Paradise Untouched: Could Ecotourism Replace Guinea's Mining Industry?With its lush forests, abundant waterfalls and flamboyant birds, Guinea is...

Paradise Untouched: Could Ecotourism Replace Guinea's Mining Industry?With its lush forests, abundant waterfalls and flamboyant birds, Guinea is...Paradise Untouched: Could Ecotourism Replace Guinea's Mining Industry?

With its lush forests, abundant waterfalls and flamboyant birds, Guinea is the type of tropical paradise that draws tourists. But the West African country has few visitors and earns almost all its foreign revenue from mining, which can damage that environment. Now some are working to change that.

Guinean tour guide Mohammed Camara balances precariously on a slippery rock as water gushes around him and the three foreigners he’s leading on a hike. Below, the water slices through the cliff making way for a spectacular view of the forest.

Guinean tour guide Mohamed Camara is helping grow his country's tourism sector to help protect the environment and bring jobs to his community.
Guinean tour guide Mohamed Camara is helping grow his country's tourism sector to help protect the environment and bring jobs to his community.
He dreams of there one day being a boardwalk that spans the top of the waterfall so his clients don’t have to slip and slide to reach the view. Guinea’s government is more focused on developing the country’s mining industry than on creating ecotourism projects, he says.

“When people talk about mines, everyone talks about Guinea. But when people talk about tourism we don't talk about Guinea,” Camara said. “And yet there is great potential for tourism in this country that could employ more people than mines and bring in much more money.”

Guinea is the world’s second largest producer of bauxite, the primary ore used to produce aluminum. The country is also rich in iron ore deposits as well as other minerals such as gold and diamonds.

Mining comprises about 25 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, yet Guinea remains one of the poorest countries in the world with more than half the population living below the poverty line.