We often hear the word ‘ecotourism’ thrown about, especially when we are planning our travels, and even more so when thinking about going on an Africa safari. So, what exactly is ecotourism and why should we care?
Put simply, ecotourism is the concept that when you travel you are aware of and responsible for your impact upon the land, the wildlife, and the people with whom you interact. In short, how can you best protect the natural environment all around you.
Of course, we all want to keep our physical and resource impact to a minimum and maybe even help or improve the places we travel through. Here are some ways to increase your awareness and better our environment when on safari.
A Good Definition
To really understand the concept, let’s see how the International Ecotourism Society defines this vital subject: “The responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”.
So let’s consider all aspects of our journey, starting with your outfitter. Are they aware of these eco-aware ideas; do they talk about their own environmental practices? How heavy or light is their footprint upon the land?
Even aspects that we take for granted like where we stay should be considered in the context of this new green perspective. Eco-lodging is the innovative solution for those aiming for the lowest impact. These kind of accommodations use renewable energy for their on-site power, also utilizing best lighting and water preservation practices.
Recycling, organic, and non-toxic cleaning products also help the local environment. Your dollars at an eco-lodge can foster employment within the local community while also preserving the area’s natural resources.
The Local Connection
Staying at a more eco-focused accommodation has many advantages – there’s an emphasis on conserving the natural environment and its wildlife. But there is also another appealing people-centered feature: eco-lodges can bring guests close to indigenous communities. Safari-goers learn about the local people, their cultures and lifestyles. The local people, in turn, can share and educate travelers with up-close experiences, like guided walking safaris, learning about the land and the wildlife from the local experts.
But don’t forget, ecotourism is active and fun – safari-goers know this when they are tracking for the big game in their natural habitats. Keeping a safe and respectful distance from the wildlife and not overcrowding the parks and viewing spots ensures the valuable lands will stay protected for the animals into the future.
Soft adventure activities like the aforementioned guided hikes, bicycling, and water activities such as snorkeling leave the smallest impact on the environment. And don’t forget to seek out cultural, culinary, and historical activities where you get to observe and learn about the lives of others. A visit to a fort, a monument, or a local kitchen not only enriches you and your travel experience but also creates a bond with the people of the resident community.
And ultimately being respectful of the local population’s views and beliefs enriches everyone.
As you’ll come to experience, ecotourism is not only a positive force for the environment, the wildlife, and the local community but for the actively engaged traveler or safari-goer. You’ll receive so much back, just as you’ve given to your surroundings.