June 01, 2012

Global Ecotourism

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Liz PaipayLiz Paipay (Photo credit: Perunature)
When Rainforest Expeditions started, no one knew where ecotourism would take us. In fact, ecotourism itself had yet to be truly defined and venturing into it was like taking a big step into uncharted rainforest. We did know, however, that if other people could be as excited as us about flocks of macaws, Giant Otters, and the Amazon rainforest, we had a fair chance at success.

The journey has been as exciting as it has been educational and has given us insight into every aspect of ecotourism. Most of all, we have discovered that ecotourism can actually work to improve the lives of local people and protect biodiversity at the same time. This fact makes us proud to be one of the top ecotourism companies in Peru and is also why we like to sponsor posts on our blog about ecotourism and sustainable tourism initiatives in other parts of the globe. If we can help protect biodiversity in the Peruvian Amazon by working with local communities, so can people in places like Nepal, Indonesia, and Uganda.

Native GirlNative Girl (Photo credit: Perunature)
Ecotourism Supports Nature Preservation and Traditional Cultures by Will Weber, co-Founder and Director of JOURNEYS International

While Rainforest Expeditions offers a superb experience of the Peruvian, Amazon, visitors who have enjoyed Tambopata and the local hospitality of Posada Amazonas can find similar exploration pleasures in the natural areas of Asia and Africa. Why have these kinds of experiences, collectively referred to as ecotourism, emerged in so many corners of the world? In other places, as in Peru, it first seemed incomprehensible to local people living a subsistence life at the forest's edge that foreign travelers would pay to see tiny birds, chaotic rainforest and the wildlife that threatens their crops and animals.  But the realization that tourists bring money, medicine, education, jobs and other opportunities in their wake is changing attitudes and ultimately preserving natural ecosystems.  Here are just a few examples from JOURNEYS International trips around world where ecotourism models similar to Tambopata Research Center and Posadas Amazonas are enriching the lives of local communities, attracting travelers and preserving nature.

Uganda and Rwanda
Mountain Gorillas are endangered and confined to a shrinking habitat on the forested slopes of volcanoes on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and The Congo. Through education, anti-poaching regulations, and encouragement of revenue-generating tourism the gorillas are being saved and thousands of people are experiencing better living standards. Revenue sharing splits the $500-750/day permit fees the governments charges to visitors. Some goes to the national government, while a significant portion goes to local communities at the edge of the parks where the gorillas live to pay for schools, clinics and community projects.  Hundreds of people are employed as guides and guards, thousands work as tourist drivers and hospitality workers in the lodges and camps that serve tourists attracted by the gorillas and other features of the rich rainforest habitats. Learn more about gorilla tracking and peruse JOURNEYS FAQs.

Indonesia and East Malaysia
The Orangutan, the great red ape, is increasingly threatened with extinction in its natural habitats of Sumatra and Borneo. Ecotourism facilities like Camp Leakey in Indonesia and Sukau Rainforest Lodge in Borneo, East Malaysia, host international visitors, but also focus local and international attention on the value of saving rare species and their habitat. Aiding in the rehabilitation of injured and captive animals, the sites allow a close-up encounter for nature lovers, which in turn generates revenue and publicity to expand local education and habitat conservation efforts.

Nepal
Nepal features exceptional natural, cultural, climatic and geographic diversity in a tiny country, but it also has a rapidly expanding population and dysfunctional government that threaten to overwhelm unique natural environments and the rare species they contain. Fortunately, naturalists and trekkers seeking the rare animals of the high Himalayas and the rich lowland jungles have drawn attention to the natural wealth of Nepal and enabled the creation of a system of national parks and reserves which is resisting environmental impoverishment because tens of thousands of international tourists are paying millions of dollars with an expectation nature will be preserved. Around Mount Everest, the Snow Leopard is returning as their prey, species like Himalayan Tahr, Blue Sheep and Musk Deer, benefit from park protection. In Chitwan National Park dozens of nature camps and lodges ranging from budget to luxury host visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of tigers, leopards, one-horned rhinoceros and the hundreds of species of birds occurring here. Poachers and timber rustlers are clearly acting against the economic interests of the thousands of people benefiting from environmentally sensitive tourism.

Your trips to these areas and many others helps to preserve the wildest and rarest habitats on our planet. For more details about trips to the areas mentioned and others, see www.JOURNEYS.travel.

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