Costas Christ

of National Geographic Traveler

Costas Christ is an award-winning travel writer and editor at large for National Geographic Traveler magazine, where he pens the “Trending” column. Follow Costas on Twitter @CostasChrist.

In addition to his work with National Geographic, Costas's articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune, the Sunday Times of London, and other publications. He is best known as one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism experts, whose work and travels have taken him to more than 125 countries across six continents.

Costas also serves as chairman of judges for the World Travel and Tourism Council's "Tourism for Tomorrow Awards," which recognize best practices in the travel industry that support the protection of cultural and natural heritage.

In 1979, I was a young backpacker in search of paradise. I found it in southern Thailand. Lost on Ko Phangan, I stumbled upon the brilliant sands of Haad Rin. I stayed there a month, made a hand-drawn map of its location, and vowed never to let the secret out. But others discovered it. Today Haad Rin represents tourism gone wrong.

In early 2014, the Dallas Safari Club, a Texas-based hunting outfit, came up with an unconventional idea for protecting the critically endangered African black rhino: Auction a permit to shoot one and donate the money for conservation. What kind of precedent does this set—and what are enlightened travelers to do?

It’s not easy to get out from under the shadow of a place like Brazil’s Pantanal—a natural wetland bigger than England and home to a biodiversity bonanza of such rare species as the tapir and the jaguar. Yet the town of Bonito, on the Pantanal’s border, is emerging as one of Brazil’s favorite adventure outposts­.

In the course of my travels–and my career as a promoter and practitioner of sustainable tourism–one question comes up again and again: “What can I do to be a more responsible traveler?” So I thought I’d pen a primer. Here are seven things globetrotters can do to lessen their impact on the planet.

Some people look for the pool. Others head to the concierge. Me? The very first thing I do when I arrive at a hotel is stand in the lobby and take a visual 360. Can I tell what country I’m in (or even what continent I’m on) from the décor, the staff uniforms, the architecture?…

Generations of “lobsta” families form the backbone of villages dotting Maine’s rugged coast, where they haul traps in the cold Atlantic waters. The good news? The Marine Stewardship Council has certified Maine lobster as among only 10 percent of fisheries worldwide that are sustainable.

I consider travel an enlightening experience, but it never occurred to me that beams of light might change the way we travel. Recently, lighting scientists (yes, they exist) have dissected the specific wavelengths of electric light to better understand how they affect our bodies. “Hotels will offer guest rooms with lights that help us to…

A confession: I don’t play golf, partly because I’m unable to reconcile my conservation work with a sport also known for habitat destruction, massive water consumption, and heavy use of chemicals. Now the sport may be about to take a big step, in a surprising place.

If you’re like me, you drink water from a glass or a reusable container when you’re home or about town. When you travel, it’s a different story. Throwaway plastic bottles remain the most convenient way for hotels to distribute water, generating trash that often ends up in our oceans. But the tide is turning, thanks to the Whole World Water campaign.

The superrich have long been known — accurately or not — for their competitiveness. But that doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. Learn more about four billionaires who are investing in the future of our oceans.

There are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines, so it comes as no surprise that after tourism’s heavy trek across Southeast Asia’s once pristine outposts, the less explored parts of the archipelago are poised to be the latest “paradise found.” Indeed, that is already under way, which is why the tale of two islands — Palawan and Boracay — offers lessons as the country lays out the welcome mat to more visitors.

Since 2007, the illegal ivory trade has more than doubled. If the massacres do not stop, our children could be the last generation to see an African elephant in the wild. As travelers, we can — and must — do something about it. Here are the crucial actions to take.

Today, cities are sprouting some of the most innovative green projects in the world, redefining a sustainable future for urban dwellers — and attracting travelers, too.

Here are just a few examples.

Each spring, Traveler Editor at Large Costas Chris tucks his passport away and turns into a blueberry farmer, tending the crop on a 40-acre organic farm in Maine. Call it his double life.

Costas Christ brings us five Friday-to-Monday getaways from Maine to Manhattan that deliver friendly service and great food along with a palpable commitment to caring for the environment.

Although it’s not the first one, Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area could be the largest cross-border protected area in the world, spanning five countries in southern Africa.

Mongolia is celebrating the 850th birthday of its founding father by proclaiming his favorite bird, the saker falcon, as its very first national bird. The move not only provides a fitting tribute to Genghis Khan; it will also help raise awareness about the importance of protecting this endangered species and launch Mongolia into the world of great bird-watching destinations.

At this point in his life, Francis Ford Coppola approaches film making the way a veteran traveler plans a great trip: it must be original (why follow the tourist crowds?), it must have a personal element (the best travel experiences mean we learn something about ourselves), and it must be self financed (you choose where you want to go and what you want to do, not what someone else wants because they are paying for it).

Almost exactly one year ago, I sat with President Nasheed of the Maldives in the shade of coconut palms on the blue lagoon island of Soneva Fushi, where the sustainable tourism resort group Six Senses was founded in 1995. I listened intently as he explained his vision of the Maldives becoming the world’s first fossil…

Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques, has a message for you: Plant a fish. The third generation ocean explorer woke up late one night with an idea–if we can save the forests by planting trees, we can help save the oceans by “re-planting” aquatic species in degraded marine environments. The idea evolved into his foundation, Plant A Fish, which aims…

In my last post (Read: Slow Life in the Maldives), I talked about Six Senses Resorts, where “Intelligent Luxury” is a core mission and sustainable tourism best practices are put into action. Six Senses is hosting the three-day SLOWLIFE Symposium– a small gathering of sustainability leaders and visionaries on the tiny island of Soneva Fushi in the Maldives…

Today I find myself back in the Maldives a year after I first met the nation’s President Nasheed– since dubbed “The Green President” for his steadfast efforts to lead this small island nation to become the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2020 (yes, fossil fuel free in eight years.) I’m sitting with a handful of sustainability leaders and…