People often ask me to define ecotourism or to describe the difference between an ecolodge and any other lodge.
My opinion is that ecotourism differs from regular tourism in that true ecotourism businesses have goals outside making money like contributing to the conservation of land and the development of sustainable local economies.
I recently met Nina van Toulon. Nina and her two daughters are trying to get an ecolodge going on Flores, Indonesia. Flores is three islands west of Java.
Because of its geologic history, Indonesia is one of the most biological and ecological diverse regions on the planet. Over the years however, uncontrolled development and political corruption has had a devastating impact on Indonesia’s natural resources. Diverse forests have been cleared for palm plantations and a once vibrant reef system continues to be over fished with nets and incredibly, bombs.
Indonesia has always been a fairly popular tourist destination. The people are very friendly, the weather is nice and it’s fairly cheap.
Flores is also popular with tourists. Being home to the famed Komodo Dragon, Flores maintains a fairly consistent flow of visitors.
Nina bought land on Flores in 2010. Her property is next to Komodo National Park, which is also a marine protected area. Her plan is to build a main house that will have room for plenty of volunteers and about 10 individual rooms.
Nina loves the bay and its wildlife and wants to help protect the waters around Flores. One of her goals is to set up an LMMA or a Locally Managed Marine Area. LMMA’s are an area of land and sea managed by the people who live there, use it for fishing, tourism and who care about their own environment.
In a recent evaluation of the coral reef situation worldwide is stated that LMMA’s have a higher success rate regarding the local coral situation than a Marine Protected Area, I guess that locals taking their own responsibility works better than governments regulating from above.
Another one of her goals is to get the local communities to start looking at things from a ‘greener’ perspective and to look at their island as an eco-island, and one the rest of Indonesia will look at as an example of sustainable development.
Plastic waste is a huge problem in Asia. A huge percentage of people rely on bottled water and recycling is not considered a high priority. However, on Flores, Nina met Stefan Rafael who has started the plastic-man institute. Their hope is to help curve the amount of garbage that comes with development.
As Flores develops they want to have standards in place that will reduce the amount of garbage created and consult with developers on behalf of building hotels and resorts that are in harmony with nature and non-exploitive.
In June of 2012, Nina wants to have a conference on Flores and discuss creating a sustainable future for the people that call Flores home.
There will be planned four blocks of sessions with the following four main topics:
* energy alternatives and water management
* advantages for the environment long term and economical benefits
* issues related to environmental conditions and ways to improve
* various community-based models for resource management and conservation, related to sustainable farming/fishing/forest conservation/coral rehabilitation/waste management
Nina is looking to network with people involved in sustainable development and environmental protection who may want to contribute and assist Flores in making sound and sustainable decisions as they go forward.
If you have experience in sustainable building, reef protection/rehabilitation or fund raising, please contact Nina van Toulon at firstname.lastname@example.org.