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

BEAUTY FROM ASHES: WOLGAN VALLEY ECO TOURS

When the Gospers Mountain bushfire threatened the Lithgow community in New South Wales in late October 2019, no one could have predicted the heartache that was still to come.

The mega fire, which is said to have started from a single ignition point, ended up decimating an area seven times the size of Singapore. It was the biggest forest fire from a single ignition point that Australia has ever experienced.

For Kristie Kearney, founder and owner of award-winning and Advanced Ecotourism certified local tourism business, Wolgan Valley Eco Tours, the fire’s impact was as direct as it was devastating.

Firefighter image credit John Spencer NSW Parks and Wildlife Service FB

Photo: NSW firefighter / Credit: John Spencer

“Our business was impacted massively by the Gospers Mountain Fire here in the Lithgow region,” she told us. “Our place of operation is in Wollemi and [the] Gardens of Stone National Park – both decimated by the fires.”

“To say we are heartbroken for a World Heritage area that has given us so much is an understatement,” said the business’ Facebook page in December.

Kristie said whilst thankfully her home and office survived, the severity of the fires and the resulting closure of the national parks have meant that Wolgan Valley Eco Tours has had to cease operations until these areas reopen, hopefully in June.

The beautiful Wolgan Valley before the fires 2 with boots credit Wolgan Valley Eco Tours fb

Photo: Beautiful Wolgan Valley, before the fires. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours

“[The park closures are necessary] to allow for essential recovery of the fragile environment and to allow for repairs to trails and visitor facilities,” she explained.

Having gone through such an ideal with no immediate improvement in sight, one would think it would be tempting to wallow in despair. But Kristie’s courage – like that of many other tourism businesses impacted by bushfires and other emergencies all over Australia – shines through.

“[Going through these types of experiences] brings communities together through shared experiences. I’m incredibly proud of where I live and the community members that I call my neighbours and friends,” she noted.

“We just remind ourselves how incredibly lucky we are to have our family, our home and our community and that other areas and people have had to endure far worse than us. We can only begin to imagine their pain.”

Lithgow Community coming together credit Wolgan Valley fb

Photo: Community coming together in the Lithgow region. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours Facebook

Thankfully, recent rains are beginning to bring life back to the region.

“We are starting to see the bushland respond with epicormic growth on tree trunks, fern fronds re-sprouting and the valley’s iconic wildlife slowly recovering after such a traumatic ordeal,” Kristie said.

Kristie is also making the most of the down time to stop and reflect, looking at ways in which she can improve the business and coming up with new products and packages she can offer to visitors in the future.

Eastern Grey Kangaroos returning credit WVET fb

Photo: Eastern Grey Kangaroos returning to the region. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours Facebook

“[We’re thinking of] expanding to other areas of the Lithgow region,” she noted, and said the business might start offering products and packages that focus on iconic historical figures and key environmental events such as the naturalist Charles Darwin’s visit to the Lithgow region and National Bird Week activities in the Capertee Valley, which is an internationally recognised Important Bird Area (IBA).

Kristie also encouraged visitors to keep coming to the region even as it recovers:

“There are plenty of attractions and places to eat and stay that have not been impacted by the fires and are open for business. However, we do ask that visitors respect national park and state forest closures and allow our fragile World Heritage area time to recover.”

Reshooting growth credit wolgan valley eco tours FB

Photo: New growth. / Credit: Wolgan Valley Eco Tours Facebook.

For someone who has experienced the devastation of Australia’s latest bushfire season firsthand and who is now unable to operate her own business, Kristie’s focus on lifting up her neighbours and putting the recovery of nature first are admirable.

Keep up the great work, Wolgan Valley Eco Tours, and thanks for showing true leadership in adversity.

 

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GSTC Training in Latin America: New Partnership with Regenera

Over the last few years, the GSTC Sustainable Tourism Training Program (STTP) has engaged hundreds of tourism industry professionals from around the world, sharing insights, exchanging ideas, and discussing solutions to some of our most important challenges in sustainable tourism. We are excited to announce that the GSTC is collaborating with Regenera, our […]

The post GSTC Training in Latin America: New Partnership with Regenera appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

Outside Magazine: Is Your ‘Eco-Lodge’ Really Eco-Friendly?

According to a 2019 report by Booking.com, 70 percent of global travelers would be more inclined to book eco-friendly accommodation. The industry seems to have taken the hint: eco-lodges and “green” hotels are trending. But these days, it can be difficult to discern between environmentally friendly digs and those just trying to profit from the craze. So […]

The post Outside Magazine: Is Your ‘Eco-Lodge’ Really Eco-Friendly? appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

INTRODUCING OUR NEWEST CERTIFIED OPERATOR, BOOBOOK ECOTOURS

Ecotourism Australia (EA) is proud to welcome Boobook Ecotours, another outstanding sustainable ecotourism operator, to our ECO Certification program. We offer our congratulations to this team of professional ecological consultants on their recent achievement of reaching Advanced Ecotourism Certification for their Discover Carnarvon Ranges Day Tour, Wheat Wells and Wildlife Day Tour, BOOBOOK’s Eco-Science Expedition, BOOBOOK’s Roma Town Tour and Wildflower Wander Tour.

The award-winning Boobook Ecotours operates in Roma, within the Sandstone Belt of south-west Queensland. Roma is accessible via a one-hour flight, which run daily from Brisbane or, alternatively, it is an easy six-hour drive from the state’s capital. Their ecotours provide the opportunity to experience the Australian outback the way it was intended, with exclusive access to privately owned properties, family-run farms, little-known national parks and state forests.

With an ecological expert as an interpretive guide, small groups of two to twelve visitors can immerse themselves in the natural ecosystem, encounter lesser known wildlife and hear unique stories of local pioneering history, all while being educated on the local industries of agriculture and coal seam gas.

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Curly-bark Heath-myrtle (Micromyrtus sessilis)   / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

Craig Eddie is the director of BOOBOOK Ecotours, Principal Ecologist and tour guide. He is a walking natural history guide, book author, published expert, has sat on numerous panels regarding Queensland fauna and has a healthy obsession with snails, which has led to the discovery of new species.

Craig is considered the David Attenborough of the south-west.

Other members of BOOBOOK’s specialist team, with 20+ years of experience, include Meryl Eddie; Business Manager, Richard Johnson and Michael Cunningham; both senior ecologists and Rosamund Aisthorpe; Botanist. These highly experienced and passionate professionals offer visitors a unique and unforgettable tour experience while ensuring they maintain the pristine quality and untouched natural landscape within their offbeat locations.

You can be assured when wandering around Australia’s real outdoors, with an ecologist tour guide, that you are in for something special, and BOOBOOK’s ECO certified tours reflect just that. A range of individual fitness levels are considered in relation to the terrain explored, with tours clearly rated from easy to moderate through to more difficult levels. Specialist equipment such as walking poles is supplied if needed as are headtorches, with rechargeable batteries of course, for overnight stays.

BOobook overnight stay FB

Overnight stay / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

BOOBOOK Ecotours are committed to reducing their environmental footprint as much as they can and although all tours are fully catered, you won’t see any disposable cutlery offered. All meals are transported with reusable containers, leftover food is composted on the group’s return to the office and visitors are required to bring their own water bottles, which will be topped up with rainwater.

Visitors will be thankful for limited Wi-Fi as they see and connect with parts of Queensland rarely seen by most people. In preparation, BOOBOOK Ecotours recommend bringing a sense of adventure, good humour and to be prepared to ask plenty of questions!

So, let’s have a closer look at the tours which BOOBOOK offer.

Head off on an adventure to Discover Carnarvon Ranges and explore a 71,000-acre working cattle station where nature and farming co-exist. Amongst the hidden wonders of secluded gorges and secret caves is the opportunity to discover dinosaur plants, Australian wildlife and Aboriginal rock art, which includes some of the best Indigenous stencil art in the world.

Discover Carnarvon Ranges FB credit Boobook

Discover Carnarvon Ranges Tour / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

The Wheat, Wells and Wildlife Day Tour is perfect for those who are keen to learn more about local history, sustainable agriculture and the coal seam gas industry. While visiting the local water holes you might be lucky enough to see a platypus and critically endangered turtles, as well as appreciate local flora.

If stopping to smell the ‘wildflowers’ is more your thing then treat yourself to one of southern Queensland’s most botanically significant areas thanks to the Wildflower Wander Gurulmundi tour. From mid-August to September, visitors can marvel at fields of wildflowers, grass trees and rare and endemic species while being surrounded by the colour explosion that makes Gurulmundi shine. Visitors arriving outside of wildflower season can enjoy a guided tour of Roma to hear the untold stories and learn how the town has transformed thanks to past and present heroes. There is also the town’s biggest bottle tree that you don’t want to miss seeing!

Rufous Bettong Rat Kangaroo commonly found around Roma BOOBOOK facebook

The Rufous Bettong (also known as rat-kangaroo) is commonly found around Roma / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

For a truly unique travel experience, BOOBOOK Ecotours also lead a real-life Eco-Science Expedition working with an Australian expert ecologist. Visitors can contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge through helping to discover and document Australian animal species from previously unexplored areas. Soak in the peace and quiet while visiting stimulating, impressive and offbeat locations with amazing rock foundations, gorges and lookouts. There is also the opportunity to take a paddle in a canoe or, if the weather is right, a swim in the local spring-fed creek or waterhole.

Eco science expedition BOOBOOK fb 1

Eco-Science Expedition / Credit: BOOBOOK Ecotours, Facebook

It is easy to see why BOOBOOK Ecotours have received a five-star rating from their previous visitors as their unrivalled commitment to Australia’s unique ecosystem is evident through their business culture and ongoing community support. BOOBOOK Ecotours support, both financially and in kind, Maranoa Wildlife Caring & Education Centre, donate to the Save the Bilby Fund and Richmond Birding Butterfly Conservation and members of the team are active wildlife carers. Local schools benefit from their accumulated knowledge as BOOBOOK Ecotours participate in school talks as well as continuing to support local organisations such as the Maranoa Wildlife Caring & Education Centre.  

To all those Australian nature lovers out there, BOOBOOK Ecotours is definitely one operator you need to save on your ‘must have experiences’ list.

Find out more on their website.

 

[Cover image courtesy of BOOBOOK Ecotours (Facebook)]