Masungi Georeserve wins international environmental award for innovative ‘geotourism’

November 20, 2018 - 4:36 PM
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Masungi Georeserve
The "spider web" at the Masungi Georeserve. (Philstar.com file photo)

The famed Masungi Georeserve has won the 2018 Pathfinder Award Special Commendation, a special environmental conservation award presented by various international groups.

The sprawling 430-hectare conservation area was selected by the United National Development Programme, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, World Commission on Protected Areas and WildArk at the recent 14th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity as a “global model for conservation innovation and excellence.”

The Masungi Georeserve was among the four projects selected from 200 nominated projects for the inaugural Pathfinder Awards. It was also the only candidate based in Asia.

The winner of the main prize was the Prespa Orchid Nature Trust, a European initiative for financing nature projects. The Assist Social Capital finished as a runner up for its Opening Access to Sustainable Independent Income Streams project.

Candice Stevens of BirdLife South Africa and the government of South Africa like the Masungi Georeserve were also given a special commendation for “the integration of biodiversity tax incentives into the law.”

The geopark was lauded for its effective use of “geotourism” by developing the area for tourists without causing any stress on the environment by using environmentally-sound engineering mechanisms.

“The nomination by Masungi Georeserve Foundation describes an innovative approach to ecotourism, based on the pillars of conservation, education/research and sustainable development, and using “mindful engineering” through tourism infrastructure that mimics nature, e.g. spider webs,” the groups said.

Aside from its natural beauty, the geopark is known for its “spider webs,” one of the rope structures connecting the summits of rock formations tourists are allowed to scale to get an aerial view of their surroundings.

Because of the successful preservation of the park, it has become one of the most sought-after destinations for nature lovers.

Successful mix of tourism and conservation

The Masungi Georeserve Foundation started as an advocacy to protect and revitalize the denuded areas in the Sierra Madre mountain range that traversed Baras, Rizal. Funded by the Blue Star Construction & Development Corporation and assisted by the local communities in nearby Pinugay, Baras, Cuyambay, and Tandang Kutyo, the foundation was able to secure the limestone formations and the surrounding forests from threats of quarrying and logging.

It has also partnered with the Department of Environment and National Resources to strengthen its advocacy.

The park opened for commercial use in 2015 and has since become a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers for its limestone formations, lush sprawling forests and caves.

The rope nets and ladders attached to the rock formations drew tourists as it allowed an up-close view of the area’s natural beauty.

Masungi Georeserve imposes stricter regulations than most nature parks. While it is open to visitors, it limits the number of people allowed into the park at a time. Visits to the park are strictly by appointment only and groups who wish to visit must communicate their plans before visiting the area.

Littering, smoking, excessive noise and damaging any of the natural formations in the area are strictly prohibited. Visitors are also sternly advised to follow the instructions of the assisting park rangers assigned to guide. Violators are fined a sum of P3,000.