Ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as:
"Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people"
Ecotourism is about connecting conservation, communities, travellers and tourism operators. This means that those who implement and participate in responsible tourism activities should adhere to the following ecotourism principles:
- Minimize impact
- Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect
- Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts
- Provide direct financial benefits for conservation
- Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people
- Raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climate
This definition of ecotourism stands at the centre of BirdLife South Africa's role in promoting and developing avitourism in South Africa.
The Birding Routes are conservation and community-orientated avitourism projects which subscribe fully to the principles of responsible travel and fair trade.
Through the Avitourism Division and the birding routes, BirdLife South Africa would like to promote carefully managed establishments involved in conservation and community projects and who promote responsible living by being environmentally responsible, sustainable tourism providers.
Establishments are required to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for ‘Birder-Friendly' status which include:
- Catering to the specific needs of birders
- Being Responsible Tourism operators
- Supporting BirdLife South Africa' strategic objective of conserving wild birds and their habitats
Being "Birder Friendly" means that these establishments have committed themselves to catering to the needs of birders, have or are in the process of implementing an environmental management plan, support local communities through their procurement, employment and operating protocols and subscribe to the principles of responsible tourism.
Whilst the primary aim of the Birding Routes is to provide a service to local and international birders, they act as more than just an information provider to avitourists. The routes have been designed as community and conservation based avitourism projects where the benefits derived from tourism flow positively into local communities and conservation. The routes recognise the important role that local communities play in conservation and as a result has become involved a in a number of different community initiatives ranging from bird guide training to education to skills development. Over the next three years we will be looking at consolidating these projects as well as including new projects as opportunities arise.
Birders Code of Conduct
We encourage you as birders to take responsibility for your actions when visiting birding sites and act in a manner that will have a positive impact upon the communities and environments that you visit. Support local community and conservation initiatives, pay fair prices and leave only your footprints behind.
Click here to download the Birders Code of Conduct (pdf)