SEP 2018

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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Page 21 of 67

²ConventionSouth ² S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 22 SPECIAL FEATURE: ECO-TOURISM Swimming with the manatees and scalloping are some of the most popular and unique activ- ities for groups, but there are lots of other na- ture-based group adventures, according to Terry Natwick, director of sales at The Plantation on Crystal River, which has accommodations and meeting facilities for small and mid-sized groups. Among the options for group fun are competitive water scavenger hunts – where one team might be on a pontoon boat, another on stand up paddleboards and a third on kayaks. There are also fishing tournaments, hiking and biking tours, snorkeling and scuba diving, most of which can be arranged right at the property. According to the Citrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the range of eco-tourism venues in the area is almost endless. Water-based ecotourism options can be found along unde- veloped beaches and wetlands that stretch along this section of Gulf of Mexico coastline, in the spring-fed rivers and the small lakes just a short ways inland. There's a 50,000-acre wilderness in the Withlacoochee State Forest for hiking, biking and horseback riding excursions. Crystal River Preserve State Park, a 27,000-acre tract, has a number of ecosystems to explore, including the Eco-Walk Trail, which traverses pine flatwoods, oak savanna and hardwood marsh. Birding, canoeing, kayaking and educational pontoon tours are offered throughout this area. Building Environmental Awareness According to The International EcoTourism Society (TIES), the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, formed in Florida in 1990, ecotourism is defined as "re- sponsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education." Among the principles of ecotourism, TIES cites building environmental and cultural awareness and respect and delivering memo- rable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climates. The Chatta- hoochee Nature Center in Roswell, Ga., exem- plifies these principles, according to Danielle Purdie, advertising and marketing coordinator at Visit RoswellGA. "The mission of the Chattahoochee Nature Center is to connect people with nature.," she said, pointing out that the center is located on the Chattahoochee River and sits on a "site com- prised of 127 acres of native plants and Group snorkling experience The Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell, Ga. George Mitchell Nature Preserve in the Woodlands, Texas

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