Ecotourism & the Garden Route

Ecotourism & the Garden Route
Ecotourism & the Garden Route

Ecotourism & the Garden Route

With some of the most beautiful and breathtaking landscapes in the world, the Garden Route is one of Africa’s most precious tourist destinations which sees increasing numbers of travellers visit each year. In 2012 alone, the amount of tourists visiting South Africa per month reached over 850,000 according to Statistics South Africa. With such a vast network of fascinating geographical locations, preserving the natural landscape and stimulating local economies makes ecotourism one of the most beneficial and ethical means of revenue.

What is Ecotourism?

Ecotourism is a new form of travel which is conscientious in its impact on the environment, its wildlife, and its people. With the aim of “uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel” The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) focuses on the following principles, to:

  • Minimize impact.
  • Build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.
  • Provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts.
  • Provide direct financial benefits for conservation.
  • Provide financial benefits and empowerment for local people.
  • Raise sensitivity to host countries’ political, environmental, and social climate. (Source: TIES.)

Why Ecotourism is Important

Ecotourism is important for many reasons. Many travellers are unaware of the impact their footprint makes on the planet, from the amount of carbon emissions that one airplane produces to the increase of noise, light, air, and land pollution from busy resorts. Irresponsible tourism leads to the endangerment of animal and plant life through the destruction of their natural habitat, whether large scale (big companies taking over natural/rural areas for huge construction projects) or small scale (even riding a bicycle on a walk-only trail can cause erosion). Some of the world’s most magnificent natural landscapes are facing daunting challenges from human impact, like the Florida Everglades and Mount Everest. With so many locally-driven economies, cultures, and traditions driven by the natural world which has been their home for centuries, the detriment of the ecosystem means that native societies face a similar threat. Ecotourism is an effective alternative which can reduce these threats and allow economy and ecology to flourish.

How Ecotourism Helps Our Planet

Being a new and innovative form of tourism which encompasses many activities and resources, there are a variety of ways to practice ecotourism from the environmentally-conscious adventurer to specialised businesses and organisations like research groups and charities. By creating sustainable destinations, many locations strive to reduce the carbon footprint of tourism through appointing strict guidelines to reduce noise and pollution. Other solutions include implementing a sustainable infrastructure in energy efficiency, like wind and solar power, and reducing water usage. By encouraging tourists to purchase local produce and authentic goods, farmers and workers benefit as well as the traveller. Transportation is also tackled, with land-based travel minimized to eco-friendly resources (like electric vehicles) and careful planning (maintaining the least intrusive routes). According to travel agencies, ocean liners have also taken a serious approach to reducing emissions by taking progressive measures which will leave minimal pollution. These are just a few ways among many to keeping tourism green.

Thinking Green in the Rainbow State

With its expanse of biodiversity and a long legacy of historical importance, the Garden Route is one of the most ideally-suited regions of the world to promote ecotourism. There are more than 20 specialist organisations working on behalf of TIES for South Africa, ranging from individual researchers to global charities. The Garden Route offers a series of excellent venues for ecotourism catering to every taste; travelling as an ecotourist opens up endless possibilities of discovering this popular region in the best ways possible.

Treasures of the Garden Route

Here are just a few gems of the Garden Route which can or already benefit from ecotourism:

  • The ostrich farms at Oudtshoorn. Always support locally-run farms which offer lots of space, free-range meat, and are built and maintained in consideration of the surrounding ecosystem.
  • A glorious source of some of South Africa’s finest wines from the vineyards of Calitzdorp/Ladismith. There are several wine tours offered as well as a great selection of local cellars which form the bread and butter of the region’s economy.
  • Mossel Bay – Gorgeous coastline defines this beautiful harbour town. Tourism is important here, because the Bay is known as the region’s historical capital.
  • One of the oldest towns on the Garden Route, George offers a historical and cultural aspect as well as nature escapes into Outeniqua Mountain and Indian Ocean.
  • Herold’s Bay is an unspoilt hotspot for dolphin and bird sightings, so preserving this region is elemental for wildlife and animal watchers.
  • Ideal for its spectacle of rich fauna and flora, Sedgefield also supports the local industries of spear-fishing. It is abundant with varieties of birds, wildflowers, and fish.
  • Plettenberg Bay is another valuable region, offering a nature lover’s paradise of beautiful trails with hundreds of species of birds that inhabit a diverse expanse of land, including fynbos, forests, and wetlands.


There are several other treasures awaiting the ecotourist in this picturesque region, and preserving the wildlife, history, and economy of the region can be done simply by enjoying its endless - but precious - beauty.