Supporting Global Development through Sustainable Tourism

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 00:00

Linking Tourism Development & Conservation in Baja California

Written by Matthew Humke

Sierra de la Giganta is one of the last remaining wild stretches of Baja California Sur’s coastline, but it is increasingly coming under the pressure of developers who are eager to replicate Mexico’s other tourism mega-destinations. It is also one of Mexico's poorest regions, with existing economic options limited to fishing, mining, and other resource extractive activities. With the support of the Resources Legacy Fund, Solimar and our local partner, RED Sustainable Travel, are working to identify the opportunities to link tourism, conservation, and rural development in this region. 

In order to ensure the long-term protection of Sierra de la Giganta's natural and cultural resources, solutions must address the region’s conservation goals while also providing real economic opportunities for the local population. These goals present a perfect opportunity for sustainable tourism, as it is an economic activity that depends upon the preservation of natural and cultural resources rather than its extraction. 

Solimar and RED's initial tourism assessment revealed a number of interesting potential tourism models for the Sierra de la Giganta region, concepts that will be developed and documented in business plans that can then be used to attract donors and investors to the region.  

The first potential model focuses on marine tourism. Establishing a network of coastal community tourism service providers would allow locals to benefit from the marine tourism activities already taking place in the region in the form of kayaking tours, sailboat rentals, and private yacht owners. Local communities could provide complimentary experiences such as mule trekking tours, salt-water fly fishing guide services, and restaurant/food services.  

Secondly, a private reserve eco lodge could boost the current tourism offerings. A local conservation organization that established a private coastal reserve is considering the development of a small-scale ecolodge that would enable visitors to not only spend a night in the reserve, but also to participate in the organization's terrestrial and marine monitoring and research activities. From checking bighorn sheep motion cameras to conducting fish counts in the Sea of Cortez, the lodge would give visitors a chance to be "biologists for a day".  Such a lodge would also create needed jobs and revenue for local communities, as well as begin to better integrate those communities into the reserve's conservation activities.

With the assessment complete, we look forward to further developing these business plans into a shared vision of sustainable tourism for this unique region.

El Pardito

 El Pardito fishing community inhabits a tiny island in the Sea of Cortez, surrounded by ocean and soaring desert mountains.

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Part of the cultural attraction of Sierra la Giganta is the continuation of traditional economic activities like fishing. The goal of sustainable tourism is not to replace those activities entirely, but rather introduce additional economic alternatives to reduce the pressure on the region’s natural resources.

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 Local artisans show off their handiwork in El Pardito.

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Solimar & RED team members assess new tourism opportunities in Sierra de la Giganta. 

 

Published in General
Friday, 11 April 2014 00:00

Destination Management and Planning in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Written by Matthew Humke

Sierra la Giganta in Baja California Sur, Mexico is a remote and remarkable desert landscape where soaring red rock mountains plunge into the clear and cool waters of the Gulf of California. Solimar International and local partner RED Sustainable Travel have been working in the region for the last year to develop a destination management and marketing plan that promotes Sierra la Giganta's unique natural and cultural resources, local communities and sustainability.

The following photo essay highlights our work in Sierra la Giganta, captured during a recent site visit.The region's stark desert landscape is juxtaposed by the Gulf of California, one of the most biologically diverse seas on the planet and home to many species of reef fish, sharks, whales, and marine turtles.

 
Solimar and RED team members meet with private landowners considering the development of the region's first ecolodge, which they hope will help them to maintain a conservation easement on their property.
 
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Local resident "El Hachi" Amador has been harvesting sea salt by hand his entire life, selling 20 lb. bags to local fishermen for just over one US dollar. Interpreting his work for visitors would allow him to augment that income.
 
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Park guard Pedro Amador checks a motion-activated game camera that captures images of big horn sheep and puma in a private reserve in Sierra la Giganta. The reserve is managed by a local conservation group that is working with Solimar and RED to develop guided tours that would allow visitors to experience the region's conservation efforts first-hand, while at the same time generating revenue for the reserve.
 
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One of the main reasons Sierra la Giganta hasn't succumbed to the mass tourism model seen in other Mexican coastal destinations is its isolation. Accessible almost exclusively by boat, the region's stunning coastline is a playground for sea kayakers, divers, snorkelers and other adventure seekers.

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Words carved into a rock by some of the region's earliest settlers share the most important rule to live by in a desert region with more than 300 days of sunshine and only about 6" of rain per year. "Water is Life".

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The ruins of a Spanish mission, one of many built in Baja California between 1683 and 1834, stand solitary and defiant in one of Sierra la Giganta's remote desert valleys.
 
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View from the top of El Pardito, a tiny island in the Gulf of California that has been home to five generations of local fishermen.
 
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Sierra la Giganta's estuaries, mangroves and desert oases create vital habitat for both migratory and resident bird species.
 
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Although most visitors think of Sierra la Giganta as a coastal destination, the region's interior offers trekking, mule trips, and visits to local "rancho" communities that continue to maintain their traditional way of life - raising cattle and goats and making their own cheese, metal and leather goods (Photo Credit: Chris Pesenti/RED).
 
Sierra Panorama
Published in General

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