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Tourists and Turtles May 10, 2011

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, voluntourism , 2comments

Baja SEE Turtles 073

Story and photos by Melissa Gaskill

This blog frequently covers travel that makes a difference – trips that incorporate volunteering, are culturally sensitive, support local businesses, and respect the human and natural environment – or all of the above. I wrote a guest post about such a trip about a year ago, Turtle Rescue on the Eco Side of Baja. More and more places, particularly in developing countries, see this kind of tourism as a sustainable way to protect sea turtles. At the 31st Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation, held in San Diego April 12-16, several presentations reported on programs that have seen success, so I thought I’d share them here.

SEE Turtles, a US based non-profit, promotes travel that supports conservation, organizing its own trips to Baja California, Costa Rica and Trinidad.

“We know tourism can be bad for people and animals, especially when done in an unplanned and uncontrolled way,” director Brad Nahill told symposium attendees. “Or it can have positive impacts, including direct financing of conservation and research, reduced dependency on direct use of resources (such as eating sea turtle eggs), increased monitoring, and an increased local constituency. We use local businesses, share commissions, and do additional fundraising, education, volunteer recruiting, and advocacy.”

Calling my bluff on Los Cabos November 17, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : ecotourism, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism, voluntourism , add a comment

Baja SEE Turtles 050
(Melissa Gaskill photo)
Eco-travel writer Melissa Gaskill called my bluff on my Los Cabos story last month. “Los Cabos is, unfortunately, an example of the worst kind of development and tourism,” she wrote. “No sense of place, no sensitivity to the landscape, destruction of natural resources, excessive use of water, ultra-luxury developments staffed by underpaid locals… And I’m afraid too many people think that swimming with dolphins is an eco-tourism activity (a misconception we’d do well not to encourage).
Sorry, I love your newsletter, but just had to vent on this one. Baja California is one of my favorite places in the world and my worst nightmare is that the entire peninsula will end up one great big Cabo.”

Truth be told, I have never been to Los Cabos, so I’m not in a position to judge. I wrote that story as part of a series for The Buzz Magazines, in which I interview local travelers about their experiences. I do, however, trust Melissa’s judgment; she’s an excellent Texas author and journalist (here’s her blog and profile), and one whose environmental sensibilities match my own. So I did the only sensible thing: I invited her to write her own piece about Baja California as a guest post, and she kindly obliged.

Here’s Melissa’s story about a voluntourism expedition into the wilds of Baja California, a program aimed at saving the endangered sea turtles there, and the spectacular slide show that accompanies it. Enjoy!

Turtle Rescue on the Eco Side of Baja November 17, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : ecotourism, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability, voluntourism , 4comments

by Melissa Gaskill

A tent on the sand with a solar-powered light, solar shower hanging nearby, composting toilet behind a gnarled palo blanco tree. Travel doesn’t get much more eco than this.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Organized by Baja Expeditions, one of the oldest outfitters on the Mexican peninsula, and SEE Turtles, a non-profit promoting conservation tourism, this trip includes three days in the Gulf of California and three on Baja’s Pacific coast with a night in La Paz in between. We also take part in a local sea turtle monitoring project that, once a month, puts out nets to catch sea turtles, measuring, tagging and then releasing them. The data helps determine the success of efforts to help these endangered animals.

The first day, the group gathers in the hotel lobby for a quick van ride to Baja Expedition’s office for breakfast, wetsuits, masks and snorkels. Then we load onto a panga, one of the blue-and-white fiberglass boats common along both coasts of Baja. Our route crosses La Paz Bay to Isla Espiritu Santo, an uninhabited mountainous island. A line of white tents along a fingernail of matching sand overlook a gem-blue bay where pelicans, cormorants, and brown and blue-footed boobies crash into the water on a dawn-to-dusk pursuit of fish. Two cooks prepare our meals on a gas stove inside the kitchen tent, using fish straight from the nearby waters, peppers grown north of La Paz, hand-made tortillas, and other fresh, local ingredients.


Journeys with a cause October 27, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Africa, Biking, Esperanza Project , 1 comment so far

Tendai Joe pics

Many of you know I am currently in the process of gearing up for a year-long journey with a mission: to raise the visibility of the unsung heroes of Latin America’s environmental movement.  In the process I hope to build a well of creative ideas and inspiration through the new web portal I’m designing, a networking tool for the groups themselves and a sharp contradiction to the sense of hopelessness and cynicism about the future that has enveloped much of our population. I’m calling it The Esperanza Project, and I’ll be filling you in on the details in the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, I’ll be taking the opportunity to highlight the journeys of other travelers whose journeys represent a larger purpose. Today I ran across the story of Tendai Sean Joe, a former street child from Zimbabwe who has become an advocate for disadvantaged children and youths. He has launched the Trail of Hope Foundation to provide a base for his advocacy work. Currently the group is raising money for a three-motorcycle trip through 16 countries to document the conditions of street children from Cape Town to Berlin.

Tendai Joe

Tendai Sean Joe

You can follow Tendai Sean Joe on his blog, on Facebook or on Twitter, and you can read his guest post in Deb Corbeil and Dave Bouskill’s excellent blog, Canada’s Adventure Couple, where I first learned about him. Deb and Dave (@theplanetd on Twitter) bring a great deal of insight to the subject, having biked from Cairo to Capetown to raise money for Plan Canada, another group that raises money for underprivileged children. Their blog also highlights journeys for a cause, and you can find a list of stories from their Giving Back, Travel the World and Make a Difference series at the end of Tendai Joe’s guest post.
Here’s one of many photos from Tendai Joe’s Facebook page, taken on a preliminary trip to one of the sites he will visit on his tour.