When Ecotourism Ireland invited us along to join the new ecotourism network in Meath, we were curious but we weren’t really sure what ecotourism had to do with us. All we want to do is get out and about and have fun. But we went along for the tea and to meet the rest of the network. Here is what we learned about ecotourism.
1. Ecotourism is low-impact
Ecotourism is all about minimising our negative impact on the world. Kayaking and bike-riding are ideal ways of transport for ecotourism. Our high ropes course was designed to fit into the canopy and not damage any of the bark and we use biodegradeable pellets for our paintball games. Our base in Trim is a reused factory. So the ecotourism ethos fits well with our experience. This is why we have already signed up for the Leave No Trace initiative.
Careful with that carbon footprint!
2. Ecotourism protects biodiversity
One of the main attractions of ecotourism is experiencing nature. As locals, we underestimated this completely. We have no jungles or elephants to attract Richard Attenborough. We did not know that the Boyne river is a special area of conservation with designated natural heritage areas throughout. Because we see so many kingfishers on the water we did not know that they were so rare. We also have mute swans, moorhens, sand martins, herons, teal, mallard, cormorants and hawks. Otters and salmon swim along beside us even though they are protected species. Once you start learning about what is out there, it becomes this huge “circle of life” thing going on. Fascinating stuff.
3. Ecotourism is an alternative to mass tourism
Ecotourism is about off the beaten track stuff. We like this already. Whether it is surfing in the west, visiting remote hilltop passage tombs or kayaking through the lakes of Sweden, we prefer to head out with a few hardy adventurous heads to discover something new. Yes, we would like to see more people on the water but we want to do it in a way that does not make the place look like a bad advertisement for the human race.
Taking the slow boat
4. Ecotourism keeps it local
Meeting the rest of the crowd was one of our highlights from getting involved in the ecotourism network. They are cool, like-minded folk trying to earn a few bob while following their natural passions so it was great to hook up with them and see what they are offering. Ecotourism is all about keeping it local. We are local to the Boyne Valley. Born, bred and buttered as we say here, although Dara is probably an endangered species as he is from Drumree. National Geographic should do a special issue about him. If any anthropologists want to meet us we can usually be found in our native environment (the local pub) engaging in traditional activities (having a few scoops and the craic).
Traditional native dress
5. Ecotourism is about cultural heritage
We were up to speed on this already because we float by ruins, castles and earthworks on a daily basis. So we weren’t surprised to learn that UNESCO had designated the landscape itself as a world heritage attraction. Monuments like Brú na Bóinne and Trim Castle are only a small part of the picture here and the interpretation of this ancient landscape is something that we believe is best experienced on the river such as on our medieval tour.
Image Credit – National Library of Ireland Flickr
Two things were apparent from joining the Meath Ecotourism Network. Ecotourism is something that we have been doing already and if we can have a bit of fun while making the place a better place for our kids, then we are laughing.
So our next step is to go for accreditation. We are not experts but we are getting a lot of help from the network. We are learning more about how to make a difference and we think we can actually improve how people experience life in these parts. If anyone wants to know more about what we are doing, feel free to give us a shout.