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

ECOTOURISM AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO WHALE WATCHING HOT SPOTS

The World Whale Conference is taking place in October this year, toward the tail end of the whale watching season, and aims to bring together researchers, conservation groups, artists and tourism operators to create a united community around whales. With this year’s theme being “Journeys That Inspire Change,now is a great time to go whale watching with an Ecotourism Australia certified operator to make sure your next journey is making a positive change with sustainable whale watching.

Whale watching season kicks off between May and November depending on what part of the country you are in. This guide to whale watching will outline the best times and areas to go whale watching around Australia, and with over 20 ECO certified companies to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding a sustainable operator for your next whale watching experience.

Queensland

June-July | Cairns & Port Douglas

Cairns and Port Douglas may be known for their Great Barrier Reef tourism and rain forest activities, but did you know that it’s also a great place to view Humpback wales and is one of the only places in Australia to swim with Dwarf Minke whales? Both of our Advanced Ecotourism Certified operators Eye to Eye Marine Encounters and Divers Den offer unique snorkelling and diving opportunities with Dwarf Minke whales.

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ECO Certified operators:

Divers Den – Advanced Ecotourism certification, Green Travel Leader (Scuba)

Eye to Eye Marine Encounters – Advanced Ecotourism certification (Snorkelling)

June-September | Townsville

If Cairns is too far north and Hervey Bay too far south, then Townsville might just be perfect for your whale watching needs. Ecotourism certified Townsville Whale Watching runs Humpback whale watching tours from June to September.

townsville

Townsville Whale Watching – ECO Humpback whale watching 

July – October | Brisbane & Sunshine Coast

Whether you are taking a well-deserved break in a holiday house on the Sunshine Coast, or only have a weekend off in inner city Brisbane, there is an ecotourism operator for you. The greater Brisbane area is host to Humpback whales for four months of the year between July – October.

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ECO Certified operators:

Brisbane Whale Watching – Ecotourism certified

Sunreef Mooloolaba – Ecotourism certified

Whale one – Ecotourism certified

July-November | Hervey Bay

If you’re looking to see Humpback whales, Hervey Bay is spoilt for choice with a total of seven certified ecotourism operators running tours between July and November. Fun fact: Hervey Bay also celebrates the migration of the Humpback whales each year with the Paddle out for Whales Festival which aims to raise awareness and recognise the importance of whale watching tourism in the city.

 whalesong

ECO Certified operators:

Tasman Venture – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Blue Dolphin Marine Tours – Ecotourism certified

Boat Club Adventure Cruises – Ecotourism certified

Freedom Whale Watch and Charters – Ecotourism certified 

Pacific Whale Foundation Australia – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Spirit of Hervey bay – Ecotourism certified

Whalesong cruises – Advanced Ecotourism certified 

With so much choice of ECO certified operators it is no wonder that Hervey Bay has been chosen to host this year’s World Whale Conference.

New South Wales

Byron Bay

Sitting just south of the state border between QLD and NSW, Byron Bay is an easy drive from the Gold Coast and is a great place to watch whales with a unique twist. Go Sea Kayak Bryon Bay offers close kayaking encounters with Humpback whales off the coast throughout the whale watching season.

go ea kayak whales

Go Sea Kayak Byron Bay – Advanced Ecotourism & Respecting our Culture certified

May-November | Newcastle

Situated in Newcastle, NSW just a short drive north of Sydney, two of our Green Travel Leaders certified with Advanced Ecotourism certification run whale watching tours to see the Humpback whales from May to November.

imagine cruises

Moonshhadow TQC Cruises – Advanced Ecotourism, Green Travel Leader

Imagine Cruises – Port Stephens – Advanced Ecotourism Green Travel Leader

Victoria

June – November | Wilsons Promontory & Phillip Island

Whale watching cruises in this part of Australia give you the opportunity to see both Humpback and Southern Right Whales, plus maybe even Orca whales!

Wildlife Coast Cruises

ECO Certified operator:

Wildlife Coast Cruises – Advanced Ecotourism Certified

Western Australia

April-November | Perth

While most of the locations in this guide feature Humpback whales, Perth is one of the only places in Australia to see Orca whales (aka killer whales). A little earlier in the whale watching season, two of our Ecotourism Certified operators offer Orca whale tours from December to April and Humpback whale tours later on in the season from April to November.  

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Naturaliste Charters – Ecotourism certified

Whale Watching Western Australia – Ecotourism certified

June-November | Exmouth

Exmouth is known not only for its Humpback whale watching season (June-November), but also for the unique whale shark season. Exmouth almost matches Hervey Bay for the amount of certified tour operators available to offer both Humpback whale tours throughout the whale watching season as well as several who offer whale shark tours between March to September.

 whalechark ningaloo

Live Ningaloo – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Ningaloo Coral Bay Boats – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Ningaloo Discovery – Advanced Ecotourism certified

Ningaloo Whaleshark N Dive – Ecotourism certified

Three Islands Whaleshark Dive – Ecotourism certified, Green Travel Leader

 

Have you been whale watching with any of these tourism operators? Tell us about it in the comments below!

BIG 4 WHITSUNDAYS TROPICAL ECO RESORT ACHIEVES CERTIFICATION!

Just minutes from the Port of Airlie, you will find the family-owned Big 4 Whitsundays Tropical Eco Resort. Situated in the ideal location for travelers to explore the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, you are also just a 5-minute drive from Airlie’s tourist center, shops and restaurants; making this the ideal tropical family holiday location. The park also allows for that authentic tropical nature fix, being nestled among 7 acres of tropical foliage, adjacent to the stunning Conway National Park.

 Open Air Cinema Whitsubnday Eco Resort

With a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs, the park offers powered and un-powered camp sites, villas, studios, 2-bedroom apartments and their brand-new eco lodges, all with spectacular mountain views. The eco lodges feature furniture made from recycled timber from trees that fell in cyclone Debbie.

 Eco Lodge Whitsunday Eco Resort Photo

Big 4 Whitsundays Tropical Eco Resort has achieved EA Ecotourism certification through their goals to reduce waste, regularly monitoring their carbon emissions, promoting nature based and low impact activities and supporting conservation projects and initiatives.

Well done on the certification Big 4 Whitsunday Tropical Eco Resort and keep up the good work.

Find out more here. 

BUCKET SHOWERS, TREE PLANTING AND SOLAR HOT WATER ON TAP: How A Run-Down Property in The Middle of Nowhere Became a Pioneer of Carbon Neutral Tourism

When I call Craig “Hassie” Haslam on Skype, I’m amazed how good his internet connection is. His office, shelves piled high with colourful folders and paperwork indicative of someone running a well-functioning and demanding business, is located at his Coodlie Park Farm Retreat, a 3000-acre remote farm stay on the coast of the Eyre Peninsula, miles away from the busyness of everyday life.

This coast is a place that Hassie calls his backyard, but one he shares with many other people. When he and wife Jo bought the property 20 years ago, it was “a run-down sh*$ hole,” in dire need of some TLC – today, it attracts travellers from near and far who come to the area to enjoy its tranquillity, excellent fishing and natural beauty (did someone say private beach, star-strewn sky and Instagram-worthy natural infinity pools?).

It’s a part of the country that in some ways is still untouched, and Hassie’s passion for not only sharing it but doing everything he can to protect it becomes immediately evident as we start talking.

Coodlie private beach

“Eight or ten years ago it became very fashionable to offset your carbon footprint,” he explains, “[but] we never did it for that reason – we did it because we wanted to. We wanted to set a benchmark.

“I’ve always had this philosophy that you should try to leave a place better than when you found it.”

Coodlie Park Farm Retreat is, as far as Hassie is aware, Australia’s only travel business to not only be 100% carbon neutral, but offsetting all its carbon internally, on its own property. It’s an accolade he wears with pride:

“I’ve always had a vision that Coodlie Park Farm Retreat could be showcased as a model [of what’s possible] that could stimulate fresh and new ideas,” he says. “I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.”

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New ideas are something which Hassie has plenty of, and some of the property’s more quirky features are testament to this. The bucket showers, for example, are water-saving measures that involve twelve eight-litre buckets and a dual pulley system to release only a minimal amount of water for people to use for showering. It’s an idea that sprung out of necessity – as Hassie explains, the property used to run out of water every year and guests often had no understanding of what this really meant. 

“A lot of people do want to do the right thing but just don’t know how. It’s up to [tourism businesses] to show them what is the right thing is. One of my favourite moments was when one of our guests – a tall, young, blonde woman from the UK – excitedly joined the campfire one evening after successfully managing to wash her hair, shave her legs and have a complete shower all from one bucket of water.

“You know you’re having a positive impact when people get involved and gain a sense of pride from learning and realising how much they can actually do to help.” 

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So what challenges has Hassie faced in his quest to constantly improve his business to be better for the planet? Well time, for one thing:

“I’m as busy as a centipede skipping!” Hassie exclaims. He adds that whilst travellers – backpackers and WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), mainly – express a desire to help with tree planting and sponsoring trees and there are opportunities to create these experiences for his visitors,  the day-to-day work of running a tourism business (Hassie also runs the Nullabor Traveller and Xplore Eyre touring companies, which take guests throughout South and Western Australia) take up most of his time.

Another challenge is quantifying – one of Hassie’s dreams is for international visitors to be able to easily calculate and offset their entire trip to Australia from start to finish at his property – but he says he needs a matrix that can spit out these numbers.

“It’s not something we have, yet.”

Venus Bay near coodlie

So, with all of his touring and limited time, is there any brain space left for new ideas? Hassie says he’s glad he gets to work with reliable people who are always willing to help, and that he is definitely someone who keeps striving to learn more, try more and improve the way he runs his business.

“We already pay for green electricity and put some back into the grid. We have 50,000 gallons of tank storage on the property to collect rain, we have 10kw of solar on the property. My next plan is to create a hot water wall, using solar panels, that operates like a beer keg.”

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Apart from thinking outside the box, does Hassie have any suggestions for other operators looking to get more serious about climate action and carbon neutral tourism? You may be surprised to hear that he doesn’t consider himself an environmentalist at heart, and nor does he feel qualified to offer advice. Instead, he seems humbly reflective:

“We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way; we’ve tried different things. In retrospect, there are things I could have done differently. At the end of the day, I just think that we make choices, and if we want to make a place better than when we find it, and we make that our ethos, it’s pretty simple. The ideas will come.” He is hopeful that other businesses can be inspired by what Coodlie Park has achieved:

“Maybe they’ll ask: if they can do it out there in the middle of the sticks, why can’t we?”

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For more information on Coodlie Park Farm Retreat, please visit their website or Facebook page.

For more eco-travel inspiration, check out our Green Travel Guide.

 

APEC: Recognising Sustainability in Tourism

APEC Addresses Greenwashing in Tourism and refers to the importance of GSTC in a new Policy Report Demand for sustainable tourism has been on the rise, and with it came exaggerated sustainability claims – also known as “greenwashing”. This policy brief addresses the issue by examining the use of environmental certifications to address greenwashing and […]

The post APEC: Recognising Sustainability in Tourism appeared first on Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GLAMPING PIONEERS

Do a quick Google search of ‘glamping’ and an abundance of Instagram-worthy, boho-styled, canvas safari tent-like accommodation will flood your screen. Usually situated on a pristine beach or in a lush jungle, you’ll likely think to yourself ‘yeah as if, places like that don’t exist.’ Boy oh boy does it make you itch for a weekend away, though. Well, turns out, the weekend of your dreams does exist, and it has for 20 years.

Situated near the white sand beaches and pristine waters of Jervis Bay, NSW, you will find the pioneers of glamping, Paperbark Camp, which first opened its doors in April 1999. Nestled amongst native Australian bush, you will find the cosy canvas cabins that have now become synonymous with luxury camping: The perfect base for a nature filled weekend. Although, there’s absolutely no judgement here if you choose to stay in the bath all weekend, either… I mean, look at that view:

Paperbark Camp DeluxeTent Bathroom2 Elise hassey 005 

Paperbark camp gives you the opportunity to enjoy a sunset bevvy from your private deck, just as the founders did when they conceived the idea in Africa in the early 90s. Irena and Jeremy Hutchings had fallen in love with the style of accommodation they frequented on safari in Africa. The idea of being amongst nature, without the hassle of packing and unpacking camping gear, but with the comfort of a few simple luxuries, all the while sticking to their camping-addicted roots, was appealing to say the least.  Why was this not happening in Australia, they wondered? After deciding to leave their jobs and buy a 100-acre site of untouched, creek front bushland in Jervis Bay, their dream became reality. Yet could the couple ever foresee the emergence of the now very hashtagable trend of ‘glamping’?

PBC DeluxeTentSunrise DickSweeney

“We have always embraced growth in the market,” says Camilla Hamilford, Paperbark’s Sales and Marketing Manager. “We believe the more that people experience this type of accommodation the more they seek it out when they travel elsewhere. When we started out, the word glamping hadn’t been invented, but twenty years on you can find glamping in all corners of the country and in many different styles, from much more basic to super luxurious!”

Twenty years on and Paperbark Camp welcomes guests from all over the globe who are looking for a genuine Australian bush experience, as well as city slickers simply just looking for a breather.

“In the earlier days we would have said that our guests were very much professional and well-travelled, an adventurer looking for something different for their quiet getaway, reflects Camilla.

“These days we feel that we appeal to a much broader market, people understand the concept of glamping and are looking for a more unique experience when travelling. So, these days we welcome all sorts of people [and] even if it’s a bit outside their comfort zone, they nearly always leave so glad they have had the experience.”

 Paperbark Camp Murrays Beach 2 Elise Hassey 039                                                   

Long before sustainability was ‘in’, the Hutchings were thinking green. When planning commenced on the project in the 90s, the concept of ecotourism was small and relatively unheard of*. It was the Hutching’s desire to maintain as much peace and beauty of the natural environment as possible that really drove Paperbark Camp’s sustainability mission to the forefront of their business operations.

With the emergence of climate change concerns and the growth in demand for travel that impacted the environment as little as possible, Paperbark Camp was quickly recognised as leader in the field and achieved Advanced Ecotourism Certification in its first year of operation. The owners and staff are dedicated to continuous improvement and leaving a lasting positive impact on their local environment. You can read more about their sustainability initiatives here.

Paperbark Camp Original Safari Tent Interior1 EliseHassey 000 

From all of us here at Ecotourism Australia: Happy birthday, Paperbark Camp, and all the best for the next 20 years!

 

Want to know about some of our other ecotourism pioneers? Check out our certification Hall of Fame.

For more information about Paperbark Camp, check out their website or follow them on social media.

For more green travel inspiration, visit our Green Travel Guide.

 

*Though we were talking about it too!

 

[Photos: Paperbark Camp]

9 INCOMPARABLE DINING EXPERIENCES TO ADD TO YOUR BUCKET LIST

Catch A Crab Tour & Oyster Farm

Calling all seafood lovers! The original Gold Coast crabbing and oyster adventure tour is the experience you didn’t know you needed, but is soon become the one you want. The folks at Catch A Crab will provide you with an unforgettable Australian outdoor lifestyle experience. You will enjoy activities along the likes of fishing, yabbie pumping and trapping of live mud crabs. All this activity is followed by one of the best seafood lunches you’ll find at the Lakeside Café, overlooking the oyster farms. What more could you want in a day out?

 Find out more here.

Artisan Food and Wine Tour

You will be afforded all the highlights of Kangaroo Island’s well known wildlife, coastal scenery and rolling hinterland, while experiencing the best of local artisans with one of the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Food and Wine Tours. Greeted at your accommodation by local guides, you will be taken on a taste experience; sampling local seafoods including Marron, Crayfish (in season) and King George Whiting. You will also visit numerous local wineries with a spectacular view and many (emphasis on many) tasters. To top off your day and your palate, you’ll wrap up with cocktail hour at Kangaroo Island Spirits. It’s time to design your own cocktail. Yuuuuuum!

Find out more here.

 Kangeroo Island Dining Tours

Photo: Kangeroo Island Wilderness Tours

Whitehaven Beach BBQ

If a barbecue lunch is all you’re after, we have the experience for you. Departing from Airlie Beach, Whitehaven Xpress visits both Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet Lookout to allow you to absorb the surreal views. Whilst experiencing the famous and breathtaking Whitehaven beach, you will get the full Aussie treatment with a beach BBQ! Voted the best BBQ lunch in the Whitsundays, you’ll feast on steak, sausages, chilli burgers, salad and tropical fruits under the native trees. Top the day off with a snorkel or glass bottom boat tour.  

Find out more here. 

Coconut Plantation Thala Beach

Photo: Coconut Plantation Thala Beach Nature Reserve  

Coconut Odyssey

Sticking to the Tropical Queensland theme, head out to the secluded retreat of your dreams. Near Port Douglas, located on a secluded beach, surrounded by forest, you will find the private nature reserve of Thala Beach. Sitting atop a headland with breathtaking vistas, it is the perfect base to explore the Great Barrier Reef & Daintree Rainforest. Thala Beach Nature Reserve offers guests one of the only coconut tours in Australia. Throughout the tour you will get to drink and eat from a variety of coconuts including the ‘Coconut Apple’; as well as learning all about their health benefits of coconuts. Labelled as the ‘tour that help you lose weight without exercising’ how could you say no?

Find out more here.

Hot Springs Graze & Bathe

Rejuvenation for the mind, body and tummy? Situated on the Mornington Peninsula awaits an experience like no other at Peninsula Hot Springs. Natural thermal mineral waters flow into the pools and private baths at this coastal oasis; providing an idyllic setting for relaxation and rejuvenation. You can graze and bathe with an array of dining packages available; from exclusive Moroccan tents to grazing platters and wine, or maybe just a quiet breakfast for two. This is absolutely on my bucket list, what about you?

Find out more here.

Penisular hot springs

Photo: Peninsula Hot Springs

Sunset Cultural & Dining Experience

The Northern Territory’s Nitmiluk Gorge is a maze of waterways sculpted from sandstone cliffs by the Katherine River. Sit back and relax as the tranquil surroundings transport you into a spiritual world of the Jawoyn culture and history. The Nabilil Dreaming Sunset Dinner Tour will have you discover the stories and ways of the Jawoyn people against the magnificent backdrop of the Nitmiluk Gorge, changing colour with the setting sun. This idyllic tour includes a three-course candlelight dinner, featuring local Australian produce, cooked on board. This unique experience will have you falling in love with the Nothern Territory and its local produce.

Find out more here.

 Nitmiluk Tours food cruise photo

Photo: Nitmiluk Tours

The Perfect Weekender

We get it, sometimes you don’t want to do anything but eat, drink and relax by the pool. Why not do that in one of Australia’s most beautiful landscapes? Sangoma Retreat, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, offers complete tranquility and a luxury weekend ‘bush experience’ in a restful, lush setting. The dining is in a class of its own highlighting locally sourced, organic produce and indulgent seasonal menus. Dining here is an activity within itself and well worth your time. I feel nourished just thinking about it.

Find out more here.   

 Spicers meal

Photo: Spicers Sangoma Retreat Restaurant

Off Road Wine Tour with a Local

Get out of the city and off the beaten track with Simmo’s Offroad Tours. Simmo will provide you with Scenic 4WD Wine & Produce Tours of the Orange & Bathurst cool-climate wine region. These tours feature breathtaking lookouts from Mount Canobolas and a guided tour through Borenore Caves. Guests also meet with local grape-growers, wine makers, orchardists, and local farmers. No one knows better than the locals!

Find out more here.

Helicopter Food & Wine Tour

Now this is how you take your lunch to the next level (literally).  Just a short trip from Brisbane you can jump aboard a Pterodactyl Helicopter and embark on a food tour you’ve never experienced before. Show up to lunch like a Rockstar, as Pterodactyl Helicopters flies you to a selection of South East Queensland’s finest restaurants, quirky cafes, boutique breweries, award winning wineries and authentic Australian pubs. You can even get flown into your very own secluded picnic location (did someone say Insta-worthy or what). On your flight you’ll get a birds-eye view of Brisbane, Ipswich, the Scenic Rim, Sommerset and the Lockyer Valley. This is an experience that is just way too cool to pass up.

Find out more here.

 Pterodactyl heli food tour photo

Photo: Pterodactyl Helicopters

[Header Photo: Peninsular Hot Springs]

 

Want more foodie inspiration? Try searching by “Food & Wine” in our Green Travel Guide!

 

EVERYDAY ECOTOURISM HEROES EDITION 10: CHRISTOPHER WARREN

True heroes are the ones who not only have great ideas, but are willing to share these ideas with others, knowing that they’ll benefit too.

That’s what Crystal Creek Meadows’ Christopher Warren is like – he invented a sustainability management system for tourism accommodations which allows financial savings to be directed straight into nature conservation. How? It uses real-time resource use data and gives guests practical tips on how to save on energy and water.

Crystal Creek meadows garden

Chris says the system – called My Green Butler – took years to develop and be ready for market – in fact, it took five years of research and development, using Crystal Creek Meadows as a test site. This research and testing culminated in doctorate research, which provided evidence that visitors to destinations can be persuaded to reduce their consumption.

“The big idea behind [My Green Butler] is to explain that resource conservation, not eco-efficient technologies or renewable energy alone, should be a key strategy to reduce carbon emissions to internationally agreed levels,” explained Chris.

Crystal Creak Meadows kitchen

He goes on to note that resource conservation through behaviour adaptation can empower hosts and guests to reduce their energy and water use by using climate change adaptation.

Chris is so dedicated to sharing this message that he’s has published 13 scientific papers on the topic, created a short video explaining how My Green Butler works and is currently writing an easy-to-read self-help book for accommodation managers to identify ways to conserve resources and persuade their guests to do the same.

“Efficiency and renewables are not adequate to help prevent escalating global warming and extreme weather events which impact wildlife and their habitats,” Christopher notes. He says eco-efficient technologies do not change people’s behaviour and that we’re unlikely to have sufficient quantities of renewables to replace fossil fuels in time for target carbon emission reduction dates.

Crystal Creek Meadows rose garden master bedroom

Christopher’s implementation of the Green Butler System at his own accommodation business, Crystal Creek Meadows, has resulted in a massive reduction in carbon emissions, from 50 tonnes a year to just 15. The property itself has also been rejuvenated, resulting in a growth in bird species from 20 to 100 and a return of the local wombat population.

So what do his staff and guests think?

“Everyone at Crystal Creek Meadows has been involved in the development of My Green Butler,” Chris notes, “whether they’re the cleaner or a business partner.” He says this brings a diversity of perspectives, encourages a more holistic solution to challenges and enables everyone to take ownership of the program.

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And guests, who are motivated by persuasive face-to-face interaction with passionate staff and a daily advice sheet and web app, seem more than willing to comply – especially when they know that all fiscal savings are donated to two local wildlife caring charities.

“Ecotourism is considered the pinnacle of sustainable tourism and therefore has a leadership role for all tourism to promote and celebrate innovative methods to progress the entire sector to a far higher level of climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Chris says.

Crystal Creek Meadows cherry blossoms FB

We couldn’t agree more!

For more information on Crystal Creek Meadows, visit their website or Facebook page. For more information about My Green Butler, check out MyGreenButler.com.

For more information on our other Everyday Ecotourism Heroes, check out the other articles in this series:

Crystal Creak Meadows field FB

Is there someone in your business who you think is an Everyday Ecotourism Hero? Tell us about them!

Have we piqued your interest in travelling sustainably? Make sure you check out our Green Travel Guide and news page for some eco travel inspiration!