ISSN 1108-8931


Year 5-Issue 55, Dec. 2003

Index of Interviews


Fifteen Ecolodge Members report on their efforts in the year that passed and their plans for 2004 !

Mr. Ramesh Jangid reports for Apani Dhani Ecolodge, India 

In 2003 we pursued the following projects: 1. Restoration of the ancient reservoirs (johras) of Shekhawati. The water table across Shekhawati, the area where we are located, is decreasing at the alarming rate of one meter per year.Combined with poor water management this results in draughts of increasing severity and duration. Using architects and hydro engineers from Jaipur Apani Dhani has worked with The Friends of Shekhawati (association I founded in 1993) to carry out a preliminary survey of four johras in the province (Nawalgarh, Mandawa, Jhunjhunu, Basawa) and during 2004 we will carry out their restoration. 2. We contacted the university of architecture of Montpellier (Ecole d'Architecture Languedoc-Rousillon- France) in order to achive greater international recognition for our unique Shekhawati heritage sites. With the support of the French Ministry of Culture, the French Embassy in Delhi and the Indian Embassy, the university of architecture of Montpellier will conduct a three-year study program into the architectural Heritage of Shekhawati. .A workshop, hosted at Apani Dhani Eco-Lodge, will be conducted in our town Nawalgarh. From 10-17 February 2004 by an anthropologist from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and two Montpellier university professors. The medium term intention is to start a Shekhawati regional chapter of INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) with the long term goal of working towards UNESCO world heritage status.3. Workshops with local artisans and other social work: We have started organising workshops with local artisans on topics including pottery, tie-dye, Hindi lessons, Indian cooking, and tabla playing. This brings revenues to the local community and helps ensure that visitors support rather than erode local traditions. 4. Support for disabled children: In 2003 we extended our support to Asha Ka Jharana, a local NGO, by sponsoring 5 disabled boys and girls through a year of primary schooling using donations given by tourists, from the "The Friends of Shekhawati" and from Apani Dhani's own funds. For 2004 our plans include implementing an organic system of recycling grey water from the toilet, plus automatic turn-off taps, low flow shower heads etc, construction of new bungalows using compressed sand blocks instead of mud brick walls (not being fired they don't require fossil fuel energy to make) and they're stronger too, promoting the use of locally produced organic products.

Andres Hammerman & Michelle Kirby report for Black Sheep Inn, Ecuador

2003 was a crazy year at BSI and it is not over yet! We opened a Public Library/Computer Lab/Learning Centre in our village, Chugchilan. It has over 700 books and 5 computers. We have held 4 workshops on tourist guiding: including guiding etiquette, flora and fauna/naturalist, first-aid and learning trails. On a separate occasion we held a family planning workshop. We donated 2 microscopes and a computer to the local health clinic so they can do lab tests here in the village. Michelle continued teaching English and computers in the village. Among a lot of publicity received, we were included in the "Top 10 Eco Lodges in the World" - by Outside Magazine. In August we received Eco-Certification from ASEC (Ecuadorian Ecotourism Association) and the Ministry of Tourism. The best part about all of this was being able to participate in the pilot project, to be transparent about our concerns about certification, and gaining an active voice within the Ministry of Tourism and ASEC. We presented the GIFEE document to local Provincial Councilors, to PUCE (Catholic University) and to the Ministry of Tourism. Home improvements included the building of a new 3 story A-frame bunkhouse out of adobe with a straw roof, that sleeps 10-13. Re-roofed with straw and added a skylight to the cabana. Installed handwash sinks that reuse roof water and drain into flower gardens. Adopted a new line of ECO detergents, hand soaps, and shampoos. Switched all light bulbs on the property to compact fluorescents. Made a managers quarters. Changed showers to low flow water conservation shower heads. Translated signs and documents around the BSI into Spanish. Added woodstoves to all our private rooms. Added information booklets to all our rooms. Fenced in our veggie garden. Goals for 2004: GO SOLAR! We are currently building the "Great Wall" of the BSI. It is 45 meters long by 6.5 meters high retaining wall that will support a new gravity fed laundry area that will recycle water in 2 ways and support solar panels for 1/2 of the property. Build an Adobe

Mr. Tom van't Hof reports for Ecolodge Rendez-Vous, Saba 

In October 2003 the Ecolodge Rendez-Vous, in collaboration with other hotels and dive shops on Saba, organised the first "Sea and Learn on Saba" program. This month-long event featured a series of presentations and field work with recognized experts from Saba and around the world in the field of rainforests, medicinal plants, orchids, sharks, reef fishes, sea turtles, coral reefs, and insects. The purpose of the program was to offer an educational, yet entertaining experience for visitors and the local population - in particular high school students - who want to learn more about the unspoiled marine and terrestrial environment of the island. The event was extremely well-received and will be promoted next year to draw more visitors to Saba in low season. The Ecolodge Rendez-Vous organised Saba's first Triathlon under the name "Hellsgate Challenge" after the village of "Hellsgate" where the finish took place. The Triathlon included a swim, bike and run track; the latter two were laid out over a very steep winding road and a long hiking trail, providing a real challenge for the participants. The winner finished in 1 hour and 52 minutes. The "Hellsgate Challenge" is destined to become an annual event in December coinciding with the Saba Day weekend and grow into a contest of international caliber. Early next year (2004) a sweat lodge and hot tub will be installed at the Ecolodge. The sweat lodge will be built according to American Indian design: a teepee style tent where people sweat out the "bad spirits". The steam is created by pouring cold water over red-hot rocks heated in a wood fire outside the teepee. Outside the teepee will be a cold tub and a hot tub, heated by a wood stove.

Mr Anil Ellepolla reports for Ranweli Holiday Village, Sri Lanka  

The strategic plan pursued by the company since the latter part of 1995 to transform from beach tourism to ecotourism has reached the "taking off stage" in 2003. We are now poised to offer a quality ecotourism experience to our guests. The present represents the phase of further growth in environmental management and refinement of professional ecotourism products and adding new products such as butterfly watching. During the year Ranweli Holiday Village was selected as a Highly Commended project in the "Environmental Experience Category" of British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow 2003 Awards. Ranweli was chosen from 75 entries from 38 countries across the world. Ranweli was also awarded a Gold Award for excellence 2003 as the best "Eco friendly Hotel" by Virgin Holidays UK, a British Tour Operator offering holidays worldwide. Further, the CEO Mr. Chandra de Silva who is the President of the Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka and a member of the Advisory Board of the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Washington DC. was invited as a visiting lecturer in Ecotourism by the University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Sri Lanka. He teaches a module in ecotourism for the special degree program in forestry and environment. Another graduate with a BSc, in Biological Sciences has been recruited during the year. Our Eco facilities Department is managed by a team of four trained and qualified naturalists backed by a supporting staff, offering inter alia birding, boardwalk, nature walk, cycling/habitat tours and tours encompassing nature, culture and archaeology. 'A Butterfly of the Day' board similar to the existing 'Bird of the Day', 'Flower of the Day' etc. has been placed in the reception area as a visual marketing tool to sensitize our guests to take part in these activities. Interpretation material on butterflies and insects are being planned for the ensuing year. An Ayurvedic Centre is being developed and will be opened during the year 2004. This was a demand driven facility. A radical change from the budget sea, sun and sand market is envisaged to move towards the FIT Eco tourist traveler as our contribution to socially and environmentally sustainable tourism.

Mr. Lars Sorensen reports for Tree Tops Jungle Lodge, Sri Lanka

2003 gave us a lot of great jungle experiences. With visitors the highlight for me was an amazing late afternoon in July when we observed a herd of 30 elephants bathing, drinking, playing, and happily trumpeting. With my local staff the greatest experience was that I saw ecotourism aims and ideas implemented in real life. With more visitors we could provide quite permanent jobs for two local trackers, who are supporting families. Therefore I'm proud that these guys - who were notorious hunters earlier - this year proudly informed me that they now definitely stopped hunting. Their survival no longer depend on poaching and illegal logging in the forest. Ecotourism is a realistic way to save the unique nature around us. Making a business of the beauty of nature, not its' destruction. I also have a dream. That all ecotour operators in Sri Lanka -everybody that use elephants for promoting their tourist business should get together and establish a pressure on the Ministry of Tourism the Government to plan a national strategy for the survival of elephants. Sometimes it's a pain to hear the usual ecotourism lip service and see reality first hand at the same time. Sri Lankan biologists now recommend to shoot down 1/3 of the elephant population to rescue the rest. This is, of course, due to deforestation, habitat fragmentation and lack of overall plans by the local authorities."
Oven for Pizza Breads and Sweats. Hire full time managers/partners, increase garden production. Increase safety in the area through guiding workshops, signs on trails, and an information booth at Laguna Quilotoa.

Mr. Craig J. Thomas reports for Bathurst Inlet Lodge, Canada 

In 2004 we celebrate 35 years of Ecotourism at Bathurst Inlet Lodge Nunavut Canada. Since 1969 Bathurst Inlet Lodge has been offering Eco-tourism programming at their extremely remote lodge destination in Canada's Arctic. The lodge was recognised in 2003 by Travel & Leisure Magazine as one of the "World's 25 Top Ecolodges" for providing exceptional programming on arctic culture, history and flora and fauna. Lodge staff consists of the children and grandchildren of our original staff and lodge partners from the Kingonmeot "People of the Nose".

Mr. Shomnath Chakravarty reports for Saga Eco Camp, India 

The Saga Eco Camp on Chilika Lake completed one year of being on 30th Nov 2003. The passion that went into starting a genuine eco resort with boats to explore the beautiful womb of biodiversity called Chilika lake has now been tempered with earthly realities like business viability, tourism marketing, generating consciousness about the essential tenets of eco tourism amongst tourists as well as the society at large, the vagaries of nature etc. The reward for the hard work that we have put in is yet to manifest itself in viable returns through adequate booking, but tourist reaction to our novel venture has put a soothing balm on that wound. Till date we had about 600 guest nights (about 100 from 'Foreign' origin), and our guests could not help being mesmerised by nature and life of the lake, and be pleased with the services we rendered. Our Guest Book remains our proud possession and principal asset. Bookings were low to non-existent during the hot and wet seasons. But the few who dared even during the "off season" went back with the same feeling of hypnotising awe. The hot and windy pre-monsoon summer and the torrential downpours with strong south westerly winds during monsoon had their own rustic beauty with a spirit of adventure. Somewhere down the line eco tourism has to emerge as a round the year business. Comfort alone tourism has to give way. Subsequent "seasonal" sale has picked up mostly through direct word-of-mouth publicity by guests. In comparison and despite FAM trips, the tour and travel operators in India have not responded to expectation. In India, eco tourism is still the proverbial "unknown devil". The component of ignorance is compounded by our Govt.'s delay in formulating regulations and certification norms. 'Conventional' tourist spots (despite the eco degradation of many tourist hot spots) offer more alluring returns to the travel agencies. Even brothers-in-arms, the 'save wild life' protagonists, sometimes misread the intentions, as green washing is a business policy of conventional tourism. The struggle to "Give Earth a Chance" has detractors galore. Yet, once we accepted the long term goals of eco tourism ideologically, the resolve to champion this eco lodge like has dug in. We know that no one can go back from our lodge without finding the inner chord that resonates with the dream like ambience and the jubilation of photo-shooting contact with birds, fish, dolphins, crustaceans, wild flowers, butterflies, the virgin beach, the happy sun and moon, the meditating hills with quiet dark shores and above all, the people, the locals, who are as much part of the camp and the nature around. We have to just get the word around. Unfortunately marketing requires money that we do not have yet. We hope we shall soon have more guests. We hope to become financially viable. We shall bear the pains of the trend setter and ensure that when historians of the future record how this endangered lake was restored back, they will have to reckon with the contributions made by the Saga Eco Camp on Chilika Lake.

Ms Betti Sachs reports for Casa Mojanda, Ecuador 

Many exciting things have been happening here. Our friend and new Casa Mojanda administrator Joseph Mutti, has spent many years living and working in Cuba, Cambodia and El Salvador, and has been sharing his wisdom and extraordinary experiences with all of us. Mojanda Foundation community volunteer Ben Goldstein of New York has been diligently working in the kindergarten to improve the educational methodology by utilising Montessori pedagogical techniques. Diego and Betti continue to work on the two-county ordinance for the protection of Mojanda Lakes, forests and paramo (high altitude grasslands). Our fundraising efforts have supported the next year's salary for one doctor and one health promoter, as well as local community administrators at the Mojandita Health Clinic. We have involved Casa Mojanda guests from all over the world in these projects, and their ideas, contributions of labour as well as monetary donations, have made some very significant changes for this community.

Mr. Pablo Ack reports for the Toledo Ecotourism Association, Belize 

Thank you very much for the things we have achieved since when we became a member of We are very successful in getting a lot of enquiries. Our major plan for next year is to develop an eco park for the district where we could entertain our guests in a proper manner.

Ms Angelika Hartleib reports for EL Momo, Saba

At El Momo Cottages we did some nice ecological improvements. We added two wooden bathroom buildings. They are fed with 100% collected rainwater, equipped with watersaving low-flush Sealand toilets and a permanent Sears 8 gallon solar bag on the rooftop for hot showers. The grey water is used for garden watering and the black water is recycled in a SUN MAR composter. Also a cosy kitchen was added to the Turtle Cottage. El Momo now counts 4 cottages with private bathrooms of which two have a kitchen. Only 3 Cottages with a maximum of 5 persons use the shared bathroom building. A very special step for the island was the "Sea & Learn" Event in October. From the sky to the ocean floor and all that is between, Sea & Learn on Saba invited everybody to explore Saba's nature and enhance environmental awareness. Known as "The Unspoiled Queen", the Dutch Caribbean island of Saba is justly proud of its nature and preservation efforts. Sea Saba Dive Center, Juliana's Hotel, Ecolodge-Rendezvous and El Momo Cottages were delighted to present the first annual Sea & Learn on Saba program. Sea & Learn on Saba featured informal talks by recognized experts and scientists in a variety of fields. The presentation included birds, butterflies, medical plants, reef fish, whales, rainforest, bugs, sea turtles, muck diving and much more. We also had lectures at the schools and successful contests for the kids in drawing and writing. El Momo also organised a "greening hotel workshop": The third week of December will be a very green week indeed for the island. Practically all hotels on Saba are convening on Monday the 15th of December for a seminar on environmental responsibility and conservation, given by ms. T. Storm van Leeuwen-Croes of Dutch Caribbean Management Consultancy as representative of the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism. After that each hotel will be given a so-called Environmental Walk. Through, which is an individual visit covering all areas of environmental concern (water, energy, waste water, solid waste, chemicals, ecosystems, air) and delivering individual advice to the hotels on how to improve their environmental performance. The newly formed Saba Hotel Association, which I have the honour of heading, is planning on entering Saba for the Caribbean Hotel Associationıs Green Area Award. Even future environmental certification as a Green Destination is not out of the question. Our hotels are already very environmentally responsible, but it is always good to exchange ideas and to learn about new developments in the Caribbean

Mr. Jos Byju reports for Gramam Homestay, India 

For us at Gramam Homestay, Cochin the year 2003 was just the beginning but we still managed to generate few enquiries. In the coming year we are planning to offer more genuine Kerala homestays for the Eco-travellers.

Mr. Eric Schwartz reports for La Selva Jungle Lodge, Ecuador

La Selva has completed a new 40 meter high observation tower which is giving good viewing results -in and above the canopy - already.It is about 1k from the lodge and avid birdwatchers have been asking for 3:45 am wakeup calls so that they can breakfast and be at the tower by sunrise. For all non-birders a 6am wakeup is fine to be there by 7am.There is nothing quite like seeing a macaw fly by you at eye level. Our butterfly study continues into its 7th year led by Dr.Philip J.Devries. Dr. Devries has published a monograph on the Subject entitled: Species diversity in spatial and temporal dimensions of fruit-feeding butterflies from two Ecuadorian rainforests.

Ms Rachael Feiler reports for Diamond Beach Village, Kenya 

Our (new) Ecolodge was not open for a big part of 2003, but will be reopening in a few months. I did visit the World Travel Market this year so here are a few words about that: Travel is business, clients are money, money is what makes the world go round? Visiting the World travel Market this year made me realise how important it is too keep up the eco-travel values that we all share in one way or another. Wandering through the various vast corporate stands with flyers, free competitions and sales pitches being thrown away did not turn me on. It made me more aware about my values and strengthened what I want to achieve in the travel industry, which is not just money.

Mr. Rob Hirons reports for The Lodge at Big Falls, Belize

The Lodge at Big Falls opened on March 1 2003, in the most remote and undiscovered area of southern Belize, only recently connected to the north by the newly paved Southern Highway. The Lodge is one of the first tourism investments in the area and has the task of marketing and promoting the destination just as much as its own products and services. The Lodge has become involved with the Aguacaliente Management team, a local community-based organisation which is working to conserve and develop the Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary consists of five and half thousand acres with a central wetland with lagoons which are home to a large number of birds including the Jabiru, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Black-bellied Whistling Duck and many other species including kingfisher, herons and flycatchers. The waters from the wetlands drain into the Moho river which itself empties into the Gulf of Honduras. The 240-mile long barrier reef off the coast of Belize is the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The sanctuary is threatened by over fishing by the local communities and also by intensive rice farming around the sanctuary which has implications for the fauna that depend upon the wetlands and also for the barrier reef. The management team is now seeking partners with expertise in wetland conservation, ornithology or biodiversity to assist in its efforts to preserve this sensitive environment. Any individual or organization that might be potentially interested in becoming involved is invited to contact us.

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