As the legend goes, Columbus named Honduras when finding shelter from sea storms in its calming waters. These days, its Caribbean coastline is one of the main tourist draws, as visitors gravitate to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of its fishing villages and coconut islands. The Bay Islands, in particular, are great for reef diving and are among the world’s cheapest places to learn this from scratch (use reputable operators only).
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Honduras has a landmass of 112,000 square kilometres, similar in size to Bulgaria. Honduras shares land boarders with Nicaragua to the southeast, El Salvador to the southwest and Guatemala to the West. This Central American nation is blessed with coastlines on both the pacific and Caribbean. Honduras has a population of 8.5 million people, the capital Tegucigalpa (known as Tegus) has a population of 1.4 million.
In 2013, Honduras welcomed 850,000 international tourists. Away from the glorious coast, Honduras is practically all mountains, making for great hiking country, including old mining settlements, cloud forest reserves and the fantastic Mayan ruin of Copán, famed for its exquisite carvings.
If you really want to get away from it all, the barely inhabited swampy jungle region of the Mosquito Coast region is a true wilderness. On your travels, you will meet landscapes of coffee and banana plantations, crops vital to the Honduran economy. The country cannot escape its legacy as the first ‘banana republic’, with its more recent economic and political history dominated by foreign fruit interests, to its general detriment. The devastation wreaked by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 is also a painful memory.
Attacks on tourist do sometimes occur, and public buses are prone to hold-ups and accidents. However, if you do take care there is no reason not to follow in Columbus’s footsteps: go, explore and find your own calm waters in this beautiful country.
Ethical Travel Issues and advice
Displacement of Local Peoples:
Tourism development has caused many communities to be forcibly displaced. Indigenous groups, people living in informal settlements, or people who lack official title deeds to their lands are particularly vulnerable to displacement or loss of access to lands and waters essential for their livelihoods. This often happens with little or no warning, compensation or alternative provision.
Governments and private companies have forced many tribal peoples from their ancestral lands to make way for national parks and so called ‘eco-tourism’. Fishing communities are removed from their coastal villages and blocked from accessing the sea as hotels are built and beaches are privatised, destroying livelihoods and traditional ways of life. Informal settlements are bulldozed under beautification projects in the lead up to major international sporting events.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Land displacement:
Travelling presents an opportunity to photograph in lots of different destinations and situations, but sometimes there may be culturally sensitive issues to think about before reaching for the camera or other photo-taking device. There are lots of people in the world who do not have clean water, electricity, schooling or enough to eat, let alone access to mobile telephones, the internet and printed media, so they have no idea where their photograph may end up or how it could be used. Sadly, in this day and age, child prostitution, child trafficking and other crimes against children are facilitated via the Internet, and photography can play an unwitting and innocent role. Photography and its use is no longer straight forward, so perhaps it is time to stop and think a little about the ethics of photography.
Taking photos of friendly local people can be a highlight for many travellers and photographers. Smiles are universal ways to engage, as is showing people the photo you just took of them. If you show an interest in their work or ask them questions, they’ll be happy to have their picture taken. In some touristy places it has become common for people to ask for money for their photos to be taken. Do as you wish, but a photo of someone you shared a laugh with may have a better lasting impression than one you paid for. Don’t forget the same holds true for any porters and guides that may help you along the way. Take an interest in them and you’ll be rewarded with more great photo opportunities.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on ethical photography: https://tourismconcern.wpengine.com/ethical-photography/
Cultural Loss and Indigenous Tourism:
As we have extended the scope of our holidays into remote places, we now see ‘remote people’ as part of our holiday landscape. Our interest in other people’s cultures is not always sensitive. What are the implications, for example, of tourists viewing, filming & photographing tribal peoples who now demand payment in exchange for becoming models in their finery?
Performing for tourists has become an income earner for tribal groups all over the world. But the income comes with a price.
To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles on Indigenous people and tourism:
Illegal Wildlife Trade: Exotic Birds
Export of wild caught and captive bred exotic birds is a major black market trade across the Central American region. Around 100 of the world’s 350 parrot species are now threatened with extinction due to deforestation and the illegal animal trade. The birds may be a personal health risk as they often carry disease, are trafficked with no concern for the animal’s welfare and the practice poses a major threat to wild biodiversity.
See more at Right Tourism; http://right-tourism.com/issues/shopping/cites-customs/#sthash.VwQoazyc.dpbs
Tourists use more water than the ordinary consumer. Indeed, the water ‘footprint’ of the Western world, as in our carbon footprint, is very high. There are already serious water shortages worldwide and a prediction of ‘water wars’.
The United Nations has claimed that ‘The average tourist uses as much water in 24 hours as a third world villager would use to produce rice for 100 days.’ Tourists need unlimited supplies of water – they are used to it at home and desire copious amounts on holiday: for drinking, baths and showers, swimming pools, overflowing fountains and green manicured lawns.
But water, in developing countries, is often a precious commodity. More than 2 billion people lack access to clean water and sanitation, and 80 per cent of all deaths in the developing world are water related. Put a hotel near a local community and the pressure on the water supply is acute.
Tourism Concern has extensively campaigned on water equity and have published reports & articles on the topic. To learn more check out the following Tourism Concern articles:
Coral Reef Biodiversity & Diving:
From Egypt to Australia to Honduras, snorkeling and scuba diving have long been popular tourism activities. Coral reefs are very delicate ecosystems and can be upset by the smallest change in ocean temperature or human contact. According the WWF, coral reef’s occupy less than one quarter of 1% of the marine environment, yet they are home to more than 25% of all known marine fish species.
Increasing ocean temperatures from human induced climate change and toxic run-off from sewage or agricultural waste have the ability to alter the balance of a coral reef ecosystem and result in coral bleaching. In many cases, inexperienced divers cannot control their buoyancy or improperly secured gear can damage the coral.
If you are considering a snorkeling or diving trip, look for ‘coral friendly operations’ that practice reef conservation in a number of ways. These include giving environmental briefings, using available moorings rather than anchoring to fragile reefs, using wastewater pump-out systems and participating in local conservation projects. Anything that you take with you on the boat should be kept safe and disposed of once you return to the shore, not in the water, including cigarettes!!