The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.” This involves mixing active conservation efforts, habitat protection and restoration, research, sustainable travel and of course local communities. They go on to list principals and guidelines a company or traveler should consider when claiming eco-anything. However, there is no mandatory certification, rule, nor law as to who can claim eco-tour or eco-adventure in Mexico. Travelers and actual eco-travel companies are thus required to be responsible themselves and promote, support, inspire, and encourage the principals of ecotourism.
There are many tourism operators to choose from in Baja California Sur and one in particular, Baja Expeditions continues to be at the forefront of ecotourism and the principals that frame this term. Tim Means, owner, was one of the founding members of Niparajá, a Mexican based non-profit environmental conservation organization. He also founded Friends of WildBaja, a foundation for ongoing conservation efforts here in B.C.S. He also promotes the work of researchers, such as myself, Dení Ramerez, Hoyt Peckam, Wallace, J. Nichols and others through sustainable eco-adventures by introducing travelers and inviting them to participate in our research efforts.
The Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) identified in a 110 page report entitled, “Alternative Coastal Tourism in Mexico” that in 2006, SEMARNAT (Mexico Federal Environmental Agency) enacted a regulation for ecotourism and a voluntary certification for companies. Yet, still the responsibility and right to conduct and participate in ecotourism lies within each of us.
A variety of true eco-adventures await you in and around La Paz that include whale watching camping trips and visits to Isla Espiritu Santo to snorkel or free dive with playful sea lions and kayak over rock reefs teaming with wildlife. Or try out sea kayaking or paddle boarding expeditions where you can camp along different white sand beaches on remote, protected islands in the Gulf of California.
Baja Expeditions is not the only eco-operator out there, although many other operators were trained by Tim, and still look to him for advice and guidance. For Example, RED Sustainable Travel offers whale watching and sea turtle adventures at Magdalena Bay. This group has been involved with researchers from Proyecto ProCaguama (Turtle Project) who encourage fishermen to practice more sustainable fishing techniques to avoid incidentally capturing and killing innocent marine turtles who call Magdalena Bay home. Baja Backpackers, just starting up, offers a stay in an eco-friendly hostel and is working with yours truly to create a university internship for students studying tourism development and ecotourism, to spend 7 nights exploring and learning about how to combine wildlife research, environmental education, and conservation into a valuable eco-adventure.
To learn more or get a recommendation on a true eco-adventure, please contact the author at ProFaunaBaja@gmail.com or local 612 150 6667. Stephanie Rousse is the lead biologist in an ongoing ecotourism project, ProFaunaBaja that combines environmental education for local students, public outreach, coastal habitat conservation, and marine turtle research.