Home' Caravanning Australia : Spring 2012 Contents 38 • Caravanning Australia • Spring 2012
With a diverse range of natural environments, 19 World
Heritage areas, over 500 national parks and even more
conservation areas, Australia is one of the world's
ecotourism hot spots.
With its roots in environmental conservation, ecotourism
was born from a growing interest in the natural world when,
in the 1980s, a flurry of scientists and filmmakers headed
into remote locations to create documentaries and study the
environment. This saw the establishment of a plethora of small
local businesses in places such as Kenya and the Amazon that
specialised in guiding researchers and filmmakers to remote
areas, leading to the birth of the ecotourism industry.
Today, ecotourism is as much about sustainable
development and assisting remote communities as it is about
preserving the environment.
Programs such as those run by Conservation Volunteers
Australia retain the original spirit of conserving the environment.
With holidays and activities, ranging from one day to one week,
they offer the chance to participate in such things as monitoring
penguins on Montague Island, studying vegetation in the
Daintree and creating habitats for endangered bandicoots in
Home Valley Station, a day's drive west of Broome in
Western Australia's Kimberley region, is owned by the Indigenous
Land Corporation. Since 1999 it has sought to involve local
Indigenous people in all aspects of the station's operation,
along with running skills-based education programs such as
welding, landscaping, fencing and tourism. As well as being a
working cattle station, Home Valley offers travellers first-class
accommodation and the chance to indulge in a spot of fishing,
cattle mustering and a guided tour of the local landscape and
Founded in 1996 to identify businesses with a strong
commitment to sustainability, Ecotourism Australia's ECO
Certification program is a world-first. Today, more than 1000
attractions, tours, cruises and accommodation providers,
including specialty eco-lodges and caravan parks, are easily
identified by the globally recognised ECO logo as being
environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.
Beachcomber Holiday Park, a five-hour drive out of Sydney
on the state's south coast, is one such business. Situated within
the Eurobodalla National Park, which offers a range of activities
from bushwalking to kayaking, the holiday park maintains
an array of solar panels for most of its power and hot water
needs. It also recycles effluent from its sewer systems using
a specialised, chemical-free system developed by Wisconsin
University in the United States. The system, which uses natural
bacterial processes and sand filtration to treat and disperse the
waste, preserves the delicate beach landscape, over which the
park has spectacular views.
With a host of awards, Billabong Sanctuary, 17 kilometres
south of Townsville, is also ECO-certified, and is one of
Queensland's leading tourist attractions. Featuring conservation
and education programs, the sanctuary not only offers visitors
the chance to learn more about Australia's native animals, but it
also provides the opportunity to get up close and personal with
wombats, koalas and even crocodiles.
Another of Ecotourism Australia's initiatives, the annual
GECKO awards recognise some of the country's best green
operators. Among last year's winners was Paronella Park, a
National Trust-listed property noted for its unique architecture
and heritage. The property, an hour and a half south of Cairns,
supplies its own power with a hydroelectric plant first built by the
original owner, José Paronella, in the 1930s, and recycles its own
wastewater using an environmentally friendly sewerage system.
Banrock Station, two and a half hours north-west of
Adelaide, is a vineyard and conservation area with over 1000
hectares of restored woodlands and wetlands. On offer are
self-guided walking tours and fantastic local food (and wine)
with stunning views and a chance to spy on the native bird life.
The station also donates a portion of its profits to conservation
programs around the world, including the Eden Project in the
United Kingdom and wetland restoration in Sweden.
With so many things to do, places to see and bodies such as
Ecotourism Australia certifying genuine green operators, it's never
been so easy to be green. So why not hitch up the caravan and
get started today? ●
Being green -- a celebration of
20 years of ecotourism in Australia
Up close and personal with a crocodile at Billabong Sanctuary © Tourism Queensland
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