Telling the ECO Tourism Tale
by Anne Loehr
Just about anywhere you go these days, it's "green" this and "eco-friendly"
that. But what exactly is Eco tourism? According to the Centre for Eco Tourism,
it was a man named Hector Ceballos-Lascurain who first coined the phrase back
in 1983. And he did it in an attempt to describe "nature-based travel, to relatively
undisturbed areas, with the emphasis upon education." Fair enough. But to simplify
things still further we've come up with a simple 'green' acronym:
That said, eco tourism is also all about a more insightful, mindful and participatory
way of travelling. And, about the experiences to be enjoyed from a more natural
and culturally sensitive environment.
Eco tourism is also synonymous with supporting and sustaining both the local
culture and its environment for the benefit of future generations. As well as
coming up with more immediately viable economic options for the host areas TODAY.
In its original form eco tourism was purely nature-based, the adverse impact
of tourism on the local culture having been, temporarily, over looked. However,
it quickly became apparent that when trying to create a new tomorrow for tourism,
to focus on wildlife and natural environment alone, simply did not work. It was
also swiftly illustrated that in those countries where the local communities where
actively involved in the eco tourism decision-making process there was that much
higher a success rate, especially in terms of profit. As a result, today's eco
tourism embraces the synergistic approach.
Now that we understand what eco tourism is all about, let's take a look at
some of the questions it raises for the eco sensitive traveller. Questions such
as: How do I choose an Eco tour? How can I make sure I book an Eco lodge? And
how do I select an Eco destination?
According to The International Eco tourism Society (TIES),
when choosing an Eco-tour, you should first of all ensure that your travel company:
- Builds environmental and cultural awareness through
education, activities and pre-departure information.
- Minimizes impact on the environment and local cultures.
- Provides direct financial benefits for conservation
and the local culture.
- Supports local businesses and service providers.
- Offers site-sensitive accommodation.
- Respects local culture.
As to selecting an eco lodge here are just some of the pointers that have been
devised to direct you to a lodge that is genuinely eco-friendly, whilst also being
comfortable and pleasurable too.
Ideally the good eco lodge should: Provide comfortable rooms and common
areas that reflect local design and heritage.
In Kenya, good examples are: Desert Rose and Sabuk, both of which have been
built with this in mind. Lewa Downs is also famed for its exquisite woodwork,
while Ol Malo's design work incorporating natural rocks, old wood and local artistry
is visually stunning.
Offer a natural setting that has been carefully preserved while retaining
much of the indigenous landscape.
In Kenya, Mukumuruji in the Shimba Hills is an excellent example of integrating
the natural landscaping into the structure and positioning of the building.
Use local, sustainably harvested and/or recycled building materials.
In Kenya: Shompole, Il Ngwesi and Ol Donyo Was are all good examples of how
this can be done to excellent effect.
Purchase foodstuffs from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen. Use renewable
energy and environmentally sensitive water and waste disposal systems.
In Kenya: Dream Camp in the Masai Mara is a fine showcase as to how to make
optimum use of alternative energy in an eco-lodge.
Offer many opportunities for interaction with local owners, managers, staff
In Kenya: Forty percent of Rekero in the Masai Mara is owned by members of
the Masai and Ndorobo tribe with sixty percent being owned by the Beaton family.
Many other eco lodges in the area lease their land from the local tribes and allow
them to benefit from their natural assets.
Employ and train local workers.
In Kenya: Loisaba and Eselenkei are star performers.
Offer a variety of excursions and educational materials on local natural
and cultural sites. Support and be supported by the local community and businesses.
In Kenya: Campi ya Kanzi offers some illuminating excursions which benefit
substantially from their well-informed local guides.
Your ideal Eco Lodge now chosen, how about the destination?
The ideal destination should include the following:
Plenty of protected landscapes and recreational areas, such as bike paths
or beach areas that are shared by locals and visitors alike.
In Kenya: The Nairobi Safari Walk is a wonderful place to visit; on a Sunday
afternoon, you'll see all walks of life there!
Thriving, locally owned, lodges, hotels, restaurants and businesses that
provide genuine hospitality and motivated, friendly staff.
Evidence of local control over tourism development that prevents harm to
the environment or to local well-being. Local festivals and events that demonstrate
people's ongoing sense of pride in their environment and cultural heritage.
In Kenya: The Laikipia area has an excellent association that allows this
So now you know. And equipped with that knowledge you
should be able to ensure that the next time you go on holiday, you go GREEN.
But not literally….
For more information on eco tourism, why not visit The International Ecotourism
Society's website at www.ecotourism.org
or Eco-resorts at www.eco-resorts.com
Eco-resorts markets tailor-made, eco-friendly adventure safaris in Kenya and
Tanzania. They include: camel trekking, cultural immersion and wildlife walks
and are designed to suit all budgets and preferences. A percentage of all Eco-resorts
profit goes in support of East African community and conservation projects, such
as local schools, clinics and orphanages.
Fax US: 1-801-991-7410
Fax Kenya: 254-122-32191
Tel. Kenya: 254-122-32161
Address: PO Box 120, Watamu, Kenya