Supporting Protection of Biodiversity
Date 07/27/2017 Categories Travel Blog
Each day, more than three million tourists cross international borders, and every year more than one billion people travel abroad. Simply put, travel and tourism combined are now one of the world’s largest industries. To make sure that the power of travel is harnessed as a positive force for people and the planet, the United Nations has declared 2017 The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The three key pillars of Sustainable Tourism are:
- Environmentally-friendly Practices
- Support for Protecting Cultural and Natural Heritage
- Social and Economic Benefits to Local People
At Big Five, our longstanding commitment to sustainable tourism runs deep, and we are proud to be the only travel company to have won the prestigious Virtuoso Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award, not once, but twice (2014 and 2016). We know that experiencing an outstanding vacation and supporting the pillars of sustainable tourism can go hand in hand. We are proud to share with you how traveling with Big Five can help to support cultural heritage, protect endangered species, deliver local economic benefits, and further cross-cultural understanding and peace in the world – all wrapped together into the journey of a lifetime.
Wherever we are, during summer our attention often turns to the water –whether it’s the local swimming pool or a day at the ocean. Indeed, oceans cover 71% of our planet’s surface, and contain 97% of its water. So it certainly comes as no surprise that what happens in our oceans is of deep significance to all of us.
The mystery of the oceans has attracted explorers and travelers for centuries, and we have yet to unlock many of its deepest secrets. Protecting the marine environment is acutely important in today’s rapidly changing world. We can, as travelers, support those places that are working hard to conserve their marine resources as one way we can all ensure that the oceans remain vital into the future.
Off the coast of Belize, for example, UNESCO in 1996 declared the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System a World Heritage Site. It is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. The Southern Environmental Association (SEA) is a community conservation organization working to protect and improve stewardship and the environmental integrity of key marine areas. The goal is effective, collaborative protected areas management, community involvement, and strategic partnerships for the benefit of all stakeholders. The Spirit of Big Five Foundation joined other international groups, including Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund, to help SEA in these efforts. SEA has been active since 1996 protecting and managing two critically important marine protected areas in the Belize Barrier Reef Complex: Laughing Bird Caye National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, a high biodiversity hotspot. To explore Belize’s water wonderland.
In Ecuador, the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right. Formally designated as a protected area in 1998, the GMR covers an area of about 51,351 square miles, and is home to a roster of iconic marine species including some of the world’s largest schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sea lions and Galapagos penguins as well as green sea turtles and some 450 species of fish in the islands. The successful management of the GMR will ensure the sustainable future of this magnificent diversity. Go for a swim in the incredible Galapagos.
South Africa has a spectacular 1864 miles of coastline. This is where the cold, nutrient-rich Atlantic meets the sub-tropical Indian Ocean, and nearby is the Southern Ocean, home to many whale species. South Africa has declared nearly 20% of its coastline protected by official marine reserves. Even though this country occupies only two percent of the world’s land mass, some 16% of the world’s fish species swim off its shores. South Africa scores high in marine biodiversity. Marine conservation in South Africa protects some of the largest ‘no-take’ zones in the world for safeguarding slow-growing, long-lived species. Discover all South Africa has to offer.
Some oceanographers believe that we have explored less than five percent of the global ocean. That means that the world ocean we now know that is home to some 230,000 known species, is more likely to support two million or maybe more. What an amazing opportunity and challenge we have.