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National Geographic Traveler honours unique travellers

US publisher National Geographic Traveler magazine has announced its 18 honorees for 2013 Travelers of the Year including winners of the newly created United Airlines (NYSE: UAL) Sustainable Travel Leadership Award.

According to the magazine, the honourees are individuals who travel with passion and purpose, have an exceptional story to tell and represent a style of travel, motivation or method that can inspire us all.

The honorees include a pair of coastal conservationists who have hatched a plan to protect Costa Rican wildlife; an engaged couple, one of whom is a quadriplegic, who have embarked on a 10,000-mile handcycle/bicycle ride from Portland, Ore., to Patagonia; and a woman on a mission to save Thailand´s elephants, one animal a time.

As part of the Traveler of the Year programme, National Geographic Traveler has partnered with United Airlines to create the first ever Sustainable Travel Leadership Award.

The award recognises individuals who exemplify the principles of ecotourism — environmental protection, conservation and education; local community enrichment and empowerment; and eco-conscious visitor behavior.

The Sustainable Travel Leadership Award winners Hilda and John Denham have spent two decades protecting Costa Rica´s endangered leatherback turtles on the Pacific Ocean and green turtles on Caribbean coast.

They established The Pacuare Nature Preserve, with a goal of protecting nearly four miles of turtle-nesting beach. Among other environmental efforts, the Denhams are preventing poachers from killing the turtles and robbing eggs from their nests. As part of their award, United will fly the Denhams to the sustainable destination of their choice.

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