As we move towards a more sustainable future, ecotourism in the Philippines is becoming more popular allowing travelers to connect with nature and protect it while it’s there. Being among the most popular travel destinations in the world, there are many places in the Philippines promoting ecotourism.

But before we dive into details about the beautiful ecotourism sites and examples of ecotourism activities, let us first know what ecotourism is and why it is important.

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Understanding What Ecotourism Is

According to The International Ecotourism Society, Ecotourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.” In short, you can enjoy the fun of traveling while protecting the environment.

Its core principles revolve mainly promoting tourism while protecting the environment. Among the ecotourism principles are to minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts; build environmental and cultural awareness and respect; provide positive experiences for both visitors and locals; and provide direct financial benefits for the locals, private industry, and for the conservation of the area.

Ecotourism is important because it helps protect the natural habitats and environment. It allows communities to build their economies without harming the environment.

Types of Ecotourism

Just because ecotourism is a nature based tourism example doesn’t mean it’s not fun. In fact, some of the most thrilling adventures that’s one for the books are those offered by eco tours so travelers can enjoy responsible tourism in many forms. Here are a few types of Ecotourism:

  1. Eco-lodging – This ecotourism example involves choosing accommodations that are built with environmental awareness in mind. These can be anything from hostels and hotels built with sustainable materials, to Eco-resorts, which are built in natural settings and offer ecotourism activities such as bird-watching, hiking, or kayaking. If you want to experience this, book an accommodation that promotes ecotourism and sustainable tourism.
  2. Agro-tourism – This ecotourism example includes visiting or volunteering on rural farm communities. Agro-tourism allows ecotourists to learn about the sustainable farming methods of a certain area, and to work with the communities by providing sustainable help.
  3. Community Development – Also known as Community Based Ecotourism, this ecotourism example includes volunteering opportunities that focus on off-setting the negative impacts of mass tourism and modernization.You can plant trees, build houses, volunteer in schools, museums, or research centers. 
  4. Eco Tours – This kind of tour is fun because you get to do thrilling activities without harming the environment. You can visit eco tourism parks for bird-watching, hiking, rafting, rock climbing, caving, swimming, sailing or bird watching.

Ecotourism Destinations in the Philippines

Each of the 7,641 islands in the Philippines is teeming with breathtaking wonders of nature with several attractions encouraging travelers to connect with the environment peacefully and responsibly. Here are some of the ecotourism and sustainable tourism destinations in the Philippines you should visit:

1. Masungi Georeserve

masungi georeserve rizal

Where it is: Baras, Rizal

Since it opened in 2015, Masungi Georeserve has been one of the most popular destinations in Rizal Province thanks to the amazing views and thrilling adventures it offers. Tucked between the beautiful limestone formations and lush rainforests, a guide will lead you in and around this 1,600-hectare conservation area for you to see jaw-dropping, tree-filled views. Masungi protects flora and fauna endemic to the Philippines including the jade vine. 

Whether you’re a regular hiker or not, you’re sure to enjoy a three-to-four-hour trek going through bridges, high peaks, and the rest of the terrain guided by a park ranger to tell you more about the place. It’s also famous for its giant web or sapot.

2. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

colorful coral reefs in tubbataha reef

With its stunning underwater landscape made up of vibrant corals and marine life, it is little wonder the Tubbataha Reefs of the Philippines has been recognized as one of the world’s top diving destinations. The reefs feature 600 species of fish, 360 species of coral, 11 species of sharks, 13 species of dolphins and whales, birds, plus Hawksbill and Green sea turtles. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 due to its “pristine coral reef’ alongside “extensive lagoons and two coral islands”. Because of its isolated location, tourists have to endure a journey that takes approximately 10-12 hours (only accessible from mid-March to mid-June). Nonetheless, being in touch with this frankly magnificent diversity of marine life is worth the travel.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is known for its extraordinary biodiversity, abundant marine life and breathtaking drop-offs into the open ocean. The area covers 130,028 hectares of high quality marine habitats containing three atolls and a large area of deep sea. It is home to a great diversity of marine life. Whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and Napoleon wrasse are among the key species found here. Aside from being a famous diving spot, it also plays a key role in the process of reproduction, dispersal and colonization by marine organisms in the whole Sulu Sea system, and helps support fisheries outside its boundaries. 

It is legally protected through national protected areas legislation and a range of other environmental legislation which enable action to be taken against a wide range of threats including illegal fishing. 

Learn more about this ecotourism site here: Tubbataha Reef Guide: Exploring One of the World’s Most Pristine Coral Reefs

3. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

puerto princesa underground river

Where it is: Palawan

1999, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO, it encompasses one of the world’s most impressive cave systems, featuring spectacular limestone karst landscapes, pristine natural beauty, intact old-growth forests, and distinctive wildlife. UNESCO also took into consideration that the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River contains a globally significant habitat for biodiversity conservation, being home to a number of species such as crab-eating monkeys and monitor lizards.

Aside from being a World Heritage Site, it is also recognized as Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park 7 Wonders of Nature.

4. Mount Apo Natural Park

mt. apo davao mindanao tourist spot

Where it is: Davao del Sur

Dubbed as the “King of Philippine Peaks,” Mt. Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines and among the highest in Southeast Asia standing at 10,311 feet. It is also one of the country’s most highly-prioritized protected areas and important heritage sites because it serves as a sanctuary for countless wildlife species, including endangered animals such as the Philippine Eagle, Philippine Deer and over native 600 species. There are different trails you can take and there are seven different peaks at the summit where you can see scenic views–from the majestic sunrise and sunset, to the magical sight of seeing the ground touching the sky.

5. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary

Forest in Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (1)

Where it is: Davao Oriental

The 5,315 feet above sea level Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary gained its fame after it claimed a coveted spot in the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage List. According to UNESCO, it is home to 1,380 plant and animal species, eight of which are found nowhere else in the world except Mt Hamiguitan, and 341 of which are endemic to the Philippines that include the iconic Philippine Eagle, Philippine cockatoo, golden crowned flying foxes, the Philippine warty pigs, Philippine mossy-pygmy fruit bats, and more.

One of the reasons that Mt. Hamiguitan was inscribed as a UNESCO WHS because it represents a complete, substantially intact and highly diverse mountain ecosystem, in a significant biogeographic region of the Philippines.

6. Biri Larosa Protected Landscape and Seascape

Ecotourism Biri Larosa Protected Landscape and Seascape

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Where it is: Northern Samar

Biri-Larosa Protected Landscape and Seascape is popular for its natural rock formations and picturesque views. There you can find seven gigantic rock formations: Magasang, Magsapad, Macadlaw, Puhunan, Bel-at, Caranas, and Pinanahawan. These rock formations are said to be the result of underwater tectonic plate movements and the crashing of waves millions of years ago. 

7. Batanes

tayid lighthouse batanes

Where it is: North Luzon

In 2016, Batanes was declared as a responsible, community-based cultural heritage and ecotourism zone. This means that the Department of Tourism will make it a priority and ensure to prevent any unplanned tourism development with a potentially negative impact to harm the province.

Must-read: 12 Batanes Tourist Spots You Can’t Say No To

8. Lake Sebu

Man on a boat at Lake Sebu
Photo credits to via Flickr

Where it is: South Cotabato

Lake Sebu is the humble second municipality of South Cotabato. It is home to the indigenous peoples: the Tirurays, Ubos, Manobos and T’bolis — the latter being the majority group.

The 42,450-hectare landscape is concealed by the mountains and forests, considered as one of the safest places in Mindanao, and is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a cultural landscape in Mindanao. The major livelihoods here are agriculture and aquaculture. That’s why it’s not surprising to see a lot of tilapia cages in their placid lake. 

More than being a beautiful tourist destination in Mindanao, it serves a greater purpose because Lake Sebu is one of the Philippines’ most important watersheds and a major provider of irrigation to the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.

Related article: A Complete Guide to Lake Sebu: A Place Like No Other

9. Pawikan Conservation Center

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Where it is: Bataan

Nestled in Morong, Bataan, Pawikan Conservation Center is dedicated to the rescue, protection and propagation of pawikans (sea turtles). You can go here to help with the center, especially in February and August when the sea turtles hatch and make their way into the ocean. You are also allowed to volunteer in patrolling or join “Adopt a Turtle Program” where you can release a baby turtle back to the sea for only P50.

10. Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA)

LPPCHEA stands for Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area. It is a coastal wetland in Manila Bay situated within the metropolis of Manila, comprising two interconnected, mangrove-covered islands, shallow lagoons and coastline. 

A Presidential Proclamation in 2007 designated the site as a Critical Habitat for the survival of threatened, restricted-range and congregatory species. LPPCHEA is home to at least 5,000 individuals of migratory and resident birds have been recorded at the site, including about 47 migratory species such as the vulnerable Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes), and the vulnerable Philippine Duck (Anas luzonica) which breeds at the site.

Ecotourism Activities

Ecotourism and sustainable ecotourism don’t have to be boring because you can enjoy many kinds of activities such as:

  1. Trekking
  2. Hiking
  3. Water rafting
  4. Rappelling
  5. Rock climbing
  6. Biking
  7. Camping
  8. Swimming

Frequently Asked Questions About Ecotourism

Q: What is ecotourism in simple words?
A: According to The International Ecotourism Society, ecotourism can be defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education.”

Q: What is an example of ecotourism?
A: Here are some examples of ecotourism and sustainable ecotourism.

  1. Eco-lodging
  2. Agro-tourism
  3. Community Development
  4. Eco Tours

Q: What is the purpose of ecotourism?
A: The purpose of ecotourism is to let the tourists enjoy traveling without harming the environment. It aims to protect the environment through responsible tourism.

Q: What are the ecotourism destinations in the Philippines?
A: The Philippines has more than 7,000 islands so it’s not surprising that there are also many ecotourism sites here. See below for the list of the beautiful ecotourism destinations in the Philippines:

  1. Masungi Georeserve
  2. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
  3. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
  4. Mount Apo Natural Park
  5. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary
  6. Biri Larosa Protected Landscape and Seascape
  7. Danjugan Island
  8. Sohoton Cove
  9. Batanes
  10. Lake Sebu
  11. Pawikan Conservation Center
  12. Iwahig Firefly Watching Mangrove Ecotourism And Wildlife Park

Q: What are the ecotourism principles?
A: Among the ecotourism principles are to minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts; build environmental and cultural awareness and respect; provide positive experiences for both visitors and locals; and provide direct financial benefits for the locals, private industry, and for the conservation of the area.

Q: When did Ecotourism start in the Philippines?
A: In 1992, a National Tourism Congress took up this kind of nature based tourism hence, the concept of “ecotourism” was introduced in the Philippines.

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