Floating island on Lake Titicaca

Sweets on floating islands of Lake Titicaca

Or about the dangerous impact tourism can have on the environment and the life of locals

I experienced more than once while visiting tourist attractions: Locals often earn their money by selling crafted art or food to tourists. In general this is totally fine with me. I bought bracelets in the amazon rainforest in Peru, bags in Inca towns, pastry in Rio de Janeiro or something, I don’t even know what it really is- a baggy thingy- on the floating islands of Lake Titicaca in Peru. It gave me the feeling to support locals and I got souvenirs. Great deal, wasn’t it? Especially after visiting the floating islands I wasn’t so sure about that anymore.

buying artesania

Buying artesania on a traditional market

The floating islands are lovely but they are overcrowded with tourists. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the stay in Puno. I couldn’t really capture the size and beauty of the beautiful Lake Titicaca located on the border between Peru and Bolivia. On our second day we visited a floating island with people still living permanently on it.

The tourist agencies are providing a great show for you – “What happens after a fight between families? They were cut off with a huge saw, which is why there are so many floating islands.” Interesting facts.

Saw to divide the island

Saw to divide the island

You get also a short trip with traditional boats.

Traditional boats

Traditional boats

They even used dead animals to demonstrate how they subsistED. Yes, “subsisted”! I use passive voice because I don’t think that they are living according to their traditions anymore.

Dead animals to provide a show

Dead animals to provide a show

What is the problem about this? One of the most important rights is the freedom to decide our own lives. If they don’t want to stick to their traditions, this should be fine, shouldn’t it? I would agree to this statement. BUT (of course there is a but;)): With the money the tourists spend on the islands the locals are enabled to buy food and stuff from the mainland. As they are living permanently on the island, unfortunately the dangers of eating white wheat bread, sweets etc., especially for children, without having much exercise weren’t explained to them, or at least not effectively. The result was obvious. I was shocked about the average weight of the inhabitants. We shouldn’t judge on the outside of a person but penetrating their living space had negative consequences for their health, which left me feeling guilty.

Overweight due to tourism?

Overweight due to tourism?

Overweight due to tourism?

Overweight due to tourism?

We have to ask ourselves, what the consequences of this experience should be. I am not sure about this myself because – as always in life – there is not only black or white. With the money we spend, the children are also enabled to go to school on the mainland. Educating the children can be the solution to the aforementioned- trust in the Peruvian educational system assumed. Also spending money takes the burden and pressure to subsist their children depending on natural resources. And don’t let me even get started on problems with medical care- a motorised boat may be crucial! Therefore, I won’t say that stopping our financial support would help anyone, but creating awareness is the least I can do. Scanning the WWW doesn’t even lead to one result other than touristic adventures and offers regarding the floating islands. There are great examples for regulating the influence of tourism- perhaps also Peru one day will expand its efforts to the floating islands as it already preserves the incredible Inca town Machu Picchu by limiting the visitor numbers!

Besides this example from Lake Titicaca, there are other alarming developments where humans are presenting themselves as destroyers of true beauty and nature. One other example has already been uploaded on our blog. In Chile a single person destroyed great parts of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine only because he didn’t stick to the stipulated rules. In this case, there are rules, there are limitations and they are trying to protect the park as best as they can. Nevertheless, such catastrophes happen.

Visible impact of human misbehaviour

Visible impact of human misbehaviour

To sum the aforementioned up, besides regulating tourism, we have to appeal to every single tourist, traveller and perhaps to the world population: Try to keep your impact as small as possible so that all those beautiful places of our joint planet stay such stunning destinations.

What is your opinion regarding this matter. Have you made a similar experience or am I too strict regarding this subject?

In hope for a good discussion,

Jana

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