Differences between nature tourism and ecotourism

The main objective of nature tourism trips, also known as natural tourism, is to carry out recreational activities in contact with nature and the communities that live in the surrounding areas.

In addition to offering you the possibility of being in contact with nature, nature tourism enriches the experience of any traveler by promoting the care of flora and fauna and fostering a greater appreciation for natural tourist attractions.

Ecotourism and nature tourism: are they the same?

If you’ve done your own research on the internet on this topic, you’ve probably come across portals and blogs with concepts that might seem similar.

The truth is that much of the terminology associated with ecology and the tourism activities that revolve around it can be a bit confusing. Especially when you have not had the opportunity to live the experience.

Ecotourism and nature tourism are two completely different activities that tend to overlap on certain points.

Nature Tourism

Colombia is known for being one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
According to Colombia’s Biodiversity Information System (SIB), the country has a total of 56,343 registered species, including 1,921 birds, 26,177 plants, 803 amphibians, 537 reptiles, 492 mammals, 3,435 fish and 9,153 endemic species.

This richness in flora and fauna, combined with its beautiful landscapes and its varied terrain, makes Colombia one of the most visited tourist destinations for nature tourism; and although there are different types of nature tourism, such as adventure or rural tourism, the most practiced in Colombia is ecotourism, which, unlike other types of nature tourism, is practiced in protected natural areas.

According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), it is «responsible travel to natural areas, conserving the environment and improving the well-being of the local population». In other words, when you participate in an ecotourism trip, you act responsibly to minimize the impact on the environment and the community that inhabits the area.

According to figures from the UNWTO World Tourism Organization, ecotourism is considered one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourism industry, with a 5% annual increase and around 6% of GDP worldwide.

These figures represent an important opportunity, since the country currently has 59 natural areas that are part of the National Natural Parks System of Colombia; all of them, with an attraction that makes them unique to live unforgettable tourist experiences.

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Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of local people and involves interpretation and education. As you can see, the definition adopts the principles of sustainability, but it directly targets a specific market segment rather than just a way of behaving.

To experience it, you should be attracted to tourism that takes place in natural areas and involves heritage interpretation experiences.

You should be inclined to protect ecosystems, support communities and have a preference for small groups.

Those who market Ecotourism activities focus on travelers who:

  • Consciously contribute to the conservation of both natural and cultural heritage.
  • Enjoy nature and have a preference for activities in natural or undeveloped environments.
  • Wish to include local communities in the planning, development and management of the trip, contributing to their development.
  • They want to obtain interpretive experiences of the destination’s natural and cultural heritage for a deeper understanding of the place.
  • They are inclined towards more independent or small group travel.

Why practice ecotourism in Colombia?

  • There are more than 3,000 species of butterflies.
  • It is home to the largest expanse of paramo in the world (in the Andes and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta).
  • It is home to the greatest diversity of birds in the world, with 20% of the total number of species on the planet.
  • Between June and November each year, the Colombian Pacific offers the opportunity to see baby olive ridley turtles and humpback whales.
  • It is home to the Andean condor, considered the largest bird in the world because, with its wings spread, it reaches a wingspan of up to 3.4 meters.
  • The Gorgona National Natural Park is home to the blue lizard, an animal whose striking blue color makes it a unique species in the world.
  • Colombia is home to the largest number of bat species.
  • The waters of the Corales del Rosario National Park are home to marine species unique in the world.
  • It is the second country with the greatest diversity of butterflies in the world.
  • It has coasts on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Ecotourism in Colombia is an experience you should live at least once in your life. The charm of the country, reflected in its biodiversity, gastronomy and culture, will turn your trip through Colombia into an unforgettable adventure.

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