Monday, August 8, 2011

Types of Eco Tourism --- How to have a green vacation

Types of Eco Tourism: Going out on a break

My friends from the office and I went to the Caliraya Watershed to plant trees for Haribon Foundation’s ROAD to 2020 reforestation program.

I haven’t been on vacation this year and going out this weekend even for a day to get my hands dirty was for me a really good chance to de-stress and have a change of environment. On the way to the site, I was telling my friends how nice it is that in the province of Laguna, most of the streets are still lined with trees. It was no surprise that we saw a lot of bikers along the way given the challenging but clean and green trail going to the watershed.

ROAD to 2020 is an environmental conservation movement to restore 1 million hectares of Philippines rainforests using native tree species by year 2020.  ROAD stands for Rainforestation Organizations and Advocates. The end goal of the program is to recover and conserve biodiversity, optimize supply of forest benefits and ecosystem services, reduce the risk of natural hazards, and enhance options for sustainable livelihood by planting native tree species.

According to the Journal of Environmental Science and Management, the Caliraya watershed, located in Cavinti, Laguna, is considered a forest reservation with special uses as reservoir for power generation in Luzon. However, due to varying conflicting uses such as: agriculture production, ecotourism, recreation, real estate, resorts and rest houses, among others, the watershed is now at the state of degradation and over-exploitation.

If you love the outdoors or if going green is something you wish to explore, it is worth knowing that there are different types of eco tourism that offers a lot of benefits not only to the environment but also to your health, to your pocket, and to our society.

What is ecotourism?

Ecotourism is simply travel where nature is the main attraction.  But what separates it from your usual hiking or beach excursion (and this is something we need to understand) is that ecotourism is meant to:
1.    minimize impact to the environment
2.     build environmental consciousness and respect
3. contribute to the empowerment of local people and improve local economies
4.     contribute to natural conservation
5. raise sensitivity to host countries’ political and social climate, and
6.     support international human rights and labor agreements

As I mentioned earlier, the Caliraya Watershed is one of the victims of ecotourism gone wrong due to poor practices of tourists and businesses that exploited the site. Positive results are what ecotourism aims for so when you do go and take your eco vacation, keep in mind the real purpose of your travel. You are out there not just to have fun but to do good by giving back to the environment and society at large.

What are types of eco tourism?

Today, ecotourism is becoming a booming trend and there are a lot of types you can explore.  Some of these are:

1.)   Agro-tourism: Agro-tourism is travel that encourages people to experience agriculture first hand. 

Through our immersion program back in college, I got to live with a farming family for a week and experience, first hand, how it is to plant rice!  Go and look for possible agro-vacations organized by rural farming and fishing communities or NGOs that support them, and enjoy the benefits of getting in touch with the people that provide you with what you eat! Priceless!

2.)   Local tourism:  Experiencing culture and heritage increases appreciation of ones roots and provides endless opportunities to empower local communities and improve local economies. 

Whenever we go white-water rafting or surfing with friends here in the Philippines, we do not only enjoy these fantastic activities or see extreme natural sights. We also get to talk and even make friends to our local guides and understand the local communities --- their way of life, problems, and ways of how tourists can help them.  Plus, we also get to discover and buy really good products produced by the community. 

After several trips to Baler (a famous local surfing site), my friends and I got to connect to Baler’s local government to organize a trip to plant mangroves, learn about vermiculture, and explore Baler through Baler people’s eyes.  The experience is worth another blog spot but for now, all I can say is that you to try it!

3.)   Pro-poor tourism: This is a type of tourism that focuses on supporting developing countries and their causes. Volunteer vacations are a subset of ecotourism and while there really are high-end eco-resorts, there a lot inexpensive means to travel especially if it involves volunteering your time. 

In support to Gawad Kalinga (“give care” in English, a famous movement in the Philippines that aims to building communities and ending poverty), our office’s CSR team organized a farm-build where we got to visit one of the communities supported by the program and to help them build their farm.  The main aim of this program is to promote food sufficiency and eradicate hunger by empowering the people through plots of land that can provide them with food everyday.

If you want to make a difference by going green, check out how you can support various pro-poor programs near you!

For very minimal costs, the different types of eco tourism provides priceless memories that will definitely change the way you see nature and society.  If you are from the Philippines or if you wish to come here to go on vacation, check out how you can help through Haribon or Gawad Kalinga.  If you are from the US, you can check out David Bach’s “Go Green, Live Rich” to find green vacation tips.

I really look forward to going on vacation soon. If you are thinking the same thing, it is worth noting that we can have fun, save money, and do good through the different types of eco tourism.

Photo thanks to http://www. pinksherbet/

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