Travel Time: Eco-Tourism

Eco-tourism is all about traveling to unspoiled parts of the world and maintaining that pristine state by doing no harm. That usually means whatever goes in, comes out including all manner of human detritus. Sometimes even your own bodily waste must be removed so that the footprint you leave is as minimal as possible.

A challenging trek to Mt. Kilamanjero, found in Tanzania on the equator, is an eco-tourist’s haven. Climbing to the roof of Africa, Kilamanjaro, is the tallest mountain on the continent at 5895 metres and is known to climbers as one of the seven most desirable summits.

There are several routes up the mountain that are not only for the professional climber, a reasonably fit trekker with one of the many highly trained Tanzanian guides, can enjoy an exhilarating and safe climb. As you gain altitude, you’ll climb through several ecosystems – lush rainforest, moorland and finally the bare high altitude desert of the upper slopes.

Imagine being on the summit at sunrise, standing in African snow, gazing over an incredible mountain range down to the Serengeti and the land of the Masai. From burning sand to freezing snow all in seven days!

For the birdwatcher, the Andalucia area of Spain has several eco-tours to view rare birds in their natural habitat. Donana National Park is one of the most important wetlands in Europe and offers an abundance of resident and migratory birds. The diversity of habitat within the park allows one to watch such rare birds as the Spanish Imperial Eagle, the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and the Glossy Ibis. During the rainy season, you will spot the Azure-winged Magpie, the Marbled Duck or the Sardinian Warbler cavorting in the marshes, around lakes and ponds.

In Cadiz province, make your base in the peaceful, coastal town of Zahara de los Atunes, then explore the beautiful Ojen Valley looking for Blue Rock Thrush, Lesser Kestrel, Orphean Warbler and Black-eared Wheatear.

The plains and rice fields of La Janda offer White and Black Stork, Purple Heron, Black-winged Stilt and Kingfisher. Caspian, Sandwich, Black and Little Tern as well as the Mediterranean and Audouin’s Gull will reveal themselves on the lagoons and marismas of Barbate and Santi Petri. Ringed, Little Ringed and Kentish Plover can be seen there too.

Within the range of Alcornocales National Park visit the beaches and river mouth of the Rio Jara near Tarifa along the fringes of the Sierras that lead down to the Atlantic and the beautiful Cork Oak forest and hills. Birding in your backyard will never be the same.

Get closer to the natural environment and the local communities while helping to support them by booking an eco-lodge for your stay. Eco-lodges are built on the premise of sustainability and use green methods such as composting with environmentally safe means, treating all waste, employing local people and donating resources to the area. Be sure to ask pertinent questions around these issues before booking so that you will not be contributing a negative effect on the environment while enjoying the intimacy of nature in a different part of the world.

TerryLynn Saunders lives in Nanaimo.