Echidna Walkabout Wildlife Tour Melbourne: There are many ways to tour a country and to see its wildlife. Not all of them result in a pleasant experience for both the visitor and the visited, sometimes leading to considerable environmental damage and distressed animals.
But how to create a wildlife tour that provides the essential photo opportunities, is convenient and affordable but not harmful to the natural environment?
Responsible travel and tourism are the key, of course, and common sustainability practices, such as carbon offsetting, recycling or energy efficiency are a good start.
The real potential of ecotourism and wildlife tours, however, lies in their power to inform, educate and motivate people, according to Janine Duffy, owner-manager of Echidna Wildlife Tours in Melbourne, Australia.
A dedicated member and supporter of the International Ecotourism Society, she firmly believes that positive conservation is what responsible eco-tourism is all about.
Ecotourism: More Than Adopting Sustainable Practices
“The strength of eco-tourism is not in what we don’t do, but what we do. What we do is change people’s attitude to wildlife, nature and environments. As a result of eco-tourism, people see wildlife in their natural environment as an asset, something to be treasured and preserved for the future.”
“Our tour participants see us treating animals and environments with respect, and this affects the way they view their own wildlife and environments at home and in other destinations. It creates a benchmark. People care for what they love, and will go to great lengths to protect it.”
“We believe that this is the greatest achievement of eco-tourism. Minimization of waste, energy efficiency, reforestation, offsetting are all important but they are minor when compared to the power of people’s attitudes.”
On their tours, Janine and her team give a great example of how those ideals can be put into practice. If you chose Echidna ‘just’ for getting a glimpse of some cute koalas and kangaroos in the wild without having to feel guilty about the animals or their living conditions (other tours might make you feel that way), you’ll be surprised how much more her tour has to offer.
Learn to Appreciate Wildlife
Chances are, you’ll soon be involved in the lives of those animals by learning about each one’s history (you can follow up on them later on through Echidna’s Facebook page), or you’ll find yourself in the midst of a brief on latest behavioral observations by field researchers.
You’ll even get the chance to treat those animals to some decent walking paths by removing some noxious weed (bone-seed), which hinders them to get from one eucalyptus tree to another.
Your picnic lunch – you’ll deserve it by then – will be under majestic gum trees, and made of gourmet sandwiches, fruit and cakes. This is topped by delicious Australian “Billy tea”, offered to you after ceremonial preparation (if you’re doing the Koalas and Kangaroos in the wild day trip, like we did).
You’ll then see more kangaroos and all sorts of wildlife (we were treated to some funny birds and the almighty eagle – (un)fortunately no sight of spiders or snakes) and learn a bit about the history of the area and its significance to the local Aboriginal people (the tour doesn’t include any encounters though).
Just as you might expect from an exemplary social enterprise, Echidna Walkabout maintains a good, supportive and friendly relationship with the local tribe, the Wathaurong, providing us with just another reason to wholeheartedly recommend their tours.
Ecotourism and Wildlife Conservation Hand in Hand
Just like Elm Wildlife Tours in Dunedin, New Zealand, Melbourne-based Echidna Tours are a great example for how ecotourism can lead to wildlife conservation – rather than endanger or destroy wildlife’s natural habitat.
Driven by the principle of positive conservation, Echidna Walkabout is not only one of the most established and experienced wildlife tour providers in Australia, it has also succeeded in creating a style of tourism that not only minimizes negative effects on the environment, but positively creates a sense of wonder, an understanding, a power to change for the better.
Janine further explains: “Our magnificent wild kangaroos, our gentle koalas, our noisy, gorgeous cockatoos – even our huge stinging Bull Ants – are all so special and we are so lucky to have them in Australia! Knowing these wild animals, working with them every day and teaching others how to work with them has given us an even greater appreciation and a passion to preserve our wildlife and natural spaces.”
Leading by example and showing the value of wildlife is what makes Janine, Echidna and all the other wildlife tour operators dedicated to responsible eco-tourism so important.
“Local economies benefit from the tours and come to value the wild kangaroos, koalas and birds that bring us to the area. Then they start to protect the animals. It’s wonderful – we have had 100% positive reaction from the small and remote communities we travel to. They want to help – we just give them a good reason!”
Pictures provided by Echidna Walkabout. Many thanks to Janine and her team for hosting us on this fantastic tour, allowing us to experience Australian wildlife first hand!
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