University of Portsmouth in the UK. Her favourite animals are cats and ring-tailed lemurs and loves to travel and write about her experiences. She has industry experience within the hospitality and tourism industry. Alice has work experience in hotels in Austria, being an Au Pair in Germany, and currently she works voluntarily part-time as a travel writer. Since she was 11 years old she have taken part in figure skating as a hobby and she also loves hiking in the Alps.
Eco-tourism and its importance
Eco-tourism is tourism that is directed towards natural and exotic environments with the intention to support conservation efforts and the protection of wildlife. With the intention of giving a share of the monetary benefits to local communities and providing the visitor with a nature-based experience, eco-resorts are incredibly beneficial and important. According to WorldWide Ecolodges on their definition of the importance of eco lodges, they say that “many countries and regions have embarked on creating certifiable green or sustainable tourism standards,” and that it has been only recently that there has been “a collective agreement on an international basis.” This certification standard was applied to, generally, all accommodation facilities so that it would raise the level of environmental and social responsibility, but there is “still a gap in defining and classifying an eco-lodge as opposed to simply a ‘green hotel’”. Many hotels around the world often say they are ‘green’ and try to create an eco-lodge image, when they are not at all what they say they are.
Masoala Forest Lodge, Madagascar
An eco-lodge is a type of accommodation that is created with the intention to have the least possible impact on the natural environment in which it is situated. The Masoala Forest Lodge is one of many eco lodges on the island, and is situated on the Masoala Peninsula in the North East of Madagascar. The lodge has five safari tents which are all under thatch and built on platforms. Each tent comes with a veranda, hammocks, and the bathroom facilities with hot water is just a short walk away in separate huts. This luxurious lodge offers 3, 4, 7, 10 night packages, as well as honeymoon and yoga packages and has seven palm thatched tree-houses that are elevated on stilted wooden platforms, which provides uninterrupted views of the sea and forest canopy; this allows visitors to experience the forest from the perspective of the lemurs and birds.
According to Abercrombie & Kent, the eco-tourism activities of the lodge “forms part of an international conservation program for the Masoala Peninsula.” Its aim is to provide “a source of sustainable income for the local communities” which is incredibly important for somewhere like Madagascar. The small village of Ambodiforaha and its rice fields are just a short walk away from the lodge, and the people of the Betsimisaraka tribe are keen to welcome visitors and provide an interesting insight into their traditions and techniques used for subsistence farming, as well as what life is like in the forest. The lodge is dedicated to providing a program that benefits the community and will assist these people in maintaining a sustainable lifestyle in such a protected environment.
With the creation of the eco-lodge, according to the Masoala Forest Lodge’s website, “only local Malagasy craftsmen and artisans were commissioned for the construction and furnishing of the lodge,” which clearly demonstrates its commitment to eco-tourism, as well as providing local job creation and demonstrating local craftsmanship. The lodge also has a living cultural museum; this is where traditional artefacts and utilitarian objects that were manufactured by the locals are on display for visitors to look at. This is a fantastic way to promote and share the local culture with tourists.
Madagascar has the richest primate diversity of any country in the world, and lemurs are unfortunately threatened by habitat destruction and poaching for the bush meat trade. If they are not protected, it is estimated that half of this forest and its wildlife will be eliminated by mid-century due to burning/cutting down trees and logging. The Masoala Forest Lodge say that they seek to “complement the efforts of Madagascar National Parks, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoo Zurich in the conservation of this rainforest.” They also say that they will support the efforts of conservation of Antongil Bay. This will be done by “embracing a philosophy of sustainable, earth-friendly design, construction, operation and maintenance while providing an alternative and sustainable source of income to the local population.”
This perfect island retreat is a great example of how eco-tourism can work well in a place like Madagascar, and hospitality managers should follow in the footsteps of the Masoala Forest Lodge if they want tourism to not only thrive in Madagascar, but to have a positive effect on both lemurs, other wildlife, and the locals.
Sources: Masoala Forest Lodge website: Retrieved from http://www.masoalaforestlodge.com/
Abercrombie & Kent. Information on Masoala Forest Lodge being an international conservation program. Retrieved from http://www.abercrombiekent.co.uk/madagascar/masoala/masoala.cfm
Worldwide Ecolodges. Defining an eco-lodge and green hotel. Retrieved from http://worldwideecolodges.com/wp/ecolodge-exp-2/
Masoala Forest Lodge. Tribes, their local lifestyle, and living cultural museum. Retrieved from http://www.masoalaforestlodge.com/masoala-responsible-tourism/
Image of a palm thatched tree-house at the Masoala Forest Lodge. Retrieved from http://www.masoalaforestlodge.com/masoala-lodge/