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Ecotourism in Africa

Many people think that the prefix “eco” in the word eco-tourism comes from the words ecosystem or ecology – and therefore consider the concepts of natural tourism and eco-tourism to be equivalent. However, despite the fact that the roots of eco-tourism can be found in nature tourism, this word has a broader meaning.
The International Society of Ecological Tourism (TIES) defines ecotourism as “a responsible journey to natural areas where the environment remains unchanged and where the lifestyle of the local population is maintained.”

This is the main difference between nature and ecotourism: Aboriginal tribes, their lives benefit from tourism, however, it does not invade their life and does not change it. The UN considers ecotourism not only a segment of the tourism market, but also a whole philosophy. “Ecological” – means oriented towards the environment and society.

“Responsible tourism” is not quite a synonym for environmental tourism. Any type of tourism can be responsible: you don’t litter, you don’t break branches and cut trees, you carefully make a fire, you respect a foreign culture. This may also be characteristic of mass tourism carried out by large tour operators. Ecological tourism, however, involves a minimal invasion of the nature and culture of indigenous tribes, and at the same time the opportunity to learn all about them. The emphasis is on participation in the life of the tribes, while having the opportunity to live by European standards.

Masai Mara, elephants, eco-tourism Africa: eco-tourism.

Africa was the first continent to switch from nature tourism to ecotourism.

In the 80s, authorities were greatly concerned about the fragility of nature (for example, the disappearance of rhinos) and expelled the Masai Kenyan tribe from their ancestral lands to create national parks. Having lost the opportunity to graze cattle where they had grazed it for centuries, the Maasai immediately engaged in poaching and unauthorized shooting of animals for lunch. Thus, nature did not have a single chance of survival.

However, they guessed to return the lands to the tribes and allow them to live the way they lived before – not only with a view to preserving nature, but also realizing that nature tourism can be combined with cultural tourism.

And did not fail. According to the reviews of many tour operators, travelers travel to Africa for a specific purpose: to see Victoria Falls, climb Kilimanjaro, and participate in a safari. However, acquaintance with tribal cultures leaves the deepest impressions. Previously, tour operators were asked questions about the fauna and the area – now they are asking about the tribes.

Ecotourism is also described as a “real trip”.

Firstly, on ordinary tourist sites full of shops and entertainment, the developed infrastructure does not allow to plunge into the real spirit of adventure. Secondly, Westerners live at a fast pace, time is always running out, and if you want to get the full experience of your trip, plan at least two weeks for such a trip to completely immerse yourself in the atmosphere.

Of course, you have to part with some comfortable conditions. Breakfast in the room will not be served. But in this ecological tourism is somewhat comparable to a diet: you refuse some pleasure, but in return you get something more.

Ecotourism, AfricaEcological tourism is undeniably useful?

Although interest in eco-tourism is growing, responsible tour operators still restrict the flow of visitors. Eco-tourism is becoming a hostage to its own success.

Tourists want to see the unusual, exclusive – but at the same time there are events and aspects of culture that should not be seen by outsiders. For example, the annual Zulu Reed Dance. 10,000 thousand virgin girls dance in front of the Zulus king! Such a spectacle would attract a huge number of viewers, but it is a ritual and should not be turned into a show. Very few are allowed on the action.

Attracting a huge number of tourists is undoubtedly harmful to culture and nature. For example, Hoopoe Safaris in Tanzania canceled trips to Hadzabe villages because it felt that tourists were harming it. Hadzaba has no resistance to foreign influence, similar to that of the Masai. The money that ecological tourism brings often falls into the wrong hands and does not go towards maintaining the standard of living and preserving the tribal culture. Alcoholism and begging are two more serious Hadzaba problems that have emerged with the development of tourism.

It is important to maintain balance: ecological tours are mainly sent in small groups. Become mass tourism – and it conflicts with your own values: do no harm! At the same time, tourists themselves are ready to give up their own pleasure for the sake of preserving nature and African tribes, and tour operators, fortunately, listen to their opinion.

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