To 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.
Katherine from Tara Lets Anywhere
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
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
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.
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
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
Can Travel Will Travel
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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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