A movement called ecotourism has been gaining momentum among Earth-conscious travelers and conservationists in developing nations since the mid-1980s. What is ecotourism? It isn’t just about treading lightly in nature. Environmental conservation, long-term sustainability and the preservation of cultural heritage are the central aims of this relatively young travel trend.
Among tourists who climb the Eiffel Tower, cruise the Thames or tour the Vatican, reducing environmental impact is probably not a top concern. After all, these destinations have been altered and developed over the course of several millennia, so not much about them is natural. But what about the Galapagos Islands or the Costa Rican rainforest? Should tourists be concerned about their impact on these fragile and unique ecosystems? According to ecotourism proponents, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
So how can a student group benefit from an environmentally friendly tour? For starters, ecotourism destinations offer some of the most pristine, biologically diverse and inspiring environments in the world. Here Earth science, biology and geology concepts that may fall flat in the classroom become tangible and engaging. Students often come away with a deeper understanding of their connection to the environment and are more likely to practice eco-friendly habits back home.
Many of our South and Central American itineraries offer nature-focused tours and activities. Science or foreign language teachers can engage their students through exhilarating experiences such as white water rafting, zip-line canopy tours and snorkeling.
In addition to highlighting the natural resources of a region, ecotourism also addresses the impact of tourism on local cultures. Students who visit places such as the village of Pisac in Peru or the SierrAzul Cloud Forest in Ecuador engage with local residents and broaden their understanding of world cultures. Ecotourism itineraries emphasize the value of diversity among cultures, and seek to have as little negative impact as possible. Local language, customs, religion and cuisine may at first seem worlds apart from a young person’s experience. But time spent abroad invariably leads to the realization that people from all corners of the globe are more alike than they are different.
For those in search of affordable educational travel options that offer generous helpings of adventure, enrichment and life-changing experiences, ecotourism destinations are the perfect choice.