Transforming the Ecotourism Experience with Kenneth Johnson
My guest this week, Kenneth Johnson, is an American-born Mexican who studied Marine Biology in Mexico City before moving to the Riviera Maya to start his passion project, EcoColors, an eco-travel company dedicated to educating visitors about the amazing wildlife of the area.
Kenneth says he decided on the Mexican Caribbean because it has the second-largest coral reef in the world, amazing jungles, wetlands and, in 1997, about four million visitors. Along with his passion of sharing information, he also wanted to enhance the environmental values with interesting facts about the wildlife, while offering a unique experience to his clients.
He says, if you are swimming with whale sharks, observing snakes dropping from a cave ceiling to eat bats or visiting a Mayan community, you have to have a knowledgeable guide. People are more excited about the wildlife they are seeing if they understand the natural adaptation species must make to survive.
In 1997, Mexico had only 70 protected areas, but now there are 172. So, in 20 years, Mexico has doubled the amount of protected land. This means there is a shift towards understanding that we need to protect the wildlife we are blessed with.
Kenneth’s 40-hour course for other local tour operators promotes the idea that following the rules and environmentally-driven practices helps the tourism business and the wildlife.
When visiting the area, Kenneth recommends swimming with the whale sharks and marine turtles, enjoying the 550 different species of birds, exploring the cenotes, archaeological sites, and visiting a Mayan community. He says visitors with disposable income are often pleasantly surprised about how rich the Mayans are, using happiness as their currency.