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The country of Ecuador is blessed when it comes to eco-tourism options for you the eco-traveller. Boasting a variety of jungle as well as volcanic landscapes, Ecuador will not disappoint when it comes to spectacular scenery. Ecuador is also home to a vibrant native culture and this is reflected in their many outdoor markets. Strong European ties also reflect a rich and diverse colonial history. These popular or so called "tourist hotspots" are becoming increasingly commercialized, and a way of life that people have lived for centuries is being taken away by the vast, overwhelming number of tourists visiting Ecuador, the majority of these visiting exactly the same places in Ecuador (aka the "Gringo Trail"). Ecuadors rainforests are home to several different native peoples, depending on the tribe and their outlook on outside contact you may or may not be able to visit and experience a culture that has not changed for generations.
Adventurous eco-travellers that are looking for a more original cultural experience paired with a rainforest tour package have the opportunity to visit a place that most tourists do not visit, The Piedra Blanca Community Ecotourism Project. Ecuadorian ecotoursm offers a variety of off the beaten track eco-tours for the adventurous traveller. These tours include; The Black Sheep Inn, The Kapawi Ecolodge, and the Huaorani Lodge. For the birding enthusiast the Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve is unmatched as a world class birding destination. Because of the explosion in popularity of Ecotourism in the vacationing world many tour operators will simply place the label "eco-friendly" on their tours or hotels to entice visitors to book with them.This is very similiar to food producers placing the stamp "organic" on their food products. Many times their definition of "eco-friendly" leaves much to the imagination, ("there's a tree in the front garden"),or without any real understanding of what ecotourism means. Community-based adventures are not automatically "ecotourism" unless they are making the effort to try to be environmentally responsible, having said that they may still be achieving improvements that have merit. Many times ecotourism directories and associations will charge substantial fees to be included in a listing or membership directory. This practice makes it very difficult for eco-tour facilities with limited budgets to be included in these directorys.
Ecuador has been blessed in the fact that it is relatively unknown when it comes to tourism. This can be a double edged sword as without a industry that is flourishing it is very hard to get the funds need to expand the industry responsibly. Most of Ecuador's most famous and successful ecotourism ventures have usually required outside resources and/or foreign expertise to get started. The vast majority of Ecuador is virtually untouched by tourism, this makes it relatively simple for the eco-traveller to find an array of natural and cultural experiences. Ecotourism projects undertaken by some of the smaller communities are showing signs of progress and are well deserving of support from people like you. Your journey through many of Ecuadors many cultural and natural wonders will allow you to appreciate this unspoiled gem. Turn that appreciation into action and support some of the initiatives the local people and their projects are doing to convert their source of income to one of not only responsible but sustainable ecotourism. The choices you make on your vacation should reflect a positive impact on not only the Ecuadorian environment but also the Ecuadorian culture as well. It's worth remembering that eco-tourism is not the only type of responsible tourism; community-based tourism and pro-poor tourism also have their merits.