St Vincent and Ecotourism
Thanks to rapid advancements in technology we have the ability to visit places and experience cultures that just a few years ago would have seemed a world away, or even an impossibility. Cheaper travel, coupled with a surge in online travel operators and airlines, has given many people the opportunity to turn a yearly ‘getaway’ into the holiday of a lifetime; the exotic and the tropical are more accessible than ever. As our holiday destinations become more exotic, the need to understand the sometimes complex eco systems and habitats of our earth become more apparent. If we want to experience the beautiful, the wild and the wonderous, we need to protect these habitats and promote sustainable tourism.
Visitors to St Vincent and the Grenadines are guaranteed a luxury experience in the many exquisite purpose-built five-star resorts, but the island also offers so much more. Thriving ecotourism experiences showcase the unique natural offerings of the Caribbean in a sustainable, earth-friendly way, meaning visitors can help to ensure that the beauty of the St Vincent and the Grenadines is in safe hands for future generations to explore.
What is Ecotourism?
According to www.ecotourism.org, ecotourism is a long-term solution to conserve and protect the natural and cultural heritage of our planet, while creating enjoyable experiences that raise awareness of issues that have an impact on the environment. Ecotourism is a way of empowering local communities to create sustainable employment which centres around protecting unique and natural habitations for all to enjoy and experience.
Ecotourism seeks to create exclusive experiences where visitors can feel the true essence of a destination, learn about its culture, history and ecological uniqueness, and at the same time support local communities and businesses, allowing them to thrive.
St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is blessed with an abundance of spectacular, untouched landscapes that make it truly remarkable in the face of tourism-driven developments elsewhere in the Caribbean. Visitors to SVG will witness natural marvels that are quickly disappearing from our planet.
Adventurers of all ages and experience can trek around an active volcano, or visit breath-taking waterfalls where bathing in crystal pools is a must. If the coast is where your heart belongs, then there are miles of undeveloped, secluded bays where the coconuts palms meet the golden (or sometimes volcanic black) sands and the tranquil, turquoise shore. The people of SVG understand that tourism is important to the islands and have embraced the challenge to connect tourists to the historic, cultural and natural fibres of the island that make it a truly remarkable and unique destination.
La Soufriere Volcano
With a summit of a dizzying 4,048 feet, the active La Soufriere volcano dominates the St Vincent panorama. While covering just over one third of the island, it also leaves a dramatic geological footprint for all to see, with craters, stunning rock formations and bubbling hot springs. There are several knowledgeable local tour guides and operators leading expeditions through the tropical canopies and up to the stunning summit. With two routes to the highest peak, adventurers can select their own unique experience. The more popular eastern trail is shorter, at just over 3 miles, so it’s easier on the legs but still leads to spectacular views of the volcano’s active crater and majestic views of the island. The longer, more challenging western trail can take around seven hours to complete, but the luscious scenic route presents the opportunity to visit one of the most uniquely beautiful spots on earth.
Tour guides such as Sailor’s Wilderness Tours (sailorswildernesstours.com) offer expert knowledge of the tropical flora and fauna and are steeped in the history and culture that shaped this part of the Caribbean. They take great pride and happiness in guiding tourists and adventurers through the distinctive and sublime habitation of St Vincent.
The islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines are home to a number of idyllic natural waterfalls and sublime crystal rockpools.
Dark View Falls gets its name from the dark, almost black vertical rocks of the waterfall, hidden from the modern world by the deep tropical canopy. Partly owned by the government, this national park is an ideal spot for hiking in the wilderness and exploring St Vincent’s natural beauty. There are two waterfalls and a number of pools in the park offering guests the opportunity to plunge and frolic in the clean, natural waters. To access the falls, visitors must undertake a short hike through the rainforest, cross a bamboo bridge over the Richmond River and eventually pass through a spectacular bamboo grove to the first fall. The second waterfall is slightly more difficult reach, with access via a winding path through the rocky cliffs, but its position above the first fall offers a special view over two natural wonders.
There is a small entrance fee to access Dark View Falls which includes access to an information centre. On site, visitors can make use of picnic facilities and viewing platforms. The ticket price also goes towards maintaining the natural surroundings and developing the destination for future use. As with many sustainable travel destinations there are rules for users to follow to ensure that the natural beauty of the destination is carefully protected.
Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary
With an amazing opportunity to see conservation in action, a visit to Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary on the isle of Bequia is an absolute must. Here, you can see for yourself why sustainable tourism is so important.
Founded by Bequian native, Orton King, to protect the native Hawksbill turtle from extinction, Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary has nurtured and released over 2000 turtles back into the waters of the Grenadines over the last 12 years. The sanctuary has increased awareness of sustainable ocean fishing, to the point where turtles are no longer hunted, as well as highlighted the beauty and the ecological importance of such amazing creatures.
A visit to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary illustrates the shocking decline in these creatures and their natural habitation, but also shows how the local community is pulling together to preserve and sustain the indigenous population by caring for the turtles in their vulnerable hatchling stage, before carefully repopulating the local waters. A visit to the sanctuary is educational and inspirational, and the admission prices provide much needed funding to continue this worthwhile cause.
Richmond Vale Academy
While SVG offers an array of sustainable ecotourism activities, centres such as Richmond Vale Academy are leading the way when in comes to promoting complete eco-friendly holidays.
Richmond Vale Academy offers accommodation in locally built guesthouses that allow guests to become fully immersed in the natural activities and sights that St Vincent and the Grenadines have to offer, such as diving, jungle walks, climbing and, of course, guided excursions to local towns and villages. This kind of eco-holiday gives tourists and visitors a truly unique insight into the culture and heritage of a country that is rarely accessed in modern purpose-built tourist resorts. Instead, it places visitors in communities, giving them access to local culture and customs, as well as expertise and hospitality, ensuring an authentic experience that benefits tourists, locals and the environment.