Due to their unique features and widespread existence, mountains have proven to be attractive ecotourism destinations in many regions of the world. Ecotourism in mountain regions seems to charm those who have taken up an interest in their development and conservation.
Our mountains cover approximately 27% of the earth's surface, and have shown to directly support 22% of the world's populations who live within their ranges. Apart from the mountain communities, people living in lowlands also depend on mountains for a wide range of goods and services, such as freshwater, timber, energy and recreational and spiritual services. Mountains also protect us from natural hazards such as landslides and avalanches.
- Mountains provide more than HALF of humanity with freshwater...they've been labeled the water towers of the world!
- It's estimated that mountain tourism activities generate $70-90 billion a year in revenue, and account for 15-20% of the tourist industry.
Having such high diversity, we'll find that mountains support multiple ecosystems. There are mountains on every continent, and within all the major biomes, ranging from tropical forests, deserts to polar icecaps - providing us with plenty of mountain ecotourism destinations.
Look out for Mountain Goats in North America, Mountain gorillas in central East Africa, bears in the Andes, colorful quetzals in Central America or wild varieties of mustard, cardamom, gooseberry and pumpkin. Mountain ecotourism definitely sounds exciting to me!
It's evident that ecotourism in the north and south can be strikingly different. When considering our ecotourism destinations we should always keep that in mind. As responsible travelers looking to explore mountain ecotourism, we should be able to determine whether or not the organizers of our trips apply the basic principles of ecotourism. However, proper ecotourism also largely depends on our behavior. Ecotourism in mountains requires us to pay attention during our engagement in activities such as hiking, cycling, and camping. Here are some tips for your next mountain ecotourism vacation.
- Determine whether activities are suitable for ecotourism
- Learn about sensitive sites and species and avoid them
- Use designated tracks and sites
- Try and rotate the routes and sites you've used to give them time to recover
- Avoid very wet or very dry grounds so as not to damage them
- Look out for breeding/nesting grounds
- Make sure your outfit and gear is clean to avoid the introduction of foreign substances
- Camp no less than 30 m away from water bodies - Avoid open fires as they may cause accidental fires and destroy surrounding habitat
- Don't feed, disturb or come close to wildlife
You can find more guidelines here.
As mentioned earlier, there are mountains all across the globe, offering us many opportunities for mountain ecotourism. Whether you're in Europe, North America, South America, Africa or Asia, here are some mountains with great ecotourism potential:
Europe: Pyrenees, Taurus, Apennines, Cantabrians and Balkans
North America: Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, Alexander Archipelago and Pelly Mountains
South America: Tierra del Fuego, Huayna Picchu, Alpamayo and Huascaran
Africa: Mount Kenya, Virunga, Kilimanjaro, Mount Sinai, Uluguru and Tsitsikamma
Asia: Himalaya, Hindu Kush, Karakoram, Ladakh, Har ki doon, Kulu and Kangara
Many communities living in mountain regions around the world have endorsed and promoted ecotourism. They've realized the benefits that come with adopting ecotourism practices. I think now is a good time for us to pitch in and prove that ecotourism can be a solution to safeguarding our mountains.
Coming up next....Ecotourism in Rainforests