Ecotourism has become one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry, growing annually by 10 to 15 percent worldwide. It is the practice of low-impact, educational, ecologically and culturally sensitive travel that benefits local communities and host countries.
It remains a concept highly profitable. Its benefits astound any cool headed environmentalists and social economists. Some countries such as Kenya, South Africa and Puerto Rico have taken it to highest levels. Exotic islands of Seychelles, Maldives, Vanuatu, Palau, Fiji, Tahiti, Bali and Mauritius have turned it into a multi-billion dollar industry.
It has put their countries on the global map and continues to attract tourists in great numbers. Malawi with its great tropical climate, beautiful hills, plateaus, smiling faces of people, genuine at heart, flowing fresh waters in abundance, fresh organic food and deep rooted cultures sits on gold, which eco-tourists seek to discover.
The world has taken climate change as a big issue to address global warming. Behind the initiatives to address global warming, lie great opportunities for sustainable tourism business. Great benefits abound and with them accrue to various players. Local communities benefit from jobs or supply of produce and more important, play a crucial role in preserving their cultures. Cultures form a unique identity of communities and the modern day visitor is keen to learn more about it.
Usually eco-tourism requires creating facilities that maintain the tranquility, conserve the surrounding outlook of the environment at low-impact scale. It offers visitors unrivalled beauty of nature and joy. The average investor in eco-tourism can use simple local materials, put in projects that involve the communities with a conservation theme while reaping economic benefits. Small sized accommodation facilities linked with a particular theme such as local museums, cultural events, environment conservation initiatives such as organic farming. Being small-scale sized, with the ambiance of modern day town hotel facilities, eco-tourism ensures that local communities are actively engaged in protecting their own environment.
The typical high street hotel, while good, is not often in the best interest of the environment, especially in the terrain of our virgin, but beautiful coasts or mountains and hills that Malawi boasts of. There are people out there craving to visit places that are bound in history, mythology and more important, that depicts a modern day Garden of Eden, unexploited, endowed in natural life and full in environment richness. It certainly remains investment with an environmental face.
Malawi is rich in such places, yet their economic potential has not been fully exploited. We are sitting on such a gem that can unlock the various gains such as forex exchange, which we hysterically crave for. Examples abound that we can utilise to attract lovers of nature, myth and history. The magical beauty of Matchewe Falls, which generated the first hydro-electricity in the whole of Southern Africa. The adjacent historical Livingstonia Mission famed with Dr Robert Laws. The mythical Kabuha Track down the Livingstonia Escarpment satirised in Du Chisiza’s Kabuha Tradegy, the sad tales of the 1946 sinking of the Viphya at Florence Bay in modern day Chitimba. A budding cocoon of communities rooted in deep history, culture, religion and the simplicity of life that our colleagues in the west yearn for.
The Chingwe Hole at the peak of Zomba Plateau and its unique climate allows any exotic fruit from strawberry to granadilla to grow like bush fruit while giving any visitor a heavenly view of the Phalombe plains and the apparent environmental transgressions of Lake Chirwa basin and velvet monkeys that freely roam Zomba Mountain in search of bush fruit. A typical taste of nature at play. For cultural lovers, the stories of Mbona at Khulubvi in the Shire Valley that gets spiced with a panoramic view of the mighty Shire River down the hills, and the inviting but friendly safari drive of the Majete Wildlife Reserve to get a close grasp of unique impalas and elephants. The beautiful world renowned aquarium fish, cichlids (mbuna) at Lake Malawi National Park with a cultural touch of traditional dancers from Chembe Village. This is all, but an eco-tourism gem that we sit on.
In the Central Region of Malawi, the joy of experiencing a Scandinavian chill of the Chongoni Hills. A taste of organic local produce along the M1 invites the passion of the adventurous visitor of the 21st Century stressed from the traffic jams of New York and London. The unmatched game of Kasungu National Park, home to greatest herd of elephants, to a rare but surprise encounter with Lions in the darkness of the Kasungu-Nkhota Kota road.
Phoka Hills and the perennial streams from Nyika, just amaze any visitor of the abundance life with organic coffee growers on its feet. The streams continue their journey to the lake of stars. Mystical sounds of night birds take anyone to old fire place fork tales by grand papa. We are full of natural beauty and endowed with a great environment. Hot springs of Chiweta, its mysterious bush cows down the road and the aftermath that accompanies the malipenga dance of the Northern shores. To the sweet sting of “Beni” military clad dancers of central and southern shores showcase a country rich in environmental and cultural puzzles.
Cases above are typically what eco-tourists are looking for. Investors seeking opportunities will need to consider some of these areas to spend their dollars. Benefits are not only stunning, but sustainable in a way that preserves old age traditions and the environment currently threatened by global warming and over population. We have many risks however to conserve the environment. Malawi’s population growth is among the highest in the world and much of the forest is being destroyed. n