Ecotourism Tour Guide Course

External (distance education) course develops skills to be a tour leader or guide in ecotourism. 100 hr training program provides solid foundation for gaining employment or starting a business as an ecotour operator or guide.

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

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Organise and Conduct Tours and Activities

  • Start your own Tour Guide Service
  • Find employment with a Tour Business
  • Conduct guided tours, overnight walks and treks
  • Develop 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.


  • 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.
  • Identify geological and geomorphological factors of interest to ecotourists.

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.


Some destinations are more geological than others. In the United States, places like the Grand Canyon, or Carlsbad Caverns or Mammoth Cave are examples. Elsewhere in the world are many other geo-heritage sites. For example Mt St Helens in Washington State US, Iceland and Alaska’s Glaciers, The Himalayas, and Australia’s Ayers Rock. There are many more. Some people may not even realise that these places are geological wonders and this can be an educational point for many tourists. Many would be fascinated to learn about such wonders. Some people have never even seen a glacier or volcano therefore geological places can be a wonderful focus for tourism activities.

One of the wonderful things about geology is that wherever you go the Earth is and there is always a geological explanation for many kinds of land formations that may be of interest to people traveling or touring. The term geo-tourism is relatively new and is already finding interest in many parts of Europe.

Geological sites are the meeting places of elements recording the geological history of a region. They are examples of an everlasting evolution of life on Earth, such as volcanoes, caves, gorges, fossilized areas, large geological rifts, ancient mines, geological formations or landscapes chiselled by natural forces throughout the geological ages. Such sites have a special scientific and aesthetic value and could become areas with significant tourist interest.

There are plenty of less-known places for geologists, rock hounds, and other landscape-watchers to get out in the field, free to kick stones and put their hands in the dirt.

What Makes a Good Tour Guide

A good guide should appear calm, confident, and in control. Much will come from good preparation. Nevertheless, no matter how well-prepared a walk is, unexpected interruptions and questions always appear. As long as it looks and sound interesting it will be a success. People on guided walks want to learn something new and interesting so as long as they take away one new piece of information it is a success. 

What are the features of a good guided walk?

  • It starts and finishes on time
  • It is safe
  • Well-organised and well-publicised
  • Clear message/purpose
  • Tells you something you didn’t know
  • It is interactive
  • Audible, visible, understandable leader
  • The leader is confident and  friendly
  • The leader used relevant props and talks about what you can see
  • Takes account of the special needs of the audience.

Tour guides should develop an appropriate vocabulary for talking about features, and should use this vocabulary to educate the visitor. For instance, when talking about different kinds of habitats, the tour guide might need to explain the difference between an ecosystem, a biome and a habitat.  They might also need to explain animal and plant activity by using words such as: competition, predator, cooperation, population. Not all visitors will know what these words mean, especially if English is not their first language.



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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
Alison Pearce

University Lecturer, Quality Assurance Manager, Writer and Research Technician. Alison originally graduated with an honors degree in science from university and beyond that has completed post graduate qualifications in education and eco-tourism. She has m
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.,
Barbara Seguel

Teacher and Researcher, Marine Scientist, Tourism and Outdoor recreation guide, Health and Safety Coordinator & Production Manager for Fisheries, National Park Staff/Farmer, Laboratory technical aide, Zoo, Wildlife and Marine Park assistant. Barbara has w
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