Ecotourism, or ecological tourism, is travel which aims to minimize impact on the environment. Ecotourism focuses on responsible, meaningful travel. Its goal is preservation and promoting awareness of fragile natural and cultural resources.
Ecotourism, according to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), is low impact travel to natural destinations whose aim is the promotion of diverse cultures, local empowerment and preservation of nature.
Ecotourism underscores the need for taking care of indigenous habitats, cultures and natural resources rather than exploiting them for leisurely activity. Tourists, may learn for instance, about protecting wildlife in Costa Rica and endangered species in Madagascar.
Ecotourism is often wrongly equated with large resort hotels in natural settings, offering trekking or nature hikes, with no mention of native culture or the impact the resort itself has on the environment. Many tourism companies promote their tours as being green and environmentally friendly, when they are in fact not.
Popular ecodestinations include the forests and wetlands of Brazil, Chitwan National Park in Nepal, the Galapagos Islands and the Masai Mara Park in Kenya.
Activities associated with ecotourism include visiting natural reserves in Africa, birdwatching in Nicaragua, hiking around Lake Baikal in Russia, trekking at Sam Yot Mountain in Laos and visiting the local hill tribes.