Finding Real Eco- Tourism in Thailand Part I
It seems these days everyone is doing Eco tours and treks but what is it? Do you know the questions to ask a tour or trekking operator to find out if they are for real or just a ploy to get you to go with them?
First of all, most operators care only about making you happy. They will say yes to what ever you want to do. This is fine if you are doing a normal commercial tour to the handicraft factories or city tour however if you want to visit a hill tribe village or a nature area this is not acceptable. The reason is because that is what the consumer wants and the operators want to meet the needs of their clients, which might not be in the best interest for the environment or local people. This means it is up to you to be well informed about what is and what is not eco-tourism.
Here is a list of subjects and whys that separates the Eco-culture and nature friendly tour and trekking operators from those that are not. It is then up to you to decide which companies properly adhere to the true meaning of Eco-tourism in Thailand.
Tour and Trekking operators first must meet three basic standards to be called Eco tourism.
1. The willingness and ability to maintain or improve the environment.
Did you know that most of the plants and animals on the endangered species list are because of destruction of habit and not poaching, hunting or gathering? There are many examples of this in north Thailand. Not so many years ago there were lots of rare species of birds along the Mae Kok, Ping, Fang and Mae Teang rivers. Now because of clear cutting of bamboo for tourist for rafting all of the large and many rare species of bamboo are now gone. This means no more places for the birds to roost or nest, insects to eat and the beautiful stands of bamboo that were once abundant along the river banks are now gone forever. So what can you do?
Try to find operators that use recycled bamboo rafts when ever possible They pick them up at the take out point and bring them back to the starting point by large truck. The rafts can be used again and again for a year or so. Others just take them to the end of the rafting trip and sell them for other uses or most are disposed of along the bank to rot and they cut fresh bamboo for new ones. Finding these operators will be difficult, as many tour operators will say yes they reuse the rafts when in fact you will find out at the end of your rafting trip they do not. Better yet find an operator that use rubber boats, kayaks or canoes with out gasoline engines if possible.
Another major problem is water pollution. With the large numbers of travelers wanting to trek and visit hill tribe villages they are the number 1 source of water pollution in remote areas. I know of many hill tribe villagers that used to go to streams for small fish, frogs and insects to gather and eat. Because of the trekkers using soap and shampoo at waterfalls and in streams the animals that depend on clean water along with the plant life that supports them are now gone. It is a fact that the hill tribe villagers before the tourists arrived used to gather the water and wash their clothes and body away from the streams or waterfalls so as not to pollute.
Read more in Part II