Before, traveling is something people do for the sake of personal leisure, today it’s fast becoming a collective movement to save the world.
Ecotourism is on the rise, which has significantly impacted Boracay tourism today. More travelers are exercising a sense of responsibility when going to natural hotspots, aiming to protect the environment and the well-being of local communities.
Boracay is one of the top spots that benefits a lot in ecotours. Its pristine beaches maintain their raw, unfiltered beauty. Its locals, the very people who form the fabric of the community, get the respect as well as the financial rewards they deserve.
What’s good about responsible traveling is that anyone can make it happen. You yourself can make your own Boracay ecotour. Follow this comprehensive guide when planning your next Boracay vacation with the barkada.
When going on an ecotour, the overarching principle you should remember is respect for the environment and the local community. With this in mind, you’ll be able to make responsible decisions on different aspects of your travel, from what kind of accommodations you’ll choose to how exactly you will deal with the locals.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most crucial tips when going on a Boracay ecotour.
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1. Travel light. Limit the things you’re bringing. Remember, the weight of your luggage contributes to the overall weight of the plane or ferry and the amount of fuel it will burn. If you want to reduce carbon footprint, pack essential, eco-friendly travel products only (see list below).
2. Learn as many things as you can about Boracay. See how you can move from one station to another with less dependence on fuel-powered vehicles. Know where the local market is. Read up on the culture of the people, especially the do’s and don’ts when interacting with them. Spend an hour or two learning together with your barkada.
3. Plan eco-friendly activities. Those that would allow you to enjoy and be one with nature, but still leave it untouched. Some good examples for a good barkada fun include birdwatching, sightseeing, cycling, snorkeling, and of course, swimming in the clear waters of the beach.
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4. Stay in accommodations where you can interact with the locals. As much as possible. Usually, these are small-scale accommodations, like hostels or inns. Compare options with your friends.
5. If you must go with hotels though, consider how environmentally conscious their facilities are. See if the building has LEED certification. Look for green, open spaces. Check with the staff about energy-efficient features, such as reflective film on windows, dual toilet flush, programmable thermostats, renewable power sources, among many others. These are the signs of a planet-friendly hotel.
6. Don’t change the linens. Getting the hotel or hostel staff to wash beddings every day would mean tons of water wasted on sheets that don’t necessarily need cleaning.
7. Turn off the air conditioning units when you’re not in the hotel room. Remind your friends to double-check, triple-check their spaces.
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8. Offset your flight emissions, if possible. Air travel is harsh on the environment. It contributes to a huge amount of carbon emissions. Offsetting flight emissions means paying the airline to counterbalance the negative environmental effects of traveling by air. They do this in two ways: forestry projects, in which they stop the cutting down of trees or plant new ones, or energy projects, where they invest in the development of renewable technology.
9. If you want a totally different alternative to flying, then go sail. Ferries tend to produce fewer greenhouse gases because they use the heat created by the engines to warm passenger areas. There are ferries plying the route from Manila to Caticlan. When choosing this option though, you should be able to prepare for a long trip though. But considering that you’re with friends, you probably won’t get bored onboard.
10. When going around the island, walk or bike. You essentially have zero emissions for these modes of transportation. At the same time, you can easily drop by spots where locals gather.
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11. Cook your own food. Go to local markets, so you can get items directly from farmers or fishermen. Aside from supporting the community, you’re able to avoid the need for packaging and processing food usually done in big supermarkets.
12. When going to restaurants and trying out local delicacies, be careful not to order endangered species. Make sure to lead the way even to your most adventurous friends and opt for sustainable healthy restaurants like Prana, a Southeast Asian style restaurant, which is popular in Boracay as the "to go to, Health food spot."
Prana offers a simple menu and serves farm-fresh food on the table. Try their Gado-Gado (P250), a local vegetable salad – boiled carrots, string beans, okra, cabbage, baby potatoes, boiled egg, fried tofu, prawn crackers, cucumbers, and bean sprouts matched with a special peanut sauce, or their Asian Tuna Tartar (P350), which is diced fresh tuna seasoned perfectly with lemongrass, desiccated coconut, ground toasted rice and bulgogi sauce.
As for desserts, one of the food stops you can’t miss is Coco Mama. Their coconut ice cream will surely complete your meal and win your hearts as they serve it in an eco-friendly and instagrammable way using coconut shells!
13. Refill your water bottle before going out of the hotel or every after meals. This way, you won’t have to buy bottled water on the way to another station or while waiting for your order at a restaurant.
14. Buy local when it comes to souvenirs. You’re helping the community’s economy with every penny you spend on those shirts and woven bracelets.
15. Similar to trying out new food, don’t buy souvenir items made from endangered species. Just to be safe, avoid plant or animal products. Choose Boracay souvenirs that are environment-friendly like the ones that are being sold at Here and Now, which is among the strip of establishments in D’Mall.
Here and Now have bags, wallets, and accessories all made of recycled materials. Some of their bags are even made from old kites from the island’s kiteboarders while other items are made from materials that you would normally see in the trash can.
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16. Avoid disturbing wildlife, plant species, and their respective habitats. Leave the corals be. Let the turtles lay their eggs on the shore. Clean as you go.
17. Be respectful of local customs. Even though Boracay is a PH destination, the community there has its own way of doing things. Don’t judge, and instead, be open-minded to their unique culture. To avoid being unintentionally insensitive, familiarize yourself with the local regulations.
18. Give yourself time to appreciate the beauty of nature. It’s tempting to take groupfies when going on an ecotour. But resist the urge and put down your phones for a while. Take in everything, focusing on what your senses perceive: the calm, orange glow of the sunset; the feel of the fine sand under your feet; and the sound of consistent, crashing waves.
Planning a Boracay vacation is already enough of a challenge. To choose eco-responsible activities for the barkada, it certainly takes a whole new level of difficulty. But it’s all just a matter of knowing what’s out there for you.
Besides, planning is a step towards being responsible for your travel. There’s a better chance that you’ll make eco-friendly decisions when you have a ready line up of activities to do. That said, here are some ideas to get you started on your planning:
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This is also called pro-poor tourism. Simply put, tourists help improve the economic situation of the community they’re visiting by going for a 3 or 7 days tour, participating in the locals’ daily routines. This can involve, for example, restoring habitats, rescuing endangered species, or cleaning up beaches.
Why do this? One, you get to interact with nature in a kinder, more meaningful manner. Also, you become more aware of societal issues, thereby helping you be more responsible of your lifestyle choices. Lastly, you discover a deep sense of purpose when you do a noble act for the environment. In fact, it may even inspire you to embrace this as your group’s advocacy, and not just a one-time travel event.
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In this type of activity, you focus on appreciating the nature around you. Aside from the ones mentioned earlier, one of the best activities for eco-trekking is going on an island hopping tour in Boracay. It’s perfect when you’re traveling during the off-peak season, as you can have the entire Boracay Island to your barkada alone.
Go to the famous Crocodile Island. Spend some time snorkeling and feeding schools of fish there. Next, drop by the Crystal Cove, a private island that has a Php200 entrance fee. Maximize your time here by exploring the caves and appreciating the prehistoric vibe of its stone huts and towers. From there, go to Piknikan Island and have a sumptuous seafood feast.
Why do this? Aside from catching a glimpse of the most popular islands in the country, you’ll be able to help local enterprises, from those offering boat rides to those cooking up your meals. Plus, wouldn’t you want the thrill of going from one island to another, not knowing what gems you’ll find there?
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This activity is one of the best ways to see nature in action, without hurting the environment. In Boracay, you’ll find rich marine life, from fish that inflates itself when there’s a predator around to sea stars that change color every now and then down to moray eel known to have a second set of jaws. Go snorkeling to see these wonders of the seas.
Why do this? It’s one good way to maximize the immersive experience with nature. Plus, it will be a humbling encounter to meet unknown species. Realizing that there’s a lot to know out there in nature compels you to respect it all the more.
Part of ecotours is “packing for the planet,” as seasoned travelers would say. Whatever you put in your backpack should be kind to the environment. Here are some items your luggage should have when going to Boracay.
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1. Solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Swap those liquid hair products contained in plastic bottles for these eco-friendly options. Other than saving the planet, you’ll also save more space in your luggage. Accept the #BoracayChallenge of eliminating plastic waste altogether.
2. Bamboo toothbrush. It takes 400 years for plastic toothbrushes to decompose, so they occupy landfills for a long period. This is a better alternative.
3. Reusable cotton buds. Most of these products are also made of bamboo, so they don’t contribute to landfill waste.
4. Organic sunscreen. Your regular sunscreen may have chemicals harmful to the ocean. Ingredients such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene can threaten ecosystems, putting corals more vulnerable to bleaching or deformation. So make sure to check the ingredients of your sunscreen and go for products that are free from the chemicals mentioned.
5. Biodegradable menstrual cup. Pads and tampons are usually made of non-biodegradable materials. You don’t want them filling up landfills. So go for a more responsible option: biodegradable feminine hygiene products.
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1. Solar charger. Reduce carbon footprint when charging phones by using clean energy. What’s good about this charger is that you can bring it around even when you’re outdoors.
2. iBamboo speaker. If you’re the type of traveler who wants music everywhere, this one-foot long bamboo speaker is for you. This electricity-free gadget naturally amplifies sounds with its unique form, which has openings on both ends of the tube.
3. Energy-efficient hard drives. For sure, you’ll need these if you’re fond of capturing and keeping a lot of travel photos. These tech items can read more data while consuming the same amount of energy as ordinary HDDs. They don’t make noises or vibrations, which signal the use of more power than required.
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1. Bikinis and trunks made of recycled synthetic fibers. The usual materials used in swimwear—polyester and nylon—require huge amounts of energy and water during production. Plus, they’re non-biodegradable. Your best, most eco-friendly bet is recycled synthetic fibers, as they save on raw materials and energy, and prevent waste from ending up in landfills.
2. Beach hats made of recycled paper straws. The same principle of keeping stuff away from dumpsites applies here. You can easily get stylish eco-friendly hats online.
3. Handcrafted bags. Switch your clear plastic tote bags for something that exudes a better beach vibe. You’ll find a lot of bags made by locals in Boracay. Those made from bamboo are durable and visually-pleasing.
Going on an eco-tour is one of the best ways to travel differently this 2020. It will not just give you an immersive experience, which you’ll remember for the rest of your life, but also help save the planet one destination visit at a time. Go create a Boracay ecotour for your next barkada vacation.