After a year of border closings and shutdowns, you’re ready to give in to your pent-up wanderlust. But there’s one problem: how can you travel safely and responsibly during a pandemic?
One surprising answer in the era of Covid-19 is ecotourism. Ecotourism adventures take you to remote areas where you can safely witness animals and vegetation of every kind in their own habitat. Since the areas are not typical vacation hotspots, it’s much easier to ensure social distancing. VisitorsCoverage has your beginner’s travel safety guide to ecotourism just in time for Earth Day 2021.
A Beginner’s Guide to Ecotourism
So, let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is ecotourism? Ecotourism is a carefully curated way to see fragile, undisturbed natural areas while learning about and contributing to conservation efforts. Through ecotours, you have the rare opportunity to observe wildlife in the wild. No cages, no plexiglass, no plastic habitats. Imagine seeing bioluminescent fish swimming freely on the coast of Florida or getting hands-on experience by tending to animals on one of Costa Rica’s many farms.
Costa Rica & ecotourism
Speaking of Costa Rica, did you know Costa Rica boasts one of the most impressive ecotourism initiatives in the world? You can go on guided ecotours to take in the country’s natural beauty and majestic wildlife while discovering how to protect and maintain these animals and their habitats. As an ecotourist you have an opportunity to leave nature better off than when you found it, not something you can say about all vacations. Even if these areas aren’t directly impacted by human activity, the effects of global warming have hurt even the most remote areas of the world. Consider ecotourism your chance to help offset the impact of climate change. If you decide on a trip to Costa Rica,, the country currently requires international tourists to provide proof of travel insurance due to COVID-19. If you need travel insurance for your Costa Rica ecotourism adventure, research your options.
Stay at an ecolodge
An ecolodge or eco-resort is a tourist accommodation designed to have minimal impact on the environment. It’s often just a part of a guided ecotour or larger environmental project. While there are ecolodges and eco-resorts around the world, from Sydney, to New York City, Costa Rica should be singled out for its array of green accommodations. In fact, hotels in Costa Rica are rated according to their degree of sustainability by the Certificate for Sustainable Tourism Program (CSTP). Instead of the typical stars, the CSTP rates hotels by leaves. The highest level of sustainability attainable in the program is five leaves. Imagine ditching your electronics for candlelit nights and your own private infinity pool. Many of the hotels have amazing amenities which will make going off the grid a fun adventure.
Be sure to note that Many ecolodges are only accessible by raft or helicopter. If you suffer a medical event or incur an injury, medical resources might be limited and you may require emergency medical evacuation to the nearest hospital. Luckily, many travel insurance plans offer emergency medical evacuation coverage as well as 24-hour medical assistance.
Ecohotels are a little different from ecolodges and eco-resorts. They tend to be closer to popular vacation sites and may not always offer a truly eco-friendly experience. If you opt for an ecohotel, do your research to make sure it practices conservation and sustainability.
Other countries with Ecotourism initiatives:
Costa Rica might be one of the frontrunners of ecotourism, but it’s certainly not the only country with sustainable tourism initiatives. In the Philippines, the bustling metropolis of Donsol allows only a limited number of tourists to swim with whale sharks so as not to disrupt their population. You can also experience scuba diving with manta rays without harming their habitats.
Over in Australia, the Great Barrier Reef has been under threat for some time now due to man-made pollutants, excessive fishing and the effects of climate change. Thanks to the conservation efforts of the islanders along the reef, this habitat for over 1500 types of fish is in recovery. The islands rely on ecotourism to fund additional conservation efforts.
If you’re looking for something different, head to Iceland’s national parks for amazing views, lava-fields and plenty of sustainable resources.
Explore Borneo’s vast network of caves, hike amazing peaks and witness one of the most unique geological phenomena in the world, the tangle of limestone spires known as the Pinnacles. Not only can you engage in adventure sports, but you can actually help protect and conserve it alongside your local tour guides.
There’s always the Galapagos Islands. Often noted as the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution, this collection of islands engages in low-impact tourism to protect the natural biodiversity. This means that authorities limit the number of tourists allowed on the islands day by day. And these lucky tourists must be accompanied by an official tour guide.
Ecotourism benefits the local host communities
At its best, ecotourism is designed to benefit the local host communities. By spending money on ecotourism adventures, you’ll be investing in the communities you’ll be learning about. Your investment will help sustain these local communities and their ways of life. Your money can contribute to conservation efforts and humanitarian aid. The money you spend in these communities protects the local people and wildlife and ensures that more ecotourists can learn from the experience of visiting.
Ecotourism encourages responsible and safe tourism
Education is a huge part of ecotourism. Not only will you learn about the wildlife you witness and the cultures you immerse yourself in, but you’ll also learn how you can protect and defend the environments you experience on your ecotours even after you return to your home country. If you want to do more than just learn, many ecotours offer opportunities for participatory cleanup. This can mean picking up litter on beaches or ridding the water itself of man-made pollutants.
Getting to know the wildlife and natural beauty impacted by climate change and man-made activity might make you think twice about a thirty-minute shower or the importance of recycling and notand littering. The impact doesn’t stop with just you;. travelers from all over the world may experience the same ecotour and when they return to their respective corners of the globe, they might adopt greener practices too.
Responsible tourists take note:
Sustainable tourism has grown in popularity since the 1990s. A report by The Travel Foundation, a UK-based organization dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism, found that 66% of travelers would like to more easily identify “greener” holidays. Similarly, the Center for Responsible Travel recorded that 1 in 5 travelers would be willing to pay a bit more for a vacation they knew was eco-friendly and sustainable. But how do you know you’re truly participating in sustainable travel? As ecotourism experiences a bit of a post-pandemic boom, more companies might be tempted to cash in on the “eco” movement. A hotelier might call its latest resort an eco-resort because they recycle, but that alone doesn’t meet the standards of ecotourism. As you plan out and book your ecotour adventure, do your research and make sure your vacation choices truly meet the standards of sustainable tourism.
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