Has it become impossible to travel sustainably in Indonesia? Millions of tourists come and go every year, impacting everything from the economy, to the environment, to local cultures.
Would it be better to just stay away?
Your visit could be a part of the change that Indonesia needs. Here’s how…
Sunrise over a Borneo Rainforest
Over 960 thousand tourists visited Indonesia in April this year alone, flocking to experience the beautiful rainforests, rare and exotic wildlife and warm beaches.
But mass tourism has severely impacted the region, with fresh water reserves cemented for hotels, beaches littered with debris from revellers, and wild animals captured and displayed for entertainment.
Environmentalists and animal rights activists have advocated against travelling to Indonesia, aiming to slow some of these harmful repercussions.
2015 Southeast Asia Haze fires
Reports of horrific abuse and exploitation have made it to the mainstream news in Australia over the last few years, with multiple organisations calling for a total boycott of tours involving animals, or even the region in general.
The noise they’re making is getting louder, and sustainable palm oil movements and animal rights activists are beginning to get serious traction in Western media.
Indonesia is listening and taking action.
The Indonesian Government is starting to respond to these calls more aggressively and are restructuring an existing plan focused on the conservation of critically endangered orangutans. The announcement comes as a great relief to the organisations invested in the survival of the apes. There is also legislation that prohibits animal cruelty and provides protection for a range of animals.
However, economic pressures from the palm oil industry and a lack of enforcement mechanisms mean that improvement is slow, and certain tourism companies are taking advantage of tourists excited by the prospect of getting close to wild animals without understanding the risks and exploitation involved.
Tourism is both the source of and resolution for
Indonesia’s environmental problems.
If economic growth stalls through tourist boycotts, Indonesia will be forced to look elsewhere. Palm oil farming and deforestation is a huge source of economic growth for Indonesia, and if tourism dollars decrease, it’s possible that the push towards sustainable palm oil will falter.
The government has made a commitment to economic growth through environmentally and culturally sustainable means, and environmental activists can be a part of this change by choosing sustainable tourism options.
An orangutan mother and her baby in Borneo
Sustainable tourism and eco-tours are rapidly becoming popular with both environmentalists and adventure-seekers. Sustainable tourism means that your tourist dollars help to generate employment in the local communities, while letting you discover the local environment and culture in a low impact way.
Sustainable tourism gives you the power to be part of something that makes a difference.
Indonesians Biking Through The Field
So, how can you make sure you’re supporting the right
kind of tourism in Indonesia?
Do your research before booking any tours.
Does the tour company clearly state their values and hold accreditation for ethical treatment of animals and the environment?
Can you find any articles that paint the company in a negative light?
Take your time with your research, as it could be the difference between a positive experience for everyone and a potentially harmful one for locals or the environment.
For example, we use the funds raised from our orangutan trekking tours to buy land that would otherwise risk falling into the hands of the palm oil companies. The land then becomes a safe habitat for orangutans and the native wildlife that live in the forest. Any wildlife we encounter on our trek is kept safe from human hands and the only orangutans you’re likely to meet are residents of camps dedicated to their health and wellbeing. (You can read more about our mission here.)
Baby orangutan in Borneo
Indonesia has so much to offer to travellers, and your trip
can help, not harm
By allowing yourself to write off Indonesia as a destination, you miss out on one of the most beautifully diverse environmental wonders in the world.
The more tourists that choose to avoid the region, the more the economic pressure on the government will grow.
Let your dollars do the talking (over $2500 on average per visitor), and help fund organisations that protect Indonesia’s unique native culture and stunning rainforests. Together, we can show the Indonesian government that tourism dollars depend on sustainable environmental practices.