Does anyone still travel ECO-style?

Sep 25th, 2007, 06:46 AM
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Does anyone still travel ECO-style?

I made a reply to the thread about Ngorongoro Crater lodge. I clearly stated hat it was not ment as a personal message to the OT nor anyone else in the thread.

It's just that I felt that I had to point out to readers of that thread (who may be looking for the right lodge for their next safari) that they should mind how the lodge handles natural resources. Because in that thread, people were raving about things like a big bath tub with flower petals. Which is, let's be honest, not what a safari should be about.

So I just thought I'd inform people, but without taking offence of what was written before in that thread. For all I know, they may be great people, alas perhaps badly informed.

Still... it seems my reply is not greeted with enthousiasm, nor is anyone backing me up on this.

So how about all of you? Do any of you actually mind about this kind of stuff when choosing a lodge? Are you "just tourists" or "eco-travellers that actually care"?

I'll give you a little story, just to show you that even if you THINK that you pick the right lodge, you still may be tricked by malafide lodges abusing the word "ECO".
I just returned from a 3-week trip to Brazil (I agree with Lynn about safaris in Brazil by the way. Had a great time there. Travel story will follow. Pics too).
I visited the Pantanal (lodge was great, they're doing a good job), iguazu falls + rainforest nearby (idem; again a great lodge in a private concession), Ilha Grande (idem; Pousada that really should have an eco-tag), and Amazon forest. But in this last spot, I booked "the Amazon Ecopark lodge". Now... you might have noticed the "eco" word in their name. Well... their activities were all about cilture, not nature (like visiting a rubber plantation). So I told them beforehand that I didn't to see that. I don't want to see how anyone cuts down the forest to plant rubber trees, see? So they told me; "no problem we'll organise a full day hike in the rainforest instead, especially for you". Well... that "hike" turned out to be a SURVIVAL tour. Ic they wanted me to learn how to build traps and catch wild animals. Yuck! Well... there's more that happened there, so you'll all read it soon enough.
But just to show; things go the wrong way everywhere.

Anyway, back on topic: are you a tourist or an eco-traveller?


pixelpower is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 07:13 AM
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The difficulty with anything labelled environmentally or eco friendly is that there aren't really any globally recognised audited standards. Many hotels, lodges, airlines and travellers etc are trying to do the right thing but I think it will take awhile before we really get this right. There are genuine operations out there but there also organisations, companies and individuals who are jumping on the bandwagon and using the environment as a way to make money.
Lynneb is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 07:27 AM
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I believe there was a really good thread on this discussion somewhere, but I'm not a very good thread hunter so I don't know how to pull it up.

Maybe someone can find it.
divewop is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 09:29 AM
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As Lynneb says, there aren’t any globally recognised standards and there’s also quite a bit of greenwashing, but hanging around here on Fodor’s you get the impression that blatant, over the top wastefulness with things like private plunge pools, A/C etc is a trend. There have been some good things written about this in Africa Geographic with all its glossy ads. As I’m already criticising fellow Fodorites this evening, I could add that a naïve “what makes me feel good, must be good”-attitude is found here and there, especially when walks with big cats are involved.

Am I a tourist or an eco-traveller? I always look for camps that try to limit damage to the environment as much as possible, just as I look for camps that limit injustices to people as much as possible; but most important of all is the price and my #1 priority in life is to be able to travel to Africa – not the survival of ecosystems where current species (including my own) can live. BTW, is it really possible for an “eco-traveller” to use long (and short) distance flights?
Nyamera is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:17 AM
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Well, it's not because there's no "globally recognised standard" (nor an organisation watching over this sorta thing) that we should just "go with the flow" and pay no attention at all, right?

I mean; how about some common sense, people?

I know I'm gonna step on some toes but... petting a lion, having a swim in a private plunge pool, etc... if you do that kind of thing then you MUST know that <something> is not right!

Nyamera; you can offset CO2 emissions.

pixelpower is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:32 AM
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I try to be an eco traveler, it is very important to me, but as someone said, there are no standards. And as someone else said, can you even fly ecologically? the train is far greener, but tough to cross the pond. And, carbon offsets are ridiculous - how much carbon does one release, how can you measure it. I'm all for a carbon tax, and making folks pay the real price of water, and fuel, particularly anything from a nuclear power plant. Those prices should include the price of insuring the plant, building it without government subsidies, and disposal of the spent fuel. Money talks, you know what walks.
Some threads on this subject:

and there are more, I got bored searching.

Another thing that I have found difficult is getting information on just how "green" a trip or lodge is. My trip that I was so excited about, while it will still be fabulous, is nowheres near as green as I originally wanted.
Momliz is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 01:21 PM
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It's my best time of the year, why should I care about this?
nyama is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 05:59 PM
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Glad you enjoyed your Brazil trip, Pixelpower. Learning to trap wild animals would not be my type of fun either. Looking forward to seeing what else you did on your trip.

The ultimate eco stance is to stay home and send money.

You are right that we should be asking about resources and supporting the community when choosing accommodations. With enough attention on that subject, people who care will start considering that variable more than they do now. It's something I need to be more aware of. So posts and comments like yours are good.

I certainly agree with you that my idea of a good safari has nothing to do with bath tubs or rose petals. Ironically, it would be a private vehicle, which uses more gas than sharing. But for financial reasons, a private vehicle is a rarity for me.

I do travel ECO-style around my own town because I use usually my bike or walk. Maybe that can count for an offset for flying thousands of miles in a jet.

Interesting topic. Thanks for posting it.
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:12 PM
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Hey Lynn,

I know; staying at home and sending money... so true. In fact, that would also mean; not reproducing. Hey... no kids so far 4 me. I'm even better than I thought, ECO-wise. LOL ;-)

But I'm not looking for the ultimate ECO-stance. Just to fight a trend.


pixelpower is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:32 PM
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A new forum website for ranting about all this

luangwablondes is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 10:45 PM
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I think you can go on an ecologically sensitive safari AND enjoy a long soak or two in the bath without feeling guilty.

What's more important is how you live your life. I walk everywhere. I put a thicker duvet on my bed in the winter instead of turning on the heat. I donate time and money to my community. I invest teacher's and firefighter's pensions in redevelopment and adaptive reuse projects, as well as TOD and historic preservation. So, damn it, if I want to take a bath on vacation, why should anyone else care?

btw, I thought it was funny that the private plunge pools at Phinda Vlei are used more by the wildlife (as drinking holes) than by the guests.
hills27 is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:22 PM
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I'm with you, pixelpower. But I'm afraid oxymorons are alive and well and in no danger.

afrigalah is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:24 PM
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My answer ..... we are all caught in the marketing blitz for all the lodges, gamedrive experiences, airlines, hotels etc etc., and their USP is the animals ........ however, eco travel or not! that is going to be debated on and on and on. But, yes ..... lots of us don't need the plunge pools or internet etc etc., so that helps in eco-tourism that we don't use those services, even if they are available ........

HariS is offline  
Sep 25th, 2007, 11:26 PM
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Oh! what about the heated plunge pools???
HariS is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 01:21 AM
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For the ones who don't know me, I work for one of the most well known world wide environmental and animal protection NGO's.
A lot around here know me and hate me, probably mostly for not loving humans, but also for being straight forward, honest, and blunt.
Before anyone posts on the necessity of working with the locals everywhere, I know that, it's quite a basic fact, unless we kill off most humans on this planet, but we also need to fight a lot of groups, locals or not.

Sending money is too easy a cop out, in most cases. Do you know where your money goes? Have you really checked on it? Is the org or individual really trustworthy? You know that for sure?
Don't just send money and think you've done the right thing. A lot of times the money never goes to what it's said to be used for, it only makes wealthy individuals richer.

As to excusing yourself not to do the best in regards to as environmentally friendly trip as possible, because there are no "standards", that is plain cowards attitude. You have the brains to search, call, ask. Take some action.
The more of us that DO call and ask for environmental issues on our trip, or demand them, the more the pressure on the once delivering the service to change and improve in that area. No reason for "me" as a lodge owner to be more environmental if I'm always booked and only one or two out of 10 even ask any environmental question. Same thing with any service.

There has to be compromises though and you can't be 100% environmentally friendly. Don't miss out on natures wonders just because you think you shouldn't take a plane ride to the other side of the world. If you're doing it to see nature and wildlife over there then you are supporting that countries natural resources to be managed correctly and maybe even expanded.

Airplanes with new technologies that are more environmentally friendly are being developed as we speak. Cars that work on compressed air with loading of new air from solar paneled pumps are also being developed (although the oil industry will probably buy up the developers and their patents and then just close the project down)

Don't think that taking a train is so great either. Starting up a train with many wagons takes an enormous amount of electrical power, and this travel is not the most environmental way either.

An alternative powered sea vessel is the best way today though, but the few that have been developed have not been any success, yet.

Just do something every day, and as much as possible, but don't just sit there and wait for "standards" to pop up by themselves, or send money anywhere to feel good at night.
WayuU is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 04:11 AM
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I think I agree with some of what you're saying here. The market will probably influence lodge owners to be more "eco-friendly" if people stopped going to the more wasteful places.

However, most of us don't have the time to call all these places. Plus it's a real pain to figure out the whole time zone thing. I know this sounds "cowardly" as well, but it's the truth.

Here's my proposed, imperfect solution. Someone needs to go to ALL of the camps and lodges and do thorough environmental assessments of each place and rate their eco-friendliness. Then publish the ratings on travel websites and magazines. That way, people will have objective information about a lodge's eco-friendliness BEFORE they get there, and can make their purchasing decisions accordingly. If there is a real trend toward eco-tourism, this information will only become more valuable in the future.

Somebody should really take it upon themselves to do this. I hereby nominate myself--who wants to sponsor me?!!?

(Seriously, if people were really that serious about eco-tourism, some organization would have done something like this already. Or, a real, working certification system would have been implemented.)
Gritty is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 04:42 AM
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"I think you can go on an ecologically sensitive safari AND enjoy a long soak or two in the bath without feeling guilty."

Because you turn out the lights at home?


Personally I can't fathom this obsession with lodges.

I visit this page sometimes and all it ever seeme to be on about is this lodge or that.

And you pay, what is it, up to $500us a night - or should that be $700?

I wouldn't want to put those folk who service your every wish out of a job - but honestly - do you need all that stuff?

From the questions on this branch I guess you do.

So you are responsible for the waste of resources, but that's OK because you must have your 5 star accommo in a place where it is not appropriate for it to be.

But you think that's OK cos I donate xxx to an African charity every year.

chimani is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 04:53 AM
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I don't think anyone is excusing themselves or being cowardly by pointing out the lack of standards and it certainly doesn't mean that some travellers won't try and do their best re their eco choices. What it does mean is that it makes it hard to know what is truly eco friendly and where it's just lip service or marketing. I can (and do) ask questions but I've frequently found I don't know enough about the issues to judge the answers.
Lynneb is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 05:30 AM
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Chimany, I disagree as well with "I can spoil Africa's resources 'cause I save some at home" statements as well. The wildlife is in Africa, not at home.

But about lodge prices; I would not mind paying 500$ or more for great wildlife viewing without being disturbed by herds of tourists scaring away the animals. A lot of the $ you pay is for exclusivity and abundance of wildlife, luckily not for friggin private plunge pools. ;-)


pixelpower is offline  
Sep 26th, 2007, 06:42 AM
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Quick test. What safari camp is most eco-friendly?

a) Classic tents on the ground?
b) Classic tents on wooden platforms?
c) Tented chalets on wooden platforms connected by wooden walkways?

The eco-footprint of a camp isn't only defined by solar power and how much water you use. It's also the whole building structure that counts. Or how do you think all these construction materials are getting to these remote sites? Ever thought what kind of footprint a big truck is causing to these environments?

Gritty, a quick look into the operator's brochure already tells you a lot - you don't have to visit the camp first.
nyama is offline  

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