Historically speaking, Responsible Tourism is a relatively new concept. The word Ecotourism wasn’t created until 1990, while Responsible Travel, Sustainable Travel, and Green Travel are all more recent variations on the same theme.
As result, our ideas of what constitutes Responsible Tourism have changed rapidly over the past decade. Once considered a bucket list experience for nature-lovers, tourism practices such as riding elephants and swimming with dolphins are now considered exploitative and unsustainable.
Fortunately, as Responsible Travel continues to grow, more and more industry professionals are choosing to specialize in Responsible Tourism. Megan Devenish is a former volunteer coordinator who became passionate about RT while working in Cambodia and Vietnam. Looking for ways to make a positive impact on the destinations she traveled to, Devenish wound up getting her MSc in Responsible Tourism Management and becoming Responsible Tourism Manager for Exodus Travels.
Now the 42-year-old, UK-based company has been long-listed for the World Responsible Tourism Awards, which will be given out at World Travel Market in London later this year. We recently spoke with Devenish about what Responsible Tourism is, why it matters, and how Exodus Travels’ Responsible Tourism policies impact travelers and locals alike.
(This guest post on Things to Do in Bolivia is from Matthew Bailey, the world traveling writer behind Live Limitless. He’s passionate about trying new things, ecotourism and outdoor activities, wildlife, and living limitless. Follow Matt on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you’re a blogger interested in guest posting, email pitches to Editor In Chief Bret Love at [email protected])
Land-locked between Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay, Bolivia is one of the most remote countries in the western hemisphere and is also the most indigenous country in all of the Americas.
Home to a variety of exceptional ecosystems– including the Andes Mountains, the Atacama Desert, and the Amazon Basin rainforest– Bolivia is truly an outdoor adventurer’s paradise.
While there are hundreds of different activities that could appeal to visitors, this guide will focus on some of my personal favorite things to do in Bolivia…
The African continent is home to two species of increasingly endangered elephants.
The elusive African Forest Elephant, which lives in the forests of the Congo, is the smallest of the world’s three elephant species. The African Bush Elephant can grow up to 24 feet in length and 13 feet in height, weighing around 11 tons. It’s the largest elephant species, the largest land mammal, and can live up to 70 years (longer than any mammal except humans).
These massive herbivores eat around 350 pounds of vegetation every day, lifting plants with their muscular trunks (which have two finger-like ends for manipulating small objects). They forage in search of food in herds made up of related females and their offspring, led by the eldest matriarch.
I’d been traveling for years before I even considered the notion that travel packing tips could make a difference in the trips my wife and I took.
I was on my way to the airport after 8 weeks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when I first realized with absolutely certainty that my luggage had gotten out of hand.
Standing on the platform for the monorail, I’d already watched several trains go by. There were hordes of people rushing out of the cars, and equally overwhelming throngs loading them back up. My bags and I took up the space of at least five Malay people, and I hadn’t been able to bring myself to attempt boarding with the others.
Good packing is an experiential skill, and its efficiency should be savored. A well-packed suitcase or backpack makes a traveler’s life much easier.
It rids us of the ridiculous bevy of Travel Fashion choices we normally give ourselves, unloading the undue burden of carrying so much baggage (which is often just as much emotional as it is physical). It also makes the lives of those around us— other travelers, bellhops, drivers, etc.— easier when we aren’t hogging the overhead bin or swinging heavy objects about without the ability to see peripherally.
I had to learn this lesson the hard way. But with these travel packing tips, perhaps other long-term travelers will be enlightened to do as I say, and not as I’ve done…
The Belize Barrier Reef may not have the worldwide recognition of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. But the UNESCO World Heritage Site stretches over 190 miles, comprising more than a third of the 560-mile Mesoamerican Reef, which is the second largest coral system in the world. It’s also Belize’s top tourist attraction by far, drawing around 130,000 visitors annually.
The 370 square mile Belize Barrier Reef System encompasses seven marine reserves, 450 cayes (including the ever-popular Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker), and three atolls. The most famous of these is Lighthouse Reef, the most easterly diving hotspot in Belize and home to the Great Blue Hole. As a result, Belize is arguably the most exceptional place for Scuba diving in the western hemisphere, with a diverse array of walls, pinnacles and reef flats to be explored.
It’s one of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, providing home to over 100 species of coral, 500 species of fish, and hundreds of invertebrates. And with 90% of the Belize Barrier Reef still waiting to be researched, scientists estimate there are thousands of new marine species there just waiting to be discovered.
Our day of diving the Belize Barrier Reef with Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort was like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
It was the worst because my father had passed away the week before our trip to Belize, and I was just starting to deal with the shock and grief that comes from losing a parent unexpectedly. Even the dive itself proved problematic: While I was filming GoPro footage of a Nurse Shark early in our first dive of the day, another diver came down on top of me and knocked me into the coral, drawing blood from my arm and leg. When we surfaced, the waves were so choppy that I ended up getting seasick as soon as the dive boat picked me up.
But in terms of the marine life we saw, it was also the most exciting day of diving we’ve ever had. In addition to the aforementioned Shark, we were blessed with close-up sightings of three Spotted Rays, Lobsters, Pufferfish, Seahorses, a Moray Eel out in the open water, and even a Sea Turtle. We also saw several Lionfish, and learned about Hamanasi’s conservation initiatives to eradicate them. For an additional fee, you can learn to spear-hunt the invasive species, which they serve in the resort restaurant and give the striped spines to local ladies to turn into gorgeous earrings and pendants.
As you’ll see in the video above, it was an extraordinary day on the Belize Barrier Reef, which was arguably the most beautiful place we’ve ever gone Scuba diving. Though global warming has led to rampant coral bleaching (which some studies show has impacted up to 40% of the reef), the parts we explored were vibrant, healthy and full of marine life. So much so that we’re dying to go back to Belize to dive more of its barrier reef system in the future! –Bret Love; Video by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, with special thanks to the Garifuna Collective
If you enjoyed our video of diving the Belize Barrier Reef, you might also like:
PIC OF THE DAY: Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort Beach, Belize
GO GREEN TIP #101: How to Choose a Responsible SCUBA Diving Operator