We all enjoy being by the beach - whether we're swimming in crystal blue waters, diving in caves or just taking some sun, our seas and oceans offer us a great level of tranquility making our ecotourism trips much more heart-warming. Ecotourism in the marine environment has grown rapidly over the years, probably due to the covering of approximately 70% of the earth's surface area by oceans! The diversity of ecotourism can be striking given the presence of unique habitats such as coral reefs, mangrove forests and sea grass beds.
- 90% of volcanic activity takes place in oceans
- The deepest point in the ocean is 11,033 meters, located in the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean
- Marine fish and invertebrates provide more than 2.6 billion people with at least 20% of their per capita protein intake, and are also among the last sources of wild food
- The highest tides in the world can be seen at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada
- Unfortunately, garbage dumped into oceans is three times the weight of fish caught!
- Coral has similar chemistry and architecture to that of bone and has therefore been used to replace bone grafts
The ecosystem goods and services that marine ecosystems provide us with shed light on the importance of ecotourism as a tool for conserving biodiversity. It's enough to say that a third of the oxygen we breathe is produced in our seas. In addition, oceans regulate our climate, protect our coasts and provide us with cultural services. Oceans also hold large reservoirs of oil and gas!
Another reason I'm an advocate of ecotourism, especially in marine environments, is because I have personally witnessed the damage that mass tourism has caused coral reefs in Egypt's Red Sea! Egypt's procrastination to adopt ecotourism practices has culminated in the loss of 80% of Hurghada's (one of Egypt's popular coastal resorts) coastline corals. Adopting ecotourism practices in unique and fragile areas with increasing human traffic is essential to avoid their overexploitation and poor management, as well as to maintain their ecological integrity.
Marine ecotourism can be water-based, land-based or both. So, there are lots of activities to engage in, such as snorkelling, diving, kite and wind surfing, sea safaris, walking along the beach or visiting sea life centres! Here are some tips to consider before your next marine ecotourism escapade:
- Start by making sure the tour operator follows sound ecotourism practices - such as the number of times they take tourists to swim with wild dolphins per day or week?
- Do not litter in the water or by the beach, especially non-biodegradable litter
- Do not touch any marine life or feed any marine life
- Avoid loud music and light in nesting areas
- Do not buy, pick up or encourage the buying and selling of corals, shells or any other marine life that is prohibited
With so much surface area coverage, there are plenty of destinations to pick from for your ecotourism trip. These are a few countries worth checking out:
- Africa: Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa
- South and Central America: Brazil, Ecuador, Belize and Costa Rica
- Asia: Indonesia - West Papua Island
- Europe: Montenegro, Ireland, Monaco and Croatia
Because marine tourism is one of the fastest growing areas within the tourism sector, ecotourism can certainly play a pivotal role in the protection of these delicate ecosystems in various ways. For example, through ecotourism projects funds can be raised to protect the environment, as well as create alternative sources of income, reducing the pressure on marine resources.
Below are examples demonstrating the relationship between marine ecotourism and marine conservation:
Coming up next....Ecotourism in Islands and Coasts