Call For Inspiring Stories 2014

Do you want your responsible tourism story heard at Asia’s biggest business-to-business travel trade show?

Well, we want to hear from you! LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001

This year, Wild Asia together with Gaia Discovery is on a lookout for inspiring travel stories from within the industry. We are inviting exceptional tourism businesses and projects from across Asia to submit their inspiring story.

Have you empowered local people? Saved a rare wildlife species? Protected an area’s cultural heritage? Innovated ways to run a tourism business that is kinder to the environment? Have you through the power of tourism used it as a force for good? We want to hear your story.

Inspiring Stories from Destinations is an annual competition providing an international platform for tourism players to get their story heard at ITB Asia in Singapore. The competition seeks exciting stories from organisations and individuals who have found in themselves a passion to make a difference in the travel industry and leave a legacy for the next generation.

Check out winners from the 2012 and 2013 Inspiring Stories competition!

What we’re looking for?

The selection of successful stories is based on the authenticity of the story, creative and innovative elements and the power to inspire others towards making responsible tourism a reality. (Terms below)

What’s in it for you?

  • Top 3 Winners will receive complimentary tickets to ITB Asia’s Responsible Tourism Events and will be given 15 minutes each to share their story on the Responsible Tourism stage to an audience of like minded tourism professionals and potential customers.
  • Top 3 Winners will have their story published on the Wild Asia’s website and Gaia Discovery’s website.
  • Top 3 Winners will benefit from the reach of both Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery’s social media networks.

How to enter

Submit your stories in any of the following form:

  • In words; no more than 1,000 words
  • Video; no more than 5 minutes
  • Slideshow; no more than 15 slides

Email your entries to rt@wildasia.org by 14th September 2014 (Sunday). Please title your email “RT Stories for RT Event at ITB Asia 2014″ and include your Name, Email, Organization and Destination in your email. Successful applicants will be notified via email by 30th September, 2014. Winners will be invited to speak at ITB Asia (terms below).

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Inspiring Stories is part of the annual Responsible Tourism networking events that started in 2009. Organised and supported by ITB AsiaWild Asia and this year with the inclusion of Gaia Discovery, this annual event hopes to bring together sustainable tourism practitioners to share, engage, learn and be inspired to make a difference.

Terms & Conditions

  • Previous winners of Inspiring Stories (Top 3 or Top 10) cannot apply.
  • 2014 Finalists of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply.
  • Past Winners of the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards cannot apply.
  • Businesses or projects that have current engagements with Wild Asia and/or Gaia Discovery cannot apply.
  • Business or project must be based in Asia.
  • Free entry to ITB Asia for Top 3 Winners on the day of the Inspiring Stories event (TBC) only. Travel to and from Singapore or accommodation to attend the event is not included.
  • Stories are judged by a panel of responsible tourism experts and their decision is final.
  • Applicants acknowledge that the Top 3 Winners of Inspiring Stories 2014 will have their story and images published on Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery websites.

Inspiring Stories From Destinations is a competition jointly organized by ITB Asia, Wild Asia and Gaia Discovery.

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The Rainforest Ecolodge: Supporting Biodiversity in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001In year 2000 The Competitiveness Initiative (TCI) was launched by USAID at the invitation of the Government to enhance the potential of the tourism profile of Sri Lanka. Stakeholders of the tourism industry were clustered in the form of The Tourism Cluster (TTC), to increase competitiveness and to bring them together to develop joint initiatives that explored diversification of the industry. As such, TTC strategized targeting the higher‐end segments of the tourism market, through ecotourism.

A multi‐sector working group including the TTC, leading academia ‐including the University of Peradeniya and Colombo and the Forest Department ‐ was formed, with the goal of developing a model for future ecotourism in Sri Lanka. Proceeding further, in 2002, a location in the Sinharaja Division of the Enselwatte Estate in Deniyaya owned by Mathurata Plantations Pvt. Ltd. was selected, and an Prof Kotagama of University of Colombo initial investment for development was put‐together by nine companies including five leading tourism companies in Sri Lanka. TCI provided the required ecotourism expertise through Megan Epler Wood – Founder of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), and technical support for the implementation of the project.

The responsibility of facilitating this programme was assigned to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, under the guidance of Prema Cooray, the then Secretary‐General (2003‐2008). Planning of The Rainforest Ecolodge began in February 2006 and was opened to the public in January 2012.

Sri Lanka rainforest-ecolodgeThe Rainforest Ecolodge is situated in the Sinharaja Division of the Enselwatte Estate in Deniyaya. This plot of previously cultivated tea land, borders the south‐eastern fringe of the Sinharaja forest reserve, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site inscribed in 1988. The Sinharaja is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and a Biodiversity Hotspot as designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). All these titles highlight the importance of the forest reserve, and hence the location of the ecolodge, in terms of its biodiversity as well as its fragility. As such, in selecting this location, the management of the ecolodge has recognized the importance of committing to the conservation of its surroundings and promoting the cause through its development and operations.

Biodiversity of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve

The vegetation that predominates the Sinharaja forest reserve, belongs to the tropical (lower montane) wet evergreen forest type. This is a unique type of forest which is very low in abundance in a global context, and is the only piece of pristine forest that Sri Lanka can claim ownership to.

Most of the plant species present in this forest is considered ‘Rare’ and over 60% of these species display endemicity, or in other words, is prevalent only in this particular locality. This unique vegetation type therefore also plays host to a unique collection of faunal species which consists of over 90% of Sri Lanka’s endemic bird species and over 50% of endemic butterflies, mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Some Globally Threatened Species found at the Rainforest Ecolodge site:

  • Urocissa ornate – Common names: Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Kehi Bella
  • Prionailurus viverrinus – Common names: Fishing Cat, Handun Diviya, Koddy Pulli
  • Ratufa macroura – Common names: Giant Squirrel, Dandu Lena, Mali Anil
  • Loris Tardigradus – Common names: Red Slender Loris, Una Hapuluwa, Thevangu
  • Macaca sinica – Common names: Toque Monkey, Rilawa, Kurangu
  • Trachypithecus vetulus – Common names: Purple faced Leaf Monkey, Kalu Wandura, Mundi

Sri Lanka - Bird The part of the fringe forest with which The Rainforest Ecolodge comes into contact with, displays another unique feature in which it hosts flocks of birds – singular and mixed species –that seem to thrive in this particular zone where the tropical forest meets the monoculture tea plantation.

A Training Manual for Nature Interpreters has also been put‐together by The Rainforest Ecolodge for the benefit of the staff, guests and visitors. This is the first time such a publication has been developed by an Ecolodge in Sri Lanka to build capacity and increase awareness about the Ecolodge and the Sinharaja forest reserve.

Innovative multisector approach

This first major collaborated public‐private sector initiative was led by leading leisure corporates. The innovative funding mechanism that employed public private partnership also had its advantages and disadvantages but led the way to the application of global best practices which are now, visible learning tools of this model initiative.

Community development initiatives

The Rainforest Ecolodge’s extensive development initiatives which began with the USAID’s GDA‐supported SENCE program in 2005 are still active and ongoing as a part of the ecolodge’s routine operations. Under the SENCE program, 35 brand new residential units were constructed for members of the community who were requested to relocate when the area with their existing homesteads was selected for the construction of the ecolodge. In addition to these, buildings purposed for a crèche, a primary school and a healthcare center were also constructed for the benefit of the community members.

The SENCE program also supported the execution of a number of studies including scientific and socio‐economic surveys to gauge the relevant existing conditions and challenges for further development. Observations recorded during these surveys and stated recommendations were converted into actions through the implementation of numerous workshops, health clinics and practical sessions that involved almost 100 individuals from the surrounding community. Such workshops on various topics are still being facilitated by the ecolodge upon requests from the community.

The Rainforest Ecolodge also played a key role in ensuring the community’s access to energy and potable water resources as well as public transportation and road infrastructure. Human resources required at the ecolodge during construction, and now during operations have been recruited from

Cross-cultural experiences in Jayamrung, Nepal

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LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Ram Sapkota from Mountain Delights Treks and Expedition in Nepal, shares his vision of providing visitors to his country with a genuine experience of daily life in rural Nepal – to take you off the beaten track into his village – Jyamrung.

I was born in Jyamrung, a small and remote village in the midwest part of Nepal. Like many families in my village my parents worked as farmers on their own fields. My family was one of the poorest in the village and we didn’t have enough food from our own field, therefore we had to work on other people’s farms – despite our hard work, often we went to bed hungry.

Only one of my brothers and myself were lucky enough to attend school.  During this time, I  recognized the problems within our village:  men spending their day playing cards and drinking alcohol instead of working and then returning home in the evening angry because they has lost all their money, food was not ready and beating their wives.

Guide n porter with guestIn Nepali culture men are usually in a superior position compared to women – who are responsible for the household and all the work.  I did not think this was right and started bringing the women to the places where the men were playing cards and drinking – this was the first time women had fought the bad behaviour of their husbands.  Without realizing it I had started my first social work for women’s rights in the village.

Against great odds I continued my education by selling a goat my mother had given me.   With this US$20 I set up a small shop selling items to the locals.  After three years of working in my shop each morning and evening and studying during the day, I sold my shop – it was time to move on to higher education.

After doing various manual labour jobs, I found a position with a trekking company in Kathmandu.  I worked as a porter, kitchen boy, Sherpa or assistant guide, while at night reading books and studying for university.  I never attended college but studied in private without any teacher and after several years achieved my degree in population education, political science, history and culture.

My experience as a trekking guide opened a new world to me.  I was able to earn money and send some of it back to my village to help children attend school.  

My contact with foreigners allowed me to tell them about my village and my project ideas.  I was humbled by their interest and support.  From here I formed my own trekking company – Mountain Delights – and with the assistance of my international friends started my small social organization – Tukee Nepal Society.

Our work within Tukee Nepal Society is based in my village – Jyamrung – and through Mountain Delights we take visitors on a “Lower Ganesh Himal Eco Trek” to experience this basically unexplored region of Nepal.  The Ganesh Himal is named after the elephant-headed God of Good Fortune.  The Ganesh Himal can clearly be seen from Kathmandu Valley and the Ganesh Range peaks stand out like crystal that is the Great Himalayan Chain forming the skyline.

Nothing has changed in this area so it is a great opportunity to learn about the real Nepal and enjoy our traditional culture.  During this trek you will stay in my village for at least three nights where you will experience a home stay by being involved in the day-to-day activities (e.g. teaching in the school, providing health assistance, working in the fields with local people, fishing, swimming, cooking, explore the surrounding area, etc).

Ram in trekOur treks are staffed by local guides who know the area very well – they can tell you about the local environment, wildlife, culture, daily life – with permission from the elders of the village we involve our clients and staff in local ceremonies wherever possible.  Our local knowledge, combined with a friendly and inviting community, gives people an opportunity and experience that very few foreigners have witnessed.

Our work in Jyamrung has seen many changes within the community – it is ever changing and on-going.  Projects include:

  • Providing a health centre in the village that provides assistance for more than 9000 people.
  • Toilets for everyone to assist with hygiene and prevent disease outbreaks.
  • Solar power and a micro-hydro power station which provides an economic and environmental result for the community.
  • Road construction that will assist the community to trade more freely their agricultural products.
  • Micro-finance scheme to set up small business – agriculture, tailoring, etc.
  • Renovating houses affected by the elements of poorer members of the community.
  • Education – 260 students receive assistance to attend primary school, secondary school and university;  evening classes for the older generation; repair and building new school buildings;  assistance to provide more teachers and tutors; resources for the school.

We believe village tourism offers a unique opportunity for comfortable cultural immersion. Our organization works with the whole village – providing economic stability for all families by using local produce, accommodation and guides.

Mountain Delights is not only a profit motivated organization – the company is committed to contributing five percent of its total annual profit to Tukee Nepal Society which has given a new lease of life to many needy and vulnerable people.

A visit to Jyamrung will provide everyone with the opportunity to be involved in cross-cultural communication – to gain a greater understanding of each other’s lifestyle and opportunities.

If you are coming to Nepal take the opportunity to go off the beaten track and see the power, beauty and soul of the more remote areas of my country – “make your footprint count.”

The Family Tree – fair trade for mass tourism

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001The seeds of the Family Tree were planted in 2006

The Family Tree boutique store in Hua Hin, Thailand, sells a unique collection of handmade arts, crafts, clothes, cosmetics, jewelry and other meaningful gifts made by over 40 community groups, social and environmental projects and inspired independent artists from around Thailand. The store fuses fair trade policies with a responsible tourism mission to offer genuine, local community and environmentally friendly products to visitors to Thailand’s Royal resort town.

Dtor and Peter share their inspirational journey in creating a family business with a heart…’for crafts, culture and community.’

Who?

Premruethai (Dtor) was born in Sri Saket, North-eastern Thailand. She is native Kuy, an ethnic group living on the Thai-Cambodian border. Kuy people have a distinct culture, language, arts and crafts. From childhood, Premruethai was surrounded by silk, artisans, festivals and the friendly warmth of rural Thai life. Premruethai loves her roots and has worked for years to support social, cultural and environmental work in her village. She works closely with a network of Buddhist Monks and laypeople who are striving towards a green and good Thailand.

Peter was born in England. He has lived in Thailand for 12 years, inspired by Thailand’s culture, colour and diversity. Peter has been an English teacher, the Regional Responsible Travel Coordinator for Intrepid Travel and worked with Thai colleagues to establish the Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute, which works alongside Thai communities to set up cultural exchange programs to share local Thai life and culture with visitors.

What’s it all about?

Between 2006 and 2011, Peter and Dtor worked with local Kuy women in Dtor’s home village, assisting them to establish a community group, called ‘Tae Moh Hai,’  meaning ‘Our Friends Hands’, in local Kuy language. The couple supported the women to continue their culture of natural silk dying and weaving and provided additional training in cutting and stitching. They also lead tree planting and environmental awareness activities with local youth and the village temple.

Dtor and LouieLiving in the village was rewarding, but it was also remote and very far from customers, which made it difficult to grow their project into a sustainable enterprise. Therefore, in 2011, the couple decided to open a shop which could support many different good causes. Peter and Dtor decided to plant their ‘Family Tree’ in Hua Hin, a charming, family-friendly Thai beach resort. Their unique boutique store sells arts, crafts, clothes, cosmetics, jewelry and other gifts handmade by over 40 Thai community groups, environmental and social initiatives and inspired independent artists who are working to keep Thai arts vibrant and alive.

The Family Tree is located at the heart of Hua Hin’s tourist center, at 7 Naresdumri Road. This is a historic street lined with wooden shop-houses, many of which have been converted into restaurants.  By offering authentic, meaningful, Thai arts and crafts, and sharing inspiring stories of Thai artisans and social and environmental initiatives Dtor and Peter opened a new space to buy beautiful products, while learning about and supporting great work across Thailand…

Who do we work with? Our partners’ stories:

The Family Tree team search the country for artisans, community groups and families with their own inspiring stories. We want to support people who are doing something good for Thailand’s culture and environment. Some examples of our partners include:

  • Ajarn Kor, Thailand’s No 1 master of natural-dyed silk, who learned the secrets of natural dying from his mother in law, then thestablished a women’s group in her village creating work for local families. Ajarn Kor has now won numerous awards at national and ASEAN level;
  • Manorom, a group of artisans with HIV-AIDS, who make jewelry from disused coconut shells. The group members are able to earn a living, develop skills, maintain a sense of dignity and community, and rise above loneliness through fellowship and recognition for their achievements;
  • A rural community group in Ubon Rachathani, who love traditional Thai arts and want to keep them alive. Villagers work together to paint vibrant scenes of traditional Thai life, often continuing to farm, and working during quiet seasons!

The Family Tree is a real experience

Informationv2Visitors to the Family Tree can enjoy an informative and hands-on experience. You can browse photos of artisans, read articles with information about how products are made, and see and touch examples of various types of equipment. A highlight of the shop is traditional, hand-made, natural-dyed silks. Visitors can see various natural dyes, and even admire Dtor’s great grandmother’s blouse, hand-dyed using ebony seeds and still deep black after 85 years!

Children are very welcome, and can enjoy the Family Tree kids corner, where they can let off some steam playing traditional musical instruments and games.

Why Fair Trade?

The Family Tree wants to benefit the artisans who make our products, our customers, our country, the environment and our family. The Family Tree are for Fair Trade because this movement respects and values producers and customers as people, working together towards a better life and a better world. This is a meaningful goal.

Our 10 Principles of Fair Trade

Businesses which aspire to be ‘Fair Trade’ are required to operate according to 10 principles. Some examples of our commitment put into practice include:

Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers: 100% of our products are made in Thailand. At least 90% of our products are sourced from Thai community groups, social and environmental initiatives, small family businesses and rural artisans.

  1. Transparency and accountability: ‘Keystone’ pricing. Artisans receive an average of 50% of the retail price. This equals over US$100K direct to local producers since 2011. The remaining income covers our shop rent (in a central, expensive area), staff salaries, utility bills, marketing, taxes, etc. We are aiming for a 5-10% profit. We take pride in providing high-quality information about our artisan partners to our customers.
  2. Fair Trading Practices and Mutual respect: We pay on time, and pay in advance on request. We don’t copy designs.
  3. Payment of a fair price: We consult with producers over prices. We accept requested prices and test the market. We don’t push prices down.
  4. No child labour We always ask if children are employed and do not buy from businesses using child labour. However, we do support children learning / practicing arts and crafts, for short periods of time (1-2 hrs per day), in safe conditions, supervised by responsible adults.
  5. No-discrimination, gender equality: The Family Tree is managed by Premruethai (Dtor), with 2 female staff and Peter!
  6. Good working conditions: We always ask about working conditions. We visit regaular suppliers to check for ourselves;
  7. Providing capacity building: We motivate and educate our team and our customers about fair trade and environmental issues. We have provided training for women in Sri Saket since 2006, and will do more with other community groups in the future.
  8. Promoting Fair Trade: through Facebook, our website, and competitions like this one!
  9. Respect for the environment: Minimum contributions to environmental work are budgeted as fixed costs. We offer earth-friendly products made from recycled paper, plastic, leather, silk, and wood. We search for and support government and NGO environmentally friendly products. We also helped to initiate the Greener Tomorrow project to plant 84,000 trees. This is alongside Thai Buddhist Monks and community members in Chaiyaphum province, in North Eastern Thailand. The Family Tree team have donated over $3000 USD directly to this project, and have raised more than $10,000 USD through an English language website and campaigns in our shop and on Facebook. Our shop also uses LED lighting, no A/C and recycled equipment!

For a Green and Good Hua Hin – Our Destination!

Our team understand that travelers visit destinations, not shops! We want Hua Hin to attract more guests who care about the environment and local communities. Therefore, we actively promote local community groups, organic coffee shops, local markets and other interesting spots around Hua Hin to our visitors, and encourage our customers to visit these places.

Our customers have given us great encouragement, and helped the Family Tree to reach the Number 1 spot for Shopping in Hua Hin on Trip Advisor!

We are excited to meet people from around the world, and introduce visitors to our products and the stories of the inspired artists which made them. Our work helps to prove that with quality products and information, time and enthusiasm, mainstream tourists can be engaged by Fair Trade and Responsible Tourism.  We are having a great time working with our partners, meeting our customers and enjoying family time with a mission for people and planet!

The Family Tree is open from 10.00 – 22.00 daily.

Contact Premruethai.t@familytree-huahin.com +66 (0) 81 809 5083

Training the new dive guides of Komodo

Wicked Diving in Indonesia are working with local communities to empower a long-term commitment to responsible dive tourism.

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001The Komodo National Park area of Indonesia is one of the jewels in the nation’s crown. The Komodo dragons have ensured international recognition and a flow of tourists which is increasing year on year. The other major draw card for this area is the diving – touted by many to be some of the best in the world. There are a plethora of dive organisations who aim to introduce divers to the wonders of the Komodo’s underwater world and the people of Labaun Bajo are prospering as the town thrives and expands.

However, the people from Komodo themselves are some of the last to benefit from their natural inheritance. Ensconced on an island, battered by winds and scorched by sun, life is tough for the 1500 or so residents of Komodo village. This wonderful natural environment turns out to be the third poorest province in Indonesia. As a result, education and job opportunities for the young men and women growing up on the island are inadequate. The main profession is fishing which is a traditional vocation; however it is becoming less and less viable as all of our oceans and marine life suffer the effects of overfishing. It’s not unlikely that within a few decades artisanal fishermen will be unable to support their families, leading to a downward spiral of unemployment and poverty. The people of this area should be able to benefit and prosper from the natural resources and jobs created by an influx of tourists to the area.

mantaTo remedy this, Komodo has to be given back to the people, and what better way than to train the young people of the island to become dive guides. This is something that Wicked Diving set out to resolve by partnering with local organisation Komodo KITA. Based out of Labuan Bajo in Flores, Wicked Diving had already worked closely with Komodo KITA when they embarked on an SSI Instructor training programme to train 6 local dive guides from Labuan Bajo to Instructor level. A Dive Guide course can typically be provided to local guides on an internship basis, meaning the costs are absorbed and employment is given upon successful completion of the course. However the costs involved in an Instructor course can be very prohibitive to local dive guides, making it near impossible for them to progress within the industry. With full support of Komodo KITA and a number of external sponsors, Wicked Diving hosted the first ever SSI Instructor course in Labuan Bajo. The course was offered on a free of charge basis to 6 candidates. Wicked Diving’s contribution to this was firstly to donate their classroom and teaching facilities to the course. In addition, all diving training was completed onboard Wicked Diving’s boats, equipment was provided and full support, coaching and advice was given by our in-house instructors. At the end of the course, we were all delighted that 5 candidates went on to sit their Instructor Exam and became fully fledged SSI Open Water Instructors.

Throughout this process, Wicked Diving immediately recognised the merits of working with Komodo KITA and accepted an offer to come onboard and partner up to create opportunity for the young people of Komodo village. The programme began with the task of initial dive training, with was provided by the new SSI Instructors. 20 young men from the island were trained in 3 different diving courses; Open Water Diver, Advanced Diver, and Stress & Rescue Diver. This then set the candidates in a position to start considering a Dive Guide certification; however there was now the question of experience. It is possible for divers to become reach a ‘professional’ level with the minimal amount of experience, but does this make for a good guide?

A good dive guide needs experience in diving, the more dives the better, and a rounded understanding of what the ‘real-life’ role of a guide is like, not to mention language skills, a thorough understanding of dive safety and a likeable personality. This is where Wicked Diving was able to step in and share its skills and experience. Throughout June, July and August, the dive centre welcomed 5 interns from Komodo island, each of them for a 4 week period. During this time the Komodo interns were involved in all aspects of day-to-day life in our busy centre.

The dive centre offers a variety of trips to our guests. The interns in this programme joined our live-aboard trips, heading out into the National Park for 6 days and 6 nights on board our boats. They joined our day trips, both diving and snorkelling and were coached throughout the process. Their dive skills improved noticeably as their number of dives grew. They were taught about the importance of safety in diving and also respect for the marine environment. To have such early exposure to considered and respectful diving practices is incredibly important. It is easy to pick up bad habits when learning any skill, we have been able to not only ‘nip bad habits in the bud’ so to speak, but also explain to them the reasons why we do this. This is THEIR Komodo. Divers come here to enjoy the natural beauty of the area and they are able to be the new ambassadors for this. To understand the worth and fragility of the reef is invaluable.

Fauzi and Yadi clean the beach in the Komodo National ParkInterns were given important ‘face-time’ with our guests and always introduced as staff members. This was an integral part of the programme as it allowed them to develop the confidence of dealing with people from all over the world, something which can be very daunting at times. Diving is a very social industry and the interns were encouraged to spend as much time with guests as possible. This helped to convey Wicked Diving’s philosophy that a Dive Guide is much more than someone who leads you on a dive. It was also a great place for them to practice their conversational English. Towards the end of their internship, some of them even had the confidence to stand up in front of groups and give dive briefings with the assistance of our instructors.

Obviously, it doesn’t just end with the diving. We were able to teach the interns organisational skills within the centre, equipment care, handling and safe use and also give them exposure to sales. This is an industry where a smile can mean more than the words that were spoken, and in typical Indonesia style, they had this in abundance!

From a logistical stand point, we had to consider options for lodgings, as Labuan Bajo, where Wicked Diving is based, is not their home town. Wicked Diving provided food and board to every intern for the duration of their stay.

Each intern has and continues to work hard for us, something which has already been recognised by our guests and publicly through reviews on the internet. Based on this enthusiasm and tenacity, Wicked Diving decided that we would fulfil the complete Dive Guide course with the two most promising individuals from the programme. We have trained them to a level where they can successfully work for us as snorkel guides and both have already been given paid work in this area. We now enter a period of learning and they will be busily studying not only for their SSI Dive Guide certification, but also undertaking English classes. Wicked Diving and Komodo KITA will combine and fully fund their entire Dive Guide certification, provide access to English classes and also a full set of dive gear for each of the successful candidates. On completion of their training, the two new Dive Guides will be given a one year contract with Wicked Diving, starting from March 2013.

Wicked Diving, and its experienced staff members, are in the lucky position to be the experts in the diving industry. Without advice and support from seasoned dive professionals in a well-established business, candidates wouldn’t be able to receive adequate training the skills and guidance to ensure continued employability within the industry. In addition, by providing training in-line with the businesses core principals; safety, ethical practice and a fun and memorable guest experience, this will set the new Dive Guides apart from their peers. They will become actively involved in conserving their new home and natural inheritance.

Wicked Diving wholeheartedly believe that local people, native to an area, should have the means and skills to fully reap the financial successes of this area. All of our instructors are looking forward to working with our 2 chosen candidates to increase their employability and enhance the quality of their lives and that of their families. The hope is that programmes such as this will inspire more of the people who reside in Komodo village to become deeply involved in this programme and that these candidates will become role models to their peers. They will set a fine example of what can be achieved through motivation and training.

2013 Inspiring Stories from Destinations

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Congratulations to our 2013 Top 10 WINNERS of our Inspiring Stories from Destinations competition. This is our third year running this competition, and time after time, Wild Asia and our panel of judges (from the Green Circuit and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia) are inspired and impressed by the level of commitment towards responsible tourism taking place in our region.

On Thursday 24th October 2013, we were delighted to host our Top 3 winners at ITB Asia as part of our responsible tourism series. And here, we would love to congratulate our Top 10 winners for their achievements in making the tourism industry a sector that strives to make positive social impact.

Each year, our judges look for stories that are unique, inspiring, able to encourage others to ‘copy’, and have a good reach in their impact. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to be wowed!

Top 3 Winners

(in alphabetical order)

Top 10 Winners

(in alphabetical order)

Melhua the Fern Ecotel’s Mission for Waste Management in Mumbai

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001There has been a significant increase in municipal solid waste generation in India in the last few decades. This is largely because of the rapid population and economic development. Solid Waste Management has become a major issue and to reduce its impact on health and the environment, Melhua the Fern has come up with the formation of the ALM (Advance Locality Management) program with partnership between citizens for sustainable and environment management.

ALM has been formed by Meluha the Fern in 2011 in Hiranandani Township for the segregation of Solid Waste Management at source where the ALM members and citizens are involved directly. Well publicized eco events, initiative, campaigns, information, and resources are organized from time to time to the city’scitizens to enable the practice of more environmentally conscious and socially responsible lifestyles. Monthly BMC ward meetings are being held and the staff presents at the BMC-Community meetings on several environment issues and discussions learn from the same. These meetings act as appropriate platform to one and all to discuss the urban issue with transparency.

Looking forward to working on many projects in the future for the welfare of Powai and the city the dedication of NGOs, like Stree Mukti Sanghatan workers, prompted Melhua to get involved with them in this ALMs project. They can work with housekeeping in each building to take away free of cost all dry garbage.

“It will lead us to not only a cleaner city, but eventually to a cleaner country”

Presentations and guideline are being presented to the local community, schools, colleges and co-operative housing societies for better understanding of garbage segregation. An interactive curriculum has been developed, targeting environmental sustainability as it relates to the business world for the college and school student studying environment practices thus truly enhancing their in-house programmes to the community outside successfully, adding value to the learning programs on how to implement practices in the world of sustainability which will help for the next generation too.

01_JVP0205Melhua’s efforts are aiming at reaching a zero garbage zone in Powai. They are also helping the B.M.C cut costs by saving on trucks coming to collect garbage. They invite other housing society buildings and corporates to join in making the area a garbage free Powai and look forward to a green collaboration with all business sectors. Waste management focuses on minimization and the 3R’s (Reuse, Reduce, Recycle). Melhua are fully committed to their sustainability policy by integrating innovation into environmental actions. Minimizing their carbon footprint by everyday activities and building in an environmental-friendly culture and communicating it to their local community, staff and guests is the right way to make sustainability.

Meluha is now a certified Ecotel and has the distinction of achieving Ecotel’s highest possible rating: Tier 1 with its average resource consumption reduction of 71%.

Some achievements include:

  • Approx. 39 to 45 kg of wet waste is converted into vermicompost per day and the rest is taken to piggeries.
  • 6 pits + 2 Nirmalaya pits (flowers) where wet garbage is treated and about 1500 kgs vermi compost is recovered per month.
  • All the other dry waste (non-recyclable garbage) is taken and recycled by Shah trading Co.
  • Car Free Day: Creating awareness to save petrol and pollution
  • Imparting knowledge in Ecotel practices to school students
  • Plant a sapling
  • Creating awareness by involving team members and guests in eco sensitive competitions

 

Homestays at the Bamboo Village – a rendezvous with nature and host community

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001Subini Nair, an agri-engineering graduate and management consultant based in Kozhikode, Kerala, made a visit to the Bamboo Village in Wayanad. Inspired by what she experienced, she has joined the ethical-tourism NGO behind the homestay initiative. Here is her story…

My dream about India was more filled with the noisy crowded streets, festivals, wedding bands, political party processions blocking traffic, cows though praised to be holy found wandering around the upper class garbage heaps… But quite forgotten were those images seen in my childhood of the picturesque hilly landscapes and widespread green paddy fields.

622554_273536542750612_21655615_o (1)Coming up the narrow winding rugged roads up the Western Ghats as the Kerala Transport Bus grinded its engine, I was finally able to breathe the crisp and clean mountain air. Had I been blindfolded, I still could have guessed that I am in Wayanad. 2100 meters high above the sea level, braced by mountains and blending beautifully with lush green tea and coffee plantations, lies this kingdom of greens. Plenty of palm trees (‘Kera ‘as in Malayalam- the language of the state) where in Kerala derives its name from, the unending rice fields and the undivided plantain gardens took away all my weary air of the long haul.  The richness of resources, the refreshing climate, the biodiversity and the rural location makes Wayanad a perfect place to stay.

The name ‘Wayanad’ derives from ‘Wayal – Nadu’ (the land of paddy field in vernacular language) and reveals this piece of paradise’s agri-culture.  But here I spotted trouble in this paradise. Though nature has blessed here with abundance, the markets declined the prices of every crop from these hills which led to the devastating and seemingly hopeless situation for the farmer families eventually leading to many suicides.

The Bamboo Village – tiding the other direction

As we say: nature always shows a new direction during each crisis , it seems to be proven true for Wayanad. To flow the other direction as the river Kabani does unlike other major rivers of the state that flows westwards in Kerala. The “Bamboo Village” in Thrikkaipetta, no longer s much for the crop markets to decide their fate, but with the support of the organizations Uravu and Kabani,  today a village that was once never spotted on local tourist maps, has today become one the  much cited locations on the global tourist map.

Community driven initiatives

It is purely the love and livelihood of the community that is bringing tourists to visit this place, and even refers their friends to this village. Today there are seven homestays, with the number gradually expanding as the community imbibes tourism as an additional income for their families. A set of principles evolved with the values of the community including the clear understanding of waste management and effective utilization of village resources, makes the Bamboo Village shower harmony and becomes an example to the neighboring villages. KABANI – the other direction, an organization focusing on sustainable socio-economic development of villages and the conservation of natural resources, continues to share this philosophy by promoting more villages at different locations across India , in tune with their vision  of tourism always benefiting the local people, whilst neither diluting their culture nor harming the environment.

The meeting point of two worlds

DSC_0526The project caters for travellers who look for a very personal and ethical way to stay. The travellers are accommodated in family homes, sharing their hosts’ daily routine, getting to learn about their lives first hand, and tasting the wonderful flavours of home-cooked Keralite dishes. Your host welcomes you into their homes. Here I experienced a hospitality that does not begin and end merely with food being served to you and a room provided; but with families sharing their time and lives with you with no intrusion to privacies.

For the locals, this is a way to decentralize tourism and directly benefit from guests’ holiday budgets. As their homes can cater for a few additional guests, the initial investment is very low. In addition, a benefit sharing scheme makes sure that the entire village has its fair share: Half of the income from accommodation stays with the host families, another 30% goes to a village fund to provide professional trainings, support youth and the elderly, development of village level entrepreneurship, the annual jackfruit festival, and ongoing tourism development. The remaining 20% covers the expenses of the organization KABANI and its sustainable tourism activities.

A record of traditional knowledge – recapturing diluting culture

I met them!  Faces old and wrinkled eyes keen, bright and sharp.  Its anger and anguish, but hope. They see irresponsibility towards nature and living. The elders of this village were thrilled to talk about their times and traditions which offered me the best tips which I think can be solutions to our bigger problems.

Here they made a few tiny steps towards rebuilding a sustainable world from sustainable communities. Don’t you feel like being invited?!  They would love to know you.

India’s first ever reversal of a local extinction

&Beyond’s pioneering Gaur translocation project in Bandhavgarh National Park

LOGO_Inspiring Stories from Destinations_2012-page-001&Beyond’s pioneering model of low-impact, high-yield wildlife tourism is based on our ethic of Care of the Land, Care of the Wildlife, Care of the People. Tried and tested for more than twenty years, we believe in sharing the skills we have gained through the implementation of this model to benefit the preservation of wildlife not only in Africa but further afield. Our passion to ensure that we protect the great wildlife areas of the world, leaving a legacy for the next generation, has driven us to partner with conservation authorities in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to carry out a ground-breaking translocation. Aimed at reversing the local extinction of the gaur in Bandhavgarh National Park, an additional goal of this public-private partnership was to carry out training and create the capability for Indian wildlife officials to complete subsequent relocations of other species on their own.

andBeyond_Gaur Translocation image 2v2For years, Indian conservation policy had focussed solely on the preservation of protected areas, with limited wildlife management. Indian forestry officials were aware that gaur had gone extinct in Bandhavgarh National Park, but were not sure how to reverse this extinction. While working with Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) on establishing our circuit of four jungle lodges in India, &Beyond became aware of this situation. We immediately saw this as an opportunity not only to help restore a species to its natural habitat but to share our knowledge of translocation techniques and develop this capacity in the MPFD.

As a pioneer in responsible sustainable travel, &Beyond’s model of restoring and conserving regional biodiversity has often required animal translocations and re-introductions. As a result, the company has considerable experience in this area and Group Conservation Manager Les Carlisle has planned and implemented the translocation of more than 40,000 heads of wildlife in several African countries.

With &Beyond providing the expertise for the project, the initiative required five years of meticulous collaboration and planning with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, which oversees some of India’s largest tracts of protected land, and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which is responsible for the research that is used to help identify priorities and formulate guidelines for wildlife conservation in the country.

In the words of Dr HS Pabla, then the Chief Wildlife Warden of Madhya Pradesh, “Other than retrieving the lost biodiversity of Bandhavgarh, the project was aimed at building the capacity of the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and the Wildlife Institute of India in the field of the capture and translocation of large animals. It was also meant to show what public-private partnerships could accomplish. Mridula Tangirala, Director of Operations at Taj Safari Lodges, and Les Carlisle, Group Conservation manager at &Beyond, worked tirelessly to obtain the approvals of their companies expeditiously. Les made several trips to India just to ensure that the construction of bomas and modification of trucks was exactly as required.”

The transfer of skills was a vital part of the project. Recognising the need to share Africa’s unique conservation skills, Indian conservation officials were invited to &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve to learn the techniques of darting and loading buffalo. During the planning phase, some of the best buffalo specialists in the world focused on teaching and re-creating their skills base in India. KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife staff took the Indian officials to inspect holding bomas and they were also given the opportunity to take part in animal capture exercises at Hluhluwe Game Reserve. The designs for animal capture trucks and stretchers were shared with the Indian team, who arranged for them to be adapted and re-created by an Indian company so that all the required equipment could be manufactured on the spot.

With the initial phase complete, the &Beyond team travelled to India to begin full scale training with the MPFD and WII teams. This stage included a few vital adaptations to the Indian national parks infrastructure. Reserves in India are not fenced, however Les Carlisle argued strongly for the need to build reinforced reintroduction bomas to contain and protect the gaur after translocation. As a result, a holding boma was constructed for the animals at Bandhavgarh National Park, where they were to be released. This would allow the gaur to become habituated to their new home and would keep tigers out of the newly reintroduced population until the animals had settled in.

The next phase of the project included &Beyond’s experts working with Indian officials to obtain the correct permits to import the drugs required and to translocate the animals. It took nearly a year to get the import permits into place and have the drugs sent to India. With a narrow window during the Indian winter when it is cool enough to subject animals to the stresses of the move, the translocation was planned for January 2011.

The total operation team consisted of more than thirty field rangers and another thirty senior officers. The field staff made up two stretcher teams of twelve to fifteen men. Ten days before the operation was due to begin, Les Carlisle began to practice each move of the procedure with the Indian teams. This training was crucial as it ensured that, once the operation began, every member of the team understood exactly what they were to do.

andBeyond_Les Carlisle_Gaur Translocation image 1v2As the operation moved into full swing, it became obvious that the training had paid off. As animal after animal was tracked, darted and then loaded in the translocation trucks, the longest it took for this process to be completed for one animal was 38 minutes. With recovery time after giving the antidote to the drug between one and five minutes, no animal took longer than 50 minutes from the time it was darted to until it was awake and standing in the holding boma, a time really difficult to achieve within the norms of animal translocation.

With the Indian teams rapidly becoming more experienced at what they were doing, after the first 14 animals &Beyond’s experts stood back, allowing them to dart and translocate the last five gaur on their own. Everything proceeded as planned and the relocation was a huge success, with 19 gaur safely darted and transported during the first test phase. A breakthrough achievement in Indian conservation, this translocation was followed by the subsequent movement of another 31 gaur in January 2012, this time carried out mainly by Indian wildlife authorities. This brought the total number of gaur moved to the recommended number of 50.

With the success of reversing a local extinction measured by how well the new population does in its environment, the gaur herd in Bandhavgarh has grown steadily over the years. Despite tiger-inflicted mortalities, the herd is thriving in its new home, with the recent birth of the 19th calf since the reintroduction.

The first partnership between a wildlife tourism operator and the Forestry Department in India, the translocation has cleared the way for the implementation of other conservation initiatives in Madhya Pradesh state and in all of India.

“Encouraged by the success of this project, the state has already proposed the translocation of several other species to reverse local extinctions in Madhya Pradesh. The barasingha is set to return to Bori Sanctuary and the blackbuck is going to return to Kanha. We can even dream of creating whole new wildlife assemblages from scratch if secure space is available, through the translocation of prey and predators from other sources, rather than waiting for ages to let it happen on its own. Let us hope that this project will prove to be a harbinger of change in our approach to conservation, which it was always meant to be. Perhaps we will no longer just wring our hands when the extinction of a particular species looms in front of us. We can now prevent or reverse such local extinctions, thanks to the Gaur Project,” sums up Dr Pabla.