Study Ecotourism from home. Develop your ability to organise and conduct ecotourism services including tours and activities. Be a part of this growing industry.

Course Code: BTR301
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Train as a Tour Guide in Ecotourism

  • Farm tours
  • Garden Tours
  • Wilderness Areas
  • Study tours- plants, wildlife, geology


Duration:   100 hours

On successful completion of the course you should be able to do the following:

  • An ability to analyse the structure of interpretive ecotourism in your country.
  • To recognise factors of the environment and their significance to ecotourism.
  • To plan an ecotour.
  • Create/develop interpretation aids for a selected ecotourism activity.
  • Develop a display with an ecotourism theme.
  • Determine the specific name of a range of natural features in a selected wilderness area including:
    • Birds
    • Fish
    • Shells
    • Other animals
    • Plants
  • Lead an interpretive tour with an ecotourism theme.
  • Develop innovative concepts in interpretation for a selected aquatic ecotourism activity.
  • Develop innovative concepts in interpretation for a selected ecotourism activity in a land environment.
  • Determine the specific name of a range of natural features in a selected wilderness area including, where appropriate:
    • Fossils
    • Rocks
    • Land formations
    • Soil types
    • Geothermal features
    • Keep up to date with what's happening in the Ecotourism industry. What are the most popular activities and destinations. Where is there likely to be more work?
    • Join a networking group to meet people who are working in the field of Ecotourism.
    • Get some experience. Whether paid or unpaid, experience will always make your CV look more impressive and give you some practical knowledge to apply in your interview.

    Lesson Structure

    There are 10 lessons in this course:

    1. Ecotourism Basics
      • Definition of ecotourism
      • Negative ecotourism
      • Ecotourist profile
      • Administrative concerns
      • Safety
    2. Interpretive Services in Ecotourism
      • Interpretation as a key element of ecotourism
      • Interpretation techniques
      • Sign design
    3. Ecology and Conservation
      • Definition of ecology
      • Ecosystem function
      • The web of life
      • Habitat and niche
      • Humans in the environment
    4. Plant and Animal Classification and Identification
      • Classification of organisms
      • Basic taxonomy
      • Using keys for identification
      • Other methods of identification
    5. Geology/Geomorphology
      • Types of rocks
      • Types of minerals
      • Soils
      • Soil formation
      • Soil classification
    6. Interpreting Aquatic Environments
      • Marine environments
      • Freshwater environments
      • Fish
      • Shells
      • Crustaceans
    7. Interpreting Land Environments
      • Introduction to interpreting land environments
      • Relevance of interpreting land environments
    8. Planning an Ecotour
      • Destination
      • Transportation
      • Accommodation
    9. Ecotour Displays
      • Design concepts
      • Zoo design techniques
    10. Leading an Ecotour
      • Advertising
      • Group preparation
      • Planning the tour
      • Group surveys for feedback

    What You Will Do

    • With each assignment you will be required to prepare identification sheets, containing a preserved specimen, a photograph or a drawing; together with a description of the species/type of organism.
      • This collection is designed to be the embryo of a resource which you may use as an ongoing aid when designing and conducting interpretive activities.
    • You will research the legal and administrative background required to set up an ecotourism venture in your area. You will also look at the marketing and advertising possibilities for this venture.
    • Visit a number of interpretive ecotourism facilities.
    • Prepare an interpretive activities sheet for an ecotourism group.
    • Visit a natural area and classify organisms sighted in a set time period.
    • Identify points of interest in a natural area for an ecotourism group.
    • Research the lifecycles of a number of plants and animals.
    • Design a range of ecotours for ecotourists interested in various natural phenomena.
    • Visit an aquatic environment and make observations on the organisms there and any pollution present.
    • Identify potential ecotourism activities for a marine area.
    • Develop interpretive techniques for minimal environmental impact.
    • Attend an ecotour to assess the quantity and quality of information provided.
    • Plan an ecotour including the destination, accommodation, transport, catering.
    • Construct an ecotour display.
    • Plan and lead an ecotour to a group of ecotourists or acquaintances.

    Tips for a Tour Guide
    Observing nature can be done just about anywhere and just about any time. A variety of birds, insects and reptiles can be observed in the busiest of cities such as a suburban backyard or a city park. To observe nature in general, you don’t need to travel deep in the forests. An approach would be to choose one animal, look for details and identify them. To see something specific, like an alligator, you have to go where the alligators are. A little research into where and how they live can increase your chances of observing something specific. Don’t forget, while you’re watching them, they are very likely watching you. The following tips outline two ways to identify nature while avoiding detection.

    Not being detected is nearly impossible. Animals are always on the lookout for food or predators and you are always perceived as a predator. If an animal seems agitated, move to a different position or leave if they do not quiet down quickly. For example, nesting birds won’t leave the area unless it’s a last ditch effort to avoid predation. But being off their nests for long periods of time can harm developing eggs. Be mindful of wildlife and respect their comfort zone.
    • Chose to wear colours that most blend into the colours of the habitat. 
    • Avoid wearing anything scented like hairspray or cologne.
    • Wear clothes and shoes that allow for long periods of sitting or standing.
    • Never look directly at the object of your attention. You can usually get away with looking at the animal much longer if you look indirectly out of the corner of your eye.
    • Stay as quiet as possible. Wait for the animal to move before you do. Then do so as quietly as possible. Move from one hiding place to another as the animal moves. Peer around, not over, bushes, trees and shrubs.
    • Keep the wind in your face. Animals are less likely to pick up your scent.
    • Keep the sun at your back. You can see better and the animal is somewhat blinded by the sun, giving you cover.
    Observing nature can be a rewarding and fascinating hobby. You learn about animal behaviour, social interactions and the habitats where specific animals live. In some cases you may even learn identification skills by using special classification keys. Many scientists observe nature as a hobby, not just a career, and this can develop into a paid career if your skills are up to scratch.  It can also have benefits in your health by being outdoors, keeping fit and relaxing you.

    There are all types of activities which school teachers, play teachers, play leaders or parents can use to involve children in environmental play.  Here are a few:
    Observe what is around in the bush or natural areas. A competition can be made to see who can find the greatest number of different smells, noises or textures, etc.  Alternatively everyone can contribute to a list of things: things one can see, feel, smell or hear.

    Things to look at: shapes and patterns of leaves, colours of wood, shapes of stones, flowers, fruit and nuts, insects, weeds, grass, puddles, walls, pavement, etc. Children can draw what they find to record the object and then replace it where it came from. This reinforces the value of passive activities.    

    Things to listen to: a bee, birds, other animals, leaves rustling on the ground or in the trees, the wind, a fire burning, trickling water, etc.
    • Things to feel:  grass, soil, sand, wood, bark, leaves, etc.
    • Things to smell:  flowers, grass, a fire, soil, fruit, animals, etc.

    People like to collect all sorts of things; stamps, coins, silver spoons, swap cards, etc. – and in the past many visitors to wilderness areas also collected plants and insects as well as leaves and flowers. This seemed at the time to be an innocent and worthwhile activity. In today’s more informed and educated world however this is discouraged. Imagine if all visitors to parks and environmentally sensitive areas took plant samples it could mean the destruction of a species. This is especially so in protected areas where threatened species live.
    With the world-wide ethical standard of ‘leave no trace’ visitors should not be encouraged to remove any living matter from the environment in which they are traveling. This includes taking samples of leaves or flowers. Taking flower samples could mean a loss of future plants through a lowered potential for that plant to set seed.  In some areas (National Parks, etc) it is illegal to collect any form of sample.
    Visitors are better encouraged to photograph (or draw) specimens and record interesting information. Information on plants, animals and insects can be recorded on identification sheets such as the one provided below the text on the next page.

    Naming the plant:
    Include the common name, scientific name; and the plant family name if possible. If you only know the common name, write that in and research the remaining information later

    Describing the Plant
    You should record any information that might be important to identifying this
         e.g.  Height - How high does it grow
                 Width - How wide does it grow
      •  Flowers - What colour and when (time of year) does it flower?
      •  Leaf colour, shape, texture - What colour are the leaves when and mature? Are the leaves
      •  round, feathery, lobed, spiky? Are the leaves fine or coarse textured? 
      •  Scent - Are the flowers scented?
      •  Animal Attraction - Does the plant attract birds, butterflies, bees? If so what part of the 
      •  plant (flower or fruit) ?
      •  Hardiness - Is it frost tender? How does the wind affect it?
      •  Pests and Diseases - List any pests and diseases you noted or researched later, that are 
      •  particularly bad for this plant.
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    Course Contributors

    The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

    Bob James

    Horticulturalist, Agriculturalist, Environmental consultant, Businessman and Professional Writer. Over 40 years in industry, Bob has held a wide variety of senior positions in both government and private enterprise. Bob has a Dip. Animal Husb, B.App.Sc.,

    Lyn Quirk

    M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
    Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head fo

    Dr Robert Browne

    Zoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability.
    Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and develop

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