Traveling Green takes a certain commitment if you want to really be an Ecotourist
We have heard about, probably read something about it and some of us may have dismissed it as some tree-hugging fad that will pass.
Ecotourism is definitely not some indulgent hippy thinking indulgence held by a few. It has grown into a powerful and respected sector of the tourism market…What it really means to be an Eco-friendly traveler
A Traveller’s Guide to EcoTourism
With everything going on in the world, shouldn’t you be helping people instead? But, you need a break. If you don’t get out of town, you might just lose your ever-loving mind. If this is you, you really should consider an eco-tourism holiday. And, maybe, a glass of wine.
What is EcoTourism?
If this is the first you’ve heard of it, an eco-tourism holiday is designed to help support conservation efforts in exotic, natural environments that are under threat. Ecotourism is a way to preserve what’s already there so future visitors can have the chance to walk on the wild side and see it, too.
While any increase in visitors to a holiday destination can have an impact on the local environment, this is particularly true in sensitive areas like the Amazon rainforest, for example. Environmental degradation can be significant if care isn’t taken by locals and visitors alike to protect the area’s natural beauty and resources. The flip side of that, however, is that tourism can bring in vital revenue to areas that can be used to protect those natural resources.
At its finest, ecotourism unites conservation, communities and sustainable travel. It takes the focus off consumerism and places it squarely on conservation and active community participation. It can provide crucial economic development options for areas with relatively few opportunities for income and educate travellers on the how’s and whys of conservation.
While you are doing good for the environment, you also get to observe native wildlife as you’ve never seen before and experience an entirely new culture while supporting their way of life. Win-win, right? Sounds perfect, but almost seems too good to be true.
How to Know Your Vacation is Actually Eco-friendly?
Going green on your vacation is an extremely trendy way to holiday right now. Unfortunately, this means that some organisations market themselves as offering sustainable holidays but do not actually walk the talk. There a few ways to suss out if your holiday is eco-friendly.
As a traveller, your goal is to consciously work to have little or no impact on the environment you visit; this includes the natural flora and fauna as well as the local cultures. So, if you are driving an SUV to your tent in the rainforest that comes with air conditioning, you might be immersed in the environment, but you are not on an ecotourism holiday.
Additionally, local conservation efforts are an integral part of your trip – either through volunteering or donations. This means that at least part of your time will be spent contributing to a local cause, such as caring for tigers while you’re in Belize. If you plan to spend your entire vacation lounging on the beach, then at least donate money or supplies to a local organisation dedicated to conservation.
Excursions are a fun part of every trip, and ecotourism is no different. However, seek out advice from area natives on what to do and how to do it. They will often be able to provide local secrets about the best way to get somewhere that are much more memorable than a double-decker bus: canoeing the Amazon, for instance, is something you will never forget, even if you are eaten up by mosquitoes.
However, if you’re scuba diving in an area with eight other groups and your tour guide tells you to hold onto the coral to keep from getting pushed about by the surge caused by all the boats even though it might die if you do (true story, by the way), then you are doing more harm than good.
Finally, educational aspects of culture and tradition, both yours and the local areas, are included in your holiday activities. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in Kazakhstan, eat plovh in a yurt and go understand the cultural importance of hunting with eagles.
From a personal standpoint, there are several tips you can take anywhere to make any holiday eco-friendlier. There is no need to be an eco-extremist, but these simple lifestyle choices can minimise your footprint while away from home:
- Use reusable water bottles
- Reuse towels and linens more than once
- Take public transportation, walk or cycle wherever possible
The video shows the facets of the flora, fauna and the cultural life as well as general touristic sights and activities in Brunei.
Most popular ecotourism activities of United States travelers
Where do I go on an Ecotourism Holiday?
According to Forbes magazine, the ecotourism industry is experiencing more growth than any other travel sector. As a result, there are oodles and oodles of choices when you decide to take a green holiday.
Top locations include Costa Rica, where you can visit Finca Luna Nueva, a 207-acre biodynamic farm where the lodge itself is built from fallen trees instead of cutting down living growth.
While there, guests can go on the Sacred Seed garden tour, to experience the biodynamic process first hand and learn about the healing properties of local vegetation during guided walks in the rainforest.
Or, you could venture to the Galapagos Islands and see giant Galapagos tortoises and sea iguanas while snorkelling or scuba diving.
The isolation of the area gives the local wildlife a natural curiosity about humans so you can get up close and personal with everything from sharks (harmless ones, of course) to manta rays. If water isn’t your thing, you can instead go hiking or biking up the caldera of the Sierra Negra Volcano.
While these destinations are the stuff dreams are made of, not everyone wants to venture so far off the beaten track. If this is you – or your travel partner – then focus on places with stellar public transport or that are pedestrian or cyclist friendly.
A great example of this is Barcelona, Spain, which spent over $30 million to install bike lanes throughout the city to cut down on emissions and traffic. While in Barcelona, you could visit a vineyard and volunteer to help pick grapes, or bike to an olive orchard in the countryside and to learn how Olive Oil is made.
Finally, if you prefer to take some time off in the comfort of your own home, then take a stay-cation. Tour your local area and learn about communities and traditions. For example, if you live in xxxx, visit an Indian reservation and experience a sweathouse or other tribal tradition.
Or stay at 1 Hotel Central Park and help Bette Midler’s pet project, the New York Restoration Project; water trees and maintain flower beds. You are even rewarded with Lyft credits and two cocktails.
What do I do?
Be a Cultural Eco-tourist
As an eco-tourist, you can find a plethora of ways to spend your time while on holiday. If you want to find out more about people than animals, take a cultural ecotourism holiday.
On these vacations, you will visit sacred sites in Venezuela or and about spiritual customs of the local Bolivians.
Guatemala’s Eco-Escuela even offers educationally minded vacationers informal classes on Tikal’s Mayan ruins and the customs of the Maya Itza communities.
Ideally, your guides will be locals – not only do they know more about the area than anyone else, but it also helps sustain employment in the area.
With some local guidance, you can use your reusable tote bag to collect local handmade treasures and then take a break in a locally owned restaurant for some of the best culinary experiences possible.
Participate in Endangered Wildlife Ecotourism
Hook up with a conservation organization that works with local communities to go on a trip of a lifetime and help endangered species at the same time.
If you love watching the monkeys and gorillas at the zoo, just imagine getting to help rehabilitate one personally!
Others offer a broader glimpse into the local ecosystem. Some South African tours allow participants to help with research into all types of animal behaviors and actually offer training in basic survival in the African bush.
Go on a Green Adventure
Get your adrenaline going while helping to save the planet. By patronising eco-friendly tour companies, you will support organizations that take care to protect the local environment while sending you on an adventure worthy of any superhero.
In Panama or Thailand, you can get a bird’s eye view of the canopy tops on a zip-line and leave absolutely no carbon footprint.
Yes, this type of travel certainly is a good mix with adventure tourism. If you love the great outdoors and doing stuff that is different and exciting, this certainly could be for you!
What to Bring on an Eco-tour
Before heading off into the hinterlands, check with locals about what you should bring with you.
A local travel agent is a good resource as are the staff at any of the conservationist agencies you might be helping.
Be sure to give them a brief summary of the activities as they might be able to offer some tips that you simply wouldn’t think of on your own.
For example, some locations might have restrictions on the type of sunscreen you can use to minimize the impact on the sea life or if you plan to go on hikes of any extended length, ask about the bathroom facilities.
Some areas do not have facilities and ask you to bring zip-lock bags so that you pack in AND out any paper or waste to ensure there are no adverse effects on the environment.
If you really want to be a bonafide ecotourist, there is no doubt that you will have to put a fair bit of effort in. It requires research and a lot of planning.
However, you can make a difference and if you have the determination, you will contribute to the planets well-being..
Let your wallet do the talking
Even if none of these options suits your style, you can always donate to local organizations in any area you choose to visit. Pack for a Purpose is an organization dedicated to providing supplies needed in a local area.
Simply save a little room in your suitcase and bring along supplies needed by community projects near your holiday base camp. They even make it easy for you by posting lists of needed supplies on their website, like pens, stethoscopes, pet supplies, etc.
There are also companies like TerraPass who sell offsets for your anticipated carbon footprint.
Eco-tour Planning Assistance
If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking, “It’s all too much to think about – who can organize this for me while I drink that wine?” Well, there are services for that.
Check out some of the more popular Ecotourism companies on the internet and find one that takes the time to understand what you want to do and is willing to spend the time to find a vacation that will rock your world.
Finding an Ecotourism planner
When looking for a travel planner, ask them a couple of key questions to make sure they are qualified to organise your trip:
- How long have they been in business?
- How many trips have the planned in the area that you want to visit?
- Can they organise excursions that make the most of public transport, walking or biking?
- How do they vet their tour operators to make sure they use responsible guides?
- If they are arranging accommodations, how do the facilities they work with facilities minimise their carbon footprint?
It is also a good idea to check independent reviews on the internet for objective feedback on their ecotourism policies. Several organisations, such as the International Ecotourism Society, exist that can help you evaluate your options and even provide pre-screened lists of ecotourism operators.
With the never-ending quest for “more” that’s so prevalent in today’s culture, take some time to go for “less”. Stop buying things and start making memories that actually make the world a better place.
Whether you want to take care of some tigers or zip line across a rainforest, there is a holiday out there for whatever floats your boat. And remember, no one is perfect.
The goal of a holiday is to relax, after all, so do your best to protect and preserve the environment but don’t forget to have a good time in the process. Bon Voyage!