Archive for the ‘educational’ category

This Week in EcoTourism News

August 28, 2016

An article that I recently shared pointed out how purchasing experiences brings more happiness to individuals than purchasing things.  Purchasing a home, clothing, cars, and other material goods doesn’t come close to the happiness boost that experiences such as travel, dining with friends or family, or nature does.

Spending time in nature, while minimizing impact on nature, is a travel goal worth underlining, and worth promoting wherever in the world it happens.  This past week the following stories came across my desk:

  1. Romania Tourism Revamp Aims for more Danube, Less Dracula.  One man, Mr. Patzaichin, is bringing tourists to the Blue Danube of Strauss, rather than the focus in the past two decades on the culture and myths around Dracula. Romania is a country that can certainly have both.
  2. Apatani Tribe Giving Back to Nature.  In rural India, a tribe living in the Ziro Valley is notable for their low impact on their environment.  The customs and practices of the tribe may teach others how to use techniques that have the least impact on the environment.
  3. The Nenetsky Nature Reserve in Arctic Russia is opening a new eco-tourism route, called “Barefoot Across the Tundra“, in 2017.  It’s a five kilometer route, and sounds like quite an experience:  “Walking across the tundra barefoot is a fantastic experience. You have the indescribable feeling of sinking into the moss, catching your toes on the lichen, having berries burst under your soles, and then walking across soft, warm sand,” said Valentina Semenchenko, deputy director of environmental education at Saylyugemsky National Park.”
  4. In Maine, a Couple has Started a new Ecotourism Company, Venture Outside, which aims to provide tourists with “physical and holistic activities in natural settings around the world”.  Their most popular excursion is called the TMT  — the Try Maine Tri — a five-day adventure designed to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. The itinerary includes three sports, interspersed around other activities in various places throughout Maine, including the Boothbay-Camden area, Downeast-Acadia National Park region, and Baxter State Park.
  5. The Country of Ghana is getting a 1.2 billion Ultra Modern Ecotourism Park in its Capital City.  That funding will bring construction of amusement parks, orchards, an arboretum, wildlife safaris, museums, ecocommercial enclaves, and ecolodges, with as little disruption to natural vegetation cover as possible.

Thoughts on Ecotourism in the form of sustainable farming

July 16, 2016

Some thoughts on Ecotourism from news stories this week (July 8-15, 2016):

After reading about the eighth annual Ecotourism conference, which took place earlier this month, this week I saw an “ecotourism” article about a working farm, with goats, in Reno, of all places, which I thought was a strange subject and location for ecotourism.  When I, and I believe most people, think of ecotourism, we tend to think of unspoiled wilderness, or nature, and certainly pre-agricultural era environments.

The article really is about structuring farms to take advantage of natural symbiosis and existing processes in nature, and to that extent, it reminds me of the work of Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms.  You may be familiar with Joel Salatin from author Michael Pollan’s works mentioning him (in books and articles).  Salatin raises cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals, and uses the symbiotic relationships between the animals and the growth and decomposition of natural processes to make a self contained system for growing animals and crops naturally. Joel is well known in the organic farming world for his nine books and many lectures, as well as being featured in several documentaries.  And his farm has been a tourist attraction of sorts as a result.

For example, Salatin’s structure of farming emphasizes healthy grass on which animals can thrive in a symbiotic cycle of feeding. he calls himself a “sun farmer”, as a result, as the grass grown by the sun is the center of the structure of the farming process.  Cows are moved from one pasture to another rather than being centrally corn fed. Then chickens in portable coops are moved in behind them, where they dig through the cow dung to eat protein-rich fly larvae while further fertilizing the field with their droppings.

I hadn’t thought about that as an eco-friendly aspect of tourism, but it clearly is.  It appeals to those interested in viewing the farm and the processes, and educates and helps save the impact on the Earth as well.

–Robert Miller





How to be a responsible eco-tourist

July 17, 2012

After reading an article in Discover magazine (which I would link to, but I can’t find other than on my bathroom counter at home), I realized that there is a dark side to ecotourism.  It mentioned the trash, pollution from jeeps, and danger to tourists from animals or acts of nature.  The following tips, from a hotel group in India, might help.

How to be a responsible tourist

• Do not use facilities that have altered the natural habitat. These may include resorts, hotels, swimming pools, especially boundary walls and fences. These alter and inhibit animal movement.

• Avoid resorts that have swimming pools or fountains. These are wasting a precious local resource, especially in areas with water scarcity. Check if the resort uses a rainwater harvesting device.

• Recycle: You can use a towel for two days instead of demanding room service replace it every day.

• Avoid the use of detergents, soaps and toiletries that are toxic or not eco soluble. Check if the resort has restrictions on detergents, soaps and toiletries or waste-management systems and solar power.

• Do not use perfumes and deodorants on a safari.

• Do not use light and sound in restricted zones after dark. Do not insist on night safaris, driving through protected zones, or playing the stereo loudly. If unavoidable, put headlights on low beam, use the dipper and drive slow.

• Use resorts or home-stays run by local communities, people dependent on the forest, however basic. Ensure you are contributing to the local economy.

• Do not crowd

Babys first swim

I just used this photograph (marginally relevant to the swimming pool tip) because I think my son Louis is cute, and it reminds me of his first swim! – Robert 

animals. You may feel like your safari is a waste if you haven’t seen a tiger up close, but as one conservationist put it: “How would you feel to be put on exhibition, surrounded by 40 jeeps, each with eight humans, each with a camera?”

Volunteering in Costa Rica and Protecting Wildlife

June 8, 2012

Reporter Jane from the Brisbane Times had the following account of working as a volunteer taking care of wildlife in Costa Rica.  It’s a great read and makes me want to return to Costa Rica.


Tapir (Photo credit: FrogMiller)

By 8am we’re sitting on upturned buckets on the floor of a concrete shed, up to our elbows in bananas, plantains, papayas and a curious tuberous vegetable called yucca. It has very hard, pure white flesh and tough, brown skin and it takes a good whack with a lethally sharp knife to break into bite-size pieces – just the way a hungry tapir likes it.

Later we’ll load two big buckets of this concoction into a wheelbarrow and march it down a short track to four hungry tapirs.

Animal rescue... tapirs are cared for at La MarinaWildlife Rescue Centre.Animal rescue… tapirs are cared for at La MarinaWildlife Rescue Centre. Photo: Jane Mundy

Preparing food for the animals is the first task of the day at La Marina, a privately funded animal rescue centre in the central valley of Costa Rica. Animals as diverse as spider monkeys, capuchins, kinkajous, pythons, scarlet macaws, ocelots, eagles and vultures, crocodiles and even a pair of lions find homes here. Some are injured, some have lost their habitats or are handed in by people who have kept them as pets. Some will be nursed back to health and released into their natural habitat – but most will not. They will see out their days at La Marina, cared for and protected.

The small team of volunteers busy chopping, slicing and dicing is like a mini European Union. Tinoos is a thirtysomething Danish opera singer-turned-carpenter. Elias is a Belgian university dropout. Romy is undertaking field work for the biology course she studies in the Netherlands. There is someone from Russia, someone from Germany. They all seem younger than us and must wonder why a couple of oldies from Australia choose to spend a week of their Central American holiday in a place like this.

Yes, we could have opted for something cleaner, safer and more fragrant. But that’s one of the things about volunteering – you get all kinds.

As we come along the track with our wheelbarrow, the tapirs – three adults and an adolescent who has just grown out of his stripy juvenile coat – wait and watch. Tapirs are extraordinary-looking creatures, rather like a large pig with an extended nose-cum-trunk. It’s as though the animal thought for a while about being an elephant, then changed its mind. They come to the gate of their large, leafy enclosure, hungry and curious, sniffing the air, teeth bared.

I have a healthy respect for wild animals and the need to keep one’s distance so I tread cautiously. Two hundred kilograms of angry tapir can make a mess of your arm. Yet although they are equipped with a formidable set of teeth, these tapirs are docile and affectionate – seemingly not just because they’re hungry. They appear to be fond of being stroked, scratched and cuddled. Yes, cuddled. Arms around their necks, cheeks pressed against coarse hide. The full love-in.

Around the middle of the day we make our way to the lunch room where volunteers compare the contents of lunch boxes prepared for us by our hosts.

Part of the deal at La Marina is that volunteers are billeted with Costa Rican families and our “mother”, Xinia, takes the job of feeding us seriously. Today it is rice and beans. Yesterday it was beans and rice. Xinia speaks barely a word of English but we can more or less make ourselves understood and as well as feeding us and washing our filthy work clothes, Xinia makes us feel part of her wonderful extended family.

It’s usual for family members to live next door to one another; living next to Xinia is one of her five sisters and family, and next door again is a brother.

In Costa Rica, where more than 25 per cent of the country is dedicated national park, there’s no shortage of animal-viewing opportunities: by river, horse-back ride to the base of a volcano or guided walk through a forest.

Eco-tourism is a big earner but viewing opportunities in the wild, although plentiful, must be from a distance: scarlet macaws flash across a clear blue sky; a sloth is curled high in the tree tops; rustling branches denote a troupe of howler monkeys on the move.

You need luck, patience and good binoculars. At La Marina you get to see animals at close range, for longer, and can touch some of them.

But volunteering here is not all about cuddling tapirs, however. There is hard work to be done and it’s not glamorous: bird cages cleaned; building materials carried; paths swept. The wild pigs’ enclosure is cleaned daily – not a popular task.

However, there is something satisfying about these hands-on experiences and I find that I don’t want to leave. I have become attached to the animals. Even to tapirs.


Getting there

United Airlines has a fare to San Jose from Los Angeles for about $600 low-season round trip, including tax. Flight is about 8hr,s including transit time in Houston).

Volunteering there

La Marina Wildlife Rescue Centre is in San Carlos, Alajuela, 60 kilometres north-west of San Jose. A bus ($2.50, about 3hr) operates from downtown San Jose to Ciudad Quesada (8½ kilometres from La Marina).

A flat fee of $US250 ($256) applies regardless of the length of stay, including airport pick-up and introduction to a host family. An extra $US13 a day covers a room and meals; see

Read more:

South Carolina getting an Ecotourism Park?

May 29, 2012
Patriots Point in Charleston, SC.

Patriots Point in Charleston, SC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A zip-line running from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Yorktown some 850 feet to shore is among the recreational possibilities being explored in a proposal to locate an adventure/eco-tourism-themed park at Patriots Point.

Other options include a boardwalk through a tree canopy, a tree house and a climbing wall.


“It’s just a great opportunity for both organizations. We’re pretty excited about the possibilities,” said Wayne Adams, Patriots Point vice chairman.

The new park on less than 10 acres would be a way to give more people access to Patriots Point, he said.

“It’s on land that we can’t use for anything else,” Adams said.

Patriots Point board member Edwin Taylor said the venture would cost the Naval and Maritime Museum nothing and could increase visitors.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said.

The PRC would fund the park, Taylor said.

PRC Chairman Ravi Sanyal said $1.5 million for the eco-tourism park became available when plans for an eco-lodge at Folly Beach fell by the wayside. No new funds would be needed for the project, he said.

The Patriots Point board approached PRC commissioners with the idea of an eco-adventure park that could also include kayaking and wall-climbing.

“The commission was overwhelmingly in favor of the idea. It’s a trend that we want to be a part of. PRC wants to be a leader in that genre. We want Charleston to be an eco-tourism destination,” Sanyal said.

PRC would lease land for the park from Patriots Point.

“We would fully operate the park,” he said.

PRC Executive Director Tom O’Rourke said that he and Patriots Point Executive Director Mac Burdette came up with the idea for the park.

“This is an adventure park,” O’Rourke said.

He noted the proximity of hotels and the possibility for tourism packages. Canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and scuba diving might be part of the park, he said.

“Whatever is adventurous is on the table,” he said.

Burdette said the park is an option for land that has limited possibilities because of how its use is restricted. Patriots Point has 280,000 visitors annually. Existing parking would be used for the adventure park visitors, he said.

“These things are very popular,” he said. “At this point, we can’t see any downside to it. If we don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it

Indian Village in Nagaland gets ecotourism efforts launched

May 24, 2012

The Jotsoma village in Kohima district of Nagaland received a boost as a tourist destination with the launch of a nature conservation and eco-tourism project on Saturday at Puliebadze Chahe ki, a rest house on the foothills of the mount Puliebadze.

Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio was the chief guest at the programme. He was overwhelmed with the sight of rich natural vegetation and virgin forests all around. He said that he has been associated with Jotsoma village for a long time and expressed his happiness over the fact that the people of the village have conserved their natural surroundings.

Rio Jaguarão

Rio Jaguarão (Photo credit: Jefferson Bernardes)

The chief minister stated that the thick natural vegetation and virgin forests of the Japfu mountain range could have water sources, particularly for the capital town Kohima, for which he appreciated the people of the Southern Angamis and the Western Angamis living in the ranges as they preserve and conserve flora and fauna. Encouraging the people to keep up their conservation efforts, he further said that other people can adopt the model followed by the Jotsoma villagers to preserve the forest. Rio also advised that the community based forest should be set up.

Rio said that there are many employment opportunities for the people of the state in preservation and conservation activities. He said remote areas of the state have a lot of potential tourist attractions and added the government should make a proposal in this regard. He suggested that the village can take the initiative and the government can provide assistance. He also suggested that the villagers should set up rhododendron and orchids garden, which can be a special attraction to visitors.

Vietnam eco-tourism has spinoff for ethnic villagers

May 24, 2012
English: Cat Tien National Park, Viet Nam Tiến...

English: Cat Tien National Park, Viet Nam Tiếng Việt: Vườn quốc gia Cát Tiên (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tourism will ensure stable incomes for residents in buffer zones around national parks and will ensure better protection of the parks and the wildlife they shelter. Pham Hoang Nam reports.Tham Thi Men was everywhere at the same time. The 48-year-old ethnic Tay woman was on stage singing a traditional song; she was being an attractive hostess inviting guests to enjoy Tay cakes that she and her neighbours had made, and she was in the kitchen preparing lunch for visitors at the communal Long House.

The Long House is located near the new ethnic Stieng resettlement area in Ta Lai Commune, Tan Phu District, in the southern province of Dong Nai.

The 125sq.m house was built in five months with bamboo, wood, rattan and other natural materials. It opened to visitors in the middle of February.

The house is the first community-based tourism guesthouse in the area. It was built under a project, funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), that promotes community-based ecotourism in Viet Nam’s national parks.

The project has been carried out by the WWF in collaboration with the Nam Cat Tien National Park since 2008.

It directly benefits the livelihoods of local communities while conserving nature, WWF Viet Nam director Tran Minh Hien said.

“Ecotourism planning in and around the park is carried out through a participatory multi-stakeholder process and is incorporated into development plans at commune, district and provincial levels,” she explained.

According to the chairman of Ta Lai Commune, Dang Vu Hiep, the house offers not only cultural meaning but also economic value to ethnic groups living in the region.

“Community-based tourism will create stable livelihoods for local people by helping reduce pressure on natural resources, raising people’s awareness of environmental protection and promoting cultural characters of ethnic communities,” he said.

The house is all set to receive visitors now. To introduce the Long House to travel agencies including adventure tour operators, project managers organised a trip few weeks ago to the national park.

Everything had been carefully prepared.

Special dishes typically eaten by local ethnic minorities of Stieng, Ma and Tay had been prepared. People in the communities had been employed as chefs, guides and hospitality service providers.

The community-based tourism model applied here had the participation of around 30 households.

“I have liked to sing and dance since I was a little girl. Now I can join the team to perform for visitors, that’s my dream. I can earn a living from what I like to do best,” 17-year-old K’Nhung said happily.

Would visitors come to stay in the Long House, the few people wondered.

“There are a few Vietnamese tourists who like adventure and eco-tourism. But the potential to attract foreign customers is very huge,” said Jean-Luc Voisin, director of the VietAdventure company.

The company is major partner with the park in the project.

“I believe the model will develop better in the near future. Tourists will enjoy a night in the forest, taste special food and traditional art performances by local residents,” he added.

From Ta Lai Commune, 12km from the head-office of Nam Cat Tien Park’s management board, tourists can trek or go cycling through the forest.

“If permitted, we would like to reopen the 60km cycling route through the park and Ta Lai will be our stopping place,” said Le Van Sinh, CEO of SinhBalo Adventure Travel company.

Project managers hope that around 4,500 visitors would visit Ta Lai each year.

They are also offering another buffer zone of the park, Dak Lua, as a tourism destination.

“We have already looked at Dak Lua, where has a very big rice field. We have chosen to develop the home-stay model there and three houses were selected. But Dak Lua is not as attractive as Ta Lai with its many traditional customs,” said Nguyen Thi Hai Ha, managing director of Innoviet company.

“We know it is very hard, but it’s a starting point to help villagers get involved in community tourism and improve their living standards while sharing the responsibility to protect the park,” said K’ Yeu, head of Ta Lai Village. — VNS