Oceania Wordle

Responsible Travel, Ecotourism and the Local Travel Movement in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands

by Ron Mader (and friends)

related: oceania, australia, newzealand, oceaniasurvey
flickr group: Ecotourism Oceania

Global tourism has matured in the past decade to offer new options for travelers wishing their journeys to be as eco-friendly, people-friendly and place-friendly as possible. Call it ecotourism, call it responsible travel, call it whatever you'd like -- there is no standard definition used by locals and visitors alike. Most travelers simply want to have a good trip that causes no harm and most locals want to please visitors who are themselves pleasing. Check out the local travel movement.

A growing number of travelers want their journeys to be less invasive and more beneficial to the communities they visit. They want to better understand the culture of the places they visit. Responsible travel is treating others the way they wish to be treated. While tourism campaigns have long touted 'destinations' -- in fact we are simply entering a place that is someone else's home.

For travelers visiting Oceania, it's an eco-friendly proposition to visit a few places over an extended period of time. According to David Stanley, a popular triangle ticket is Fiji to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. Visitors from the United States heading to New Zealand and Australia can request stops at either Tahiti or Rarotonga (one of them, not both) on the way down and Fiji or Samoa on the way back.


Aboriginal Australians conserve the world's oldest culture. Human occupation of Australia started about 65,000 years ago with successive waves of immigration from south and southeast Asia. Many Aboriginal communities require permits to enter their lands. This helps insure the privacy of locals. If you are visiting an Aboriginal community, wait until you are invited to approach people's homes or groups of people. Funerals and cultural ceremonies are times of special privacy in communities. Use extra sensitivity in communities at these times.

Visitors can make contact with Australia's Aboriginals on their turf. In Sydney, for example, Aboriginal guides conduct heritage walks in the Royal Botanical Gardens and ferry travelers on cruises in the harbor.

Outdoor enthusiasts will no doubt find their way to one or more of Australia's 7,000 protected areas. The Australian Government, through Parks Australia, manages Commonwealth parks and reserves. These include areas located on Australian island territories and in Commonwealth waters. The majority of parks and reserves across Australia are managed by State and Territory Governments protected area management agencies. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is managed by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.


New Zealand has one of the best defined tourism strategies focusing on sustainability in the world. The New Zealand Tourism Strategy is underpinned by two key Maori values: kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and manaakitanga (hospitality). Maori operate tours throughout the country.

New Zealand has 13 national parks. More than 30% of the land has been set aside in national parks, reserves and special heritage sites to preserve the country’s ecological heritage. The Department of Conservation has information about the protection of New Zealand's natural and historic heritage, how and where you can enjoy public conservation places and how to get involved in conservation.

Students seeking degree programs in tourism have numerous study abroad options, including an ecotourism certificate offered by Tai Poutini in Greymouth.


The Pacific Islands region covers 38 million square kilometers of the Pacific Ocean. Less than 2% is land scattered over thousands of large and small islands. Within this vast area are 22 island nations and territories and an incredibly diverse array of traditional cultures that are heavily dependent upon their natural resources. This environment is in part an acknowledged hotspot of global biodiversity with exceptionally high concentrations of unique species, which have evolved as a result of millions of years of species evolution in isolation.

Wildlife tours are popular throughout the region. Whale watching is popular in Vavau Tonga and bird watching is popular in the Cook Islands' Takitumu Conservation Area which has a forest walk that allows visitors to view the kakerori (Rarotonga flycatcher) in its natural habitat. The South Pacific Tourism Organisation supports smaller, independent tourism operators.


TAKE BOOKS AND LEAVE BOOKS - Global understanding could vastly be improved if we took (and left) better books on our trips! Once you have decided where you are traveling, email locals and ask if you can bring something. What's easily found in Australia, England or Mexico can be impossible to get in the USA. Consider this a variation of the Platinum Rule (treating others as they would like to be treated). If you have academic leanings, find out if the local libraries can use more technical materials and take them something they can use.

PICK UP THE TRASH - Actions speak louder than words. If you are concerned about the environment, show that you care by picking up trash or simply making a point of taking your trash with you. As the adage goes, 'pack it in, pack it out.'

LEARN THE LANGUAGE - Learn and use a few words starting with 'hello' and 'thank you.' If you have the time, take a language class.

BE RESPECTFUL OF PEOPLE'S PRIVACY - Some people do not wish to be visited. In rural communities, wait until you are invited to approach homes or groups of people.

BE RESPECTFUL OF RESTRICTIONS - Some communities may be closed to visitors. Natural attractions might be off limits for cultural or environmental reasons. When in doubt of whether or not to proceed, ask first.

BE RESPECTFUL OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE - Traditional land owners should be acknowledged. Indigenous people working in tourism take their role of welcoming visitors and explaining their culture seriously. Recognize their connection to the land and you'll learn to see the world with a new set of eyes.

BUY LOCAL CRAFTS - If you are looking for a gift or a souvenir, patronize the arts and demonstrate your support for local culture. Buying from a local artisan can cut out 40 steps in the traditional export chain. What not to buy? Items made from endangered animals or pirated archaeological treasures.

CONTRIBUTE TO A LOCAL CHARITY - Ask around and find out which social or environmental efforts can use your time or a financial contribution. Be generous!

RETHINK TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY - Planeta.com's campaign for Responsible Travel Photography asks travelers to rethink traditional photography. If you have photos of responsible travel and ecotourism in Oceania, please add them to Ecotourism Oceania on Flickr.


PATA's Sustainable Tourism Wiki

South Pacific Travel

Ecotourism Australia

Ecotourism New Zealand



New Zealand

Pacific Islands

Aboriginal Australia

Ecotourism education in New Zealand

A bold approach

Conversation with David Stanley

Editor's Note

This article is being edited for publication on Transitions Abroad.