Supporting Eco-travel in Mexico and Central America
By Victoria Schlesinger
There are several organizations and individual projects that are working hard to develop and support sustainable and responsible eco-tourism in Mexico and Central America. Here are some of our favorites.
Planeta.com: Central America
www.planeta.com Planeta.com, started by Ron Mader in 1995, has grown to be the number one site on the web for sustainable travel information about Mexico and much of Central America. Populated with articles written by a range of sources — travelers, academics, journalists, environmentalists to name a few — the site is a platform for discussion of experiences and research; you can find anything from a travel log to a tour operator to a thesis concerning sustainable tourism.
TIDE: Punta Gorda, Belize
belizeecotours.org Located on the southern coast of Belize, Punta Gorda is the birthplace of the Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment, more commonly referred to as TIDE. In response to the community’s cry for conservation of its coastal resources, the nonprofit organization was established in 1997. TIDE describes its board of directors as “Local people making the local decisions” and they take pride in the fact that their staff is entirely local. To date, TIDE has facilitated the development of an impressive array of kayaking, fly fishing, and cultural excursions, including multiple day tours and homestays with Mayan families.
In front of you spreads the steely expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Just behind you is a 90-foot green wall of tropical rainforest. These are your surroundings when you stay at Tiskita Lodge along the coast in southern Costa Rica.Run by the Aspinal family, well known as pioneers in eco-tourism, a visit to the lodge revolves around enjoying and learning about tropical forest and coastal ecosystems. In addition to being environmental educators, the Aspinal family has devoted resources to creating a nearby reserve and establishing a foundation that benefits the livelihood and community development of the local Guaymi Indians.
Cafe Campesino: Central America
cafecampesino.com Supporting locally and cooperatively run businesses while on the road is very important, but it should not stop just because you return home. In Central America, the production of coffee has long been a strained affair, with small-scale farmers consistently being cornered into selling their coffee below market value.
By introducing channels for fair trade, such as Cafe Campesino, farmers can organize into cooperatives and sell their beans at a guaranteed price to fair trade buyers. Supporting fair trade is another means of empowering the communities you visit during your travels to Central America to build their own futures. So once you return home, or when you’re buying travel gifts, consider buying fair trade products.
earthfoot.org Earthfoot is a website run the way they used to be — two guys living on different continents, create a free, non-profit space for posting information about small scale eco-tourism just because they believe in it. And that’s not to say that it is just a bunch of links, quite the opposite in fact.
For each tour, lodge, or excursion offered there is an extensive and well-written description, a bio about the person or people providing the service, and a means for contacting them. Enough information about each project is provided to allow you to assess if it fits you’re bill for sustainable tourism. Soon the site will have 100 tours, their geographic range covering the planet.
Celestun Expeditions: Celestun, Yucatan, MX
Celestun Expeditions is a small two-man operation, run by David Bacab and Feliciano Pech. Their wildlife viewing excursions in the Celestun bird sanctuary include flamingo and other bird watching, as well nocturnal ventures in search of crocodiles.
Both men are native to Celestun, and David has years of experience leading tours for the likes of the Nature Conservancy and National Geographic Society. David has been involved with the development of sustainable tourism and wildlife conservation in the Yucatan for over a decade and is an EarthFoot Host.
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