Ecotourism is very big business. According to statistics, it is one area of the holiday business that is growing (by 10-15%) each year, a massive annual increase. It started to become popular in the late 1980s, and even has its own body, The International Ecotourism Society.
But in many ways it’s no surprise that it’s become so big, as we’ve become more aware of the effects of climate change, along with a desire to visit more exotic locations. For some countries, like Costa Rica and Kenya, ecotourism has become a prime source of income.
What Is Ecotourism?
At heart, ecotourism is seeing a country and leaving a minimal carbon footprint, making a minimal disturbance to local flora, fauna, or indigenous people. It’s a holiday without all the luxury trappings found in resorts, an opportunity to see wild places (there’s even an ecotourism industry in the Antarctic).
The idea is that the tourism actually helps with conservation by pumping money back into the local economy, and gives benefits to local residents, without impacting the way they live or their culture. The whole ethos of ecotourism makes it a perfect match for camping – a way of staying in a place with as little impact as possible.
How Camping And Ecotourism Work Together
Most countries that offer ecotourism – and there are many of them, across the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and beyond – have sites specifically set aside for camping, much as they also have eco-hotels. Visitors are heavily encouraged to use these camp sites rather than simply camping anywhere they want, as a way to control the impact on the environment.
These days there are many companies that organise eco holidays, and it’s perfectly possible to book with them, or with companies at your destination. Similarly, you have the choice between bringing your own camping gear or renting at your destination, although it’s worth bearing in mind that transporting a lot of camping equipment can not only prove costly, it increases your carbon footprint, which is far from the aim of the exercise. Also, remember that equipment rented locally is suitable for the climate; yours might not be.
Although the campsite won’t be spartan, don’t expect great luxury, either. After all, the idea is to have a minimal footprint. But the facilities will generally be as good as any site you’ll find in the UK, and sometimes better.
Do plenty of research, not only on the country, but also the tour company. How long has the company been in business? What do people say about it? What do they provide, and what will you need to bring?
Responsibility And Sustainability
Remember that responsibility and sustainability are two of the prime motivators behind ecotourism, so it’s important to book through an operator that’s dedicated to these practices (some are just in it for the profit). When at your destination, you need to think about what you’re doing, conserving water, eating local food, and using green forms of transportation (camping ecotourism and renting a car simply don’t go together, for example).
No matter the country, camping is really the ultimate ecotourism, and in exotic locations it can be a wonderful experience. You’ll see things and meet people you might never encounter otherwise. More than that, in spite of the CO2 you’ll generate by flying to your destination (a factor worth considering if you’re very serious about being green), you’ll be part of the solution to climate change, helping countries. Of course, you’ll also have the camping holiday of a lifetime.