One of the newest trends in tourism is the emergence of ecotourism. Ecotourism is travel based on green or ecologically healthy ideas that seeks both to educate about the earth’s natural resources and local cultures, but also to preserve natural beauty for generations to come. For instance, ecotourism can be just as much about touring a South American jungle and learning about its native flora and fauna as is can be about volunteering to help create or rebuild environmentally-friendly walkways and paths in national parks. Essentially ecotourism is about preserving the beauty of the planet. And one the best places for ecotourism in the US is south Florida, specifically in the Everglades and in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
The Everglades National Park
The Everglades is a sub-tropical wetland area that coves most of the southern tip of Florida. In the early part of the 20th century, large portions of the everglades were cleared and sold as farming plots, but farming in the mucky wetlands proved to be difficult at best and nearly impossible. Later, developers began grooming the land for prospective suburban plots but were stopped when the areas became a national forest in 1947.
Today, the park provides ecotourists with a wide variety options for touring and learning about the Everglades’ natural ecosystems which may be in danger of disappearing. A number of companies offer low-impact hiking or paddle tours so you can learn about and enjoy the natural wonder of the Everglades without contributing to their destruction.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
One of the most beautiful places in the US is the vast John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Not only is it the first underwater national park in the US, but it is also the largest living coral reef in North America. In the 20s and 30s, the entire Florida Keys area became popular as a vacation destination and tourists from all over the US began flocking to the reef for a glimpse of its natural beauty. But the new tourism took its toll on the reef. By the 50s, local citizens, businesses, and government became worried that too much of the reef was being chiseled off and broken away to be taken home as souvenirs. But that destruction was stopped in 1960, when the areas was declared the first underwater national park.
Although an estimated 6 million people visit the reef every year, the impact of that many tourists has been lessened by the introduction of eco-friendly reef tours that seek to educate visitors about the natural beauty and habitat of this luscious underwater forest. In addition, eco-friendly tours seek to educate visitors on ways they can help to protect the environment, and often a portion of the proceeds go to reef preservation programs.
If you are eco-conscious and want to have a green vacation that is beautiful and educational, it might be worth checking out the ecotourism options available in south Florida and the Florida Keys.