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Tour Guide Skills for Ecotourism

Course CodeBTR301
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Develop your ability to organise and conduct ecotourism services including tours and activities.

Learn to conduct guided tours, overnight walks and treks, or self guided interpretive walks. Ecotourism is an industry that has developed hugely in recent years. It reflects both of the aims of modern conservation: management of resources and protection of the environment. Modern ecotourism strives to be sustainable, so that the activities that are taking place can continue to do so. This course will introduce you to aspects of ecotourism such as guiding environmental awareness, planning tours,displays and interpretive aids, plant and animal interpretation.

Comment from one of our Ecotourism students: "I am learning so much" J. Alderton

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

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Analyse the structure of interpretive ecotourism in your country.
  • Recognise factors of the environment and their significance to ecotourism.
  • 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.
  • Identify geological and geomorphological factors of interest to ecotourists.

Tips for Tour Guides in Nature Based Tourism

Guidelines for wilderness safety

Do the following:

  • Always leave complete details of where you are going with someone (e.g. the tour office, close relatives, friends or police).
  • Leave details of estimated times of departure and return.
  • Leave details of any special medical condition of participants (e.g. asthma or diabetes).
  • Be sure to notify them when you return!
  • Take any equipment needed for navigation (whether land or sea) such as maps, compass, etc.
  • Take appropriate clothing (including footwear).
  • Take a first aid kit.
  • Take appropriate emergency provisions (e.g. some food, matches, etc)

Do NOT do the following:

  • Do not overestimate your abilities. Do no more than the least capable member of a group can handle comfortably.
  • Do not move any faster than the slowest member of the group.
  • Don't divide a group - there is safety in numbers.
  • Don't leave an injured person alone in the wilderness
  • When lost, stop moving. Make a campsite in a visible/detectable area.
  • If you are overdue to return, phone or radio ahead and let them know, if possible.

Remember that safety depends on the fitness level of the ecotour guide and skills of participants. Maintain a manageable ratio of experience to inexperience.  For example, when bush walking in wilderness areas, it is advisable that there is least one experienced bush walker for every three inexperienced bush walkers.
(Reference: Bush walkers Wilderness Rescue Internet Page, N.S.W. Confederation of Bush walking Clubs, 1996)

Consider some of the hazards below:

Water activities

Water can be exceptionally cold and death from cold water may be swift. If you fall in the water without protection such as a neoprene wetsuit, you have about 3 minutes in which you are able to actively help yourself before you start to be disabled by hypothermia. The water is often so silty you cannot see underwater only a few inches below the surface. Other river hazards include weather, water levels, misjudged terrain, collision, entrapment, hypothermia, drowning, and falling overboard.

Wild animals

In most parts of the world you will be exploring the habitat of wild animals ranging from poisonous snakes in Australia to the Grizzly (Brown) and black bears that are common along Alaskan rivers as they feed on salmon. You may also come across dangerous marine creatures such as jellyfish (the deadly box jellyfish in some tropical waters) and stone-fish.

Insects, scorpions, spiders, and ticks are members of a group of animals known as arthropods. Several species can sting or bite, transmit disease causing organisms, cause serious allergic reactions and are considered harmful to humans. Although the most common form of wildlife encountered will probably be harmless insects it is still prudent to be well informed and plan for unexpected encounters. Mosquitoes are not only annoying when they bite, they can also transmit the disease organisms that cause malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile virus, and encephalitis.

Exposure to weather and natural forces

In some areas of the world even in summer, exposure and hypothermia are very real hazards. More people die in the bush through lack of preparation and inadequate equipment then for any other reason. Understanding the affects of the elements on the human body as well as the need for the best quality equipment (suited to the environment in which you are travel ling) is therefore a crucial component of wilderness travel. Having the ability to find water, food and provide shelter in emergency situations can be the difference between perishing in the bush and survival. An advanced first aid certificate is a must. Wind and rain can be common, and air is colder on the water. Strong winds, landslides, glacial outburst floods, calving glaciers, and quicksand or even bushfires are some of the hazards that may be encountered.

Meet some of our academics

Dr Robert BrowneZoologist, 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 development, husbandry, thermo-biology, reproduction technologies, and facility design.Robert has B.Sc., Ph, D.
Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
Lyn QuirkM.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 for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.

Check out our eBooks

Marine AnimalsA heavily illustrated text with seven chapters including: classification, fishes, sea birds, marine reptiles, marine mammals, marine invertebrates, and zooplankton. 110 pages, 133 colour photos
Event ManagementThe Event Management ebook is a complementary text for event management students or professionals working in the field. The ebook goes through the considerations and elements of an event and what needs to be organised when an event is in the planning stage.
Farm ManagementThis ebook covers tips to manage your own farm, or work for someone else. It also covers the farm site, production systems, managing livestock, pasture, crops, water, equipment, farm structures, finance, marketing, staff management, farm planning and more. 15 chapters, 129 pages
Project ManagementLearn to manage any type of project, in any industry. Six chapters cover the nature and scope of project management, risk and uncertainty, maintaining control, interpersonal relationships, the end game, and golden rules. This is a very concise text - easy to follow, with much of the information presented in bulleted lists. 72 pages