Siargao, or known to many as a surfer’s paradise in the Philippines, is no stranger to international acclaim. Just recently, Vogue Paris named the island as one of the top places to visit in the world, and high caliber travel publication, Conde Nast, named the island as the best island in the world to visit in 2019.
The island’s quick rise to the jet-setter’s consciousness meant a huge influx of tourism from different parts of the globe. This boom prompted resort and business owners to take huge leaps in ensuring that the island doesn’t lose its natural beauty.
While the island’s quick rise to fame brought in more businesses and investors, it definitely had its environmental downsides. When tourism increases in remote islands, this usually means that more trash gets produced, and it can create problematic waste disposal issues, especially if there is a lack of awareness and education about proper protocols.
Compared to its famous tourist island counterparts El Nido and Boracay, Siargao is definitely making more strides and efforts in creating a sustainable playing field not just for tourists, but for locals as well.
Luckily, several organizations are ensuring that the problem gets solved one action at a time. From small attempts to monumental efforts, key players in the island’s tourism industry are forging the path to a cleaner and greener Siargao.
Let’s look at some reasons Siargao island is considered the new center of ecotourism in the Philippines.
As an effort to lessen plastic waste on the island, Nature Kids of Siargao is an NGO that collects plastics, such as single-use sachets and junk food wrappers, from residents in exchange for goods. They shred the collected plastic and turn them into bean bag fillers, which are then sewed by local ladies trained and hired by ATE Siargao, an atelier based on the northern coast of Burgos Island.
SEA movement is an environmental NGO based in General Luna. By working with the local community, they bring awareness and aim to stop plastic pollution in Siargao. SEA movement organises beach clean up on a regular basis, inviting locals as well as tourists to participate. As an incentive to pick up single-use plastic on the surroundings, the association distributes rice in exchange for the collected plastic.
This marriage of visions not only lessens plastic waste on the island but also creates more jobs for locals, which is a true example of thriving ecotourism in the Philippines. It empowers and arms them with professional knowledge that they can carry on to future endeavors as they make decent wages for themselves.
A piece of strong evidence that ecotourism in the Philippines is truly thriving is that green practices are being put in action by ecotourism resorts in the Philippines, particularly in Siargao. Some examples of these practices are:
These resorts are becoming good examples of ecotourism facilities in the Philippines and teach future resort owners how to frame their business models. Not only are these rules good for the environment, but it definitely proves that ecotourism in the Philippines is alive and progressing.
Organization, Lokal Siargao knows the importance of ecotourism in the Philippines and how it can benefit communities in the long run. Starting off as a small cafe built in a local house situated in the northern town of Burgos that hired locals and served organic food, Lokal had big dreams of community-based ecotourism in the Philippines : all of its programs fall into four categories: community, education, farming, and culture. Lokal is currently setting up learning programs for children, adults, and artisans. But perhaps one of their most important projects is setting up a network of farmers all across the island that enriched the island’s organic farming efforts.
Before, tours on the island were limited to the usual island hopping, but 2019 saw a rise in more inclusive, sustainable tours that truly capture ecotourism in the Philippines. Bathala Land Tours is a plastic-free cultural tour that takes guests around the island in a customized jeepney. The main feature of the tour is a banig weaving workshop, where participants learn the craft of basket-making, an age-old tradition in the country.
Bayatakan Farm Experience created a farm-to-table itinerary that allowed guests to take part in ecotourism farm tours. The two companies bridged the gap in the island as it tries to create a mark in ecotourism development in the Philippines.
Nature tourism also became prevalent, with local guides taking guests to natural tourist attractions.
The pandemic brought in challenges for all tourist-centric businesses, but their collective focus on ecotourism practices in the Philippines became everyone’s saving grace. The benefits of ecotourism in the Philippines will continue to yield as years go by, thanks to the efforts listed above.
With all of these being said, who doesn’t want to enjoy the island while saving the planet and giving back to the locals? Do you plan to be an active participant as a supporting traveler for ecotourism in the Philippines? Let us know in the comments below!