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Posted by Royal Sundaram on 18 Jun 2015
Did you know that one of the world’s most loved destinations, the Maldives, is a tropical paradise that will disappear in the next 100 years if carbon emissions continue to rise at the current rate? Scientists have confirmed that the rising level of the Indian Ocean will swallow up close to 1,200 islands in that area unless the government and citizens find a way to fight global warming. The global travel and tourism industry may be a thriving business, but it is also responsible for global climate change and global warming. As a result the melting polar ice caps and rising sea levels are likely to wipe out some of the most beautiful tropical islands. The scarcity of water in some areas will make them inhospitable for human existence.
On the other hand, there is a growing population of ecology-conscious travelers, who not only support the concept of sustainable tourism but also delight in eco-tourism. A fairly young concept, eco-tourism has caught the imagination of the tourism industry and tourists alike and it is one of the best ways to make a positive impact on the economy, society and environment of the place you are visiting as a tourist.
The Environmental Impact of Tourism
Since tourism has a broad definition it is made up of several components such as transportation to the destination, local transport, accommodation, entertainment, nourishment, recreation and shopping. All of these components contribute individually and together to global climate change. Tourism as a whole contributes close to 5% of the global CO2 emissions out of which 72% comes from air, rail and road transportation, 24% from accommodation, and about 4% through local activities. The aviation industry alone contributes to as much as 40% of total CO2 emissions since aviation emissions at higher altitudes have an amplified negative effect on the climate. This is why more and more tourists are taking to the concept of eco tourism and sustainable travelling. Of course, the other aspect of responsible tourism is to ensure that you and your fellow travelers are covered for all eventualities in a foreign land. This is where international travel insurance , with just the right cover for the destination you intend to visit, comes in really handy.
Top 5 Eco-Destinations in the World
Here are some of the best eco friendly travel destinations around the world that offer luxury with a eco friendly touch.
1. Chumbe Island Coral Park in Zanzibar, Tanzania
Water lovers can take a boat ride to the secluded and pristine island of Zanzibar and have a comfortable stay at one of the seven private ‘eco-bungalows’. In this uninhabited island, you can spend weeks exploring the forest reserve and beautiful coral reef sanctuary, both of which harbor endangered and rare plants and animals. Chumbe Island Coral Park is also among the last pristine coral islands in the region, making it a must visit, since it has an uncertain future. Global warming has destroyed many coral reefs since increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by ocean water, making it acidic and resulting in corals losing the ability to calcify their skeletons.
Coral park resort is making conscious and dedicated efforts to preserve the natural coral reef ecosystem of the region. The resort uses large preservation techniques, such as generation of solar power, composting and even using grey water systems. This is done with the aim of creating financial and ecologically sustainable park management that supports the cause of eco tourism. Although marine specialists have said that corals may be extinct by 2050 if a practical solution is not found to global warming, Chumbe Island Coral Park has adopted great measures to preserve the natural ecosystem.
2. Longitude 131 in the Northern Territory, Australia
People who love trekking, camping and exploring can visit Longitude 131 in Australia, which comprises of 15 luxury tents that offer eco sensitive living conditions. Situated at the gateway of the dual World Heritage wilderness site of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, tourists can enjoy five star luxuries along with magnificent views of the sunrise and sunset over the Ayers Rock. At night, tourists can sip wine and dine on the local cuisine under a glittering blanket of stars.
Australia has made conscious efforts to achieve ecotourism status for this area and has built Longitude 131 on a philosophy of enhancing the culture and preserving the environment of the region. The entire resort is situated over a single sand dune, with tents built on stilts that leave the desert sand undisturbed. Apart from ensuring that the entire resort runs on solar power, all the profits are reinvested in development and indigenous training across Australia, making the area both financially and environmentally eco friendly.
3. Grootbos Nature Reserve and Lodge, South Africa
Situated in the heart of Cape Floral Kingdom, the Grootbos Nature Reserve is a region of unprecedented biodiversity and established as a non-profit body in 2004. It is complete with 5 star accommodation and mesmerizing greenery throughout the natural reserve. Its only aim is to provide locals sustainable, nature-based livelihood via various conservation initiatives. As a result, all the funds generated via ecotourism and donations from guests are invested in key development and conservation projects through the foundation.
Leading the way in preserving biodiversity, the key projects at Grootbos include Future Trees, Growing the Future, Youth Development Programme and Green Future. Among these, Growing the Future aims at training a number of men and women every year in growing fruits and vegetables, in principles of animal husbandry and beekeeping. The Green Future project ensures that unemployed people of the area are trained in horticulture, landscaping and ecotourism. Tourists can take part in the project called Future Trees, where they get to plant a tree in an area that previously had a thriving Milkwood forest but was decimated by fire. More than 1,000 trees have been planted till date and guests have the opportunity to track their tree’s progress over the years since its GPS coordinates are uploaded on Google Earth.
4. South Pacific, Maldives
Situated in the heart of the Indian Ocean, this world famous tropical paradise is famous for its turquoise lagoons, sandy beaches and clear blue skies. Offering picturesque views of the ocean and sunset, complete with 5 star, state-of-the-art accommodation for tourists, the ever increasing popularity of this destination has caused an imbalance on its delicate ecosystem. The low lying area is at risk due to global warming and, as mentioned above, experts feel it may be underwater by 2100 if carbon levels rise at the current rate.
In the light of this, the Maldives government has introduced sustainable development measures and several ecotourism practices, and is committed to becoming a carbon neutral nation by 2019. The government is encouraging local resorts to adopt and embed green policies in their operations and development. Since scuba diving is a popular activity with international tourists, the government now has clear recreational diving regulations that are designed to protect the marine environment and species and to protect the 3,000 coral reefs from amateur divers.
5. Costa Rica, Central America
The nation of impossible natural beauty, Costa Rica is complete with radiant sunsets, purple volcanoes, steaming rainforests and sandy beaches with crawling sea turtles. This land truly has an abundance of flora and fauna, coexisting in harmony to balance the natural eco system. Whether you are seeking adventure, peace or leisure, this destination has it all. It is also considered one of the top 20 countries in the world in terms of biodiversity.
To preserve such natural plant growth and rich animal life, this destination is complete with eco tourism activities and has managed to raise the standards for the global eco tourism community. Costa Rica is enroute to becoming one of the initial carbon neutral countries, along with Maldives, by 2021, as per the vow taken by the government in 2007 to promote eco tourism. Complete with sustainable theme parks and rainforests that are completely solar powered, even staying at a resort in Costa Rica is made sustainable with an abundance of trees replenishing the oxygen in the atmosphere. The area has close to 148 nationally certified sustainable hotels that account for eco tourism. Due to such conscious efforts to preserve the ecosystem by the government and locals, Costa Rica’s coral reef and rainforests make up close to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, despite covering a mere 0.01 percent of the world’s landmass.
You can enjoy all the luxuries and conveniences offered by such destinations in a responsible manner without impacting the ecosystem. Remember that what you do has a ripple effect and can deprive future generations of such wondrous places. Along with being a responsible tourist, make sure that you keep yourself safe and travel responsibly by keeping copies of essential documents such as your visa, travel insurance and driver’s license for a hassle free holiday. Do your bit so that we can preserve some of the world’s most beautiful and exotic destinations or else they might become mere memories.
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