If you’re madly in love with nature and want to make a living out of it while sharing your enthusiasm with others, becoming an ecoguide, or nature guide, is an idea that should certainly interest you. In this article, we’ll look at what an ecoguide is, how you can become one, and where you should start.
- Here's the program
- What is an ecoguide?
- How do you become an ecoguide?
- How can I earn money as a nature guide?
- How do you set your rates according to the services you offer?
- Tips for success
- Pros and Cons
- Information recap
What is an ecoguide?
In recent years, a new type of tourism has emerged around the globe: “green” tourism, or ecotourism. This type of tourism focuses on discovering and preserving the natural and cultural environment of the places visited and is practiced by tourists who seek to limit the impact of this type of leisure activity by engaging in activities that respect both local populations and biodiversity.
These activities include hiking, camping, discovering and observing flora and fauna, photo safaris, stays on organic farms, participation in conservation projects in protected areas, tree planting, and more. Any activity that brings you into close contact with nature while preserving the natural balance of the area can be considered ecotourism.
Green tourism offers ecotourists an immersive and enriching experience, enabling them to discover often little-known destinations and sometimes breathtaking natural landscapes, to immerse themselves in authentic local cultures, and to learn about practices that are more respectful of the environment.
It also benefits the community as it contributes to the economic and social development of the regions visited. By encouraging the creation of local jobs, it can help combat poverty and improve living conditions for local populations.
An ecoguide is simply a tourism professional who specializes in ecotourism-related tours, but above all has in-depth knowledge of local ecosystems, animal and plant species, and sustainable development practices.
Unlike traditional tour guides, they are trained to inform tourists about ecological practices, environmental issues, and ways to reduce the impact of tourism on the environment. They also seek to sensitize visitors to local cultures and traditions and encourage intercultural exchange.
How do you become an ecoguide?
Becoming an ecoguide generally requires specialized training in ecology, sustainable development, nature conservation, responsible tourism, and local culture, as well as a good knowledge of the history, geography, and culture of the region where they work. They also need good communication and interpersonal skills, as well as great adaptability and flexibility, as they operate in environments sometimes subject to extreme and capricious weather conditions.
An ecoguide can work in a variety of diverse environments, such as national parks, nature reserves, sustainable tourism companies, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but can also work on their own account. If you choose the latter option, you can specialize in a particular field, such as ornithology, botany, or marine ecology, and offer your services to local travel agencies, hotels, and tourist offices.
But if you’re starting from scratch, haven’t acquired any skills yet and want to get started, here are the main things you’ll need to learn and develop.
- Have knowledge of flora and fauna: observing local species and their behavior, learning to manipulate tools to identify different animal and plant species, taking part in training and environmental education programs
- Master hiking and wilderness survival skills: the art of outdoor navigation, survival techniques essential to the safety of the groups you will be in charge of, knowing how to read and interpret topographical maps.
- Familiarize yourself with Responsible Ecotourism: the fundamental principles of ecotourism, how to plan environmentally-friendly excursions, how to involve local communities in sustainable tourism.
- Create unique tours and experiences: Identify attractive natural destinations, design varied and captivating itineraries (in collaboration with local authorities), develop ways to integrate learning and nature awareness activities.
How can I earn money as a nature guide?
Broadly speaking, you have two options: Either find a job in the ecotourism sector, or set up your own business. Let’s take a closer look at these two options, which will enable you to turn your passion for nature into an activity that will enable you to make a living from it.
1Find a job in the ecotourism sector
Working for an ecotourism agency, nature park or organization specializing in sustainable tourism can be a great way to start your career as an ecoguide. These companies generally offer many opportunities for those just starting out.
Benefits here include job stability, the chance to collaborate with other industry professionals, and access to resources and training to improve your skills. Here’s a list of ways you can quickly find a job in this sector:
- Consult job offers on websites dedicated to ecotourism and sustainable tourism.
- Search for job opportunities on local and international classified ad sites.
- Follow the social media pages of ecotourism agencies, nature parks, and specialized organizations to keep abreast of new offers.
- Attend sustainable tourism trade shows and events to meet recruiters and expand your professional network.
- Send spontaneous applications to agencies and organizations that interest you.
- Ask for advice from people already working in the ecotourism or sustainable tourism sector.
- Check the websites of national parks and nature reserves for available job opportunities.
- Subscribe to newsletters from associations and organizations specializing in ecotourism to keep up to date with new job opportunities.
- Contact ecotourism agencies and organizations directly to express your interest in a possible position.
- Participate in volunteer or internship programs in nature parks or conservation projects to gain experience and exposure in the field.
2Set up on your own as a freelance guide
This option gives you greater freedom to shape your career. As a freelance guide, you’ll be able to create your own itineraries, set your own rates, and choose the types of services you’d like to offer. You’ll also be able to build direct relationships with your customers and provide them with tailor-made experiences, which can lead to positive recommendations and repeat business. But you still need to find them.
Here’s a list of the best ways to find customers as a freelance nature guide:
- Create a professional website with beautiful photos to showcase your nature guide services, skills, and experience.
- Use social networks to promote your services and share content related to nature and ecotourism (e.g. photos on Instagram and Facebook, videos on YouTube and Tik Tok…).
- Participate in online forums and discussion groups dedicated to nature and travel to interact with travelers interested in your services.
- Collaborate with responsible travel agencies and ecotourism operators to offer your services.
- Use online platforms specialized in sustainable tourism to create a nature guide profile and attract potential customers.
- Solicit testimonials and positive reviews from satisfied customers to strengthen your online reputation.
- Organize workshops, conferences, or free outings to promote your expertise and attract the attention of new customers.
- Establish partnerships with hotels, lodges, or visitor centers in natural destinations to recommend your services to their customers (don’t be surprised if some ask you for a commission).
- Distribute flyers or business cards in tourist areas frequented by nature lovers.
- Offer special packages or discounts for first-time customers to attract new travelers and build loyalty.
- Participate in discussions on forums, groups, blog post comments, social networks, etc.
How do you set your rates according to the services you offer?
Pricing your services fairly and consistently takes time and method. To begin with, assess the level of expertise you bring to the table as a guide, as well as the specific skills and knowledge you offer your customers. Also consider the length and complexity of your tours, as well as the costs associated with logistics, equipment, safety, and so on.
Also consider researching the rates charged by other nature guides in your area or on specialized online platforms or elsewhere on the web. This will give you an idea of competitive prices and help you define an appropriate rate. Alternatively, don’t hesitate to ask for advice on Facebook or LinkedIn groups. Most ecoguides will be happy to help.
Make sure you provide clear and detailed information on your rates and the services included in your excursions. Avoid hidden costs and clearly explain what your customers can expect from their experience with you. Also indicate the levels of difficulty and physical requirements of your excursions so that customers can choose those that best match their abilities and interests.
Finally, offering promotions and special packages can be an effective strategy for attracting new customers and encouraging repeat bookings. Offer discounts for early bookers, groups, or families. You can also create excursion packages combining different nature activities to offer your customers a complete experience.
Tips for success
Here’s a list of useful tips to help you put this idea of becoming a nature guide into practice.
- Create personalized experiences: Offer tailor-made excursions that consider your customers’ interests and experience levels. Offer unique itineraries and adapt to their preferences to create an unforgettable experience.
- Integrate technology: Use mobile applications, GPS devices, a drone, or digital binoculars to enhance your customers’ experiences. Technology can add an interactive and fun dimension to your nature outings.
- Tell compelling stories: Develop your storytelling skills by sharing stories about local history, flora, and fauna. An engaging narrative can turn a simple excursion into an exciting adventure.
- Organize hands-on workshops: Offer practical workshops, such as learning nature photography, recognizing animal footprints, or making crafts from natural materials.
- Create nocturnal experiences: Organize nocturnal outings to observe the stars, listen to the sounds of nature at night, and discover nocturnal fauna. Night-time experiences will add a magical touch to your offerings.
- Collaborate with local artists: Partner with local artists to offer nature experiences combined with artistic workshops, such as plein-air painting, nature photography, or jewelry-making from natural materials.
- Incorporate wellness practices: Incorporate wellness elements such as mindfulness meditation, outdoor yoga, or breathing exercises into your outings to offer a holistic experience to your guests.
- Involve travelers in conservation: Organize environmental clean-ups, tree planting, or species tracking activities to involve your guests in conservation projects and show them the importance of preserving nature.
- Offer sustainable culinary tours: Explore edible local flora and organize sustainable culinary tours where participants can learn to identify and prepare edible wild plants.
- Create an online community: Establish an active online presence by sharing articles, videos, and testimonials of your experiences. Create a community of nature lovers who interact and share their own discoveries.
By applying these few tips, you’ll not only be able to differentiate your nature guide services, but also offer exceptional, memorable experiences to your customers, encouraging them to return and recommend you to other nature lovers.
Becoming a nature guide offers a unique opportunity to earn a living while doing what you love most: exploring nature, sharing your knowledge, and educating others about preserving our environment. Whether you choose to work for an ecotourism agency or launch yourself as a freelance guide, this career will enable you to guide groups of travelers through often sumptuous landscapes, share your knowledge of local flora and fauna, and contribute to the protection of ecosystems.
But be careful, as you’ll need to acquire some crucial knowledge and skills before you can take the plunge. This can sometimes take years, so be sure to check with the local authorities before deciding on anything. What’s more, you need to be aware that there’s already a lot of competition in this sector, so it may take some time before you succeed.
Environmental and climate change issues are more than ever at the heart of the concerns of this 21st century, which is why I am proposing a few ideas that will enable you to limit the negative impact that the implementation of this idea could have.
These solutions that I suggest are sometimes largely insufficient to compensate for these negative impacts, such as carbon offsetting. Unfortunately, there is not always an ideal and 100% efficient solution, far from it. And if you have others, please do not hesitate to share them in the comments below.
Aaah! At last, an eco-friendly idea that doesn’t harm the environment, right? Well, actually, no. I mean, not really (sorry). The biggest concern is that many tourism-related companies today have embarked on green tourism with the sole aim of making money and with little regard for the environmental and societal impact it has locally. And I’m not even talking about the problems associated with the kilometers travelled, often by plane and then by car, to reach tourist sites…
The best green tourism is the kind that doesn’t exist because the mere presence of tourists, whatever their intentions, disturbs ecosystems in one way or another. Does this mean we should ban this type of tourism? Not necessarily, since it can also raise awareness of environmental issues, raise funds for the preservation of the places visited, help local populations make a living from what they produce, and so on.
But if you decide to embark on this adventure, it’s crucial to do so ethically, responsibly, and respectfully. To do this, you’ll need to consult and work with local authorities and populations, as well as with scientists and other specialists who are familiar with the various social and environmental issues at stake.
- Make a living from your passion for nature
- A job that’s anything but routine
- Competition is already strong
- An activity with great responsibility
- Location: Location: close to home or on the other side of the world
- Investment: It can be quite substantial, especially if you decide to set up on your own. Not to mention the years of study required (depending on each case).
- Earnings perspective: Nature guides are often paid according to their level of expertise, so the more skills you have, the higher your salary/income should be.
- Required: Acquire skills in various areas, as explained in the article, but also patience, curiosity, respect, love of nature…
- Risk level: moderate, given the potential investments to be made and the years of study required (depending on the case).
- Implementation time: Variable, but may take a few years if you have to study first.
- Material needed: Vaiable, depending on the case.