Student designs an ecotourism hot-spot for the Iranian desert

September 10, 2019 by  
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A student finalist in this year’s Radical Innovation competition has found a possible solution for conserving Iran’s deserts while also promoting ecotourism in the region. Sharareh Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System could be applied to both residential and tourist accommodations in deserts. Radical Innovation “mobilizes disruptors from around the world with the ideas to propel the industry forward,” according to its website. A jury of design and hospitality experts judged the competition on design, creativity and potential for impacting the industry. Nearly 50 people entered from more than 20 countries. The judges chose three professional finalists, one student winner and two student honorable mentions, with the Nebka Protective System earning a student honorable mention. Related: Experimental design-build festival takes over Californian desert The Iranian desert faces problems like air pollution , inaccessibility and, well, a huge mass of sand. But it’s also a hauntingly beautiful place of great interest to desert researchers and with potential for increased tourism. Almost a quarter of Iran’s land is desert. The Lut Desert is the most famous and is a UNESCO-registered natural phenomenon. While the shifting sands make for a magical landscape, desert wildlife benefits from some stability — that’s where nebkas come in. A nebka is a little, wind-blown accumulation of sand anchored by a bush or a tree. Nebkas help desert animals survive and help control evaporation and shifting sand sediments. Having more nebkas in deserts close to developed areas could protect cities from shifting sand. Faryadi’s Nebka Protective System is an elaborate but intriguing way to increase the number of nebkas over a 12-year cycle. Imagine a circular area in the desert that’s free of nebkas; Faryadi proposed placing a round observatory building in the center of the circle, with a long, arm-shaped hotel reaching out from that center like a clock hand. The circle is divided into 12 sections. During the first year, the long walls of the hotel would act as a dam against wind-blown sand. Each tourist and researcher staying inside would plant a seed. Some of these would sprout, spawning nebkas to stabilize the sand. After a year, the whole hotel would be lifted into the second section, and the nebka development would begin all over again. Twelve years later, the hotel would make a full circle, and the empty desert would turn into a jungle of young nebkas. The round, central area would include a glass elevator for watching the desert, and people would be able to walk around it for 360-degree views. Faryadi also planned for lots of common space, restaurants , cafes, a museum and desert research institute and areas for sand therapy, said to ease muscle and joint pain. The design incorporated traditional Iranian architecture, such as a large, open space to serve as the central yard in the family suites. Solar and wind would provide power, including that required for moving the structure every year. + Radical Innovation Images via Radical Innovation

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Student designs an ecotourism hot-spot for the Iranian desert

Behind the scenes at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

August 28, 2019 by  
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Gwyneth stands upright, supported by one member of her medical team as another scrapes away what looks like blue cotton candy from the cracks in her shell with a pointed metal tool. The yellow slider is stoic, silently opening her mouth, whether wishing to bite or scream. Gwyneth is a turtle, one who has endured a lot of medical attention at the Georgia Sea Turtle Rescue Center since being hit by a car on Jekyll Island. The impact fractured both her carapace and her plastron — her top and bottom shells. The guide on the behind the scenes tour, AmeriCorps worker Stacia Dwelle, explains that the blue stuff is bioglass and costs $175 for a small jar. It works “like scaffolding for the tissue in the fracture site,” she says. Other treatments are lower tech and lower cost, such as the jug of honey and chunks of honeycomb the staff use for its antimicrobial value. Related: Small cruise line treats the whole world as one ocean While the hospital is called the Sea Turtle Rescue Center, they don’t discriminate here. The fully functioning center cares for any type of injured turtle and also works on other reptiles and birds . Public Awareness and Education The center’s founder, Dr. Terry Norton, grew up in Utah far from sea turtles, but his affection for reptiles grew during his residency in Gainesville, Florida. In the early 2000s, Norton worked on Saint Catherine’s Island, 40 miles north of Jekyll. Part of his wildlife health program was developing a global assessment of sea turtle health. He saw the need for a sea turtle hospital on the Georgia coast and opened the Jekyll Island facility in 2007. Since then, he and his staff have treated more than 3,000 patients and welcome 100,000 visitors annually. Why involve the public in turtle medical care? The center “wanted to raise awareness and educate the public as well,” says Dwelle. Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles swim through waters along Georgia’s 100 mile coastline, all either threatened or endangered . Jekyll Island is prime nesting territory, especially for the Loggerhead sea turtle. Leatherbacks and Green sea turtles occasionally nest here. Kemp’s Ridley and Hawksbill turtles also pass through Georgia waters. This year, center staff identified 198 loggerhead nests on the island, with about 120 eggs in each nest. During July and August, the hatchlings fight their way out of their shells, then pour out of nests on the beach and trek to the sea just before sunrise. Most visitors to the turtle center opt for the $9 ticket, which gets them into an exhibit area with interactive displays. They can peer through a large microscope and learn about trash in the ocean. They can also visit the rehab area, a sultry building full of turtles in tubs or look through a window into the medical treatment room. Behind the Scenes in the Hospital Devoted turtle lovers— and those with a little more cash to spend on their travels— can join one of the other tours the center offers. Depending on the month, visitors may be able to accompany staff to nesting sites at night or in the early morning, and there’s a sea turtle camp for kids. Instead of watching the treatment from behind glass, groups of six can stand right in the treatment room and watch Dr. Norton assess turtles. Visitors can also learn about the nebulization chamber where snakes with fungal infections inhale a mist of medicine . Most of the center’s patients stay two to six months before being released. The staff here sometimes give future turtles a helping hand by transferring wild-laid eggs into an incubator. This is especially true when turtles lay their eggs too close to the road on the causeway that connects Jekyll Island to the mainland. The causeway is “a high, dry place those ladies like to look to build their nests,” says Dwelle. “But unfortunately, who else is out there on the causeway? We are. In our cars.” Human transportation is hard on turtles. While on land, they risk being hit by car but in the sea, boat strikes are a top hazard. The center also participates in other reptile-related projects, such as radio-tracking the island’s Eastern Diamondback rattlesnakes. Turtle Gourmets “So our sea turtles might be eating better than us,” says Dwelle serving the turtles mackerel, shrimp and blue crab, which is considerably restaurant -quality seafood. New patients get their food filleted for them but once they’re stronger they get whole seafood and live fiddler crabs just before being released. Staff arrange greens in a PVC pipe with holes cut out, which they sink to the bottom of turtle tubs. This way the patients remember to look for seagrass on the ocean floor when they eventually return to the sea. Each turtle gets a personalized diet, sometimes fortified with special vitamins and calcium. Helping Turtles Many of the hospitalized turtles could easily have escaped injury if humans had been more careful. Keeping your distance from nests ensure that hatchlings stand a better chance at survival. And most importantly, don’t litter. “When you’re on the beach, be careful with fishing lines,” says Mary Van Gundy, a volunteer vet technician at the center. “Make sure you gather them up and throw them away.” She’s amazed by the trash she finds, especially cigarette butts. Slowing down, whether in a boat or a car, will prevent many accidents. Maybe that’s what the stoic Gwyneth is trying to tell me as she silently opens her mouth. Images via Inhabitat

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Behind the scenes at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

This off-grid caravan offers escape into the magical Hoh Rainforest

July 31, 2019 by  
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Near one of the largest temperate rainforests in the U.S. lies a magical glamping getaway that lets you reconnect with nature in cozy and sustainable comfort. Meet the Hoh Rainforest Caravan Cabins, a cluster of remote vacation rentals in the Pacific Northwest that operate entirely off the grid without compromising on modern luxuries. Located in Kalaloch, Washington between the Olympic Coast at the Hoh Rainforest, the Hoh Rainforest Caravan Cabins are one of many nature-focused vacation rentals offered by Glamping Hub , an online third-party booking platform for unique outdoor accommodations. Thanks to a recent partnership with Red Awning, the world’s largest collection of vacation properties, the glamping company now lists over 30,000 accommodations on its website in over 120 countries. The rentals range from caravan cabins to safari tents, tree houses, domes, tipis and more. As with Glamping Hub’s other listings, the Hoh Rainforest Caravan Cabins were selected by the company for their “hotel-quality comfort” and ability to offer guests a “unique experience.” Although all basic amenities are included—including hot water, electricity, a fridge, and a stocked kitchenette—the rentals minimize their environmental footprint with a renewable energy supply and self-contained, compostable toilets. Guests can also enjoy access to communal areas on the property, such as a campfire site. Related: Round, minimalist cabins with sliding glass walls take glamping up a notch “The unique location and privacy of the wooded forest allow for a truly magical experience on the Olympic Peninsula where lodging is very limited,” says Glamping Hub’s listing description. “Glampers can look forward to a starlit night by the campfire and a re-energizing full night sleep on a cozy queen size mattress. Friends and kids are welcome with both three-person and four-person accommodations available.” The property includes three units with a 10 guest capacity. Bookings start at $284.30 per night. + Glamping Hub Images via Glamping Hub

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This off-grid caravan offers escape into the magical Hoh Rainforest

Ethiopia plants 350 million trees in one day

July 31, 2019 by  
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Ethiopia broke the world’s tree-planting record by planting more than 350 million trees in just one day. The effort is part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Green Legacy Initiative, which aims to address climate change and deforestation. The goal of the program is to plant more than four billion indigenous trees throughout the country. It has already reportedly planted three billion, and last week’s efforts made significant progress toward meeting the target. Related: Scientists confirm tree planting is our best solution to climate change Some government offices were shut down for the day to allow staff to participate in the planting efforts. Representatives from the United Nations, African Union and foreign embassies also came out to support the event. “We’re halfway to our goal,” the prime minister announced midway through the planting day, and he encouraged Ethiopians to continue the work in the remaining time. He later announced on Twitter they had not only met the “collective #GreenLegacy goal” but exceeded it. The prime minister is hopeful that he can reach his final target if every citizen plants 40 seedlings. The government is running educational videos about planting and maintaining trees to encourage citizens to join in. The biggest concern for young seedlings is grazing by goats and other livestock that would destroy the trees before they have a chance to grow. Ethiopia’s forest cover is alarmingly low and plummeted over the last few decades. At the start of the 20th century, the country had approximately 35 percent forest cover, but that number dropped to just 4 percent in 2000. Over 80 percent of Ethiopians rely on agriculture or forest products for their income. “I think we demonstrated the capacity for people to come together collectively and deliver on a shared vision,” said Billene Seyoum, Ahmed’s press secretary. The previous record for tree planting was held by India, where 66 million trees were planted in one day in 2017. Via CNN and Climate Change News Image via Pixabay

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Ethiopia plants 350 million trees in one day

Solar-powered Jao Camp offers eco-minded luxury in Botswanas Okavango Delta

July 31, 2019 by  
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After nearly nine months of renovations, African luxury and sustainable safari operator Wilderness Safaris has reopened Jao Camp in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Powered entirely by solar energy, the eco-tourism destination features five spacious tented suites, a new spa and circular treatment rooms, a new Center of Knowledge museum and gallery and two new exclusive villas with a private vehicle, guide, chef and butler. All parts of the camp embrace the outdoors and landscape, from the use of local handcrafted materials to the framed views of the riverine forests and vast floodplains. Surrounded by prolific wildlife, the Jao Camp features a main area elevated into the tree canopy. “Underpinning it all is our commitment to the pristine environment around Jao, minimizing our footprint and allowing our guests to experience the Delta in its fullest sense,” the Wilderness Safaris’ website reads. “Innovative insulation ensures comfort, while gauze and glass panels let natural light and the outside in. The suites and villas are cooled with a silent evaporative cooler at a fraction of energy used by conventional air conditioning.” Related: Solar-powered safari lodge is a gorgeous green retreat in Botswana Jao Camp is also 100 percent solar -powered and draws energy from a new power plant that works on one of the world’s biggest Victron inverter systems and the largest lithium-ion battery bank in southern Africa. During the colder months, the suites are warmed by innovative, self-igniting Calore fireplaces fueled with pellets made from sawdust, a byproduct of working natural wood, without any additives or caking agents. All of Jao Camp’s contemporary luxury suites come with private plunge pools, lounge and dining areas, en suite bathrooms and outdoor and indoor showers. The nature-inspired color palette and use of handcrafted natural materials, such as rosewood-clad ceilings and floors, help tie the interiors to the outdoors and keep the focus on the Okavango Delta . Moreover, the newly added Center of Knowledge museum and gallery shares information about the area, its history and its denizens. + Jao Camp Images via Wilderness Safaris

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Solar-powered Jao Camp offers eco-minded luxury in Botswanas Okavango Delta

A massive green wall grows up the side of this luxury Italian hotel

July 9, 2019 by  
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On the banks of Italy’s spectacular Lake Como sits Il Sereno , a five-star hotel that not only offers top-of-the-line luxury, but also boasts sustainable features throughout. Milan-based Patricia Urquiola Studio designed the building with a palette of locally sourced natural materials and an eye-catching Patrick Blanc-designed vertical garden that grows up the side of the building. The designers’ attention to energy-saving elements and eco-friendly materials earned Il Sereno Climate House certification. Conceived as a contemporary spin on the rationalist-style Casa del Fascio by Giuseppe Terragni, Il Sereno celebrates the historical heritage of the lake and the natural beauty of the surroundings. As such, natural materials were used for construction and include locally sourced stone marble and timber throughout the sustainable hotel. Thorough site analyses informed the placement of the building and the operable facade, which allows for natural ventilation and lighting to reduce the hotel’s environmental impact. The lake is visible from every room in the hotel as well as from the common areas. “I was inspired by the color of the Lake, and its glistening water, the nature of the dramatic mountains, and the adjacent village of Torno,” says designer and architect Patricia Urquiola in a press statement. “The color palette is the lake. It includes green, light-blue, copper, grey and natural tones. For Il Sereno we used natural materials (stone, wood, wool natural fibers) for a sustainable style and timeless elegance.” Related: LEED Gold eco hotel in the Wine Country was built using reclaimed wood To reinforce the hotel’s connection with nature, the architects wrapped parts of the building in full-height glazing and balconies to create a seamless indoor/outdoor living experience and commissioned renowned green wall designer Patrick Blanc to create three artworks for Il Sereno. The largest vertical garden is mounted to the facade facing the northern lakefront to soften the structure’s appearance, while the other two artworks are found near the entrance on the south side. + Patricia Urquiola Studio Images by Patricia Parinejad

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A massive green wall grows up the side of this luxury Italian hotel

These resorts are working diligently at sea turtle conservation

July 3, 2019 by  
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According to WWF, six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species are threatened with extinction due largely in part to plastic pollution, climate change and poaching. Only one in every 1,000 marine turtle eggs will survive to adulthood, and one in two turtles have ingested plastic at some point. Female sea turtles are able to navigate through the ocean to return to the same beach they hatched on to nest, and many of those beaches are located within the property of popular resorts. Thankfully, a number of these resorts remain dedicated to ecotourism and the protection of the majestic creatures that frequent these beaches. Check out these resorts from around the world with conservation programs aimed (and succeeding) at sea turtle conservation. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacations that benefit destinations through conservation Panama Jack Resort, Cancun, Mexico All-inclusive and green-certified Panama Jack Resort in Cancun, Mexico celebrated World Sea Turtle Day in 2019 by implementing a new “Sea Turtle Package” available from August to November. The package includes a donation to the Sea Turtle Conservancy , a hands-on session with the resort’s conservation team and themed amenities such as a turtle bracelet and T-shirt. Each season, Panama Jack Cancun helps to create an environment that yields more than 10,000 hatched sea turtle eggs, thanks to its conservation efforts and the resort’s “Turtle Protection Committee.” The committee is responsible for beach cleanups and nest building at the on-site turtle farm, and the resort offers ecology courses for employees to learn about the proper handling of eggs. Guests are invited to participate in beach cleanups and watch the sunset turtle hatch and release. Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa, Costa Rica Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa in Costa Rica teamed up with local organization Osa Conservation to create a wellness-focused “Save the Sea Turtles” retreat program for yogis who want to do their part for the environment. The Osa Peninsula is visited each year by olive ridley and black or Pacific green turtles, who come to nest on the southern beaches. The specialized retreat is usually offered from April to November, but during other times of the year, guests can contact the retreat for turtle activity. Guests will participate in morning and evening patrols, sea turtle egg recovery and an early morning sea turtle release. Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, Florida In collaboration with local ocean conservation organization Loggerhead Marinelife Center , the Jupiter Beach Resort in Florida offers a special “Stay and Save the Turtles” package. For guests staying three nights or more, the resort will adopt a native sea turtle in your name, and you’ll receive a resort credit and turtle-themed toy. The adoption directly contributes to the continued care and treatment of sick and injured sea turtles at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center as well as further study of the green, leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles that nest at Juno Beach, Jupiter and Tequesta. Turtle Beach Resort, Barbados Green Globe-certified Turtle Beach Resort sits on a stretch of coastline where leatherbacks and hawksbill turtles love to visit during nesting months. The Caribbean resort has teamed up with The Barbados Sea Turtle Project to create a hotel team of “turtle pioneers” responsible for teaching guests about ocean conservation and leading hatching sea turtles from their nests into the ocean. The conservation team organizes beach cleanup days, in which guests are also invited to participate. Surfing Turtle Lodge & Leon, Nicaragua The Surfing Turtle Lodge in Los Brasiles, Nicaragua created its own turtle hatchery in order to protect the nesting areas on the property frequented by olive ridleys, leatherbacks and green turtles. Unaffiliated with any other organization or charity, the Surfing Turtle hatchery is completely operated by the hotel employees and guests. While the hatchings occur year-round, the peak season runs from September through February in the area, and guests are able to experience baby turtles being released into the sea. Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies Located in St. Kitts & Nevis, The Four Seasons has worked with the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Nevis Turtle Group since 2006, helping both visitors and residents protect native sea turtles . Sea turtle migration patterns within the open ocean are still somewhat of a mystery to scientists, and the satellite tracking devices can be costly. Every year, the resort sponsors two GPS satellite transmitters to assist the Sea Turtle Conservancy in tracking the migration patterns of sea turtles who return to Nevis annually to nest. Guests staying at the hotel can participate in identifying and marking sea turtle nests and obtaining data to track and study turtle migration paths. Guests can also help team members locate the actual turtles to be fitted with the GPS (after they have finished nesting, of course). This valuable information will give conservationists the tools and information they need to better protect the endangered sea turtles. Images via Jakob Owens , Isabella Jusková and Randall Ruiz

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These resorts are working diligently at sea turtle conservation

This luxury resort in Canada is recognized globally for its contributions to eco tourism

May 29, 2019 by  
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The Fairmont Chateau Lake Lodge in Alberta, Canada is setting the bar high when it comes to sustainable eco tourism . As a popular accommodation choice for outdoor enthusiasts with an unparalleled location inside Banff National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), preserving the national wildlife around the resort is of the utmost importance. The hotel was the very first in Canada to receive the highest possible rating from the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Key Eco-Rating Program in 2005, and won the award again in 2016. The business also holds an award from the 26th Annual Emerald Awards recognizing outstanding environmental achievements for its sustainability program. Activities around the resort include guided mountain tours, skiing, canoeing, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking, rafting, ice-skating and scenic hiking. Guests can enjoy amenities such as a luxury spa and multiple dining options. Related: Bee + Hive to help explorers book green hotels and sustainable tourism experiences Over the past ten years of operation, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Lodge has implemented a “No Net Negative Environmental Impact” incentive for its eco tourism hotel operations, with full transparency and results reported annually to Parks Canada. The resort also purchases half of its total energy from wood biomass-generated Green Power and uses energy efficient heating sources throughout the property. 80 percent of the hotel operations use energy-efficient lighting, holiday decorations use LED lighting and free parking is awarded to guests driving hybrid vehicles. Each year the resort helps celebrate the World Wildlife Fund Earth Hour to raise awareness for environmental issues by switching off all of the lights on the property for one hour.   Water-saving fixtures installed at the hotel save 3.9 gallons of water per toilet flush and 1.5 gallons of water per minute in the shower. The new fixtures along with the construction of a water treatment plant helped the hotel decrease its water consumption by 38 percent between 1995 and 2015. Guests are encouraged to do their part by reducing their towel and linen usage, which saves both water and electricity . The Fairmont CAREs Program — Westslope Cutthroat Trout Restoration Project works to preserve Canada’s wild trout population; the hotel has donated $12,000 to the cause since 2012. The resort’s culinary program works with Ocean Wise , a local conservation program that allows consumers to make sustainable choices when purchasing seafood. All possible food and beverage containers are recycled , as well as all paper products, batteries, light bulbs, electronics and toner cartridges. The hotel also works with suppliers and vendors to reduce the amount of packaging for delivered products. + Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Via Dwell Images via Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

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This luxury resort in Canada is recognized globally for its contributions to eco tourism

‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

May 8, 2019 by  
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The tourism industry is booming throughout the world but nowhere more noticeably than on the small tropical islands of Southeast Asia. Millions of tourists flock to these remote islands every day to enjoy the beaches and snorkel among the coral reef, but the traffic and waste they produce has forced some ecosystems to reach their breaking point. “Overtourism” is the new term for the overpopulation of tourists who wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems. Many Asian governments have had to close entire islands in order to allow habitats and species (like sharks and sea turtles) to rehabilitate. The environmental impact of overtourism The primary reasons that mass tourism negatively impacts the environment include: Discharge of human waste directly into the ocean by boats, cruise ships and hotels A government survey in the Philippines revealed that 716 out of 834 businesses on the famous Boracay Island did not have wastewater permits and were indiscriminately dumping sewage and waste into the water. Cruise ships, private yachts and many hotels along the coasts also dump waste directly into the ocean . Toxic chemicals from sunscreens pollute young coral species Sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate have been found to alter the DNA of young corals , prohibiting normal and healthy growth. Related: Hawaii bans reef-killing chemical sunscreens Massive amounts of garbage and plastic pollution According to the Ocean Conservancy, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are responsible for up to 60 percent of all plastic pollution in the ocean. Globally, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Related: New study reveals microplastics are in the air Unsustainable development and the destruction of key habitats, like mangroves Almost 50 percent of all mangrove forests have been destroyed in countries including India, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mangroves are systematically cleared to make way for hotels, resorts and white sand beaches, but healthy mangroves are an essential part of healthy coastal ecosystems. Mangroves protect beaches from erosion and provide critical nursery and breeding grounds for young fish and other species. Why are there so many tourists? The rapid rise in tourism is mostly because of expanding middle classes in many countries. More people are able to afford vacations and travel, particularly in China. In 2018, Chinese citizens made a total of 150 million trips abroad, compared to just 10 million in 2000. Regardless of the origin of the tourists, Pacific islands’ infrastructure and ecosystems are unable to handle the surge and are in desperate need of regulation and management. “I would argue that tourism has not only been badly managed in general, it’s not been managed at all,” said Randy Durband, chief executive officer of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Islands close their borders to tourists When tourism began to rise, most island residents were happy to have the jobs and foreign investment, and their governments did not take the time nor resources to develop a management strategy or implement limitations. Now, many governments are scrambling to preserve the very ecosystems that bring tourists to their shores before they are destroyed beyond repair. After calling the waters around Borocay Island a “cesspool,” Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte closed the entire island and launched a large clean-up effort. A new management plan will reduce the daily visitors from 20,000 to approximately 6,000, ban single-use plastics , impose littering fines and ban jet skis from driving within 100 meters of the shore. With these steps, an acceptable rehabilitation of the island is expected to take at least two years. In Thailand, the government closed the famous Maya Bay indefinitely after conservationists reported that over 50 percent of corals had been destroyed. In addition to sunscreen toxins, boat anchors and physical impact from tourists walking on coral and taking pieces as souvenirs cause major damage. Current coral restoration efforts are underway to replant native corals, and species like black tipped reef sharks have reportedly returned. SEE: Can the Cayman Islands save to Caribbean’s remaining coral reefs? Closing islands is an extreme solution, but it demonstrates that many governments are realizing the importance of ecosystems even at the expense of tourism revenue. Sustainable tourism expert Epler Wood said, “We don’t advocate a closing unless it’s an emergency. We recommend balanced management that looks at supply and demand and measured responses based on planning and science that involves regular benchmarking, like water testing .” Tips for sustainable tourism Tips for governments: The nation of Bali has imposed a $10 tax on international passengers that goes directly toward cultural and environmental preservation initiatives, such as waste management. Many tourism-dependent islands in the Pacific and Caribbean have imposed similar tourist fees. In Palau, visitors are required to sign an environmental pledge that is stamped right onto their passports, promising to act respectfully and without damaging ecosystems. Bans on straws and single-use plastics can also be particularly effective on small islands without proper waste management systems. Finally, governments can invest in marine spatial planning and zoning initiatives that identify key vulnerable areas. Such spatial data allows governments to declare zones and enforce allowable activities within the zones, such as protected conservation areas versus recreation areas. Tips for tourists: According to the South China Morning Post, here are five tips to be a more sustainable tourist : Book hotels that employ sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy and water consumption. Choose tour operators who give back to the community — and keep tourism benefits within the local economy — by employing locals, supporting local growers and other initiatives. Be a plastic-free traveler and dispose of your garbage correctly. Research sustainable tourism initiatives you might want to support ahead of your trip. Engage in community-based tourism. “The basic model is: educate yourself, do the right thing and try to be of positive benefit,” said Marta Mills, a sustainable tourism specialist. “Act like you are a guest in someone’s home, because you are.” Via Yale360 Images via Mohd Fazlin Mohd Effendy Ooi , Laznes Binch ,  Stefan Munder , Juanjook Torres González and Jose Nicdao

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‘Overtourism’: Surges in unsustainable tourism are destroying islands in the Pacific

Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

May 7, 2019 by  
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Captain Ross Files sees ripples on the surface of the water down a side canal and instructs Captain Steve Browning to turn in that direction. Files sprints up a ladder to sit on top of the boat, his bare feet and legs dangling, as he looks for more telltale signs in the water. After a minute, he admits defeat. “No, I don’t think that’s a ‘tee!” he calls back to Browning. The early sun rays illuminate the Crystal River in Florida as eight other tourists wearing wetsuits and snorkels share a boat— dreaming of swimming with manatees. By manatee standards, we’re a few weeks late. Cold winter waters in the Gulf of Mexico force manatees to seek warmer climes. Spring-fed Crystal River, 78 miles north of Tampa, provides a winning temperature for pods of manatees. About 700 manatees spent last winter here, but by early April the gulf is warmer than the river, so most manatees have vanished— which is why our captains are having to work so hard. Related: Kin Travel is offering unique vacation ideas that benefit destinations through conservation and sustainability Florida is the only place in North America that you can legally swim with manatees. To animal lovers, this is an awesome opportunity, but one that can weigh on your conscience. While you many want to swim with manatees, the important question here is,  do manatees want to swim with you? Does raising tourists’ awareness help manatees? Biologists and conservationists are studying these questions and devising best practices for manatee tourism. History of Manatee Tourism After being placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, before that they were widely hunted, the manatee population increased. Crystal River is currently the epicenter of manatee tourism. Coast Heritage Museum of Crystal River volunteer Maryann Jarrell, said back in the 1940s the river was extremely clear, giving one entrepreneur the idea to launch glass bottom boat tours. When Jarrell moved to Crystal River in 1971, the water was still stunningly clear and full of wildlife . “You didn’t need a rod and reel,” she told me. “Just put a net out and one of those fish was going to jump in it.” Once people discovered Crystal River, the water stopped being so clear. New residents built septic tanks, landscaped their riverfront houses and fertilized lawns. Runoff turned the water mucky. Despite the decrease in water clarity, the increased number of manatees opened up new tourism opportunities. Boats started taking out paying customers and dropping them in the water with manatees. Tourism became even more important after the Crystal River nuclear power plant shut down permanently in 2013, eliminating hundreds of jobs. “Before anybody could get a handle on it, there was this whole economy in that county based on people being able to swim with the manatees,” explained Katie Tripp, director of science and conservation at Save the Manatee Club. “Then it became a matter of not hurting business and not wanting to take that part of the economy away.” Now there’s a tension between allowing people to see manatees in the wild, but not hampering their reason for being in Citrus County, Tripp tells me. Best Practices for Manatee Tourism Dozens of boats are anchored in known party spot Homosassa cove, which is 10 miles south of Crystal River. Suddenly somebody spots a manatee and a couple of swimmers begin a hot pursuit, driving the manatee towards shore. Once it can’t go any farther without beaching itself, one swimmer encourages another to reach out and touch the manatee. This scenario contradicts everything we learned about passive observation from the boat guides and the 7-minute film “Manatee Manners,” which we watched before our swim encounter. Yet, even guides find themselves debating the finer points of passive observation— should you touch a manatee? Captains Mike and Stacy Dunn, owners of Manatees in Paradise, enacted a strict hands off policy for their company about five years ago. Despite naysayers swearing they’d lose customers, Mike Dunn said business improved and drew more respectful clientele. “We got away from the petting zoo mentality,” he said. When they do catch a customer trying to cop a feel, they send the swimmer back to the boat. Both Dunn and Tripp acknowledged that guides sometimes feel pressure to produce friendly manatees for the tourists. Most companies sell videos after the tour and customers are likelier to buy the video if it captures them interacting with manatees. Instead of selling the video for $40 like other companies do, the Dunns give the customers video for free— if they behave. “If they do touch a manatee, they don’t get the video at all.” Tripp has been working with the Manatee Ecotourism Association to develop best practices for manatee tourism and to start a certification program called Guardian Guides. To qualify, tour operators must adhere to strict standards, including varying the times and locations of their tours, insisting that patrons wear wetsuits and use additional flotation devices to decrease splashing, accompanying guests in the water and making sure everybody keeps their hands off the manatees. So far, Manatees in Paradise and Crystal River Watersports are the only two companies certified. Tripp would like to see manatees get their fair share of the tourism pie. “Even though the industry has been growing and growing exponentially, I’m not seeing tons more money go into manatee conservation,” she said. “I’m not seeing tons more people write letters on conservation issues.” Dunn sees an upside of tourism for the manatees. Since guides are in the water every day, they’re often the first to know when a manatee is in distress and proceed to contact authorities and often help in rescuing and rehabbing manatees. Dunn is also in close touch with manatee researchers, reporting on day-to-day behaviors he observes. The Manatee Experience The group climbs stealthily down the boat ladder. The water is murky, but Files assures us a manatee is nearby. Then suddenly this enormous thing appears out of the depths, floating silently like a blimp. It comes up, takes a breath then sinks back down as if we imagined the whole thing. Afterwards, on the boat, we’re awed. We’re on a manatee high. These creatures are so huge, quiet and alien. We got to slip into their world for just a moment. In the future, maybe the group will take Tripp’s advice and watch manatees from a boardwalk, where we’ll be able to see more of their authentic group behavior. But for now, we wouldn’t trade our up-close experience. Via  Manatee Ecotourism Association ,  Crystal River Watersports ,  Save the Manatee Club , Manatees in Paradise Images via Inhabitat, Manatees in Paradise

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Conservationists in Florida are making the ultimate effort to protect manatees from tourism

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