We travel to explore, we explore to discover and we discover by immersing ourselves into foreign cultures and landscapes. When we travel, having a positive impact on the areas we visit, whether it be social, economical, or environmental should be our goal. Ecotourism is defined as responsible travel and adventure into natural areas that connects you with the environment and improves the well-being of the local people. (The International Ecotourism Society).
At Eco Escape Travel, ecotourism is broken down into into four unique pillars:
Environmental Stewardship – Protecting the environment for those after you by implementing conservation and sustainable practices.
Ecological Connection – Immersion and engagement with land, water, flora or fauna in the environment.
Community Empowerment – Having a direct socioeconomic impact on the community by diversifying, donating, or employing locals.
Cross-cultural Connection – Having a direct interaction with the culture you are visiting. You are learning from them, whether it be textile skills, about their history, or staying with a local family in a homestay.
Four Faces of Ecotourism
Said to among the most beautiful islands in the world, Palawan Province of the Philippines is a destination with white sand beaches hugging limestone islands, jetted across the sea. Tao is a multi-day sailing adventure that immerses travellers into the local’s way of life as they hop from island to island throughout the trip.
The food comes from the Tao farm, the sheets and blankets sewn from the local villagers, and accommodation in the villages themselves. This is a true cross-cultural experience that will see you visiting islands with no other travellers, and a side of the Philippines few people have seen.
This old-growth rainforest on Vancouver Island not only has trees ranging from 500-1000 years old, but it also has some of the the world’s largest cedar and Douglas fir trees. Navigate a winding boardwalk through the forest as you brush up against these arboreal giants.
What makes the spot even more unique, is that environmental stewardship is in full-force here as local groups have banded together to fund and build the boardwalk in an effort to save the tree roots from erosion and wear from hikers.
Avatar Grove is not protected by a provincial or national park so the construction of the boardwalk meant that more awareness would be brought to this unique destination for conservation efforts. More awareness means more people enjoying the area, and more pressure being put on local governments to establish it as a forest reserve or park.
Located on Lake Nicaragua, Jicaro Island is a special eco-resort that has various environmental practices that contribute to its green operation. Community empowerment is practiced by Jicaro Island Resort through community programs like the one currently underway in partnership with Earth Equilibrium.
Padre Nello School is located on the mainland shores of Lake Nicaragua, just a short distance from the lodge. The school doesn’t have access to any form of commercial energy services, so through the implementation of a solar panel project, energy, and water filtration projects, they will provide the basic resources needed for the education of young Nicaraguan children. In addition to this, power outlets and a small network of lights will be extended to the community health centre.
Connecting with the environment is a big reason why many of us travel. This ecological connection is done up close and personal with exotic birds at Macaw Mountain. The bird park and nature reserve in Honduras is home for many birds, over 20 to be exact.
Numerous species of parrots, macaws, toucan and other Central and South American species populate this park and visitors can experience a close interaction with them while with a local guide.
Many birds are being rehabilitated in hopes of being released one day, and others call Macaw Mountain their permanent home. Macaw Mountain Nature Reserve and Bird Park is an ecological connection with the birds and forest reserve like no other.
Does ecotourism mean exotic destinations?
It’s important not to overthink ecotourism. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate lodge in Costa Rica or Africa. Ecotourism is hiking with a local guide who makes his or hers livelihood off the tourism brought to their area. It can be a self-guided hike that immerses you into the environment and reminds you what we need to conserve, and it is supporting local park systems and nature reserves that protect the environment around.
Next time you find yourself exploring or researching your next trip, ask yourself, “How can I have a positive impact on the community and environment through the choices I make while on the road?”
Grounded in the Canadian Rockies, Jonny Bierman is an ecotourism and sustainable travel content creator who has made a career in travel media. Jonny is the founder of the first community-based ecotourism content hub Eco Escape Travel and hopes to grow this platform into the go-to place for sustainable travel content. When he’s not building his dream in media and ecotourism content development, he spends all of his spare time on skis, in a kayak, hiking mountains, or riding his bikes. You can also find Jonny on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.