Tourism as an industry is the largest in terms of revenue generation as well as an employer in the world. Ecotourism is the latest trend among tourists today and although ecotourism accounts for a measly 2-4% of the entire tourism industry, it is the fastest growing sector. More and more people are willing to pay extra for tours that are eco-friendly. But how responsible are we as tourists and how sustainable is the tourism that is being propagated?
According to the International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the environment and improves the welfare of local people. However, recent studies show that the ecotourism as practiced is growing at the cost of the very ecosystem that it claims to preserve. For instance, the establishment of a new ecotourism area- Quintano Roo or Natures Sacred Paradise has completely displaced the native Mexican Indians. Endangering the lives of wild animals and siphoning off local resources to meet the demands of tourists, ecotourism in reality is but a perversion of the real thing.
However, it would be unfair to ignore the efforts of various organisations that are truly practicing conservation and sensitizing tourists to the local demands of the people and their habitat. Many plant trees to prevent deforestation/ discourage tourists from littering, and promote recycling of resources.
One such hotspot of ecotourism which has recently seen a surge of activity is Mount Everest. Visited annually by 40,000 people, the Everest and its base has been named the highest junkyard in the world. In the last few years, innumerable cleaning expeditions have been conducted to rid the glorious mountain from the heaps of garbage left behind by the visitors.
The heaps of garbage dumped on Mount Everest is an example of the damage to natural habitats from people who come under the guise of eco-tourists. Many tourists assume that merely travelling to Natural areas or habitats is a form of ecotourism. But this is not the case. It is this confusion regarding the true meaning of ecotourism which needs to be dispelled. Ecotourism stresses on the significance of conservation and welfare activities along with recreation.
This new form of responsible travel focuses on flora, fauna and culture. It is based on the principles of sustainable development. It attempts to create a set of travellers who are aware and hopes to utilize the funds generated for conservation and raising the living standard of the local population. Ecotourism is a participatory venture in which all those who are involved are also the stakeholders of its benefits. The venture benefits the tour operators, the tourists and the locals. However, it must be remembered that the number of tourists should be limited to the capacity of each region to prevent shortage of resources for the locals after the tourist depart.
Efforts like these are complemented by UN action which has called for an NGO Tourism Advisory Group. Such attempts at bringing tourism and environment into a harmonious relationship need to be furthered throughout the world. Each one of us must accept responsibility for the ecosystem that one visits and the local people that inhabit those lands. It must be a two-way process in which tourists and the tour operators help to strengthen the environment while that very environment and the locals provide them with the resources and support for an enjoyable holiday.
Eco tourism is slowly but surely becoming a trend. Although having a deep passion for nature is nothing new to many people, yet the term "ecotourism" (having been coined in recent years) is becoming more of a fashion statement than anything else.
So, what is comprised within the term "ecotourism"? Images of lush tropical rainforest, vast mangrove forests, a rough-edge coastline dotted by white sandy beaches and of course, some of the world's most rare and unique flora and fauna.
The first of a series of articles on national parks in Sarawak, you will never hear enough of the word 'ecotourism'. Bako National Park should be your first stop if you are planning a eco trip to one of the many national parks in the state. Bako has a unique set of geological and climatic conditions. In a tiny area of 10.6 sq miles (27.4 sq kilometers), you can find seven distinct ecosystems compressed within the relatively small space. Despite its size, the Bako National Park is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna and this is so thanks to the many distinctive eco systems.
The park is a well-maintained location; therefore exploring it by foot is easy. There are good trail systems and great animals to watch. Having been a protected piece of land since 1957, Bako promises an array of fun and adventure.
Although you may be highly excited and can't wait to jump straight in and explore the park, I would advice that you take a trip to the park's information center first before doing anything else. This place can fill you in with all sorts of required information and it is also here that you will get to learn more about Bako's bio-diversity and some of the attractions that you will get to see along your route. The information center will also be a good spot to check out the numerous available routes and the time taken to complete each track. Please be aware that each route will offer you through different sceneries, some through the thick dense forest with all its unique wildlife, some through the white sandy beaches and of course, some that will allow you to view the interesting flora.
The best times for a eco trekking session are either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. At about 7 am, you will be greeted with troops of the long-tailed macaque monkeys. These monkeys will be around the area most of the day. Used to seeing humans, these monkeys are tame and enjoy loitering around the area. You will also get to see the silver-leaf monkey that usually congregate in big groups around the chalets and along the Telok Assam route. Not necessary to venture far, you will also get to see the plantain squirrels, bearded pigs, snakes, flying lemurs and a number of lizards. One of the country's largest lizards, the water monitors, are also spotted hanging around the jetty and near the rest houses.
Smaller creatures can be found at the mangrove forest at Telok Assam. Hidden within the complicated network of aerial roots of the mangrove trees are creatures such as hermit crabs, sky-blue fiddler crabs and mudskippers. If you are a lover of birds, the mangrove is a good place for viewing Bako's bird life. So far, there have been a recorded 150 species of birds found at Bako including the state bird of Sarawak - the hornbill. Here, you will also get to see the birds such as the velvet-fronted nuthatch, racket-tailed drongo or ruby-cheeked sunbird. Such birds are a rarity and definitely, they are not of your garden sparrows variety!
One of the most popular trails at Bako is none other than the Lintang Trail. It is highly recommended for those who want a rainforest experience. The trek will take about 3 ½ hours and will show you the full glory of Bako's vegetation. Another popular trail is the Telok Pandan Kecil trek, which will lead you to Bako's best beach. A short walk of 1 ½ hours, you will be rewarded with a refreshing swim at the end of the walk. Scenery at Bako National Park is simply breathtaking and awesome where the jungle canopy can rise to 40 meters in height! Although some climbing may be tough and steep, yet the walk will prove to be enjoyable, nonetheless.
The Bako National Park emits a kind of Robinson Crusoe feel and you will feel yourself in the thick of nature and very much in tune with your surroundings of real eco friendly environment. Each trail promises a difference. It all depends on what you really want. I will not dwell too much into each trail, as they are all great in their own aspects. To know more, you can either call up the Bako National Park at (6 011) 225049 or the Kuching Visitors Information Center at (082) 248088.