Author Pamela Brodowsky on Eco-Tourism
Sipping a margarita poolside certainly has its charms, but what about using your next vacation to track gazelles in South Africa or to study fur seals on Alaska's St. George Island? Pamela K. Brodowsky, author of Destination Wildlife and Barbaro: A Nation's Love Story has outlined these trips, plus 298 others in her new travel guide, Ecotourists Save the World: The Environmental Volunteer's Guide to More Than 300 International Adventures to Conserve, Preserve, and Rehabilitate Wildlife and Habitats, which will be released by Perigee April 6. We spoke to Brodowsky about some of her family's eco-conscious travel adventures.
A: A family trip to Assateague Island triggered Destination Wildlife and has been the inspiration for all these wildlife books. It ended up being such a great trip and my kids were so entertained. Camping and just being there with the wild ponies, they were completely content. Seeing that firsthand made me want to look into it more, and since then we’ve been basing all of our trips on wildlife and conservation. You get a lot more from these working vacations. They’re inspirational. They’re relaxing. Sharing that experience with kids is something everyone should do.
Q: Why do you think eco-tourism is becoming popular? Why do you think it’s valuable?
A: Experiencing the natural world is so important. It seems to me that everyone is leaving the natural world behind for the world that’s man-made, and they’re not experiencing all the beautiful and inspiring things that are right there waiting for them. We take so much away from the environment, so you can’t tell me that giving back to it a little bit isn’t worth your time. We love to fish and when we take our kids fishing, the first thing we do is clean up any kind of garbage or old fishing line that happens to be around the area where we’re fishing. My kids don’t even have to be told to do that; they just start doing it. It might take 10 minutes or 20, but that mess won’t be there for the next person to have to deal with.
Q: What are some of your favorite eco-tourism trips in the book?
A: Pea Island, North Carolina, which has the red wolf program at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is a fantastic program. It’s not necessarily meant for people with a family, but they can provide you with a cabin and you can do a three-month stint and learn about the wolves. There are trips available everywhere depending on what you’re looking for. You can work with everything from birds to lions. You still have your free time -- it’s not like you're tied to the program -- but yet you can lend a helping hand to a place that’s in need, and at the same time you gain a sense of accomplishment because you helped some animal that needed your help.
Q: What's one thing you’d like people to keep in mind before they embark on one of these eco-tourism adventures?
A: Really look into the trips, especially if you’re taking kids, to make sure that the place and program are appropriate. You want to feel everything out and make sure you’re joining the right program. Ask for references of other people who have been on that exact trip so you know. Make sure that whatever you’re signing up for, you’re capable of doing it and that if you’re bringing kids, it’s age-appropriate. You don’t want to take a 5-year-old on a five-mile hike every day. There are so many opportunities that fit with every age group, so it really is one of these things that you can tailor to your own needs.
Ecotourists Save the World: The Environmental Volunteer's Guide to More Than 300 International Adventures to Conserve, Preserve, and Rehabilitate Wildlife and Habitats is available for pre-order at Amazon.