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An eco resort is a destination with lodging, dining and entertainment where the central focus is the preservation of Earth’s environments and living ecosystems and the webs of interconnected life forms within those environments. Vacationers leave their structured lives and work for a diverse assortment of venues, usually all-inclusive with lodging and meals, such as land-based facilities, cruises or threatened ecosystems set aside for wildlife encounters. Accommodations range from luxury lodging to backpacking into wilderness areas with one’s own tent and supplies.
Another name for a vacationer who travels to an eco resort is an ecotourist. Ecotourism encompasses travel to threatened habitats, where tourists learn about preservation and sustainability of the natural world in order to coexist in complex ecosystems that have survived for millennia without industrialized human encroachment. Destinations are as wide-ranging as the arctic regions, the Amazonian rainforest, the African savannahs with their endangered mammals or the Galapagos Islands from which Charles Darwin developed his theories on the laws of natural selection, the process by which ecosystems and species within those ecosystems change.
Many eco resorts bring volunteer tourists into areas where ecosystems are threatened, allowing them to help field biologists, conservationists and anthropologists study the wildlife and indigenous peoples. Sponsors of such trips are found within university systems, environmental societies and private travel agencies that specialize in nature-friendly tours. Student volunteers assist researchers in studying species within a unique and possibly vanishing environment. At an eco resort in the wilderness, students can sometimes earn college credit by working with researchers to identify local plants and animals.
Seminars and hands-on experience educate the tourist in responsible and ecologically respectful behaviors that sustain the eco resort area. Roughing it with overnights in tents or while hiking, skiing or kayaking through remote areas from lodge to lodge, small groups with well-trained guides learn how to minimize their environmental impact. Just as diverse organisms within ecosystems must sustain one another, so human interactions with Earth’s environments must do the same, leaving the smallest ecological footprint possible. Eco resorts train tourists to manage their impact on the environment, helping them understand the limits that the carrying capacity of an environment puts on any species introduced into it, including humans. Regulating populations of invasive species, fire management, flood management and preservation and maintenance of aquifers help tourists integrate this knowledge into their lifestyles at home.
Approximately 75 percent of the ecological regions of interest on Earth are in or around oceanic environments, so ships and boats provide ample ways of communing with nature while experiencing various levels of overnight accommodations. Windjammer or small inland cruises that encourage kayaking or nature walks can educate tourists on the protection of ecologically at-risk islands, inland tributaries and ocean environments. For those Earth-friendly tourists who are more averse to risk, large cruise ships present lectures and seminars, sightseeing and photography as an alternative to roughing it.
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