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18.10.2008

Environmentalists want jeep safaris banned


Environmentalists in the tourist resort of Marmaris have applied to the local administrator's office and the Muğla governor's office seeking a ban on jeep safaris.

In response, organizers of the safaris have argued more regulations should be applied instead of an outright ban. 

Jeep safaris are a well-known attraction in Turkey's tourism regions, where tourists travel around rural areas in jeeps. They usually visit traditional villages, followed with off-road trips to lakes, mountains and canyons.

The Marmaris Environment Advocates Association, or MEAA's, chairwoman, Filiz Ersan, told the Anatolia news agency that jeep safaris belonged in the deserts. "Most of the safari organizers do not obey the very basic security rules," she said. "The water wars are very dangerous; the accident that results in the deaths of two tourists in Augusts in Fethiye proves this."

Two British citizens, Jonathan Pearce, 38, and his daughter Charley, 8, died in a traffic accident on Aug. 18, when the driver of a safari jeep crashed the car during a water fight with local kids.

Ersan said they have also been receiving complaints from the village heads. "The cars used are very old, they pollute the environment a lot. In addition, as the tourists are allowed to smoke in the cars, they pose a great forest fire threat."

Ersan said they have sent petitions to Marmaris local administrator's office and Muğla governor's office, asking for a ban on jeep safaris. "We do not want jeep safaris in our forests come the next tourism season," she said.

Officials of the Marmaris Forestry Directorate said the jeeps damaged forest roads and harmed trees with the clouds of dust they create. No forest fire had been caused by smokers in safari jeeps, as yet, the officials noted, adding, however, that the risks were great as the number of people in the forests increased.

‘Regulations needed'

However, a tourism organizer has argued that a ban on jeep safaris is not a solid solution. "We need strict regulations and inspections instead of a ban," said Şenay Tokmak, a tour organizer in Marmaris.

Tokmak added they were no longer using water guns on their tours due to complaints. "But the unregistered tour organizers use them. We need more regulations." She also rejected Ersan's claims that the vehicles were dangerous and that tourists smoked during the safari.

"All the jeeps are inspected by a mechanical engineer from the local administrator's office, and gets a certificate before being put into service," Tokmak said. "And since cigarettes can cause forest fires, we do not allow smoking in the jeeps."