What is Eco-tourism?

Eco-tourism is commercial tourism that is directed towards sustaining and preserving exotic, and often threatened, natural environments, as well as their local communities. It’s just like regular tourism, but the end goal is not just “what can I get out of this trip/location/environment?” but “what can I do to ensure that others can experience this place just as I have experienced it?” It’s not about flying half-way around the world just to plant a few dozen endangered trees. It’s about taking a trip that you have wanted to do anyway, and finding a way to do it that promotes the local economy and protects the natural areas you travel through.

How does Untamed Path Adventures support eco-tourism?

Untamed Path Adventures is committed to protecting and sustaining the natural resources of the areas that we work in. We have the privilege of being able to work in some of the world’s most amazing locales, from the Amazon rainforest, to the Galapagos Islands, all the way down to the fjords of Patagonia. We are excited to share these special places with our clients, and we want to ensure that they will still be there a hundred years from now. In some places, our job at promoting eco-tourism is relatively easy. For example, in the Galapagos, the government has laid down rules for tourists that will protect this natural gem for decades to come. Development and infrastructure are confined to a few towns throughout the archipelago and while hundreds of yachts cruise the archipelago each year, there are strict regulations about the size of groups that can be on the islands, where they can go, and how long they can stay. These regulations are designed to minimize humans impact on this natural wonder.

However in the Amazon, the options for eco-tourism aren’t always quite as clear cut. Government regulations don’t extend into the jungle, therefore travelling in an ecosystem that is being systematically destroyed by industry, it is even more important to be aware of your impact as a single traveler. Many of the lodges that we work with in the Amazon are community owned. This means the local people, whose lives have always depended on the natural world around them, own the lodges. They are much better equipped than an outsider to determine which actions will be beneficial or harmful to the flora and fauna around them. Community-owned lodges also ensure that all the profit from your visit will stay in the area and won’t be transferred to the pockets of a large corporation hundreds or thousands of miles away. The profit from your visit can be reinvested in the lodge and continue to help their mission of conservation and awareness. In addition, the lodges we work with are constantly trying to minimize their impact on the area around them. They restrict electricity use to a few hours a day, they only use locally sourced foods, and they use sustainable resources like bamboo in their construction.

Another way to promote eco-tourism, is by studying endangered areas and then using the results of the study to educate people. One of our favorite lodges, Mashpi Lodge, located in the cloud forest, is constantly conducting new and different scientific experiments/observations to learn more about that beautiful ecosystem. They partner with top-notch scientists to better understand their impact on the environment around them and the most effective ways to minimize it. Their findings not only help their own efforts towards sustainability, but provide a model for others to replicate as well.

Lastly, Untamed Path Adventure’s focus on small-group travel is in line with the values of eco-tourism. Our ideal group size is five to ten people on their own private trip. We aim to help our clients experience South America like a native, with plenty of planned as well as spontaneous interactions with local communities. It is impossible to do this while travelling in a large group on a tour bus where you are more likely to overwhelm local communities rather than integrate and interact. Embarking on a customized trip also helps to lower your environmental footprint by using smaller vehicles, locally owned and operated, rather than a huge tour bus that may or may not used to its capacity.

As you can see, there are many different methods of implementing the ideals of eco-tourism. It’s never a one-size-fits-all proposition, but an evolving attitude towards being responsible stewards on your travels. We hope that you will continue to be mindful of how your travels impact the communities you are visiting, regardless of where in the world you are going, even if it’s just to the town next door!

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