Eco-Tourism Programs Abroad
Eco-tourism or ecological tourism – to give it its proper name - can be best described as a form of tourism which minimises the damaging effects that tourism has upon the environment. It can involve the promotion of energy efficiency water conservation, wilderness adventures, wildlife programmes, sustainable development and the creation of an economic climate which can greatly benefit local communities, providing opportunities for them to prosper and to enhance their cultural integrity and to maintain their heritage and traditions.
There are eco-tourism projects all over the world which benefit greatly from voluntary help and we’ll look at some of these in greater depth later but ideally, to qualify as an ecologically sound program, a project should fulfil various criteria. This should include some or all of the following:
- The conservation of both biological and cultural diversity through protection of the eco-system
- The sharing of the economic and social benefits of a project with local communities and indigenous people by obtaining their consent and enabling them to have a full participation in the project
- To promote both environmental awareness and cultural knowledge
- To minimise the impact of tourism upon the environment
- To protect and educate people about local culture, wildlife, fauna and flora
How Does Conventional Tourism Damage Local Communities?Tourism represents an opportunity to make a lot of money and the problem with this is that governments and local businesses can often make rash assumptions about what tourists are seeking when actually these assumptions can often tend to only represent a fraction of what tourists actually want. Therefore, situations that can totally devastate local communities can arise. Examples might include building hotels or a state of the art golf course in a location which means that local communities are forced out of their homes as they are demolished to make way for new developments and a sudden increase in tourists can often place an unbearable strain on things like a local community’s water supply which, in certain regions, could actually prove catastrophic for the local community. Therefore, with an emphasis on environmental protection very much at the forefront of everybody’s minds these days, sustainable tourism is something that we should all be looking to embrace. Here are a few success stories and may give you some ideas of locations in which you can volunteer to help.
Examples of Ecotourism ProjectsThe list of ecotourism projects in which you can work as a volunteer is immense. Protecting giant turtles on the Galapagos Islands or helping to preserve the Great Barrier Reef in Australia are just two of the more well known examples. Other areas where you might choose to volunteer could include:
- Leopard monitoring and research in Sri Lanka for its protection and conservation
- The protection of endangered sea turtles in Costa Rica
- Reforestation programs in Ecuador
- Building new schools in Peru
- Marine conservation in Fiji
- Elephant protection in Botswana