Ecotourism is environmentally friendly tourism. Tourism is being incrasingly blamed not only for environmental but also for social and cultural damange. Ecotourism encourages visitors to a country to leave a small carbon footprint, to the benefit of local communities and environments. It has become an increasingly popular option for many people and as a result is the fastest growing tourism sector.
Ecotourism aims to:
- Ensure that tourism does not exploit the natural environment or local communities.
- Consult with local communities on planned developments.
- Make sure that infrastructure improvements benefit local people and not just tourists.
Stewardship: careful management of the environment on a large scale: regionally, nationally and globally.
Conservation: stewardship on a smaller and more manageable scale. An individual building can be conserved and protected because of its historical importance. Habitats and landscapes in rural areas can be protected.
The Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforst is teeming with life however, despite its lush appearance, it is a fragile environment and it needs looking after to ensure tourism do not damage the environment forever.
Over the last 50 years the Amazon rainforest has changed. People have moved in and cleared thousands of square kilometres every year for timber, farming, mining and road building. The result of this clearance is that 20% of the rainforest has now been destroyed.
Yachana Lodge, Ecuador
The ecolodge is a small environmentally guest house where a small number of ecotourists can stay.
It is next to the Napo River – a tributary of the Amazon – close to the village of Mondaña. It is set in its own, protected, 1200-hectare section of rainforest, which is home to thousands of species of tropical plants and animals. Every room has a view of the river, safe drinking water and a private bathroom with a hot shower. Its dining room serves the guests meals made from locally grown food.
- Most of the people who work at Yachana are local. They have jobs in the kitchen, dining room, garden – and help to look after the guests and their bedroms.
- Employs Amerindian guides to show guests the forest environment and its creatures, how local people live, and how they use the plants for medicines.
- Offers a range of ecotourism activities. They involve visiting the natural environment in small groups and causing as little harm as possible to the area and to the local people. The activities help tourists to better understand the environment and the lives of local people.
- Activities include: rainforest hiking, birdwatching, swimming in the Napo River, canoeing, photography, visiting the local village, learning to make traditional ‘mokaua’ pottery, taking part in a traditional ceremony, visiting a nearby biological research station.