“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” — Chief Seattle.
Ecotourism, or Eco-Travel, is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”
In short, it means to travel responsibly.
Five principles of Ecotourism help categorize this genre of travel, and they are:
- Travel to natural destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, etc.
- Minimize the impact on the environment by traveling with the use of less fossil fuel.
- Respect local culture.
- Provide direct financial benefits like donating to national parks or supporting local businesses.
- Build environmental awareness.
Booking stays at wellness retreats, host families, hostels, and the local, smaller hotels or campsites are wonderful ways to support ecotourism.
The Benefits of Ecotourism
Traveling with the intention of minimizing the cost of the environment can potentially grant you access to dive deeper into the local culture. By showing your support, locals may be more comfortable engaging with you and telling you about local hotspots that tourists typically don’t get to experience.
Some of the main benefits of ecotourism for you and the environment are:
- It encourages positive experiences for you.
- Ecotourism may help protect sensitive environmental locations and raise awareness of local environmental and delicate social issues.
- Protect natural environments.
- Minimally make an impact on local natural resources.
When I took a vacation to Tamarindo, Costa Rica, my girlfriend and I would stop each day at a local smoothie bar. Each day we talked to the employees about life in their beautiful country. I mentioned we were looking to go on an excursion and mentioned an excursion the Airbnb host suggested. Immediately, they told me not to waste my money because it would be heavily crowded and wouldn’t be as personable. An employee pointed me to a local that ran excursions. He had a legitimate business with excellent reviews but didn’t advertise. My girlfriend and I signed up and saved almost $75 for an all-day excursion. The same young man who pointed us to the excursion was our tour guide’s translator the morning of. We were the only ones on this excursion. They took us to hidden waterfalls, taught us about their culture, and we enjoyed lunch on someone’s farm. We sat in their dining room and enjoyed a homemade Costa Rican meal. They were kind, respectful, and spoke zero English. Granted, we were given the option of dining at a restaurant, but no way were we passing up an authentic home-cooked meal by a family who grew their ingredients right next to their home.
Responsible Travel Tips
- Visit during the off-season or go off the beaten path if you’re up for an adventure.
- Take shorter showers, and do laundry in bulk.
- When visiting beautiful and untouched landscapes, be careful of geotagging them when you post on social media. It’ll help avoid mass tourism.
- Don’t litter. Clean up any trash you may find on your hiking trails.
- Lastly, always respecting the people, culture, environment, and animals.
If you visit the island of Kauai, all of their water, including tap water, comes from the Volcano and tastes delicious. It’s clean, and locals trust it. You don’t have to worry about getting sick because your body isn’t used to it. Save yourself money and protect the environment by not purchasing bottled water — the water there comes from natural springs. Every little bit counts — simply reducing your use of single use plastic goes a long way.
Volunteer with Elephants
A popular excursion of ecotourism is visiting an Elephant Sanctuary. It is a sustainable and ethical ecotourism project. Some are not ethical, but the majority are.
You can feed, play, and bathe the elephants at the sanctuary. Some elephant sanctuaries are for older elephants, while some are rehabilitation centers. One way to tell if it’s an ethical sanctuary is by looking at what to expect when volunteering. If they let you ride an elephant, then it is not ethical. Elephants are big but not meant to be ridden, and it can severely damage their back and legs over time.
National Geographic backs some sanctuaries for funding. At the sanctuary, elephants are free to roam around the land without being locked in a cage. They choose which elephants to hang out with and if they want to be around humans visiting the sanctuary. Nothing is forced upon them or you at the sanctuary. It is a safe and fun experience. If you enjoy connecting deeper with nature, this may be the place for you.
At Hadobody, sustainability and ethical practices are our things, from the wonderful people that make our garments in Los Angeles to the eco-friendly good-for-you natural fibers used to make our apparel. We also believe that giving back is important. We have partnered with 7 Charities that we believe are aligned with each of the Chakras in the 7 Chakra System and our own personal values. With each purchase, a percentage of profits of that purchase is donated to support that particular charity.
Making even the slightest change to your travel plans to be more eco-friendly makes an impact. Locally in your area, participating in beach or park clean-ups or supporting local businesses to keep your city’s energy alive can go a long way, as well.
Travel responsibly, and we wish you safe travels this summer!
With Love and Light!