How to Act in National Parks, Reserves, and Protected Areas
National Parks, Biological Reserves, and protected areas play a critical role in protecting the biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage of the country. A wide range of habitats and ecosystems, plant and animal species, as well as significant geological features and landforms can be found in these magical places. They conserve important areas, such as places of scenic beauty, significant landscapes, wilderness areas, wild rivers, water catchments, popular places for nature-based recreation, and sites of national or historical significance.
VISIT WITHOUT LEAVING A MARK
The most important thing is to avoid danger. Prevention is key, so plan your trip well, let others know where you will be going and when to expect you, and pack the necessary items for your self-protection.
Here are some norms you should follow to protect both yourself and these valuable places you visit.
- Consider hiring a local guide or tour company. Not only do they know the terrain, where the animals hide, the best time to go, and other details that make your trip more enjoyable, there is also safety in numbers.
- Know and obey the closing times of the trails. Be sure the park rangers or administrators know you are there.
- Plan your trip to make the best use of natural light, but avoid the hottest hours of the sun when possible. Early morning starts are most recommendable.
- Read and obey all posted signs.
- Stay on the marked trails.
- Camp and make campfires only in designated areas, or as an emergency signal fire only.
- Pets are prohibited as they may disturb the local flora and fauna. Guide dogs are the exception when accompanying a disabled person, and on a leash.
- Watch where you step; many small insects, reptiles, or amphibians may be on the trail. Do not step on them.
- Do not feed the wild animals.
- Do not eat any plant, fruit, or flower that you are not familiar with, as many are toxic.
- Avoid making loud noises which may startle or scare away the animals.
- Be aware of the impending dangers or this type of location, from insect bites and wild animal attacks, to landslides, flash floods, and others proper to each particular park or reserve.
- Be sure to remove all of your trash or place in marked waste bins, including organic waste.
- Do not burn your trash.
- In areas where driving is permitted, drive at moderate speeds and with extreme caution to avoid injuring the flora and fauna.
- Avoid using flash when taking pictures, and carefully observe the topography as not to put yourself in danager to get the perfect shot.
- Do not damage or remove any plant or animal species, nor any cultural, historical, archeological, or paleontological artifact or element that you may find.
- Follow any and all instructions given by the park rangers or property administrators.
- Report any behaviors or conditions which could cause danger to the park or its visitors.
IN CASE OF AN ACCIDENT
- Keep calm.
- Act quickly.
- Apply first aid only if you are trained to do so, and if it is entirely necessary.
- Call for help using a cell phone, or find a park ranger or administrator.
- Avoid leaving the injured person or persons alone. If necessary clearly mark the location to make it easy for rescuers to find.
- Once you have called for help, stay put and available for rescuers to find and contact in case they need your help.
BEFORE SETTING OUT, BE SURE TO PACK:
- Trail maps
- GPS System or analog compass
- Small backpack with basic first aid kit, plenty of water, peanuts, granola bars or other energy providing snacks, and a flashlight
- Sun protection like hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses
- Insect repellent
- Any allergy, diabetes, blood pressure, or athsma medication, or others you may need while on your trip
- Adequate walking shoes with good traction and ankle support. Avoid sandals and open toe options
- Appropiate clothing for the area and its climatic conditions. Poncho in rainforests, light windbreaker in high altitudes, lightweight and light colored for hot regions.
Plan to walk at a moderate pace with frequent stops, taking in the spectuacular natural scenery that surrounds you, while keeping yourself safe. Although there is greater risk for higher difficulty activities, the majority of serious accidents occur in high traffic, apparently easy terrains, where slips and falls are most common.
Remember to enjoy these precious protected areas and to leave them unharmed for future generations to enjoy as well.