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ecoDestinations - South America
When traveling throughout South America, you can experience a variety of breath-taking vacations. It is a vast continent containing 12 sovereign states that are extremely diverse from each other in language, culture, history, geography, and economics. You will also hear a variety of languages, including Portuguese in Brazil, Dutch in Suriname, English in Guyana, and French in French Guiana, as well as the hundreds of different languages and dialects of the indigenous peoples. With its vibrant cultures, historical architecture, and awe-inspiring nature, South America is a unique travel destination.
There are many South American destinations that make ecotravelers’ buckets lists. One such site is Machu Picchu, where you can trek to the mountainous “lost city” of the ancient Inca. Or you might like to scuba dive in the Galapagos, where you might witness sea lions, green turtles, penguins, and rare corals at the world’s second largest marine reserve. There’s also the Atacama Desert in Chile, heralded as the driest place on Earth with some areas having never had a recorded incidence of rain. Then there’s Iguaçu Falls, a majestic horseshoe-shaped waterfall between Argentina and Brazil that is surrounded by subtropical rainforests full of tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelets, jaguars, and caymans. And let’s not forget Patagonia, a nature reserve divided between Chile and Argentina, with its majestic mountains, glaciers, crystal-clear lakes and pink flamingos.
Unfortunately, each of these remarkable sites suffers from human impact, unsustainable development, and climate change. In Machu Picchu, porter welfare is a sensitive issue because of the huge disparity between the trek operators and the conditions in which their employees work. More than 90% of the Galapagos’ coral reefs were killed off during El Niño and continuously rising ocean temperatures threaten them with extinction. The Atacama Desert has seen increased pollution due to the nearby mining industry. Helicopter rides at Iguaçu Falls contribute to pollution and the noise disturbs the breeding habits of the birds. Climate change is causing the glaciers in Patagonia to melt at a rapid rate, affecting a source of water for tens of millions of peoples.
Ecotourism initiatives provide an alternative income to the logging, fishing, mining, and agriculture industries by strengthening local communities, environmental sustainability, and global partnerships for development. Recently, on World Tourism Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “This year’s observance of World Tourism Day focuses on the ability of tourism to fully empower people. Engaging local populations in tourism development builds stronger and more resilient communities. Tourism helps people to develop a variety of skills. As a service sector with cross-cutting impact on agriculture, construction or handicrafts, tourism creates millions of jobs and business opportunities. Its capacity to lift people from poverty, promote gender empowerment and help protect the environment has made it a vital tool for achieving positive change in communities across the world.” Thus, it is important for travelers to consider the climate, economic, societal and environmental impacts of their trips.
As ecotravelers, we hope to mitigate the adverse impacts on sensitive ecosystems and cultures. TIES is a leading source of educational tools and resources for travelers seeking businesses and destinations that have sustainable tourism practices. Travel can inspire cultural awareness, tolerance and commitment to environmental responsibility. Start by making informed choices. Where possible, reduce carbon footprints, choose environmentally friendly activities, book with quality lodges and tour operators, behave in a culturally sensitive manner, and support the areas that you are visiting. By exploring ecoDestinations, you can have a unique trip and a positive impact on local cultures, communities, and environments.
Certification sets standards and helps distinguish genuine ecotourism and sustainable tourism businesses from others that make empty claims. While in South America, make sure to look for these certification brands!
Eco-Tour Operators in South America
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TIES Traveler Membership
"As more travelers become increasingly attracted to this type of alternative tourism, it’s imperative for global networks such as TIES to serve as 'sources of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, and sustainable travel' in order to highlight the issues and challenges raised in this blossoming industry as its definition continues to expand. In the end, it’s really about thinking globally and acting consciously."
- Kaity Tsui, New York, USA
TIES Traveler Members receive special member emails delivering tips on traveling responsibly and advice for conscious travelers about ecotourism destinations and experiences. You will be able to benefit from the rich collective knowledge of TIES global network, and gain invaluable insights - from useful travel tips to best practice stories. Join our network of 14,000 members for free, and start learning more about why and how your travel choice makes a difference!
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