The Meaning of Eco-Tourism
The concept of ‘Eco-tourism’ came into its own in 2002, when the United Nations celebrated the “International Year of Eco-tourism”. The International Eco-tourism Society defines eco-tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people”.
Eco-tourism puts focus on local cultures, wilderness adventures, volunteering, cultural and individual growth, and learning new and better ways to exist in our world. It is classically defined as travel to destinations where the flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Responsible eco-tourism includes programs that minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural uprightness of local people. In addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, there are initiatives by hospitality providers to promote recycling, energy efficiency, water re-use, and the creation of economic opportunities for local communities. All of these factors form an integral part of eco-tourism.
What are Eco-Tourism Holidays?
In a nutshell: a holiday that does not contribute to the damage of an environment and does not put existing species at risk! Over time people in different communities have become aware of the adverse effect of tourism, and have put structures in place to ensure their landscape stays protected. If you’d like to contribute to a community plus have a great holiday… Look for the eco-tourism signposts i.e. accommodation built with natural, locally found materials whose staff comprise of local people. The hotel or lodge should have environmentally sound energy and water-saving policies. Holidays should help preserve environments and encourage and maintain traditional cultures rather than contribute to their ruin.
There are some wonderful, informative eco-tourism holidays where you can have a special adventure plus contribute to the surrounding communities. Here are some examples…
Botswana: Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is one of the largest inland deltas on earth and one of Africa’s most beautiful and unique wetlands, supporting an abundance of wild animals. For Africa as a whole, and in the Delta in particular, the single greatest attraction for safari-goers is the lion. As carnivores at the top of the food chain, lions are a key component in the Okavango ecosystem and need to be carefully managed.
In 1997 Christiaan and Hanlie Winterbach, two experienced wildlife biologists, set about constructing a scientifically sound, long-term ecological monitoring programme and lion research project in a Wildlife Management Area in the south-western part of the Delta, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to track & study lions in the wild! The Delta also offers an overabundance of other wildlife and birdlife.
Christiaan and Hanlie Winterbach have set up and co-ordinated the lion surveys since their inception in 1995 under the guise of Tau Consultants (already members of the World Conservation Union), in co-operation with the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks. Having worked and studied in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa, Christiaan, a zoologist is able to offer first-hand information on the behavioral patterns of lions while Hanlie, a botanist, introduces travellers to a world of evolving flora that survives in this incredible Delta. A large percentage of the money paid for this experience goes directly to the camp, enabling them to continue their vital work.
South Africa: Tsitsikamma Forest Nature Reserve
Lush indigenous vegetation and forests framed by majestic mountain ranges on the one side and the Indian Ocean with its pristine white beaches on the other make the Garden Route, situated on the East Coast of Southern Africa, one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa.
This is an ideal eco-tourism holiday with accommodation available in the Tsitsikamma private nature reserve, set on the edge of the Tsitsikamma indigenous forest. The hotel has breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and Tsitsikamma Mountains. The 14ha property is zoned a private nature reserve by Cape Nature Conservation.
In addition, a newly constructed path to Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary gives guests the opportunity to view numerous indigenous species such as Stinkwood and Yellowwood trees, a variety of Fynbos and wildlife such as Bush Pig, Bush Buck, Lynx, Otters, Baboons, Monkeys and prolific bird life including the Knysna Loerie, whilst enjoying the hour long walk starting at the lodge.
Activities in the area include: nature walks, bungy jumping, boating, a forest journey, horse riding, golf, canoeing, sandy beaches, boat-based whale and dolphin watching trips or even an aerial view (flights are available…)