Travel Bloggers’ Favourite Ecotourism Experiences | World Tourism Day Special

Travel Bloggers Favourite Ecotourism Experiences, World Tourism DayTo mark the United Nations World Tourism Day which is celebrated annually on the 27th September asked six other travel bloggers to share their favourite ecotourism experiences. Here’s what they had to tell me.

Tara Lets Anywhere

Snorkeling in Apo Island, Philippines, is an amazing experience. This island is located in the Coral Triangle, which features high marine biodiversity. I got the chance to see colourful corals and sea plants and swim with sea turtles, some of which are as old as 50 years.

Apo Island is a great example of successful ecotourism. A few decades ago, its marine environment suffered from unsustainable fishing practices such as the use of dynamite and muro-ami. In the 1980s, its entire coral reef was declared a marine reserve, with a small area as a fish sanctuary. Over time, this revived the marine life in Apo Island.

Currently, locals practice more responsible fishing methods and Apo Island has been opened for tourists who wish to snorkel or dive. The proceeds go to conservation programs, and tourism-related activities such as boat rentals and selling souvenirs provide income to its locals. Not only is it a fun, unique experience, it’s also one of those few tourist activities that help in both environmental conservation and local livelihood.

Apo Island is accessible any day of the week, in the mornings preferably when the waves are manageable. Guests need to pay for boat rental P4000 PHP (£60.72 GBP/ $78 USD) for a boat with capacity for four people; as well as guide fees and equipment rental (snorkel and fins, life vest).

Katherine from Tara Lets Anywhere

Sea turtle in the sea at Apo Island - ecotourism

Sea turtle at Apo Island, Philippines

Break Loose Journal

Whilst travelling through Central America, I stopped in Costa Rica. I had heard of Territorio de Zaguates (Land of the strays) a no-kill dog sanctuary home to over 900 dogs. I am a huge dog lover and the idea of being able to hike with a beautiful bunch of doggo’s in the Costa Rican mountains called my name.

They are not-for-profit organisation and rely on donations to keep the shelter running. I was so impressed by the whole set up and being able to actually see the progress being made at the establishment with thanks to donations from generous people around the globe.

You can sponsor a dog, buy a bag of dog food, provide veterinary care and much more via their different donation options.

It’s only possible to visit on weekends, but it’s a good idea to email or message via Facebook to reserve a spot on a hike. It’s completely free to hike with the dogs and for entry into the sanctuary, however, a donation (amount at your discretion) on the day is always welcome.

Ash-Lea of Break Loose Journal

Territorio de Zaguates - Land of the strays Ecotourism

Territorio de Zaguates (Land of the strays), Costa Rica

MichWanderlust

I had the best time of my life in the Ecuadorean Andes, in one of its least-known and beautiful regions: Intag. I stayed with Cloud Forest Adventure , a grassroots ecotourism project run by a warm and friendly couple who immediately made me feel part of the family. Far away from the city and the crowds, hiking opportunities abound, as do numerous waterfalls. Talk about getting off the beaten path – sometimes there isn’t even one!

I got to participate in daily activities like milking the cows, and planting and harvesting crops. I also learned to make woven baskets, traditional Ecuadorean snacks, cheese, and panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) from freshly-cut sugar cane. The home-cooked food was the best I had during my entire time in Ecuador – possibly because almost all the ingredients were fresh from their own organic vegetable garden.

Accommodation and all meals cost just $20 USD (£15.50 GBP) a day and most activities are free. You can also stay with a local family and volunteer teaching English or farming for $60 USD (£46.50 GBP) or $55 USD (£42.62 GBP) per week respectively. Best of all you can stay for as long as you want. I ended up staying for 6 months!

This project is particularly dear to me because the whole of Intag is now threatened by large-scale copper mining proposals. Risks include deforestation, heavy metal poisoning of water sources, and air and soil pollution. Through ecotourism, they seek to conserve the cloud forest, push back against these proposals and improve the quality of life of the local people. So just by booking a stay here, you’ll be part of a much larger cause.

Michelle of MichWanderlust

Cloud Forest Adventure in Intag, Ecuador

Homestay and Farming Volunteering in Intag, Ecuador

The Rolling Pack

Every winter thousands of grey whales migrate south down the Pacific coast to the Baja peninsula in Mexico. If you are in Baja over the winter you can visit one of the three lagoons where the grey whales go to breed and give birth.

My partner and I visited Ojo de Liebre in February 2017, and it was the most incredible ecotourism experience of our lives. Only a few small boats go into the lagoon each day, and each boat only holds about 10-15 people. Since there are thousands of whales in the lagoon, you are literally surrounded by whales. Some of them were particularly curious about us and came right up to our small boat.

 

We also loved the fact that the boat did not approach the whales. Instead, the boat drove to the centre of the lagoon, turned off the engine, and sat quietly. The whales that approached us did so on their own terms, without any coercion from the humans. Also, the Mexican grey whale lagoons are heavily protected. The only boats of any kind allowed in the water are the tour boats led by specially trained guides.

 

We drove to the lagoon, camped, and took a tour at the government run office on the lagoon. It was $45 USD (£34.50 GBP) per person. Alternatively, Mario’s Tours in Guerrero Negro bus you to the lagoon, feed you lunch, and include the government boat tour for $125 USD (£95.80 GBP).

 

Our experience grey whale watching in Baja, Mexico was absolutely incredible, and I highly recommend adding it to your ecotourism bucket list!

Brittany of The Rolling Pack

Gray Whale Watching in Ojo de Liebre in Baja, Mexico

Gray Whale Watching in Ojo de Liebre, Baja, Mexico 

Nightborn Travel

The Dominican Republic (DR) is awash in mass tourism experiences, from cruise ships to all-inclusive resorts in Punta Cana, but the eastern half of Hispaniola has its share of ecotourism as well. One of my favourite eco-experiences in the DR is the hike up the country’s highest mountain, Pico Duarte.

There are tours available for this trek, but if you have a car (and are a very good/ careful driver), you can also drive to the base of the mountain to hire a local guide. This is what I ended up doing because the tours were hundreds of dollars (hiring your own guide in the national park was $18 a day, not including the $2 entrance fee and the cost of food). I also wanted to ensure that my money was going to a local person. Our guide helped us provision from the little store in the village, made sure that we didn’t get lost, and brought along his mule to help carry our things.

The steep hike from the jungle into the temperate forest of the mountain was pretty challenging for a two-day trip, but it’s also extremely enjoyable, and if you give yourself three days, you will love it even more. Braving the trail allows you to see a side of the DR that most people miss out on, and the views of the island from the top of the mountain are unmatched.

Aireona of Nightborn Travel

Pico Duarte Hike in the Dominican Republic

Pico Duarte Hike, Dominican Republic

Recipe For Travel

Summer of 2017 saw us embark on our first family adventure trek via Himalayan EcoTourism, a cooperative that has partnered with members of the ecozone of Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) and they run a women empowerment program.

I chose a 4 day/3 night trek route in the lower Himalayas from Jalori mountain pass (3120m) to Lambri top (3600 m). The first day was a three-hour walk and an easy trek to the holy Serolsar Lake. The second day was tough as we trekked for seven hours! We made our own path down slopes, cliffs and narrow ledges. Our campsite for 2 days was an amazing green meadow with a panoramic view of the snow clad Himalayan range. On the last (fourth day) we made a 600m descent to a village from where the car picked us up.

Our visit to this pristine, undisturbed natural area in the vicinity of the GHNP had us experience responsible and low-impact travel. We (and the kids) came back with richer ecotourism experience about the following:

  • Local wildlife, flora and fauna – Our guide understood plants, birds, insects and animals of the region and that helped us spot many trees, insects and birds on the way
  • Increased awareness about environmental degradation – We learnt about ways to minimize waste by using resources per need like water, food etc
  • Local cultural experiences – We crossed some villages, interacted with the locals and had a glimpse of their cultural and daily activities

The trek cost us 50K Rupees (£605) for 4 people. It included food, camping gear and the services of seven trek crew, including the guide.

Swati of Recipe For Travel

Gorgeous view from the camp site Jalori Mountain Pass trek

Jalori Mountain Pass Trek in the Himalayas, India

Can Travel Will Travel

I found it quite hard to pick my favourite ecotourism experience, mainly because there have been lots over the years, many a long time before this blog was started. Therefore I’ve decided to pick an experience that Andy and I did together when we were travelling through India on the way to Cambodia.

We badly wanted to explore the Kerala backwaters but decided the typical houseboat stay wasn’t for us. This was not only due to budget reasons (it’s very expensive) but also because their massive size means you can only navigate the larger canals and because of the significant environmental damage they cause. Their bow waves (wake) erode the banks and their diesel guzzling engines pollute the air.

Luckily for us, we decided to stay at Bella Art House and Meditation Centre in Kerala who work with local boatmen to offer an alternative way to see the Kerala backwaters – via a canoe day-trip. We had the most amazing day exploring the small, quiet canals of the backwaters away from all the other tourists and big houseboats.

Our boatman also took some short walks to explore paddy fields, visit the Chavara Bhavan Shrine, and to sample some of the local palm toddy in a toddy shop. Even more special was that before and after the canoe trip we visited his family home where his wife prepared us a delicious traditional Keralan breakfast and lunch.

This was a very eco-friendly trip as the canoe didn’t have an engine, our boatman paddled us the whole time. The trip only cost us 1,000 Rupees (£12 GBP) per person, which was great value as it also included water, breakfast, and lunch. It started at 8:30 am and finished at about 5 pm.
Kerala backwater canoe trip reflections

Canoe Day-trip on the Kerala Backwaters, India

 World Tourism Day Special - Travel Bloggers Favourite Ecotourism Experiences
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What has been your favourite ecotourism experience? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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21 thoughts on “Travel Bloggers’ Favourite Ecotourism Experiences | World Tourism Day Special

  1. Michelle

    It was really heartwarming to read about all these ecotourism experiences. Sustainable and responsible travel is one of my passions, and it’s always great to learn about places where you can travel in a responsible manner without damaging the environment – and possibly even helping it.

    I’ve been troubled lately reading some blog posts about irresponsible tourism practices such as swimming with sharks, where people were actually touching the marine life. All the enthusiastic responses to those posts were really depressing. So it’s a really great change to read about these responsible ecotourism experiences. With higher public awareness, hopefully interest in these types of experiences will grow. This will definitely be inspiration for my future travels. Pinned!

  2. Katherine

    It’s important to be mindful of the tourist attractions we visit. Happy to see others’ ecotourism experiences from all over the world. Gray whale watching seems fantastic! 🙂 Oh and thanks for including our piece on Apo Island.

  3. Aldrick Agpaoa

    Wow! Great experiences! Well for me, I joined a tree planting event in Mount Ulap, one of the more famous mountain ridges in the Cordilleran Region of the Philippines. Unfortunately, we were met by torrential rains but that did not stop us from planting those trees in the mountain. Ecotourism is really a good advocacy especially nowadays that we are now experiencing the adverse effects of climate change. I have also learned some insights on the entries above! 🙂

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      HI Aldrick; That sounds like an amazing experience! Glad the rains didn’t stop you! Glad you gained some insights from the experiences in the post too! 🙂

  4. Joanna

    I think it is really important to be mindful when we travel and to respect the environment. I think one of the worst thing that people are doing when they travel involves animal cruelty. I hope that more and more awareness campaign will be launched about this, especially on days like the World Tourism Day.

  5. Noel

    Whale-watching in the Philippines used to be in the list of things I wanted to experience. However, I learned that such activities poses more damage to the creatures, so I’d rather stay away.

    But I’m all in for trekking, tree planting, forest conservations and the likes.

    Blog collaborations ate such fun ways to discover more things that you’d usually miss out. So I’m liking this post.

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      I think in the case of The Rolling Packs experience they were careful to ensure whale watching where they did it was as sustainable as possible. They observed the whales from a distance. I agree if you have hoards of tourist boats that follow and chase the whales around it does cause alot of damage. I hope most people use their common sense if considering any activities like this. Glad you like the post – thanks 🙂

  6. Ambuj

    What a wonderful post. All the contributors have put their thoughts across in a wonderful manner. By the way I just stayed in a houseboat in kerala and loved the experience. It was not too big and neither did it burn a hole in my pocket.

    1. TanyaKorteling Post author

      Thanks 🙂 I’m afraid I don’t know but in the contribution, they said there were lots of whales so I’d expect pretty high (depending on the time of year)!

  7. SONALI

    Hi, Great post, Houseboat experience was amazing. Not able to describe in words.
    Nice stories and photos. Will subscribe and read regularly.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Sonali

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