Ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”. To achieve ecotourism principles in this wildlife-rich area it is essential to include the provision of clear educational messages and enhance the experience for visitors to the forests, such as in the Batuputih Nature Recreation Park within Tangkoko.
A cooperative effort has resulted in the construction of an education centre in the park in collaboration with the Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam (BKSDA: government agency for natural resource conservation) and SAMA nature protection alliance. Benefits of the centre include clear information about the biodiversity and key conservation messages, a base for patrol data analysis and administration, for tour guides to begin tours and train for improved standards and as a central place to bring local school groups to learn about nature before trips to the forest.
SY collaborates with local resorts and homestays, conducting long-term research on visitor experiences and providing materials and codes of conduct for visitors to read before entering the park. SY also endeavours to enhance the capacity and standard of local guides, developing Standard Operating Procedures and providing training, equipment and materials such as local pocket books to support guiding best practice. Furthermore, the level of English spoken by the guides is often very basic thus limiting effective communication to foreign visitors. Recognising this, an English course is provided for the guides to allow them to communicate to a broad and international audience: a) the unique and wonderful biodiversity of North Sulawesi, b) the threats which it faces and c) how to minimise disturbance to the sensitive species, while trekking through the forest.