Latest news and insights from various sources relating to UN Sustainable Development Goals.

FROM ECO TREEHOUSES TO ECO DESTINATION EVENTS

When Peter and Kerry bought their 13-acre property, with a retail nursery on site, in Dunbogan on the Mid North Coast of NSW in 2004, they had no idea of what the future would hold.  All they knew was that they had bought a property of sub-tropical rainforest with 400 metres of river and zoned wetlands on one side and a short stroll to the beach on the other.

Sixteen years later they have transformed the old retail nursery into botanic style gardens with an open coffee bar, built two luxury eco-treehouses that attract visitors from all around the world, and in November 2019, they opened The Fernery at Diamond Waters wedding, small business conference multipurpose centre. The diversification from plant nursery to tourism is now complete.

Treehouse verandah

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

The Treehouses were built on the principle of treading lightly on the environment. By using a 10-point matrix development plan, the Treehouses were built using completely recycled or recyclable materials, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and zero pest chemical treatment strategies. The Treehouses feature 100% rainwater use, on site composting of all organic matter, a state-of-the-art low energy water treatment system, and the solar systems installed at the time of development provide more energy than is used. 

Wetland photo

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

For Peter and Kerry, the true joy of tourism has been the people that they have met from all over Australia and the world. Thirty five percent of their guests have been self-driving international guests, predominantly from Europe and Asia, but also from Iran, Russia, Africa, Canada and the Americas.

As a former health service manager, Peter needed no convincing of the quality improvement principles and benefits of accreditation and the Treehouses attained Advanced Ecotourism and Climate Action Business certification shortly after opening.

Garden Bar Night 1

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

The next stage of development was The Fernery at Diamond Waters events centre. Nestled into the botanic style gardens, The Fernery has been another exercise in stepping outside of traditional building practices to achieve a low impact sustainable result. Solid block Hebel walls, 150mm sandwich roofing and ‘reverse insulation’ techniques were used for maximum sound and cooling temperature solutions, and even in summer, no air conditioning is necessary.  The project was supported by the Destination NSW Regional Tourism Product Development Fund.

The target wedding market for The Fernery are couples seeking a beautiful location and venue to host an accessible and affordable eco-style wedding where they can choose their own stylists, caterers, drinks and bar options. The photos shown in this article are from Dan and Gabi’s wedding where everyone travelled 180 kilometres from Newcastle, staying in accommodation all around the beautiful Camden Haven region. It was a stunning event. At this last wedding not one piece of plastic was used, and all waste consisted of either recycled (10c refund) bottles or purely on-site compostable matter. The property’s pet goats ate the corsages and floral decorations!

The Fernery Night 1

Photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills

Not content with stopping there, Peter and Kerry are now working on their approved 66 metre wetland walkway and bird hide that will provide all guests with the opportunity to explore the wetlands and provide a gateway for kayaking opportunities.  When this project is completed it will also mean the Treehouses, The Fernery, all gardens and the pathways from the car park to the water’s edge will be wheelchair accessible, a rare achievement for such a large property.

When the COVID 19 crisis is over the Treehouse Retreat will emerge as an enhanced ecotourism experience.

 

For more information about the Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat, check them out in our Green Travel Guide.

 

[Cover photo credit: Little Glimpses Photography from Bonny Hills]

ECO EASTER HOLIDAY ADVENTURES FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

Always thought going on an ECO adventure meant packing up the trailer and driving hours until you reached nature’s best-preserved national park? Have you ever thought about going for an adventure in your backyard? While most of us think we must leave our homes and travel as far as possible to go on holidays, there are so many things to explore just in front of our doorsteps.

This Easter, we want to encourage you to not let this crisis ruin your holidays. Instead, take this very unique time as an opportunity to go and explore your closest surroundings. You might even see everything from a different perspective; from the perspective of an ECO adventurer! 

Have a look at these ideas and see if there is something that triggers the ECO adventurer in you.

• Camping in the backyard

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Photo: Bonfire. / Credit: Mount Barney Lodge.

Going camping is a great adventure that even your littlest ones can engage in. All you need is to dig out your tent and pitch it in the middle of your backyard. Make it even more authentic by lighting a bonfire (remember to check your region’s fire restrictions first!). If you have the resources, carve your own individual wooden sticks. You can then stick your home-made stick bread or marshmallows onto them and enjoy a great night around the fire before crawling into your tent. And if there is no backyard available, set your tent up in your living room or spare room. Sleeping in there will still be an exciting adventure for everybody to enjoy.

• Stargazing

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Photo: Stargazing. / Credit: Earth Sanctuary World Nature Centre.

Never have the skies been clearer than now, with only a small number of airlines still flying. Let’s take advantage of this and go stargazing. For this particular ECO adventure, you don’t need much. Just take a blanket and some pillows and lay down in the grass in the evening. You’ll be surprised by all the stars that you will get to see and how much there is to learn about our beautiful universe. If you want to incorporate an educational element, download the Night Sky app to teach you about the constellations you see, or hone in on your imagination by making up your own.

• Easter egg hunt

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Photo: Easter eggs. / Credit: Pixabay.

Make the Easter egg hunt extra special this year by integrating a little adventure. Hide the chocolate eggs in your neighbourhood and get the whole family involved. Everybody will be allowed to keep their own findings. This is a great incentive to get everybody to run as fast as they can (we’re talking from experience!). Alternatively, turn your traditional Easter egg hunt into a scavenger hunt, by hiding hints that will lead to the grand big Easter surprise.

• Embrace the night

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Photo: Melbourne by night. / Credit: Pixabay.

We promise you that this hike will be a special one. Put on your shoes as soon as the sun has set and don’t forget to grab a couple of spare batteries for your torch. Don’t plan your route, just leave the house and explore your neighbourhood by night. While on your walk, focus on your senses. What are you still able to see? Where do the noises come from? Do you see any wildlife sneaking around? Make the most of your ECO adventure and keep lighting to a minimum. Try to be as quiet as possible by making use of sign language. It will be an adventure for your senses, as your ears will be exposed to completely new noises. 

• Cover your partner’s eyes and take them for a walk around the block

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Photo: Two walking. / Credit: Pixabay.

This adventure is one of the more experimental ones. We have probably all done the walk around the neighbourhood a million times already since being forced to stay at home, so our eyes have got used to the surroundings. This means that your brain has memorised your surroundings and as soon as you pass your neighbours’ houses, you actually don’t ‘see’ the houses anymore. Your brain simply projects the saved images. We want you to ‘use’ your brain on your next walk. Grab a towel or scarf and cover up your walking companion’s eyes. Only guide him or her by saying where to go. Make sure that you warn him or her of potential hazards, such as steps or traffic. While guiding your partner, describe the surroundings. Describe the leaves’ colours or the neighbour’s front yard. At the end of the walk let your partner guess where you are standing. You will be surprised at how this walk has affected the senses. 

• Nature’s treasures

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Photo: Breenhold Gardens, Mount Wilson Australia. / Credit: Unsplash.

Another way of creating a new walking adventure around your neighbourhood can be by collecting what nature has in store. Autumn just started, and nature is constantly changing. Whether it is leaves turning yellow or plants blooming along the street, take a bag with you and collect nature’s treasures. Let the little ones become creative by using their treasures to make beautiful artwork.

• The adventure of story time

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Photo: Uluru & Kata Tjuta National Park. / Credit: Groovy Grape Tours.

Reading to your family or friends can be a great adventure. Dreamtime Aboriginal stories are a great example of fascinating stories. Build a fort in your lounge or if you have space outside sit in your backyard or lie on your trampoline. Learn about Australia’s Indigenous heritage and enjoy an adventure in the comfort of your home. And don’t forget to grab some snacks!

• Virtual safari adventure

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Photo: Bilby. / Credit: Taronga Zoo.

While zoos are closed, animals are still roaming around enjoying their life and probably not even realising what has been going on in the world. Have a look at Taronga TV,  Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary or Adelaide Zoo who put up web cameras for you to enjoy the animals. Through these platforms you can go on a virtual safari adventure and learn about the animals from your home base. Get the kids involved and let them explore.

• Easter tree with a stick from your garden

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Photo: Easter tree. / Credit: Pixabay.

Incorporating nature into your life doesn’t have to mean only spending time outdoors. The Easter tree is a great tradition originating in Germany. First start by collecting branches and putting them in a vase. Then paint and dye eggs to hang on the branches or hang up any Easter decorations you have already. Traditionally, this symbolises the return of spring. If you have a property with trees, you might even go for a full-scale Easter tree!

Check out this cool video on how you can easily dye hard boiled eggs using ingredients from your own pantry.

• Re-enact the old days

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Photo: Compass, Melbourne, Australia. / Credit: Unsplash.

Do a time travel adventure. Call an elderly person and ask how they would celebrate Easter back in the day, then re-enact (as far as possible) those traditions and habits. You will end up experiencing a fun and technology-free day.

Let’s get ready to start this year’s Easter holidays. Make sure to tag us and share with the EA family your Easter holiday adventures.

UNWTO Convenes Global Tourism Crisis Committee

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted a high-level virtual meeting on 19th March 2020, bringing together key UN agencies, the chairs of its Executive Council and Regional Commissions, and private sector leaders. Tourism is the economic sector that has been hardest hit by COVID-19 and all participants accepted an invitation from the UNWTO Secretary-General to […]

United Nations 75th Anniversary UN75 Survey

The UN is marking its 75th anniversary at a time of great disruption for the world, compounded by an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts. In January 2020, the UN launched the global dialogue initiative, and discussions have taken place in all settings, from classrooms to boardrooms, across the world. In […]

VENTURING TO THE TOP: ECO CERTIFIED OPERATOR’S SECRETS OF SUCCESS

Spirits are still, understandably, running high at Venture North Australia (VNA) as owners Hugh and Aaron Grange have recently returned from the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards in Canberra, where they were awarded gold in the category of Cultural Tourism.

We wanted to congratulate this outstanding Northern Territory business, who are Advanced Ecotourism and ROC Certified, on their win at these prestigious national awards. The business was eligible to enter this category as it won the 2019 NT Tourism (Brolga) Award for Cultural Tourism, which in turn qualified them for the national award.

The Cultural Tourism award specifically recognises ‘tourism operations that foster a greater understanding and appreciation of authentic culture, history, heritage and/or the arts’ and, as the Ecotourism Australia community is dedicated to continuous improvement, we thought we would take this opportunity to chat to Aaron and share with you some insights into how they sustain best practice within their business.

 Venture North Australia Tourism Award 2

EA: Congratulations on winning gold for Cultural Tourism at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards this year! What does this award mean to you?

VNA: Thank you! To win this national award is special, it’s acknowledgment for us and all our staff that we are doing a really good job. Our guides and staff often work long hours, going above and beyond so this award provides some recognition for this.  

EA: With such consistent successes over the last few years at the national awards, what do you believe gives your business the edge with the experiences you offer?

VNA: We’ve been operating in the NT for 15+ years now and have developed some really strong relationships with many TO’s [Traditional Owners] and their families. This has allowed us access to places (particularly in Arnhem Land) which aren’t open to the general public where we are able to offer our guests some really amazing one-on-one cultural experiences.   

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EA: What are the challenges you face as a tourism operator in Northern Australia?

VNA: Being a seasonal business means staff turnover is something that is hard to avoid so providing the best possible workplace is definitely a focus for us. This year it looks like the bushfires and now COVID-19 will have an impact so we’ve been putting some strategies in place to tackle that.

EA: What are the biggest lessons you have learnt from building an ecotourism operation in the Top End that has such a strong focus on showcasing culture?

VNA: It takes time, especially working in some Indigenous communities so don’t try to rush it. We know now it might take 3 or 4 years to get say a ‘bush tucker tour’ from idea to offering it to our guests but that’s just the way it is. Another learning has been outsourcing, you can’t do it all, focus on what you are good at/have time for and pay others to do the rest – don’t burn yourself out!

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EA: What advice would you give someone at the beginning of their ecotourism journey?

VNA: There is lots of support for tourism businesses out there, often it’s free so make sure you use it all! Work with your local tourism bodies, STO’s etc. go to the meetings and be involved. Also carve out a little time each week to work on the business, rather than just in the business (and stick to it!). 

EA: What has Venture North set their sights on to strive for in the future?

VNA: Our goal is to employ more local full-time Indigenous guides throughout the season. Although we subcontract lots of Indigenous guides, we only have one Indigenous guide on full time currently so we are constantly working at that. We also have our fishing business Cobourg Fishing Safaris which we primarily operate in our shoulder seasons (April/May & Oct/Nov) which has some real room for growth so that’s exciting.

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On behalf of the board and staff of EA, we would once again like to pass on our congratulations to Hugh, Aaron and their team on this outstanding achievement.

Planning a visit to the Northern Territory? Keen to experience remote Arnhem Land safaris, Kakadu tours, Kimberley expeditions and much more? Check out more information on Venture North Australia and the small group cultural and based tours they offer here.

 

 [All photos courtesy of Venture North Australia]

KEPPEL DIVE ACHIEVES ECOTOURISM CERTIFICATION

Ecotourism Australia is proud to welcome Great Keppel Island Watersports and Activities (Keppel Dive) to our community and wish to extend our congratulations for reaching Ecotourism level for their Guided Snorkel Tour and Certified Diving Tour.

Keppel Dive is the sole activities provider for The Hideaway, Great Keppel Island’s largest accommodation provider which also caters for day visitors, groups, functions and school or leadership groups. Transport to the Queensland island is via ferry which leaves from Rosslyn Bay Harbour, a short 10 mins drive from Yeppoon, on the Capricorn Coast.  

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Keppel Dive is passionate about promoting and leading by example in sustainable tourism by providing educational experiences and having as little of an impact on the reef and environment as possible. This commitment to quality education is one of the aspects of their operations which makes them unique.

The waters around Great Keppel Island are home to some of the most unspoilt reefs that the Great Barrier Reef has to offer. Whether you choose to explore the Southern Great Barrier Reefs by joining the Guided Snorkel Tour or by climbing aboard their vessel ‘Adventurer 1’ for the Certified Diving Tour, you know you will have the opportunity to see the many species of reef corals and fish, with a high chance of seeing rays, turtles and dolphins.

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Those interested in participating in the snorkelling activity have the luxury of deciding how to get to the snorkel sites; walking, swimming or being dropped off in the vessel. There is also the option of a Guided Snorkel Tour, with a local in-water guide, which will provide a safe and thorough reef interpretation for an hour and a half, with a minimum of 45 minutes in the water. Masks, fins, snorkel, wetsuit and floatation devices are all available for hire and you have the choice of pre booking your activity and equipment or just popping in to see them on the day.

The Certified Diving Tour experience offers the choice of a single or double dive option which includes gear hire and tank fills. Explore the Keppel Island Region – which includes the Keppel Bay National Park area, Great Keppel Island and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – and learn about the history, formation, diversity and current state of the Great Barrier Reef of the local area. 

Visitors to Great Keppel Island have come to enjoy seeing the resident dugongs that are regularly present in the local bay, migrating humpback whales that pass in winter, the nesting turtles that return time after time creating future generations, or the pods of bottlenose dolphins which play near the vessel. It is of utmost importance to Keppel Dive that no alterations are made to their habitats.

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Keppel Dive’s staff are passionate about protecting biodiversity and contributing to conservation efforts; this is a strong theme in their pre-activity briefings and interpretation messages. The ‘no touch, no take rule’ and ‘leave only footprints’ philosophy are implemented both on land and sea. Those enjoying water activities must always remain an arm’s distance away from the coral and are reminded that feet double in size with fins on. They are required to be vigilant in remaining mindful of these fragile underwater gardens which is the reason why only reef friendly sunscreen is permitted to be used.

As active members in their local community, Keppel Dive are involved in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park monitoring program called Eye on the Reef and plan to have their entire team trained in this initiative in the near future so they can incorporate reef health surveys into everyday practice.

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The protection of the surrounding area continues on land with their involvement in the marking and notification of all nests during the turtle season. It will come as no surprise to hear they are consistent supporters of the Keppel Turtle Fund.

School or leadership groups are invited to be involved in the Eye on the Reef program, as well as coral reef interpretation talks, guided snorkel and dive tours, team building exercises along with general watersports and island walk activities.

A strong tribute to the Indigenous heritage of Great Keppel Island, with respect to the Woppaburra people who were the traditional inhabitants of the island, is also featured in all interpretation material which includes highlighting culturally significant sites. In fact, the elders were consulted prior to commencing a commercial operation on the island.

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The ecotourism industry has a primary focus on offering experiences in natural areas that involve other important elements such as educating visitors around cultural heritage and the ongoing importance of conservation. Keppel Dive are a great example of a proactive operator in this space and EA are looking forward to being part of their eco journey.

For more information about Keppel Dive, check out their Green Travel Guide listing here or find them on Facebook.

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[All photos courtesy of Keppel Dive]