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Home > Things to Do & See > Ecotourism


Saba's National FlowerConcern for the environment has helped change the face of tourism to the Caribbean and Central America.

While many still travel to the Caribbean to soak up rays on the beach, a growing number who are headed to the region have something else in mind: the environment.

More and more, visitors are leaving the confines of their resorts and heading to mountains, reefs, animal sanctuaries, hiking trails and waterfalls. As interest in ecotourism continues to grow, so, too, does the preservation of these precious resources. Locals and visitors are now working together to ensure the sustainability of these assets.

Few places in the world can offer as much to ecotourists as the Caribbean and Central America. From the far-flung Corn Islands off the East coast of Nicaragua, to the pristine rainforests of Guyana and Suriname, to the flocks of spectacular scarlet ibis in Trinidad's Caroni Swamp to the Turks and Caicos Island's third largest coral reef system in the world. There is something for every nature lover and a growing number of hotels and tour operators available to assist in your adventure.

Here are just a few of the region's ecotourism highlights:

Nearly 85% of Suriname is covered by tropical rainforest. Brownsberg Nature Park has an abundance of endemic flora and fauna. Or take a dugout canoe into the interior where you'll encounter wild rapids and falls.

Known as the "The Nature Island of the Caribbean," you can spot over 160 species of birds on Dominica including the Imperial Parrot and the purple-throated hummingbird.

One of the major ecotourism attractions in Antigua and Barbuda is the Magnificent Frigate Bird Sanctuary, situated in the Codrington Lagoon, Barbuda. It is a forty minute boat ride and is a spectacular sight even for non-bird watchers. In the mating season from September to April this rare bird displays a huge red breast to attract a female mate and they lay one egg on a nest built precariously on the mangrove. These birds cannot walk or swim, they soar high in the clouds and live solely on fish which they often steal from other birds, giving them their local name Man'o'war. They have few predators here and this nesting site is one of the most important in the world for these endangered birds.

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico offers a huge diversity of natural attractions. The Caribbean National Forest, often called El Yunque Rainforest, has the highest visitation of any natural site in Puerto Rico, It is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System and features 240 different species of trees. Also not to be missed is the The Piñones (or pine) Forest, one of Puerto Rico's natural treasures. This is a mangrove-lover's paradise and is just 20 minutes from San Juan.

Belize has become an internationally recognized leader in preservation and conservation. Among its nature treasures is the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, located thirty-miles northwest of Belize City. The sanctuary was established for the protection of resident and migrant birds, Consisting of a large network of inland lagoons and swamps, the sanctuary provides both the abundant food sources and the safe resting area that is necessary to support a large and diverse population of birds. The most notable migratory resident is the Jabiru Stork. With a wingspan of 10-12 feet, it is the largest flying bird in North America. Luckily, Belize has the largest nesting population of Jabirus in Central America. Offshore, Belize also has the second longest barrier reef in the world, as well as three major offshore atolls. This marine ecosystem has attracted scuba divers, marine biologists and sport fishermen for many years.

Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has a strong commitment to its nature. It has designated 16 national parks, nine natural monuments and six scientific reserves, for a total of 67 protected areas that include panoramic routes, recreational areas and ecological corridors, all of which are under the direct supervision and control of the Dirección Nacional de Parques (the National Parks Office). The Dominican Republic has become a popular bird watching destination. The national bird is the cotica parrot, which is green, very talkative and a popular pet though now subject to protection. Other birds seen include several types of parrots, hummingbirds, the guaraguao (a hawk), barrancolí and the flautero. Mammals on the island include the hutia, an endangered, endemic rodent, the also endangered manatee whose habitat is located in Estero Hondo.

St. Eustatius
The tiny island of St. Eustatius (Statia) offers visitors world class diving and great hiking in The Quill - a dormant volcano harboring a tropical rainforest.

Statia's sister island, Saba, has set up The Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF). This non governmental organisation has a mission to preserve and manage Saba's natural and cultural heritage. SCF promotes the development of parks and protected areas, manages a network of hiking trails, encourages the preservation of historic buildings, and promotes supportive scientific research and education. Great hiking (especailly Mount Scenery), birding (you may catch sight of a Red-billed Tropicbird) and unparalleled diving are highlights of Saba.

And Much More Too...
In brief...Guyana and Venezuela are blessed with incredible natural sights. These include Angel Falls, at more than 3,200 feet the highest waterfall in the world; Kaieteur Falls; and remote Mount Roraima, the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World.

Bonaire's diving is second to none.

The U.S. Virgin Islands boast Buck Island off of St. Croix, which is world famous for the beauty of its coral reefs and crystal-clear water. Two-thirds of St. John is protected by the National Park Service.

Guadeloupe's National Park with its mascot, the "Ti-Racoon", provides around 300km of marked trails in the mountains of Basse-Terre. They lead you into the center of one of the most beautiful rain forests of the Lesser Antilles, where you can explore the world of tropical animals and plants.

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