Eco-Tourism is broadly defined as low impact travel to endangered and often undisturbed locations. It is different from traditional tourism because it allows the traveler to become educated about the areas - both in terms of the physical landscape and cultural characteristics, and often provides funds for conservation and benefits the economic development of places that are frequently impoverished. Eco-Tourism and other forms of sustainable travel have their origins with the environmental movement of the 1970s. Eco-Tourism is tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.
Due to the growing popularity of environmentally related and adventure travel, various types of trips are now being classified as Eco-Tourism. Most of these are not truly Eco-Tourism however because they do not emphasize conservation, education, low impact travel, and social and cultural participation in the locations being visited. Therefore, to be considered Eco-Tourism, a trip must meet the following principles set forth by the International Eco-Tourism Society:
Opportunities for Eco-Tourism exist in many different locations worldwide and its activities can vary as widely. Madagascar, for instance, is famous for its ecotourist activity as it is a biodiversity hotspot, but also has a high priority for environmental conservation and is committed to reducing poverty. Conservation International says that 80% of the country's animals and 90% of its plants are endemic only to the island. Madagascar's lemurs are just one of many species that people visit the island to see. Because the island's government is committed to conservation, Eco-Tourism is allowed in small numbers because education and funds from the travel will make it easier in the future. In addition, this tourist revenue also aids in reducing the country's poverty. Another place where Eco-Tourism is popular is in Indonesia at Komodo National Park. The park is made up of 233 square miles (603 sq km) of land that is spread out over several islands and 469 square miles (1,214 sq km) of water. The area was established as a national park in 1980 and is popular for Eco-Tourism because of its unique and endangered biodiversity. Activities at Komodo National Park vary from whale watching to hiking and accommodations strive to have a low impact on the natural environment.
Finally, Eco-Tourism is also popular in Central and South America. Destinations include Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guatemala and Panama. In Guatemala for instance, ecotourists can visit the Eco-Escuela de Espanol. The main objective of the Eco-Escuela is to educate tourists about the historic cultural traditions of the Mayan Itza, conservation and the community living there today while protecting the lands in the Maya Biosphere Reserve and providing income to the area's people.
These destinations are just a few where Eco-Tourism is popular but opportunities exist in hundreds more places worldwide.
The North Shore of Lake Superior and the inland "Arrowhead" region of Minnesota are great locations for Eco-Tourism. Lake Superior's stature as the largest freshwater lake in the world, holding about 10% of the world's fresh water, makes it a natural for study and enjoyment. The beautiful and primitive boreal forest and thousands of lakes and wetlands inland offer a wild and untamed environment with lots of possibilities for adventure in any season.