Last week NATOUR project partners and PC HEIs’ teachers in the field of ecotourism and nature guiding took part in a one-week Ecotourism Training Camp on the Azores islands. The event was held in the period 18-22 July 2022 and was hosted by the University of the Azores. The camp’s objective was to provide a forum for discussion and learning about the most recent developments in the field of ecotourism in the Azores, as well as to give another opportunity for professional development of PC HEIs’ academic staff.
The first day of the camp was devoted to a detailed presentation of the project’s current status and discussions on the following tasks and stages of the NATOUR initiative. In the afternoon session, there were special guests from the Association of Tour Guides of the Azores who involved the audience in the tour guides’ ecotourism activities on the Azores.
On the second day, a workshop on the NATOUR learning content was carried out, which brought to the front important decisions on shaping the structure, content and dissemination strategy of the NATOUR programme. The afternoon session was dedicated to a field trip to Ilhéu da Vila – an islet formed from a crater of an ancient submerged volcano and classified as a Nature Reserve. The camp participants took part in a workshop on the potential of marine biodiversity and seascapes as ecotourism resources with an in-depth discussion on the threats to the coastal marine communities and conflicts between tourism/human activities and conservation.
During the third day, the NATOUR delegation had the opportunity to interpret the cetacean diversity crossing the Azores by doing whale-watching activities with UAc experts and local guides. In the afternoon, participants interpreted the volcanic nature of the region, geomorphology, and origins of the native vegetation cover by visiting a Grota do Carvao lava tube and the crater lake “Lagoa do Fogo” guided by Geoparque and UAc experts, as well as local guides.
On the fourth day, the camp team visited the Azorian Pineapple plantation and the Gorreana Tea factory where they had the opportunity to interpret the changes of the Azorean landscape, linked to the introduction of different crops. Participants discussed the anthropogenic change, tourism potential and environmental consequences. The outdoor activities continued with a field trip to Terra Nostra Garden and Furnas crater lake exploring the geomorphology and origins of the native vegetation cover with local nature guides.
The last day of the camp was dedicated to a field trip to the “Terras do Priolo” located in the Northeast of São Miguel island – the only territory in the world where the Priolo bird exists. The NATOUR delegation met experts from the Priolo’s Environmental Center, who made a detailed presentation on one of the most successful conservation stories worldwide and led a discussion about the conservation of the native forest and ecotourism. The field trip finished with bird-watching activities searching for Priolo birds and other endemic species. Finally, the team met at the Universidade dos Açores to conclude the training camp and do a final agreement on the next steps of the NATOUR project.
The event was the first of three Ecotourism training camps within NATOUR project. The next camp will take place in Chile in January 2023. Stay tuned!