With increasing awareness and consciousness of the impact we have as a society on the natural environment, it is more important than ever that we consider the way that we see the world and the effect we have as travellers. Whilst the myriad of natural wonders and the diverse biodiversity of Latin America continues to amaze visitors, its protection is paramount for the future generations to come. Below we look at some of the key destinations that are setting the benchmark for sustainability.
With 50% of the country covered in rainforest and the creditable protective efforts made in the Machu Picchu region to reduce the impact of tourism, there are multiple destinations in Peru worthy of a mention for sustainability. However, it is the Sacred Valley that makes the cut for its ecotourism. As well as being an unparalleled hub to experience the ancient traditions of the Inca Empire, the beautiful valley serves as a vital agricultural hub in Peru, particularly for Cusco and the surrounding areas and extensive efforts have been made to preserve the culture of the region whilst supporting the local communities with leading tourism initiatives.
One of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, the extraordinary Galapagos Islands are a living museum of evolution and one of nature’s many gifts to humanity. Its protection is paramount and every effort is being made to sustain its future. Quite rightly, cruise operators must adhere to strict regulations put in place by authorities to limit the number of visitors on each island as well as stringent policies on how to conserve water and energy, recycle waste material, source locally sourced materials and employ local employees with a fair wage.
Whilst remaining one of the continent’s most popular tourist destinations, Rio de Janeiro is leading by example by tackling the complex issues that a densely populated city coupled with mass tourism brings. The recent World Cup and Summer Olympics in Brazil have acted as a catalyst for Rio but the foundations for sustainability pre-date both events with commendable policies for renewable energy and the development of sustainable infrastructure put in place decades ago. New parks and green spaces are sprouting up frequently in the city, CO2 emissions are reducing rapidly with investment in hydropower and heavy investment is being made in green construction.
Immeasurably important as a water source for an estimated one million people as well as providing an income for those in the tourism industry, the protection of Lake Titicaca is essential for the economy and the natural environment of both Peru and Bolivia. Whilst some would argue that more could be done, monumental strides have been made by both countries in recent years with a focus on education for local communities and those in the tourism industry whilst strict regulations have been put in place to protect the natural resource that provides so much for so many.
Truly a trailblazing nation for environmental issues and cultural consciousness, it would be impossible not to include Costa Rica when talking about sustainability. Whilst environmental policies stretch to almost every far-reaching corner of this verdant beauty, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve has played an extremely pivotal role in the development of Costa Rica as an ecotourism destination. The Cloud Forest exemplifies the sustainability practices of the nation as a whole and it is here that many of the commendable government policies for the protection of the natural environment began.
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