National Geographic Traveler and Conservation International this week named 12 outstanding tourism finalists in the 2004 World Legacy Awards, which recognize excellence in environmental, social, and cultural travel. The winners of the 2004 World Legacy Awards are to be announced at a gala event hosted by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan on June 8 at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. A panel of independent judges evaluated applications from across the globe to narrow down the selection to three finalists in each of four categories:
Finalists are travel enterprises specializing in wildlife and natural areas.
Al Maha Desert Resort, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
A luxury nature lodge patterned on a Bedouin camp, Al Maha Desert Resort (www.al-maha.com/home.htm) in Dubai promotes desert conservation in a peaceful, recently prosperous region that has had little infrastructure for environmental protection.
Guests can explore the desert on camels, observing some of the 33 mammal and reptile species indigenous to the Arabian peninsula, including the endangered Arabian oryx, and enjoying excellent desert bird-watching. With the government's support, Al Maha developed the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a 225-square-kilometer (87-square-mile) protected area that is to be designated a national park this year. Al Maha has thus protected indigenous wildlife from fast-spreading urban development.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Guests at this safari lodge can see elephants and lions roaming freely on the banks of the Great Fish River, where only worn-out farmland existed just five years ago.
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve (www.ccafrica.com/reserve-1-id-2-8), operating under Conservation Corporation Africa (CCA), restored 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) along the Great Fish River, employing local residents to remove farm fencing. The reserve hired hundreds of former farm family members, some of whom receive training at CCA's Inkwazi Ranger Training School.
Guests staying in the all-suite lodge or the converted farmhouse can join a ranger for game viewing. Others might visit a neighboring community or join the resident historian for a historical and archaeological tour of the area.
Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar and Tanzania
Blue-spotted stingrays, colorful parrotfish, and the resident hawksbill turtle greet snorkelers led by an experienced resort guide through the Chumbe Island Coral Park (www.chumbeisland.com), a now protected reef sanctuary previously degraded by overfishing.
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