Ecotourism in Tanzania

Yona F. Maro

Nov 2, 2006
There are many perceptions as to what exactly ecotourism is. Ecotourism is by definition insightful, considerate and involving travel experience to pristine natural or rich cultural environments. This travel must aid the well-being of the local people and help to preserve the environment for future generations. Ecotourism also produces viable sustainable economic opportunities for the host areas.

Originally, ecotourism was defined by UNEP as a purely nature based activity, omitting the impacts that tourism had on the local villages and culture. However, it quickly became apparent that trying to create a new type of tourism, which only focused on wildlife and the environment, whilst excluding the local populations, simply was not viable.

Being"eco" is a popular tourism sales pitch, but what is true ecotourism? What criteria defines an ecolodge or an ecological aware company? How are surrounding local communities involved?

In fact ecotourism is perhaps the most over and misused word in the travel sector. The Ecotourism Society defines it as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the welfare of the local population". A hike through the rainforest or savannah is not eco-tourism unless that particular walk somehow benefits that environment and the people who live there. A rafting or canoeing trip is only classed as eco-tourism if it helps to raise awareness and funds to help protect the watershed. A loose interpretation of this definition allows many unscrupulous companies to promote themselves as something that they are not. If true eco-tourism is truly important to you, when you book a trip ask lots of questions to fin out if your trip will in fact help "conserve and improve" the areas you visit.

Ecotourism activities are of particular interest to UNEP because of the symbiotic relationships with conservation, sustainability, and biodiversity. As a development tool, ecotourism can help to advance the basic goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, namely:

1: To conserve biological (and cultural) diversity, by capacity building in local communities and increasing the effective value of ecosystems.

2: To promote the renewable use of biodiversity, by generating steady revenue, employment and business opportunities in ecotourism.

3: To share the benefits of ecotourism developments equitably with local communities and indigenous people, by obtaining their informed consent and full participation in planning and management of ecotourism businesses.

In Tanzania ecotourism has proven to be one of the more effective tools for long-term conservation of biodiversity. Well informed travellers to Tanzaniua choose their safari guides, tour companies and lodges from a position of knowledge. This purchasing power is the driving force behind positive or negative impacts on the places tourists visit.

Cultural Tourism is particularly stunning in Tanzania owing to the high tribal diversity. 119 major tribes all with their own language and culture. Interacting with these unique cultures is the focus of this style of safari. Learning from experiences of other cultures to broaden ones perspective is very rewarding. An craftsman showing you how to weave a blanket and learning about their traditional dress would be a form of cultural tourism, however just buying crafts in the market with no more interaction than the exchange of money does not count as true cultural tourism.

An online poll by the website has found Tanzania in the top three countries for eco-tourism.

Visit the Serengeti plains, see the rare black rhino in the Ngorongoro Crater and view huge herds of wildebeest, zebras and gazelles. Explore the unique culture of the indigenous Maasai, Hadzabe, Wapogoro,WaSukuma Iraqw tribes.

Alternatively visit Unguja, known to most people as Zanzibar Island. This romantic spice island has colourful eclectic history going back 2,000 years. Enjoy exotic Stone Town and indulge yourself with a couple of days at the superb Hurumzi hotel. Indulge yourself by combining this with the palm-fringed beaches and glorious clear waters at a luxury resort on the coast or a private island, for example Matemwe Bungalows or Chumbe Island Coral Park.

Mikindani offers a vibrant mixture of African, Arabic and European influences and is according to Livingstone, the finest harbour on the coast. It is situated in the far southeast of Tanzania and is a more off the beaten track destination. The Old Boma has been restored to its former splendor and is located amongst coconut palms, frangipani, hibiscus and bougainvillea bushes. It has spectacular views of the Indian Ocean.

The Selous Game Reserve and Udzungwa, Ruaha & Mikumi National Parks are usually referred to as Tanzania’s southern safari circuit. These are some of the most pristine protected areas in Africa.

Tanzania is world renowned for its abundant and diverse wildlife. It has 15 massive national parks including the largest and most famous, the Serengeti.

Serengeti has been recently listed by National Geographic as one of the 50 must see places. Over 80 per cent of the visitors to Tanzania last year went for the wildlife.

In fact Tanzania is currently the fastest growing tourist destination in Africa. For more information on visiting Tanzania visit: Wild Things safaris. . Safaris

Roy J Hinde M.Sc. is a former research scientist who now is a director of Wild Things Safaris Ltd Wild Things
and runs the marketing for MK safaris href=>Mountain Kingdom
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