Known both for its sun-soaked coastline and for the vast expanse of its rugged interior, known as “the Outback,” Australia is one of the world’s great outdoor destinations. With ancestors dating back nearly 75,000 years, Aboriginal Australians are considered the world’s oldest society, and today are part of a diverse nation that is working to embrace its complex cultural, linguistic, and ethnic heritage. Australia’s flora and fauna display remarkably high levels of endemism and its 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites include the Gondwana Rainforests and the spectacular Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef system, it is home to over 1500 species of fish and more than 130 types of sharks and rays, making it a premiere scuba diving and snorkeling destination. Camping and hiking - or ‘bushwalking’ - offer opportunities to witness the nation’s many iconic species, such as kangaroos, dingoes, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and emus. As the sixth-largest country on Earth, with one of the planet’s lowest population densities, Australia’s inspiring terrain offers limitless opportunities to go off-the-grid, while renowned wine regions, legendary surf, and the vibrant culture of cosmopolitan coastal cities like Sydney and Melbourne make it an unmissable destination for any style of travel.
Established in 1992, Ecotourism Australia (EA) was the world’s first ecotourism body, and along with the first ecotourism accreditation program launched in 1996, set the standard for tourism best practices globally. The non-profit organization works across Australia’s tourism industry to guide its sustainable development through lobbying and policy commitments, an annual ecotourism conference, and by pioneering five comprehensive certification programs active today: ECO, Climate Action, Respecting Our Culture, Ecotourism Destination, and EcoGuide. Australia played a strong role in the launch of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, and its ECO certification became one of the first to gain recognition from the global body, in 2015.
Australia is recognized as a megadiverse country. About 85% of flowering plants, 84% of mammals, more than 45% of birds, and 89% of in-shore, temperate-zone fish are endemic. Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species. Many of Australia's ecoregions, and the species within those regions, are threatened by human activities and introduced species such as feral cats. These factors have led to Australia's having the highest mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. Numerous protected areas have been created under the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity to protect and preserve unique ecosystems.Why the Tiger Ranking?