Batwa pygmies in Uganda

Adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorilla Habituation Adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National park

Start your adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with gorilla habituation. The Uganda Wildlife Authority introduced the mountain gorillas’ habituation experience in January 2014. The habituation adventure will cost each person $1500.

Gorilla habituation is a process where the wild mountain gorillas are trained to get used to people. This process can take 2 to 3 years. During this time, the researchers visit an identified wild gorilla group on a daily basis. Researchers learn more about the individual gorillas as well as the way they behave during this period.

Gorilla Habituation Experience

With gorilla habituation, clients will get to spend more time with the mountain gorillas compared to regular gorilla trekking. Gorilla trekking can take three quarters of the day just getting to and from the gorillas but actual time with them is only one hour. Clients get to spend 4 hours with the gorilla habituation experience.

Clients experiencing this adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable Park will be moving with the researchers as they habituate the gorillas. You may also visit semi habituated mountain gorillas during this adventure. The semi habituated gorillas are not as predictable. They can decide to hide and behave in a manner that is not predictable. Researchers can stop the experience at any time if they feel it is harming the semi habituated gorillas.

When Mountain Gorillas are habituated

With time, these mountain gorillas get used to the researchers and each individual gorilla is given a name. Once the researchers are very sure that these gorillas can be habituated, they introduce a mock exercise where a few people start visiting. These small visiting groups can include scientists and journalists. Once such a gorilla family has passed the mock exercise, it is opened for visitation by paying clients.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has around 12 habituated gorilla families. The named groups are Habinyanja, Mubare, and Rushegura found in the Buhoma sector. As well as Bitakura, Oruzongo and the Kyaguriro found in the Ruhija sector. And Nshonji, Mishaya, Busingye, Bweza, Kahungye found in the Rushaga sector, and the Nkuringo group found in the south. At the moment, 8 gorilla permits are available for purchase from the Uganda Wildlife Authority.  All these sectors are located in the southern part of the park.

Batwa Cultural Visit in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi forest is home to a beautiful diversity of fauna and Flora, including some exotic plants and rare and endangered animals. The forest was also home to the Batwa pygmies, the original dwellers of the ancient forest and known as the keepers of the forest. The Batwa lived in  harmony with the forest and survived by hunting small game using bows and the arrows, as well as gathering plants for food and medicinal purposes.

Adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Batwa pygmies in trouble

In 1922, the lives of the Batwa people changed forever when the Bwindi forest became a national park and a world Heritage site. This was done in order to protect the endangered mountain gorillas living within in it’s boundaries. The Batwa pygmies were evicted from the park and became conservation refugees in a world that was very unfamiliar to them. Their skills and the means of subsistence were not so useful in this modern environment and they began to suffer.

In 2001, when the Batwa tribe was on the edge of extinction, the American medical missionaries Dr Scott and Carol Kellermanns came to their rescue. They bought land and established programs to help improve the conditions and the lives of the Batwa. This also included the building of a school, hospital and housing. The Kellermanns also developed water and sanitation projects and found ways that the Batwa pygmies could generate an income and sustain themselves.

Batwa Development Program

These projects are now managed and operated by the Batwa Development Program. The program works closely with the Batwa community to ensure that their indigenous rights are respected. Also that they benefit from the forest being a national park as well as a tourist attraction.

Batwa Cultural Experience

The Batwa cultural experience was created by the displaced Batwa pygmies. It’s goal is to educate Batwa children and to share their amazing heritage and traditions with the world. A day spent with the Batwa gives you a chance to enjoy many different things. This includes hiking in the forest with the people of the forest.

The Batwa guide will provide you with a chance to see how they used to live and hunt in the traditional manner. The Batwa guide will teach you how to use a bow and arrow, to hunt as they used to do. You will also visit a traditional Batwa home and learn from the women how to prepare and cook, as well as serve a meal. Talk to a medicine man and learn about the properties of medicinal forest flora. You also get to hear the ancient legends and the traditional songs. For more about Uganda’s Parks and Wildlife.

Submitted by Green World Safaris. To go directly to their website visit: Tours in Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo with Green World Safaris.

Wild Cat Monitoring Program prey

Wild Cat Monitoring Program and Saladero Eco Lodge

Saladero Eco Lodge and the Wild Cat Monitoring Program

Saladero Eco Lodge has worked directly with Osa Conservation since 2014 on their Wild Cat Monitoring Program. The Wild Cat program is located in southwestern Costa Rica. This area is one of the last areas in Central America that can still sustain big cats.

The lodge helps by purchasing and placing camera traps around their property. The cameras monitor the cats and the animals considered prey that support the survival of the large cats. As part of the Wild Cat Monitoring Program the Lodge collects information on the footprints, as well as photographs/videos. This information is sent to Osa Conservation every three months for input into their Wild Cat Monitoring Program.

The Wild Cat Monitoring Program includes other lodges, private property owners and other organizations. Therefore The Wild Cat Program can obtain a much better idea of the wild animal population and also the general health of the primary rain forests.

There is an abundance of food sources for the large cats. The cats are the top predators, so this would be an indication of a healthy ecosystem. Certainly this is the hope of the Wild Cat Monitoring Program.

In February 2018 over 240 cameras were put in position to try to figure out how many jaguars are left in the area. The area includes the Osa peninsula, Corcovado National Park, Los Mogos area, Piedras Blancas National Park, as well as the Golfito Reserve. In June 2018  all of the cameras will be collected. Hopefully the information collected will give a better idea of how many Jaguars are left.

Submitted by Saladero Eco Lodge

Our online eco rating exam explained

What difference does an Online Eco Rating Exam make?

In this day and age every time you turn around there is another “eco” lodge popping up. As “ecotourism” is moving more mainstream, more hotels will try to ride on the sustainable bandwagon. In some ways this is wonderful. It’s really good that hotels are wising up and trying to improve their best practices. I applaud that and it’s good for business.

But what about those places that will pretend they are “eco” when really they are doing the minimum. We have even created a word for this problem that is cropping up: “Greenwashing”. It seems clear that we need some way to differentiate between hotels that are committed to sustainability and those that just use if for publicity purposes.

Our online eco rating exam explained

One way to insure that a place really is sustainable is to get certified by someplace like Green Globe, http://greenglobe.com/. They send someone out to do a hands on rating. The only problem with their rating is that it is expensive to have someone travel out to a lodge, etc. and personally evaluate them. Last time I checked it cost the lodges around $1000 (US) to become certified. For many lodges, this keeps them from joining. By definition, it’s the smaller lodges that are more “eco”. Should they be penalized because they can’t afford the fee?

The next best alternative is to have some kind of check and answer system that doesn’t need a hands on visit. I’ve tried to develop just that with the “Online Eco Rating Exam”, https://www.eco-tropicalresorts.com/ecorating/. It’s a way for lodges to respond to a series of questions and come up with a score that shows exactly how “eco” they are based out of a total of 5. In order for a lodge to get a perfect score, they have to have Policies and Procedures as well as a way of monitoring their consumption of water and energy and send it for authentication. The online rating covers energy, water, recycling and waste, community, and land and nature conservation.

There is no charge to members to take the Online Eco Rating Exam and it is a way for them to prove that they are not “greenwashing”. The Exam is always being improved on as new things come to light or as many people express their opinion.

Right now I’m grappling with water issues. Should lodging that is in a wet area of the world be penalized for not using water saving techniques? I’m leaning towards yes because water is a global issue and I see “eco” lodges as ways to open up people’s eyes to conservation in all its aspects. Please feel free to share your opinion by answering here or contacting me directly at lise @ eco-tropicalresorts.com.

In summary, an Online Eco Rating can make a big difference, especially for small establishments. It helps add credibility to hotels.

Tembo Ki9jani and Ecotourism

Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism

Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism in Tanzania

Tembo Kijani sits right on the coast of Tanzania in Africa. Here you will find secluded, white sandy beaches. The owners are passionate about ecotourism and their philosophy is to take what nature gives and to give back to nature. This post is about Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism in Tanzania.

The buildings at Tembo Kijani are made from local materials and designed to blend into the surrounding nature. They use Makuti roofs on all their buildings. This type of roof can be seen throughout Tanzania and is accomplished by using coconut leaves. What’s great about these roofs is that they help with constant air flow, thereby keeping the heat from building up. Below is an image of these roofs.

Tembo Kijani in Tanzania

Being far off in the bush, Tembo Kijani uses only solar and wind power to generate their electricity. Each bungalow has it’s own controller and guests can see exactly how much electricity they are using.

Waste management is done with the goal of zero waste. Water is filtered instead of purchased in plastic containers. All kitchen waste is composted. Waste water is reused to water the bush.

Ecotourism is at the heart of Tembo Kijani and Ecotourism in Tanzania.

Kenya Green Hotel

Ecotourism in Africa

I have just completed research on ecotourism in Africa though haven’t covered all of its countries. Before I discuss my research let it be known that I was born in Senegal, Africa and one of my favorite books/movies is “Out of Africa”. The book was written by Isak Dinesen and is autobiographical and written in 1913. It is not so much the story line that caught my attention but the beautiful land and wild animals of what was to become Kenya. Africa is and will always be in my heart.

I have to say that Namibia really impressed me with it’s promotion of eco-tourism. They have added the protection of the environment into their constitution, where I think it belongs and wish other countries would follow their example. Around forty percent of its land is protected in some way. This has helped with the highly endangered black rhino. Namibia is one of the few countries with a rising population of this endangered species. To read more about Ecotourism in Namibia please go here: Namibia Eco Lodges-Tours

The government of Botswana has set a code for the operation of eco lodges and safaris to help insure preservation of that nation’s land and wildlife. To read more go here: Botswana Eco Lodges-Tours

The longest running Chimpanzee rehabilitation program is in The Gambia where at one point they disappeared but now there are 4 different social groups of chimps there. I definitely have a soft spot for all the wildlife in the world and this heartens me. To read more about The Gambia ecotourism go here: The Gambia Eco Lodges-Tours

Kenya is a well known spot for ecotourism in terms of its wildlife. It’s here people go to see the Big 5 animals. Read about it here: Kenya Eco Lodges-Tours. The newest Kenya Eco Lodge is pictured below. What’s hard to believe is that this is in a suburb of Nairobi.

Kenya Green HotelWildebeest Eco Camp.

Too see about ecotourism in Mauritius go here: Mauritius Eco Lodges
For Mozambique Ecotourism go here: Mozambique Eco Lodges
For the Seychelles: Seychelles Eco Lodges-Tours
For South Africa: South Africa Eco Lodges-Tours
For Uganda: Uganda Eco Lodges Tours
For Tanzania: Tanzania Eco Lodges Tours
For Zambia: Zambia Eco Lodges-Tours

One last thing I want to add is about the mass hysteria over Ebola. It reminds me of when I lived in Guam and my family and friends were so worried about the Brown Tree Snake that was taking over the island as the news reported it. I lived there for five years and only ever saw one. The news often gets things wrong and I would have no fear of traveling to the countries where there are outbreaks of Ebola. I would just use common sense and avoid areas where there are outbreaks but these are small and things are getting better. There is so much to see and do in Africa and the areas involved are so small and the only way to catch Ebola is if you’re close to a person with an actual outbreak. It is not transferable until a person is actively sick so don’t let the news scare you away!

If anyone has anything to add to eco-tourism in any of these African countries, please email me as I would love to add it! All my research was done online and I know that can be limited. Email me at lise(@)eco-tropicalresorts.com. Sorry about the (@) but I already get too much spam, as I’m sure you do as well!

Ecology in Bali

Ecology in Bali
Submitted by Sumber Sari Eco Villas – www.sumbersariecovillas.com

Ecology in Bali is improving. One of our Villagers, on the Reef Preservation/Conservation Project, has only got a stump on one arm rather than 2 complete arms. He lost this half of one arm in dynamiting the reef to kill/catch fish in his younger days !!

Through experience he understands that a healthy reef brings in more fish. That fish can be netted from the beach with a team of the villagers. This causes no damage to the coral. The village is now catching as much fish as the village needs. The villagers have set up a Reef Patrol to stop people (the Javanese, given the chance, still come across the Strait and do it, dynamiting that is) damaging the villagers livelihood and Bali’s Ecology.

Just an interesting aside, as to what education and understanding can do, with a bit of help with some Ecological thinking that benefits everybody !! Ecology in Bali is now being practiced by villagers that used to destroy the ecology.

To see listings in Indonesia on Eco Tropical Resorts/Sustainable Ecotourism Directory go here: Indonesia Eco Lodges.

Thailand Eco Lodges promoting Ecotourism

Beyond Borders: Rethink ASEAN Ecotourism

Workshop for ASEAN – Promoting Ecotourism

By Bronwen Evans, owner-operator of Faasai Resort and Spa: FaaSai Resort and Spa
In addition to its natural beauties, Southeast Asia has warm weather, cultural diversity, amazing eco-systems, easy accessibility and affordability. Little wonder that it is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. It is about to get even more popular, as next year it will join together in a new common market – the ASEAN Economic Community.  This means more roads and rail networks will go in and (in time) a single visa will be available for travel within the region. Obviously this will attract more tourists and this may disappoint ecotravelers who come to Southeast Asia because they are looking for authentic local experiences in quiet and unspoilt destinations.

Rice threshing the old fashioned way

Surin Laopha the owner of Faasai Resort threshing rice the old-fashioned way

It is heartening therefore to see that ASEAN is embracing the concept of ecotourism and Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sport, recently hosted a workshop for regional tourism leaders called Beyond Borders:  Rethink ASEAN Ecotourism

The workshop was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Designated Area for Sustainable Tourism (DASTA) in Thailand and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). The Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT I) designed and facilitated the programme, with Jaranya Daengnoi and Peter Richards the lead facilitators.

The programme was very practical and in addition to talks by industry leaders there were field trips to ecotourism operations in south eastern Thailand.

The field trips were to the Jumrung Community, Rayong Province, a community initiative which offers visitors a chance to experience eco, agro and educational tourism; Huai Raeng Community in Trat province, a community-based initiative which offers boat trips to mangroves and homestay; and Faasai Resort and Spa, a small family-owned eco-resort which offers similar local trips, hands-on experience in the resort’s organic farm and “forest cuisine” – dishes based on locally-grown herbs such as Siamese cardamom.

Sites of Kung Wiman

Workshop attendees visited sites of Kung Wiman, near FaaSai Resort

All the places have a focus on agricultural tourism, supporting local communities, learning and sharing, and supporting cottage industries. There is also a unique Thai element to all three as they emphasize Thailand’s concept of the “Sufficiency Economy”.   This is not merely “sustainability” in the commonly understood meaning, but stress ethical values and “sufficiency” – living within your means, sharing resources, living as part of a community and cultivating resilience to external shocks.  This draws upon Buddhist traditions of kindness, tolerance and simplicity and the concept was developed by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Religion is an important part of Southeast Asian culture, and there is much common ground between Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, which have many devotees in the region. This was certainly evident in the people attending the workshop. When I spoke about values-based tourism from a Buddhist perspective, the Muslim members of the group were very receptive and enthusiastic about the idea and talked about their own heritage and experiences as we visited the sacred Bodhi tree at the resort.

While the group discovered many commonalities between eco-tourism practitioners in Southeast Asia, they also shared knowledge about how to develop successful ecotourism ventures. Ideas included creating memorable experiences, designing special packages to attract long-stay travelers, students or special interest groups,  using online media effectively through story-telling and developing social networks and communities of interest.

Thankfully, governments are coming to appreciate the value of this kind of small-scale tourism. It attracts travelers wanting to get off the beaten track and have a more authentic experience while it is low-impact and ensures that the money spent by tourism mostly remains in the local community.

White Water Lake

White Water Lake – the sanctuary and organic farm operated by Faasai Resort

Mr Pasit Poomchusri, the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Tourism in Thailand, led the workshop, which followed on from previous initiatives aimed at capacity-building within the Thailand tourism industry.  He sees good ecotourism potential in Thailand’s coastal eastern provinces, Rayong, Trat and Chanthaburi. These destinations offer a good alternative to travelers. They are only a few hours’ drive from Bangkok and have many resources such as sea and mountains, marine and forest parks, biodiversity, strong local communities, delicious food and agri-tourism.

As a local operator, I find it very encouraging that the Thai government is giving such support and encouragement to small eco-enterprises and I feel enthusiastic about the possibilities for ASEAN operators to work together in the area of ecotourism.

Bronwen Evans is a New Zealander who, together with her Thai husband Surin Laopha, is the owner-operator of Faasai Resort and Spa, an award-winning eco resort at Kung Wiman in Chanthaburi, Thailand.. To see their listing on Eco Tropical Resorts please go here: FaaSai Resort and Spa.

Water Conservation

I keep having the same discussions with different lodges concerning water conservation. This is one of the 5 areas of my Eco Rating Exam. The 5 areas are Energy, water, recycling, land and conservation, and community.

Water conservation makes a lot of sense because there is a big water problem worldwide.  Wikipedia has an article on it here: Worldwide Water shortage, they claim there is a water scarcity in every continent of the world. The map below shows it:

Water scarcity worlwide

The Eco Rating Exam stresses water conservation. Lodges and Tours in very wet and rainy areas feel that they shouldn’t be held up to the same standards because there is an abundance of water where they are.  I have tried to incorporate some things into the questions of the Eco Ratings Exam.  For example, one of the questions is do you re-use gray water for irrigation?  This makes no sense if you have so much rain water that you don’t even have to irrigate.  I solved this question by adding this as a possible answer: Water is abundant and there is no need to collect gray water. There is another question that lodges do score lower on if they answer no.  That question asks if they record their water usage as part of water conservation.  So far, I have been tackling this question on an individual basis but maybe it’s time for some guidelines.

Our overall goal is promoting ecotourism.  As such, I think eco lodges and tours are in a great position to help educate people and act as the fore front for Global change.  By recording usage and conserving to some extent, even when they don’t have to because of an abundance shows the world that it’s important. As with most things in life, this is a progression.  I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts about this water issue.  the more it is discussed, the more we will move forward towards change.

Here’s a quick way to share your opinion.
Do you think lodges/tours should have to record their water usage if they are located somewhere with abundant water?

Golfo Dulce and Earthwatch in the OSA peninsula in Costa Rica.

The owners of Saladaro Lodge participated in an Earthwatch sponsored program recently.   They shared some of their thoughts and are taking an active role in a new study which will take place next year.

Centro de Investigación de Cetáceos CEIC – Costa Rica (http://cetaceansgolfodulce.blogspot.com/) is a non profit working to help preserve Golfo Dulce. They have been studying the whales, dolphins and the supporting habitat of the Golfo Dulce since 2005 with the intent of collecting more knowledge and monitoring impacts. Some of the dolphins they have known during this time have an advanced fungus derived from chemicals used on the palm plantations. These groups help with collecting data on species, time, temperature, actions as well as identifying individual animals and comparing to previous photos. They also monitor people’s impact on the beaches surrounding it.

As a part of the program they also study poison dart frogs on the Osa peninsula and will be starting a new study of the Aguja (needlefish) at Saladero Lodge this coming July, 2014. Our location is one of the few critical areas for the aguja spawning on the west coast of Central America. The type of rocky beach and temperature is very important for the eggs to hatch. They are a primary food source for the dolphins.  

Their primary goal is to prove that the Golfo Dulce is a unique marine area that needs to be protected and to influence the government into making all of it a Protected Marine Area.

For more information click here: http://www.saladerolodge.com/