleaning products and toiletries to prevent harm to marine life. The vessel also recycles water after treatment for boat washing, demonstrating its comprehensive commitment to sustainability.

Brazilian Amazon – Amazon EcoBoat 

The charter yacht industry has often been criticized for its lack of sustainability, but progress is being made. One example is the Amazon EcoBoat, a small charter vessel that can accommodate up to four guests and offers a private and responsible way to explore the Amazon Rainforest.

The boat was designed with sustainability, featuring full solar power equipment, fuel-efficient engines that produce almost no smoke, and a water treatment system. The vessel adheres to strict international environmental standards to ensure it does not negatively impact the local environment, wildlife, or nearby communities.

Even activities offered onboard are designed to be sustainable, such as the full-day fishing excursions with a professional guide, where guests have the opportunity to catch unique species that exist only in the Amazon basin. However, all fishing trips are catch-and-release only, ensuring the preservation of the native species in the Solimões and Rio Negro rivers.

Let Sustainability Guide Your Travels

These four options are prime examples of how modern travelers can prioritize sustainability without compromising their experiences. Authentic experiences and responsible travel add up to memorable adventures that will keep you coming back for more. No matter what’s left on your bucket list, it’s possible to enjoy your dream destination sustainably.

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This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex. Photo Credit: [@liza1979/DepositPhotos]


Chelsea DeAngio
Chelsea DeAngio

Chelsea DeAngio is a freelance writer based in Greensboro, NC. Inspired by a rootless childhood as a Navy brat, she enjoys traveling every chance she gets. Pop culture often drives her trips. Whether channeling her inner Lady Mary at Highclere Castle in the UK or noshing on nachos at Showgirls filming locations in Vegas, Chelsea is always in search of a little silver screen glitz.