No doubt about it, eco-tourism is an over- and misused word in the travel industry. I have travelled several places where they claim to offer eco-tourism without it actually being so.
For example, when I was in Malaysia I went on a guided tour in the rainforest. The travel agency called it eco-tourism. However, such a walk can only be called eco-tourism if it somehow benefits the environment and the people who live there. And this rainforest walk, did not do this in any way.
That being said, Sweden has come very far in the area of eco-tourism. Sweden was actually the second country in the world, after Australia to introduce it. On my press trip to West Sweden last week with Nordic Nomads and Visit Sweden, I can claim that it was my first ever eco-touristy trip, which actually can be called so. Not just claiming to be.
We did several eco-friendly activities, both on water and land:
Mussel and oyster harvesting
The Mussel and oyster harvesting with Lars and Adrian, two great guys from Orust Shellfish, was probably my favorite activity of all. They transported us with a boat named Signe trough beautiful landscape, before we stopped and Adrian dived down and came up with several oysters in his hand. Thereafter they took us to a small island nearby, with great atmosphere, where they prepared the fresh mussels and oysters for us. It was delicious! Around us everything was calm and silent, and the moment was magical!
Both, mussels and oyster are considered to be some of the most environmentally friendly sources of meat. When farmed, they actually clean up the surrounding water. They leave little to no waste, and do not really affect the surrounding habitat. Furthermore, they do not require other oils or fish meat for food, or any antibiotics or chemical intervention. This is why most scientists tell us to eat more of these types of shellfish. Not a problem for me, at all! I love them, and will do my best to follow their advice! 😉
For my traveling companions (Reiselykke, Hamacareise, Globetrotterelisa), kayaking seemed to be the very favorite. We had some beautiful hours on calm water, where we stopped to have some snack on a small island. Louise that works at Nautopp, was really skilled and talked about preserving the water and surrounding areas. They have an environment policy to not leave any footprints when doing their kayaking tours.
We also had a beautiful bicycling trip, from Grundsund to Fiskebäckskil. On the way, we stopped to learn a bit about the swedish culture, and the surroundings. We also ate lunch at some rocks with the sea, it was a bit windy, but still fantastic.
The area have many nice islands to bicycle at, also car free islands. Something, I might had preferred, as some places we went (like in the center of the island) felt a bit chaotic with the cars…
A visit to the Zoo (Nordens Ark)
The last activity was a visit to the zoo Nordens ark. Their main goal is to save animal species/breeds threatened with extinction through breeding and rearing. Furthermore, they release animals into their natural habitats whenever feasible. They also conduct research and studies to foster a better understanding of the animals in the park and improving their chances of survival.
All the animals in the park is from the north part of the globe, so that they can stay outside the whole year around.
All the activities we were involved in was responsible travel to natural areas and contributed to conserve the environment and improve the welfare of the local people. Furthermore, all the activities raised awareness to help protect the surroundings. Some also raises funds to do the same. That is why this actually can be called eco-tourism, and what makes it different than the “eco-toruism” I have done in the past. Next time, I will be more sceptical to what is called eco-tourism, and see if I actually contribute to conserve the environment and improving the welfare of the local people, when taking such tours. Or if the word is just misused another time…
Is travelling eco-friendly important for you? Have you ever been on a tour that can be characterized as eco-tourism? Where/when?
All the activities were sponsored by Visit Sweden.