Ecotourism. It’s a term travel marketers love, but what does it really mean?
Ecotourism involves more than just exploring nature or viewing wildlife, which on its own does not always contribute to the welfare of a place and its inhabitants. Indeed, some destinations, such as the Galapagos Islands, are at risk of being ‘loved too much.’
At its heart, ecotourism involves “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people,” according to the International Ecotourism Society.
With this in mind, consider whether your travel plans include the following principles and practices that are central to ecotourism that makes a positive difference:
If you’re contemplating an African safari, no doubt it’s the extraordinary wildlife that’s top draw. But many safari camps and lodges are highlights in their own right. While most are not for the faint of budget, they are peerless when it comes to enhancing the “trip of a lifetime”!
As more safari operations “go green” by committing to environmental and community sustainability, the selection of alluring eco-minded camps and lodges continues to grow. Here are six that will have you online in a heartbeat to secure your deluxe tent beneath the stars — or at least daydreaming about it.
As Julio hauled the net into our skiff, we spied a green sea turtle ensnared in the mesh. In this case, we were happy to see our captive: Julio is the Magadalena Baykeeper on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, and part of his job is working with Grupo Tortuguero — the world’s foremost sea turtle conservation group — to capture, study and release endangered turtles in order to help ensure their future.
Eco-travel is a rapidly growing sector of the travel industry. From cruise lines to rental cars to adventure tour providers, many businesses are trying to capitalize on a perceived consumer desire for a greener on-the-go experience. Hotel guests are encouraged to re-hang their used towels. Cruise ships recycle millions of plastic bottles each week. Tour operators offset carbon output for the individual guests on their trips.
“Eco” as a prefix has gained some potent marketing cachet for all sorts of goods and services in recent years, not least for travel. Nearly every jungle accommodation in Costa Rica seems to bill itself as an “eco-lodge,” for instance, and ecotourism is promoted as an important, even essential, means of protecting species and habitats.
I did the math in my head. We have one car that barely gets driven, a TV and DVD player that get unplugged when not in use, plus a diet free of meat — and I have to admit that I was feeling a bit overconfident when I plugged my numbers into the carbon calculator at www.carbonfootprint.com.
I just got back from an 11-day visit to my mom’s house in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Normally, this visit is call for an orgy of cheese-laden enchiladas, deep-fried sopaipillas smothered in honey, and chips and salsa with every meal. But, since I was with my toddler daughter, I had to exercise restraint. And, being away from our own well-stocked refrigerator and regular routine made me realize how easy it is to let a vacation mood (even when you’re staying with family) interfere with your best-intentioned eating habits.
Welcome to Gaiam’s eco-travel blog. I am delighted to host this virtual journey toward a fresh and conscientious engagement with the world’s wonders. We’ll explore ways to travel more lightly upon the land, look at new developments in “greening” travel, and discover intriguing destinations, ecologically minded lodgings and enticing eats. I’ll share a mix of news blurbs and personal stories, and invite you to join in with your own reflections and helpful information for fellow travelers.