Thesis: Diving Beneath the Surface – A Phenomenological Exploration of Shark Ecotourism
Published in 2015
Diving Beneath the Surface:
A Phenomenological Exploration of Shark Ecotourism and
Environmental Interpretation from the Perspective of Tourists
Wildlife ecotourism is becoming a well-established industry due to its ability to contribute to local economies and the growing tourist demand for opportunities to observe endangered or rare species. Wildlife ecotourism is also recognized for its ability to provide free choice-learning settings for visitors, through the use of environmental interpretation programs. The process of environmental interpretation is a communication phenomenon thought to hold the potential to contribute to conservation by educating and raising awareness amongst tourists about environmental issues. Using a qualitative phenomenological research design, this research examined the environmental interpretation programs of great white shark ecotourism operators in Gansbaai, South Africa, from the perspective of tourists. Findings indicated that while tourists did not primarily choose to embark on shark tourism excursions to learn more about the species, many participants became slightly more informed about great whites and the surrounding environment after their experience. It was also found that most participants did not experience nervousness or fear when in the water with great whites, but instead felt an emotional connection and appreciation for the animal, causing a shift towards pro-conservation attitudes.
Thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, University of Ottawa