Ecotourism is a broad term encompassing many types of travel that share the goals of cultural and environmental awareness and respect, minimal environmental impact, and the preservation and betterment of local populations worldwide (see References 1). Many opportunities exist for both vacationing and volunteering. Research the particulars of the organization you intend to patronize or volunteer for, since any organization can claim to be engaged in "ecotourism" without maintaining a standard of practice.
Ecolodging involves accommodations that have been built with environmental awareness and conscientiousness or that are simply in natural settings. Ecolodging options vary greatly, from hotels or hostels built with sustainable or alternative materials to "eco resorts" in remote locations with access to activities such as bird-watching, sea kayaking and tours of local outdoor attractions. (See References 2)
Agrotourism is a type of ecotourism that capitalizes on rural farm communities as tourist attractions. Some agrotourism venues serve to encourage and protect threatened agrarian communities in disadvantaged countries. Others offer demonstration sites for sustainable farming methods. Many agrotourism sites offer volunteer opportunities and feature the cultivation of animal and plant species well-known in the particular region. (See References 3)
Some ecotourism opportunities focus on protecting the land and livelihood of communities threatened by industry, deforestation and other byproducts of modernization. Such organizations offer opportunities for ecotourists to interact with the local population by planting trees, learning local trades or building homes. Community development projects not only increase awareness and respect among visitors and locals but also offer financial benefits to struggling communities. (See References 2)
Eco treks involve excursions to exotic, endangered or otherwise appealing locations. Treks might include rafting, rock climbing, swimming, caving, hiking, sailing or bird-watching for the purpose of increasing awareness about a particular region and its associated environmental threats or habitats worth preserving (see References 2). Eco trek organizations may or may not provide monetary support to the local population.
Hailing from Austin, Texas, Beth Berry has been writing since 1995 about sustainable farming, fiber arts and parenting. She brings expertise in organic gardening, landscape design and domestic arts to her writing. Berry holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental science from Abilene Christian University and is a master seamstress.
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