Ecological tourism (ecotourism) as defined by WWF is tourism including travel to places with relatively undisturbed nature in order to get an idea of the natural cultural and ethnographic peculiarities of the area. It is tourism that does not violate the integrity of ecosystems and creates such economic conditions in which the protection of nature and natural resources is beneficial to local populations.
People, who consciously choose ecotourism for themselves as a form of action, not of rest, try to minimize their negative impact on the environment and encourage tour operators and tourists to contribute to its protection. One of such people, in fact, was the author of the term, a Mexican ecologist Hector Ceballos-Lascurain, who entered the word in the vocabulary in the first half of the 1980s.
However, for the last 25 years, experts have not agreed whether "green" tourism harm nature or not. Radical environmentalists believe that the term itself is an oxymoron, because no matter how careful the people are, we still damage nature. The exception, according to experts, may be only small nations who still support the traditional way of life and are a part of the wild themselves.
Wikipedia considers the basic principles of ecotourism as follows:
- conservation of biological diversity and cultural diversity through ecosystem protection;
- promotion of sustainable use of biodiversity, by providing jobs to local populations;
- sharing of all socio-economic benefits with local communities and indigenous peoples by having their informed consent and participation in the management of ecotourism enterprises;
- tourism to unspoiled natural resources, with minimal impact on the environment being a primary concern;
- minimization of tourism's own environmental impact;
- affordability and lack of waste in the form of luxury;
- local culture, flora and fauna being the main attractions;local people benefit from this form of tourism economically, often more than mass tourism.
According to D. Morozova, a specialist of the Moscow Ecological Travel Center, ecotourism in Russia does not exist in its pure form (adopted in the West). So far some separate environmental projects are being developed and implemented into life with a different degree of success. Besides, even the tour operators do not always realize what ecotourism is. Therefore, eco tours are often understood as children's camping with an educational element to gain some travel skills. The trip is kind of immersion in the life of the peoples, which are considered to be "small" or "exotic", or hiking on the developed routes through a specially designed area of protected zones with or without a guide.
There are following types of ecotourism so far:
Research-oriented tourism: field practice of students, expeditions of scientists, thematic volunteer projects that can include tourists keen on flora, fauna, traditional nature management. Such eco tours are expected not only to observe from the outside, but also participate in the research.
Adventure nature-oriented tourism: such tours combine sightseeing and activities (rafting, fishing, photo shooting, mountaineering, horseback riding, biking, and skiing). These tours are partly taken place on the territory of nature reserves or national parks.
Ecotourism in protected areas: implemented on the territory of nature reserves and national parks, includes introduction to the activities of protected areas in the program, visiting eco trails and museums of nature, seminars and lectures, volunteer work, thematic excursions accompanied by rangers, professional guides and other experts of the reserve .
In our region ecological tours are offered by protected areas administrations. The list can be found in useful links. If you want, you can participate in expeditions organized by the universities of the region. The Taimyr, Evenkia and some ridges of the Western Sayan are traditionally considered as ecotourism areas.
Natural Park Ergaki
Reserve Great Arctic
State Nature Biosphere Reserve Taimyrsky
Tsentralnosibirsky Biosphere Reserve
Sayano-Shushenskaya Reserve "Heart of Sayan"
Ecological Travel Centre