The holidays are long over and now its just winter time. There is something about this part of the year that makes people start thinking about their warm weather vacation plans. I recently received some cruise pamphlets in the mail, so I know I'm not the only one thinking about getting away to a warmer climate.
Eco-tourism has definitely reached the mainstream. In fact, its become so popular, there are many "wannabes" out there looking to make a quick buck. People want to have the opportunity to see animals in their natural habitat while enjoying beautiful beaches or lush tropical forests. If this is your idea of a perfect getaway and you're currently researching vacation options, let me help you out.
First, let me point you to an organization of conservation experts who have created standards for eco-tourism. They have been around since before eco-tourism was cool and are by far the experts on the subject, the International Ecotourism Society. On their site, you will find a link on the left hand navigation panel that leads you to "Travel Choice" an area listing travel companies approved by the organization. Surfing through some of those different companies will offer a quick glimpse into some of the different opportunities available.
Second, follow the rules for responsible ecotouring...
Learn about your destination before you get there. Read guidebooks, travel articles, histories, and/or novels by local authors and pay particular attention to customs such as greetings, appropriate dress, eating behaviors, etc. Being sensitive to these customs will increase local acceptance of you as a tourist and enrich your trip.
Follow established guidelines. Ask your ecotour operator, guide and /or the local authorities what their guidelines are for limiting tourism's impact on the environment and local culture. Staying on trails, packing up your trash, and remaining set distances away from wildlife are a few ways to minimize your impact in sensitive areas.
Seek out and support locally-owned businesses. Support local businesses during your ecotravels to ensure maximum community and conservation benefit from your tourist dollars