What’s Ecotourism? The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary reads: “The practice of touring natural habitats in a manner meant to minimize ecological impact.”
Ecotourism is such a popular form of travel these days that many tour operators now offer ecotours. Here are some things to consider and discuss with tour operators when planning to take an ecotour. Many of the suggestions come from Josh Cohen who runs Wild Planet Adventures, a company specializing in ecotourism. They use a special Quick Response Code to promote their offers (that is what I call recycling).
Exactly What Are You Getting for Your Money?
When comparing trips that “look” similar on paper, break out all the different costs, such as the price per day, the number of meals and the tours actually included in the package. It will help you decide which is the better buy for you. (This doesn’t always mean the cheapest trip.) The tips below will help you determine how to break out the varying costs.
How Long is the Trip?
If the brochure says the trip is 10-days long, does that mean you arrive in the late afternoon or evening on Day 1 and leave early on Day 10? Or, does it mean that you actually have an activity or tour on the first and/or last days of the trip?
What Activities are Included?
Confirm exactly which tours are included in the cost of your trip. Look for a line in the trip description that says “free day” because it could mean you’ll have to sign up and pay for that “can’t miss” day trip not on your itinerary. If you’re visiting an eco-lodge located alongside the Amazon, everything from hikes to boat rides to search for caiman might be included. If you’re staying at an eco-lodge on a Caribbean island there might be an additional charge for some of the day trips.
Who Runs the Tours and How Large are the Groups?
Cohen, whose company Wild Planet Adventures leads small groups, says to ask who is actually running the tours within the country. Is your tour operator simply putting you into a large group tour handled by a local tour operator, or will you be in a small group with a local guide? Are you going to a site where there will be many other groups, or to a locale where your guide is pretty sure there will be animals but not a lot of other people that day.
Check the Number and Quality of the Meals
The number of meals and the quality of the meals included in the trip price will vary from one tour operator to the next. First, confirm how many meals are actually included. Then, find out if these will be at restaurants where you can get local flavor, remote lodges where you’re staying or hotels that may have meals modified for less-adventurous tourists.
How Much Should a Trip Cost Per Day?
According to Cohen, ecotourism trips should run between $225 and $300 a day for mid-range lodging. He says this should include all activities, guides, lodging and most meals. “If you’re paying less than that do the math. Something isn’t right.” What kind of lodging? Are the tours with large groups? Are there lots of free days, so you’ll have to book your own tours and pay admission to parks?
How Physically Active Are Ecotourism Trips?
The answer varies from trip to trip. These are trips that take you into jungles, mountains and other natural settings where you can explore wildlife, so you’ll have to be fit enough for some hiking and walking. Walk slowly and you’ll see so much more.