To become a part of the growing industry of sustainable tourism is for many an inspiring experience where you commune with nature while contributing to the conservation of a local ecosystem. You are also bestowing respect to the integrity of the host community.
Deforestation in Ecuador
Deforestation is causing the inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest to come close to extinction. However, while making it to within 30 meters of the banks of the world’s largest river may not be a stroll in the park, it could help preserve a remote and beautiful part of the tropics.
Based in the Pavacachi reserve in Ecuador, an expedition run by travel company responsible travel in collaboration with the Yachana Foundation gives volunteers the opportunity to work alongside local communities collecting water from the river and wood from the forest while studying rare and endangered species. Logging is an attractive option for those trying to make ends meet. This project is helping this Kichwa tribe community to provide for their families.
Africa and Mount Kilimanjaro
Further east along the equator is the world’s most massive free-standing mountain. The steady expansion of communities into limited forested areas around the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya has caused a bad wheel to start turning.
Ironically those moving into deforested areas are decreasing their quality of life as the woodland previously provided water supply to over seven million people. As with Ecuador, many are attracted by small-scale cash crop production. However, this is effectively the root of the problem. It is the forest that generates and receives most of the rainfall to provide for those further downstream each year.
Planting three million trees in the area is part of a project run by Carbon Covenant, and at the cost of $155,400, they hope to be able to preserve agriculture, promote organic farming and ultimately reduce carbon emissions for a generation. Reforestation can both minimize a negative impact on the environment and create part of a life-saving forest but the hardest part is convincing local communities that in the long-term it may aid their survival.
The Great Pandas of China
Still north of the equator, programmes have been put in place in China to protect some of the most beloved animals in the world. One of these in grave danger of extinction is the Giant Panda. There around 1,000 of these living fossils left in the world and the center at the foot of the Qinling Mountains looks after over 270 of them. The involvement of adventure travel company 1-to-1 enables staff to improve their English, which in turn attracts more tourists. This will provide more money for research and a better quality of life for the pandas.
The Great Barrier Reef
Further south along the Tropic of Capricorn there is a breakdown in an important relationship that could end in the demise of a glorious natural wonder. When sea temperatures stay unusually hot for too long the organisms of the Great Barrier Reef die and are therefore unable to provide food. Marine biologists predict that if the coral bleaching continues the undersea gardens of the reefs all around the world will be destroyed.
Scientists are now looking for help from some of the people who would be most affected by the loss of these beautiful marine structures: tourists. Coral Health Reef Walks have been introduced so that visitors can make a contribution to saving the environment by simply making color matches and recording codes.
Is Eco-tourism the Answer?
Many argue that there is a split between projects run by environmental organizations that are sustainably managed and the increasing number operated by the tourism industry that focuses more on product and profit. Eco-tourism may disturb flora and fauna and have an adverse effect on local culture due to the increasing number of visitors. However, projects that are managed by the local communities do bring tremendous benefits from economic opportunities to water conservation. In this way tourism can help to save parts of the living world from extinction, thus becoming sustainable eco-tourism.