Eco-tourism in South Africa’s wine lands is thriving.
With visitors to the Western Cape increasingly as interested in exploring the wealth of eco-tourism activities on offer as they are in sampling the region’s famous wines.
In fact, these days you don’t even have to taste the wine to enjoy a day in the wine lands. From accommodation, farmer’s markets and literary festivals to rock music festivals, mountain bike trails, and full-moon hikes, eco-tourism is creating huge public awareness around sustainability issues including recycling, energy conservation and minimizing environmental footprints.
Eco-tourism has become key in conserving biological and cultural diversity within a region. Job creation within local communities is one of the positive spin-offs. The high-yield, low-impact tourism model is a good fit in the wine lands, which typically offers highly personal and exclusive experiences to small groups of visitors at a time.
Eco-tourism is broadly defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” (The International Ecotourism Society, or TIES, 1990). The mutually beneficial relationship between conservation, local communities and sustainable travel is at the very core of successful eco-tourism.
Biodiversity and Wine Initiative
In 2008, conservation history was made when the conservation footprint in the wine lands exceeded the vineyard footprint for the first time. What this means is that in less than four years, the wine industry has succeeded in setting more area aside for long-term conservation than is currently planted in the vineyard.
With this achievement, South Africa is leading the world in the conservation of biodiversity in this environment. It also illustrates the industry’s commitment to protecting our unique natural heritage.
Conservancies joint eco-tourism activities
Right now, one of the most exciting emerging trends in eco-tourism in the Western Cape is the way in which wine regions are getting involved by establishing conservancies and developing joint eco-tourism activities, drawing on the network of producers within the same area and pooling their resources.