What is an eco tour and why are they so popular?

Is the word “Eco-Tour” just a kitschy sales pitch that appeals to our sensitive nature? Eco-tourism is more than just a trendy word, it’s a well define philosophy that incorporates nature and wildlife travel with providing a responsible and well-meaning benefit to the areas that are travelled to. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) says that “Environmentally responsible travel to natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and accompanying cultural features, both past and present) that promote conservation, have a low visitor impact and provide for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local peoples.” That sounds nice, but what does it really entail?

First of all, eco-tourism must be sustainable. Most travel and touring isn’t. Contrary to popular belief, eco-tourism doesn’t just mean that you’re travelling to the Galapagos to experience an endangered species, or flying over Borneo to visually experience the loss of rainforest habit. This is special, but you’ve got to ask yourself, what am I really doing when I am travelling this way? This is what eco-tourism means when it says that it is “sustainable”. An eco-tour will not only minimise impacts on the area visited, but they should also help the area too.

There are many ways that an eco-tour can help an area. Many people immediately think, “money” but that is only a small part of what a tour really does. “Money” can come in the form of a direct payment, such as admittance to a wildlife park. However, often it means that the proceeds from the tour might assist in land acquisition to increase protected areas, or provide new research opportunities to local scientists working in the area. More often than not, “money” actually means a contribution to the locals in the area. Often in marginalised areas, eco-tours provide income for local communities and schools and provide valuable infrastructure and resources such as better roads, networks and even water.

Cultural appreciation is also a huge part of eco-tourism. Some of the most popular areas for eco-tours are inhabited by unique and interesting indigenous populations. Many of these community “stakeholders” benefit from increased income, but also from the ability to educate the tourists about their people and their land. Many eco-tourist sites build museums and libraries to promote and preserve the local culture. There must be a fine line between the promotion of local culture and the influx of foreign visitors. The best eco-tours will make sure that the population does not grow over-dependent on visitors and their income.

Above all, an eco-tour should educate the visitor. The education part of the tour provides a context to the whole experience. Taking a photo safari of the wild lions in Kenya is very exciting, but if all you are taking back are some snaps, rather than information on the conservation efforts and how you can help, then the entire experience may ring hollow and meaningless. A great eco-tour should empower not only the individual about conservation efforts, but also provide the local community with the means to “practice what it preaches.” A visitor should be able to go home and accurately explain their experiences to friends and family and inspire other group of eco-tourists.

When looking for a unique way to travel, an eco-tour should be considered. Use the tenets above to find a tour that is not only interesting, but thoughtful in its approach to conservation, the community and to local culture. This will be an amazing experience and provide a lifetime of memories.

Unique Australian Eco-Tours

Eco-Tourism is a fantastic way to explore the best that Australia has to offer. Eco-tours make the most of a destination, exploring the natural surroundings, learning about native flora and fauna, and experiencing local culture. Eco-tourism isn’t just about leaving the country to far-flung locations, wearing some cool  ‘out there’ eco fashion wear, there are some amazing destinations right here on our home turf!

    • Check out the Capricorn Caves. The Capricorn Caves are just a short drive north of Rockhampton, QLD. Tourists to this destination will get to experience abseiling down a natural rock face into the caves below. The Capricorn Caves are a naturally occurring limestone labyrinth, well-suited to exploring. No matter what your fitness level, you’ll be able to explore the caves with all gear supplied. For those interested in how this unique environment has evolved, there are also tours of a cave filled with marine fossils. Capricorn Caves Park is set up over 83 acres of secluded campsites and cabins. Try a Poo and Spew tour to show how climate change affected our ancient megafauna, and learn all about the local area’s indigenous animals. http://www.capricorncaves.com.au/

  • If you love the ocean and want to see a part of Australia that many others don’t get to experience, you should think about heading to the Rowley Shoals – located an easy 260kms northwest of Broome! It doesn’t get much more remote than that. Although the Rowley Shoals are visited by recreational fisherman, the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife estimate that less than 300 divers will visit in any given year. There are two coral atolls that create a perfect marine environment with balanced lagoon and reef systems. What makes this area so unique is that the underwater coral system is not only more abundant than similar areas around the country, because of its remote location, it’s almost untouched by humans. http://www.expeditioncruising.com/
  • For the truly adventurous, why not sign up for a Camel Trek across the Simpson Desert? These trips don’t happen very often, but when they do, they offer a unique tour into the wilds of Australia. These tours aren’t for the weak or faint-hearted, and they are also a true scientific and ecological survey of the land. If you embark of this kind of adventure, be prepared to work, and be prepared to take a day or two off after to have a vacation after your vacation. However, you will be one of just a handful of Australians that were able to experience a tradition of “cameleering” that extends from over 150 years ago. http://www.desertexpeditions.org/home.html
  • Scott Ricketts is a professional Sydney tour guide and owner of Your Sydney Guide. He is passionate about giving visitors to Sydney, and those resident there, the adventure of finding hidden secrets in the New South Wales region.He also loves exploring my own backyard and believes there is nothing better than the eco-delights of The Blue Mountain Region, The close proximity to the Sydney CBD makes it one of the easier day trips from Sydney that Your Sydney Guide offer.  A short drive time allows a full day of off beat eco touring of the region.Sydney Day Tour
  • For more information on Your Sydney Guide and the eco tour options offered, visit their website.
  • For a truly Australian experience, one should look north toward Arnhem Land. Learn from the traditional land-owners how to gather bush medicine, traditional hunting techniques and rock art. You’ll also partake in the stunning scenery – from pristine white beaches to black soil flood plains. You’ll be guided through this landscape from tour guides who will share their knowledge of the land, fauna, language and culture. In this eco tour, you will also be visiting Bawinanga Aboriginal museums and cultural centres, and you are encouraged to learn as much about this beautiful and amazing area as possible. http://www.bawinanga.com/bac-enterprises/arnhem-land-eco-cultural-tours
  • You can’t have a list of amazing places to visit without mentioning Antarctica. Australia is very lucky to be so close to this amazing destination. Cruises through the Ross Sea and the Commonwealth Bay Area can take up to 30 days and will take you through the Ross Sea all the way to McMurdo Station. As these cruises are science based expeditions, expect your days at sea to be full of lectures about the biology and history of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. As you get closer to the land mass, you will explore and watch penguin rookeries, watch porpoises and count fur seals. As you travel further along the coast, your route may even take you all the way to Mount Erebus, the southernmost active volcano on Earth. Needless to say, this is the trip of the lifetime, and most other tours will pale in comparison to the experiences that you will collect on this kind of expedition. http://www.coolantarctica.com/Travel/antarctica_trip_new_zealand_australia.php

No matter what kind of tour that you will look for, close to home, or states away, think about booking an eco-tour and turn your next holiday into a creative learning experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.