bridge in the woods

10 Ways to be an Ecotourist

Do you desire to be an eco friendly tourist but aren’t sure how? Keep reading for 10 ways to be an ecotourist!

Environmental issues have been the topic of many discussions recently. With all of the bureaucracy about the cutting of carbon emissions and how to live a closer to earth lifestyle, being environmentally friendly can seem quite complicated.  

As for ecotourism, there are many ways to take an environmentally friendly journey. Quite a few of these are tips which can be easily put into practice oneself.

Here are 10 ways to become an ecotourist:

Before you travel

1. Plan to visit locations where there will not be so many other tourists, or plan your trip during the low season

When you are researching destinations, take the time to look into destinations during their off season. Not only is off season travel more affordable, but it also allows one to visit an area when there are relatively few tourists. Over-tourism becomes a problem when the amount of tourists exceeds the capacity of the destination. Over-tourism not only has a negative effect on the environment, but on the local communities as well. 

2. Book your stay at a local, eco friendly accommodation

Ecolodges and eco-hotels abound. It is always preferable to book your stay at an eco-friendly accommodation as they are known to be more energy efficient, take careful measures to produce a much lower carbon footprint and are consistently involved in efforts to reduce emissions, improve recycling and to be more self sustaining when possible. Many eco accommodation sites offer the possibility to experience and partake in the daily life and happenings of the local community.

In addition to the surroundings, frequenting locally owned establishments directs your funds back into the local community, rather than generating profits overseas by staying at a foreign-funded hotel franchise.

In the current atmosphere, there are many incredible eco friendly accommodation options, complete with breathtaking views, immersion into the local culture and delicious foods!

3. Organise or register for ecotours operated by locals

While excitedly browsing the internet for ideas of fun activities during your travels, consider the possibility of organising an ecotour for yourself or your group. You should select  ecotours that are operated by locals. Not only will this return some profits back into the local community, but it’s even more beneficial for you because the locals always know the most ideal locations to offer you the best possible experience.

Strive to work with an accredited certified ecotourism, such as Earthcheck ECO or GSTC accreditation ex; Travelife. There are a variety of eco tour certifications, more than are just listed here. If you are unsure, take a moment to look at the tour company’s website. Official certification badges are generally prominently posted on the homepage. 

If you are unable to find a certified ecotour company in the area, there are sometimes learning-focused tours that are offered on a local level. When in doubt, travel forums are a good place to learn about your fellow travellers’ experiences with tour companies.

At your Destination

4. Use public transportation

Using a more eco-friendly form of transportation in your destination is always a good way to travel. Buses and trains are common forms of transportation for tourists. In some destinations, even travel by walking or bicycling is possible if the distances aren’t so long. In doing so, one can take in the sensory environment as well as the physical environment for a memorable day of amazing views, one might miss otherwise! If you are travelling by water, explore the possibilities of utilising modes of transport such as sailboats, rowboats or even paddle boarding.

As always, we recommend that you stay informed as to weather patterns in your chosen destination, as well as the daily weather report.

5. Visit nature preservation areas with rangers

Nature preservation areas are a keystone to ecotourism. Having the unique ability to experience nature in its most precious and untouched form, is highly sought after. One is not only able to see a variety of animals in their natural habitats, but also one can find rare flora and fauna throughout.

It is always advised to utilise the services of a local wilderness or nature guide. Often referred to as rangers, these guides are familiar with the environment and can aid you in the best way to interact within the environment without inadvertently causing harm to any of the environment. These guides are also very helpful with sharing the local history, as well as reminding of any necessary precautions in a variety of scenarios. You can learn a lot more about nature and locals with a ranger, than go alone.

6. Be aware of your rubbish

This may sound obvious, but nevertheless, litter from tourism remains a problem. Never leave your rubbish behind! Always make the effort to bring a sealable bag for rubbish in your pack, so that you can take your rubbish with you and dispose of it when you find the proper place for disposal (such as a rubbish bin).

7. Practice a ‘Hands-off’ approach to wildlife and plant-life

‘Take only photos, Leave only footprints’. Practicing a ‘hands off’ approach to wildlife and plant-life is an important action in ecotourism. The best is to observe everything from a bit of a distance. This will help to control the urge to touch, especially with flora as their textures can sometimes seem irresistible. 

Not touching the wildlife, is not only to protect the pristine environment and to not stress the animals in their natural habitat, but it is also to protect your person.  Animals react and plant-life can be sometimes poisonous to the touch. In many circumstances, even taking a flower is considered as an act of vandalism, which is punishable by law. It is always advisable to just be a bystander and to witness nature; not by interacting with it, but by witnessing the serene beauty of it. Stand back and take many photos!

8. Use ocean-friendly sun products

Most sun products (including lotions, oils, sprays) are reported to cause damage to the coral reefs.

The most recognised ingredients which cause harm to the coral reefs are cited to be the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are both common chemicals in sunscreen products. (Consumer reports) Although these 2 chemicals are the most common, they are not the only ingredients which pose an environmental threat. Finding environmentally friendly means of UV protection can be challenging. However there is a plethora of information available on the internet which includes the use of sun shades, cotton clothing and recommendations of coral safe sun products.

9. Eat local food with local ingredients

‘Go where the locals go’. Have you ever heard this popular travel saying? Ask any frequent traveller where to find the best food, and the reply will certainly be ‘go where the locals go’. Locals always know the best places, with the best food, friendliest people and prices not generally found in high tourism areas. 

Following this travel advice is also of benefit to the eco traveller. Dining at local eating establishments will not only offer the guest a more authentic experience by offering foods which generally consist of locally sourced ingredients in an environment frequented by the local populace, but will also direct the funds back into the area community.

The opposing side of eating meals at the local place, is the tourist-laden,  imposing buffet restaurant whose curb appeal explains away the high food prices. As an ecotourist, one must be aware of the extraordinary amounts of food waste and the very high carbon emissions that these types of high-volume restaurants generate. 

Dining on food made with locally sourced ingredients is truly a treat! 

10. Purchase locally made souvenirs

Admit it, it’s a good feeling to know you are carrying a very special souvenir on your return. Even better when you know that every cent you spent on it went to the local community which produced it. Purchasing locally made souvenirs not only contributes to the local community, but you can be quite confident that the quality of the work is far superior to any of the mass marketing souvenir options which are otherwise, widely available.

As an indirect effect of your purchase, travel and tourism agencies dictate available options based on consumer demand. It helps to keep in mind that the more people who show interest in purchasing locally made products, the more willing the tourism industry is to offer these options in a more open manner.

As opposed to purchasing inexpensive, mass manufactured and widely available souvenirs, why not take the time to look a bit closer in the community and take something really unique back with you.

As an ecotourist, local is always better!

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