Whilst the ideal for natural locations and wildlife would be to remain completely undisturbed, this will not happen when so many countries are reliant on the tourism industry for income and more people want to explore the world than ever before.
With overtourism and tourists making bad choices in relation to how they travel and what they buy, tourism can be extremely detrimental, so it's fantastic to see increased focus on responsible travel, sustainable travel, green travel and ecotourism.
The challenge is working out what choices are genuinely promoting ecotravel, travel designed to positively impact local people, animals and environment.
If you are keen to travel more responsibly, the following tips will help you make a positive difference:
1) Conserve energy
Turn off everything that you can at home before you go away and when you are travelling turn off lights, air-conditioning and power switches where you are staying before you leave the room. If you are staying in a hot location remember to close the blinds and curtains to keep the room cooler. Reducing your use of standby power at home and away will save you money, save your accommodation provider money and it is better for the environment.
2) Conserve water
When you are travelling in areas where water is scarce be particularly mindful of how much you use, use the half flush on the toilet where you can and take short showers.
3) Reduce additional water use and use of chemicals
Most places you stay will give you options to reuse your towels and not have your room made up every day. As much as possible hang your towels back up to use them again and put the 'do not disturb' sign on your door if you don't need your room cleaned every day.
4) Never litter
Make sure you always correctly dispose of any rubbish you have when you are travelling, there is no excuse for people leaving drink bottles, plastic or any other form of rubbish behind. After your visit to a beautiful location there should be no trace that you or any of your fellow travellers were there.
5) Reduce your carbon footprint
Support carbon offset programs offered by airlines and other transportation providers. When you need to fly, go direct as much as possible to avoid additional landings and takeoffs and use public transportation as much as possible when on the ground.
6) Reuse as much as possible
Take every opportunity to reuse items whether that be your towels or returning tourist brochures you don't need back to the tourist desk, so they can be used again with other guests. Travel with your own reusable coffee cup so that no takeaway cups are needed.
7) Choose socially and environmentally responsible accommodation
Before you book your accommodation make sure you have thoroughly researched them to see how they are interacting with the local community and environment e.g. do they buy local produce and employ local staff.
8) Choose socially and environmentally responsible tours
Before you book your tours on make sure you have thoroughly researched them to check if they use local guides and whether they are involved in genuine conservation programs and community projects.
9) Avoid plastic
With a million plastic bottles being bought each minute and millions of plastic straws and plastic bags causing havoc in our oceans, travel with your own refillable BPA free water bottle, reusable bag, cutlery and straws to reduce waste. Rather than buying disposable travel products, buy reusable travel containers and take small amounts of the normal sized products you use at home for each trip.
If you have been given a plastic bottle or you have anything else that can be recycled, take it back to where you are staying for recycling if there are no recycling bins where you are visiting. If you are on tours visiting locations without recycling programs encourage them to get them underway as well.
11) Use only natural, cruelty-free products
12) Buy locally sourced food and products
Buying locally sourced food and locally made products supports local producers, artists and craftspeople and reduces the cost and environmental impact associated with transporting goods long distances.
13) Respect the culture
When you are travelling make sure that you understand what is considered appropriate and observe the rules of the country and community you are visiting and if you would like to take pictures of people make sure you have their permission first.
14) Respect nature
When you are visiting beautiful environments and have the privilege to see wild animals, always prioritise the interest of the animals and their habitat. Stay on the allocated paths and follow the advice of local guides to avoid damage to the surrounding environment and keep your distance when taking photographs.
15) Do not feed or try to touch wild animals
Wild animals do not want to be touched by humans and they have their own natural diet that they should keep to for optimum health. Often tourists not intending to cause harm start feeding animals which can cause health issues for the animals and change their behaviour.
Animals can get increasingly assertive seeking food and they will always act defensively when they feel threatened. Irrespective of how at fault a human was if they get injured, if an animal hurts a tourist it is likely the animal would be caught and killed.
16) Never buy animal products
The best way to end all poaching and animal cruelty associated with the illegal wildlife trade is to stop all demand for their products. Make sure you never buy anything made from animal products including fur, feathers and ivory.
17) Only support ethical animal encounters
When genuinely done well ecotravel can have a really positive impact on wildlife and habitat preservation. The more evident it is that tourists want to pay to see wild animals genuinely living in the wild, living their most natural life possible, the more these animals and their habitats will be protected.
There can be immense cruelty involved in training animals to engage in shows and tourist activities, including killing adult animals in the wild to steal their young. Avoid all tours and attractions where animals are being forced to interact with each other or humans in any way.
Author: Kyla Shelley, passionate traveller and wildlife advocate.