When humankind started to realise that beautiful natural resources could be profited from, environmental degradation began to take centrestage. Although, it is fun to have a vacation in some exotic destination, the fact remains that the tourist lifestyle tends to take its toll faster in the surrounding environment. For instance, a fishing community of 100 families in a remote island has a very small impact but if you add a couple of hotels, bars and yachts; there is a huge chance for pollution to triple.
Fortunately, eco-tourism allows everyone to enjoy and preserve nature at the same time. Green travel doesn’t only consider the environment but also includes the welfare of the locals who take care of the area.
Contrary to popular belief, eco-tourism is not a modern idea. Historical evidence suggests that, even during the time of Aristotle, eco-tourism was practiced. In the olden times, people satisfied their curiosity through exploration. The general goal was to understand the people and culture. Explorers also desired to learn about food and vegetation, without disturbing the normal process of things. Our ancestors might not have been aware that they started the basic principle that became the principle for green travel. In recent history, eco-tours started to make a comeback in the early 80’s in places like Ecuador, Nepal and Costa Rica.
Travellers, who are sensitive to the needs of the environment, support eco-tourism. When done right, nature can reap many benefits from this type of tour. One major advantage is for profits to be used in conservation efforts for a particular country, region or locality. Still, the study of eco-tourism is relatively new. Non-supporters of eco-tourism claim that profits do not trickle down to the locals, and do not help uplift economic conditions in the area. Whether this statement is true or not, depends on the government, private sector, and the culture of a certain place.
If you are wondering how eco-tours are conducted, take this example from Kenya. The grasslands managed by the Maasai group have migratory wildebeest and antelope that roam freely. Tourists are able to rent private lodges in the ranch in exchange for traveller’s fees. The locals use the money to pay for the healthcare and education of their children, in addition to expenses related to wildlife protection.
Aboriginal people, residing in Alice Springs, Australia enlisted the help of an anthropologist for a 10-day tour offered to small groups of tourists. Travellers get to experience camping in the bush together with an aboriginal tribe. Visitors become more educated on desert ecology and learn about practical survival skills in the outback. At night, everyone gathers around the fire while local specialties are served. Through this activity, the natives are able to share their culture and traditions with people from around the world. All earnings go to the tribal families.
More and more destinations are opening eco-tours. This is an answer to the growing interest for unique and educational vacation activities. Popular destinations for green travel include dive spots managed by the Palau Conservation Society. In Costa Rica, organisations like Key to Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute can be contacted for details on eco-friendly resorts, hotels and lodges. Norway, India and Kenya are also popular choices for eco-tourism.
Ecotourism in Singapore
Highly urbanised with plenty of sky-scrapping residential and commercial buildings, Singapore would probably not feature on the ecotourism radar screen. However, the tiny island does boast its fair share of green spots.
Marina Barrage is one great example of Singapore’s unique approach to environmental sustainability. Built across the mouth of the Marina Channel, the Marina Barrage blocks out seawater and creates Singapore’s 15th reservoir – the first in the heart of the city. It spreads over a catchment area of 10,000 hectares, which amounts to one-sixth the size of Singapore. The dam can be viewed, together with the Sustainable Singapore Gallery located within the dam, an interesting showcase that highlights the government’s efforts towards environmental sustainability.
Nature buffs can head down to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, one of the largest tracts of primary rainforests left in Singapore. The forest served as botanical collecting ground for more than a century, where the first known specimens of many species of Malayan plants were obtained. Another ecological jewel is the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve – a mangrove forest that protects an awesome number of resident birds such as herons, kingfishers and sunbirds. The National Parks Board has guided tours by park specialists on selected weekends.