Ecotourism involves responsible traveling to fragile, pristine and mostly protected areas. This takes place for different purposes, from educating the traveler, fostering respect for different cultures to directly benefiting the economic and political empowerment of local communities (Garana, 2008). Ideally, ecotourism incorporates the following criteria; promote biological and cultural diversity, touring unspoiled natural habitats, and the main attractions being local culture, flora and fauna. In short, ecotourism operations are defined by their commitment to the environment, education, nature and culture. The main objectives of ecotourism are providing nature-based, environmental education experiences for visitors and managing this in a sustainable manner (Badan & Bhatt, 2005).
Education enables students to understand the interconnectedness of various aspects of the global environment. Ecotourism embraces cooperative education which is a structured educational strategy that integrates class work with learning through productive fieldwork experiences that for practical applications to be realized. The relationship between ecotourism and education is majorly concerned with ensuring that agencies deliver effective interpretations of cultural, environmental and resource management values (Morgan, 1999). This type of education involves explanation, stimulation, provocation, revelation and understanding in an interesting and enjoyable fashion. The main challenge lies in the interpretation and options of relying on signage and brochures so as to change people’s attitudes and actions towards their environment are considered as solutions to this challenge.
Ecotourism offers a great opportunity for educational as well as personal growth as values of appreciation and attitude changes are instilled in participants which would lead to significant involvement in environmental and social issues in the future. Essentially, the dimension of ecotourism as an educational experience creates a new window for viewing the whole world and one’s self. It offers an opportunity to show the growth and development of various learning experiences while at the same time exploring another country or culture and going beyond one’s preconceived limitations
Nature-based ecotourism focuses on personally experiencing natural areas in ways that result in understanding and appreciation .It integrates opportunities to understand natural areas into each and every experience. Furthermore, it targets to proactively contribute to the conservation of natural areas and provides constructive contributions to local communities. It is distinguished from other tourism forms due to its natural area setting (Ravens, 1996). Nature based tourism includes a range of tourism experiences that entail adventure tourism, cultural and rural tourism. In addition, activities such as rafting and scuba diving are forms of nature based ecotourism.
On the other hand, sustainable ecotourism aims to address on the needs of visited environments to sustain them. The main focal points include sustaining the natural environment itself and contributing to help local communities understand the importance and value of their adjacent environment (Briffa & Lee, 2004). Sustainability is drawn from the concept of sustainable development which is development that focuses on meeting the needs of he present generation without hindering the ability of the future generations from meeting their own needs. The basic criteria for sustainable ecotourism include; the sustainable use of ecological resources, increased environmental and cultural awareness, conservation ethos, support of local economies through increased revenue from visitors and the use of local supplies and services.
Generally, as envisioned by Ravens (1996), the tourism industry focuses on market demand by attempting to foster, maintain and expand the market world which mostly draws it away from focusing on maintaining the product or experience. The addition of facilities and infrastructures to cater for the demand result in the destruction of pristine environment and the indigenous experience which ecotourism attempts to reverse by reducing these impacts of tourism.