The True Meaning of Ecotourism
Delivering advice on food, wine and culture for the ethical traveler, Epicure & Culture is a resource for those wanting to make sustainable choices. We’re thrilled that they have shared Gondwana’s article, Gorilla Trekking In Rwanda Reveals The True Meaning Of Ecotourism with their audience. This piece studies the meaning of ecotourism, while connecting the dots between gorilla trekking in the Volcanoes Mountains and the resurgence of tourism in Rwanda.
Goals of Global Ethics & Ecotourism
To make things even sweeter, this article was featured on the front page of the Epicure & Culture website, and in their “Global Ethics” section. A broad topic, global ethics means considering how choices impact the earth on a global level, not just a personal way.
However, the word “ecotourism” brings along some contradictions due to its loose definition. Any company can market themselves as having an ecotourism focus, even if the result (behind the scenes) compromises the environment. Some natural experiences touted as ecotourism have little supervision or regulation, effectively the opposite of what we consider ecotourism. Mike Long, of Gondwana Ecotours, argues, “It’s important we also consider our impact. If these close-contact experiences are not moderated, the [wellbeing of the] wildlife, human visitors and the environment can be compromised.”
Merging Animal Tourism and Ecotourism
In the world of animal tourism, some unregulated practices have tarnished the reputation of this industry. Exposés on Sea World, circuses, zoos, and experiences like riding elephants reveal a dark side of how animals are treated in captivity.
As a counterpoint, gorilla trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has been an example of how animal ecotourism can positively impact the community and the environment. While most wild gorillas roam free in the jungle, several mountain gorilla families are habituated to humans, so travellers can see them in their natural habitat. The government regulated project has protected the ecosystem of Volcanoes, stabilized the gorilla population, and created jobs for locals and even the poachers who once hunted the gorillas. Ideally, all forms of animal ecotourism should be able to attain these goals, while promoting the region as a tourism destination.
Long Term Community Benefits of Ecotourism
After the horrific Rwandan Genocide of 1994, the country was so devastated that few believed it could recover. A poor economy, aftershocks of war and political instability threatened to ruin Rwanda’s tourism economy permanently. However, with the surge in tourism surrounding mountain gorillas (partly due to recent documentaries like Virunga), and a booming coffee industry, jobs are being created and the country is rebounding. These opportunities create a clear link to how ecotourism can work on a globally ethical scale. To sum it up, Long writes, “Not only is the desired goal of saving this endangered species being fulfilled, but it’s benefitting Rwanda at large.”
Explore Rwanda With Gondwana
Gondwana’s 10 day tour of Rwanda includes a permit to visit the endangered mountain gorillas, responsibly see other exotic animals, spend time on Lake Kivu, and visit a coffee plantation. In the city, explore the capital Kigali, and visit a non-profit that helps women learn life skills. Learn more about our trip inclusions on the Gorilla Trekking Tour!