Sustainable ecotourism has become a powerful tool for enacting change that anyone can partipate in. As travelers, we can keep an eye on the environmental footprint by taking simple steps such as using refillable water bottles during a biking trip.
Sustainable ecotourism not only helps the planet, it helps people living in a community as well. There are truly unique opportunities to use your travels to provide sustainable means for indigenous peoples to maintain a way of life. For instance, the people of Isla Mujeres, Mexico depend on fishing for their livelihood. However, theirs is a fragile reef environment that must maintain a crucial balance of marine life in order to provide a sustainable income for the community not just now, but over time.
Retraining Islanders to guide guests for catch and release sport fishing, snorkeling and swimming with the whale sharks as a way of making a living helps to preserve both their culture and their waters for generations to come.
In Isla Mujeres, we spearheaded a tremendous annual Whale Shark Festival that is sponsored by several environmental leaders. The Whale Shark Festival showcases the achievements, traditions and environmental splendor of Isla Mujeres while championing the need to preserve the marine ecosystem. Thousands of guests show up for the festival each year to take part in whale shark tours and other unique and thrilling ecotourism adventures.
Not only does the Whale Shark Festival bring in significant revenue for this tiny Isla, but through the Festival we were able to focus international media attention on the cause.
These graceful creatures are the largest in the ocean, with many growing to 40 feet in length. It's a sight to behold as hundreds of whale sharks gather together to swim in a single group in the beautiful waters off of Isla Mujeres; and one that helps focus more attention on this region as scientists now look at Isla Mujeres as a significant area of whale shark research. In fact, the festival itself has swayed the Mexican government to step up surveillance and enforcement of new policies aimed at preservation of whale sharks in Isla Mujeres.