A narrative interpretation of contemporary nature experiences in Southern African environments
De Crom, Engela Petronella
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There is an increasing awareness that human beings are disconnected from nature. Physical disconnectedness from nature may lead to psychological and spiritual malfunctioning. Those who are aware of this disconnectedness try to compensate by spending leisure time in nature. The urge to go 'back to nature' was the start of ecotourism. The increase in tourist traffic and the concomitant development brings about negative effects, subjecting tourists to disappointment. Development has destroyed the specific experience which the people came for in the first place. Should environmental degradation continue the enriching experiences people have in nature will no longer exist. The preferred outcome for eco tourists is to acquire a sense of spiritual sustenance that could enhance their optimal functioning after experimenting a natural environment. A disregard for sound principles of responsible ecotourism development could result in lost opportunities. The research problem is located in the fact that individuals are seldom aware of their disconnectedness from the natural environment. Secondly, there is a need for more pristine, natural environments where humans can restore their encounters with the nature. Ecotourism development should be sensitive to the tastes of tourists who have as their objectives memorable experiences in natural environments. During this exploratory study, interviews, questionnaires and field observations were used to collect qualitative and limited quantitative data. Findings confirm that human beings are part of nature. Technological progress has led to an indoor lifestyle that causes humans to become disconnected from nature. Disconnectedness also involves a spiritual dimension. To restore a sense of connectedness between human beings and nature, people need to spend time in nature. Ecotourism originated from and exists because of the desire of individuals to reconnect to nature. They fulfil this desire by experiencing unspoilt natural environments, both physically and spiritually. Although a pattern of phases in a nature experience can be distinguished, every individual attaches a personal meaning to the experience. People have satisfying nature experiences in any natural environment. The intensity or fulfilment of such experiences depends on personal perceptions as well as external disturbances, such as litter and inappropriate behaviour. People attach meaning to experiences by structuring them into stories. The more we talk about the nature experience, the more knowledge is added to it. Consequently the experience becomes powerful, adding quality to people's lives and relationships. In this regard, aspects of rituals, metaphors and symbols, as well as spiritual experiences, play a significant role in the meaning people find in natural environments.
- Humanities