Andaman Discoveries Blog

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Goodbye Pi Su

At the end of September we said farewell to our longtime handicrafts coordinator Suwanna “Su” Anantakal. Su was living in the village of Bak Jok at the time the tsunami struck. After the disaster, Su developed her skills in making cards from recycled paper as a source of income. She joined North Andaman Tsunami Relief’s handicraft initiative in early 2006, eventually taking over as handicrafts coordinator. She remained with the organization through its evolution to Andaman Discoveries.


Andaman Discoveries’ New Home

Andaman Discoveries staff and volunteers in the new office.
The staff of Andaman Discoveries got their share of exercise on the last weekend of September when we relocated our office to the intersection of Soi Nangyon and Kuraburi’s main highway. We’re very pleased to have a brighter working space that’s more accessible from downtown Kuraburi – a short walk from the town’s bus station and major resorts. We welcome all of our friends and supporters to stop by while they’re in Thailand!

Also, please note that our address has changed to:

Andaman Discoveries
120/2 Sukapiban 3 Road
Moo 1, Kura
Kuraburi District
Phang Nga Province, Thailand 82150

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Guide Training in Ban Talae Nok

AD Staff assess the BTN guides' preparedness
As part of Andaman Discoveries’ ongoing community development initiatives in Ban Talae Nok, we conducted an assessment and training for local guides to identify individual strengths and weaknesses. Armed with a checklist for each guide, we spent the morning carrying out simulated tours and role plays and assessed how the guides performed.

Overall the guides were all very enthusiastic and performed very well, although sometimes they showed a reluctance to speak English or were unsure of what might interest the guests. “There are things that we see as totally normal, but for the guests they might be very interesting and special,” commented Nuttawut Leelung. We see real potential for the guide group to continue improving, and we strive to make sure the guides appreciate their own potential. The most rewarding aspect of the day was the guide’s enthusiasm and commitment to tourism in their community. As guide Ekarat Chuangyang remarked, “We try to treat all the guests like friends, hoping they would enjoy and learn as much as possible from this community.”


Special Programs – Celebrate the Holidays in the North Andaman!

Share in the lives of villagers this holiday season.
Looking to do something different this holiday season? Then come join the villagers of the North Andaman, who invite you experience their traditional culture and diverse eco-systems in an authentic and non-intrusive way. Andaman Discoveries has designed several customized itineraries for the holidays designed to give visitors an unforgettable village experience.

Explore diverse, pristine eco-systems; take a traditional long-tail boat through dense mangrove forests; hike through lush rainforests that are alive with the sounds of exotic wildlife; snorkel in clear blue waters teeming with vibrant marine life; or simply soak up the sun on a deserted island all to yourself. Learn about traditional ways of life and contribute to the conservation of this outstanding natural environment.

The villagers that you meet during your stay, including the guides, host families, handicraft cooperatives and our own staff receive fair wages as stipulated by the Community-based Tourism Committee of the village. The majority of the overall price of each trip is invested back into the community, including 20% which is allocated to the Community Fund to ensure that all villagers benefit from tours in their community. The Community Fund is dedicated to projects that serve the betterment of the community and its environment.

Unable to travel this year? Our tsunami handicrafts also make great gifts that give something back to the community! Check out:

Monday, October 13, 2008


Children’s Library at Local Temple – Opportunities for Everyone

A volunteer at the Wat Phasarn Temple children’s library.
Here at Andaman Discoveries we make sure that communities benefit directly from our volunteer groups, and welcome proposals from all villages in the region. Last month, we were delighted to receive requests from Wat Phasarn Temple children’s library and several other villages for English camps for the local children. Activities included coloring, races and of course old classics like the “Hokie Pokie” with 30 very energetic children!

The International Volunteer Society volunteers organized a total of three English camps during their five week program. Fun games and education were mixed in order to give the children a chance to enjoy themselves. Khun Mam, the leader of the children’s library was delighted with the camp and hoped to plan more in the future, especially during the school holidays. “It’s great to have Western volunteers working with the children,’ said Khun Mam, “It builds the children’s confidence and gives them the chance to learn about other countries and cultures.”


Samakeetham Temple – Paving the Way to Safety

Conservation activist and community leader Khun Likid of Tung Rak community was so impressed with last year’s International Volunteer Society volunteer’s bridge-building efforts at the conservation centre, that he invited this year’s group to build a path at the local temple. “There is no safe access to the area of worship,” explained Khun Likid. “The community thought this would be a worthwhile activity for the volunteers and a great way for them to learn first hand about Buddhism.”

“It took all nine of us the three days to help with sand moving, bricklaying, cement mixing, paving and planting to ensure the path leading up to the Samakeetham Temple was safe,” explained one volunteer. “As well as being welcomed into the temple and fed well at mealtimes, we were also fortunate enough to ask the monks at the temple about Buddhism. It was really good to hear from a first person perspective how a monk lives their life and they supervised our work with a shrewd eye. We finished the work early on our last day and those working at the temple organized a 90-minute trek for us to round off our visit. I feel I have had such a privileged insight into the Buddhist religion.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


September Visitors and Volunteers

(left to right) Matt, Louisa, and Anja Making Batik in Ban Talae Nok.
Andaman Discoveries hosted several visitors this month including: Julia from Qatar, Matt and Louisa from the United Kingdom, and Anja from our new partner Grace Tours.

Matt reflected that “this is a fantastic way to see life in Thailand that would be missed on the backpacker trail. Fishing in the rain will be an unforgettable moment for me, as will meeting some of the nicest people on the planet.” Anja also joined us from the UK. “This was truly an amazing experience. I got the opportunity to learn how to cook Thai food, which was excellent. Thanks to the villagers, Tui, and Pink who made the stay fun and one I won’t forget.”

Julia tries her hand at nipa-palm weaving
Julia joined us all the way from Qatar, where she works as the VP of finance and administration at the College of the North Atlantic. Coming from a Muslim nation, the chance to do a homestay in a Thai Muslim community was especially interesting to her. “Visiting a traditional Thai village was of great interest to me -- having been to Thailand before and not getting past the typical tourist attractions. The experience that I had at Ban Talae Nok Village really gave me an understanding of the type of life that the villagers lead on a day to day basis, and the affect that the tsunami had on their lives. Participating in their daily activities made me understand how challenging it can be for the rural Thais to earn a livelihood. I was truly amazed at how friendly and genuinely warm and welcoming all the people were. I really gained a new sense of appreciation for the Thai people and their sense of harmony. I would definitely recommend a village trip for all tourists who want to feel a part of the ‘real’ Thailand."


Long-Term Volunteer: Karen Spackman

Karen befriends the local youth in Ban Talae Nok
This month Andaman Discoveries welcomed Karen Spackman, who joins us from Stirlingshire, Scotland, via Andaman Discoveries’ new partner TWIN UK. Karen is currently piloting two new long-term volunteering programs: teaching English at the Temple Kindergarten, and vocational English at the Kuraburi hospital. “This is turning out to be such a fantastic experience for me, I have been made to feel part of the team as well as the community since arriving in Kuraburi. Working with the local children and nurses has really helped transform me from being just another tourist to a valued member of the town,” said Karen.

In November she will be greeted by anxious students at the Kuraburi High School, where she will teach for her remaining two months. “Karen is a brilliant addition to the Andaman Discoveries team,” said Erik Rogers, AD Program Manager. “She has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and is a real self-starter. She felt like part of the gang on her first day.” In her spare time, Karen has generously helped out in the office on various administrative tasks, including our English homestay pack.

Karen went on to comment that, “Integrating with the local people has allowed me to establish relationships I would never have gained if I were merely just visiting the area. Since arriving in Kuraburi I have been supported all the way by Andaman Discoveries, through having access to their online teaching plan for the children, to assistance with the development of my own lesson plans for the adults. The staff at the office has such a vast wealth of knowledge that I’m always able to share ideas and concerns with at any time”.

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Wild Asia Assessment – Two Years in a Row!

Rebecca and Peter of Wild Asia on a mangrove tour.
Andaman Discoveries has again been short-listed for Wild Asia’s responsible travel awards. This annual award was created to identify, share, and inspire best practices in tourism to encourage responsible operators and to promote the evolution of sustainable destinations in Asia. This month we were honored to host Rebecca Thomason and photographer Peter Walker for several days in Ban Talae Nok.

Rebecca, who visited last August as part of the Wild Asia selection committee, was impressed at the amount of progress the village has made in its commitment to community-based tourism. “It’s great to come back to Ban Talae Nok, a year after my first visit. Everyone seems more confident than before. There are more activities and the sense of pride the villagers have in the tourism initiative and their role in it is tangible. You have a phenomenal leader in Pink. Her work with the youth group is awesome. I’m sure with her as a role model the little band of ‘eco-warriors’ she’s creating will be become effective community leaders.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


SEED Grant – Site Visit from GTZ

Tobias and Sebastian of GTZ Thailand
As part of the SEED grant Andaman Discoveries recently received, Tobias and Sebastian of GTZ Thailand took a day out of their holiday to brave Kuraburi’s monsoon rains and meet with Andaman Discoveries. GTZ is a German organization committed to sustainable development, including countries devastated by the tsunami. Tobias was interested in assessing the organization firsthand and reporting back to the SEED committee.

After meeting with the team for several hours, Tobias observed that “Andaman Discoveries is an NGO with diverse activities, and is very professionally managed by a team of competent specialists.” He also concluded that there was cooperation potential with GTZ: “Andaman Discoveries as a very progressive organisation in its field and could be an interesting partner to exchange with, to set best practice examples with, and to potentially include in the project in some other form.”


Visit from Olivia Daniel, former NATR Volunteer

Rich Edwards (center) and Olivia Daniels (right) dress in traditional clothing
Olivia Daniel is no stranger to the village of Ban Talae Nok: she was a volunteer for three months in Ban Talae Nok before the tsunami. After the disaster, Olivia’s care for the villagers led her to volunteer with NATR (the NGO that would eventually become Andaman Discoveries). When she and her friend Rich Edwards decided to travel in Thailand for two weeks this year, there was no doubt in their minds where they would spend the bulk of their time.

“I am so pleased I chose to do a homestay for five days of our two-week holiday. [It was] an amazing combination of beautiful scenery and friendly people. When activities could not go as planned, alternatives were always found,” said Olivia. Olivia particularly enjoyed her homecoming at WARF, where a monkey has been named after her.

Olivia's simian namesake.
This homestay also turned out to be very interesting for Rich, who works is a forester in England. During a hike he took advantage of the opportunity to discuss agricultural methods with local guide Bang Reed. Rich was particularly impressed with the diversity of the plant species the rainforest, contrasting the variety here to those in England. There is a much greater diversity in plant, as compared to the five or six usually found in a forest in England. Rich also had a chance to explore Bang Reed’s rubber plantation, which unlike many of its kind is grows in harmony with other plant life. “Bang Reed was very knowledgeable about the forests and it was really interesting to see his rubber plantation. It wasn’t like the evil views we see in the media back home.”

We look forward to seeing Olivia and Rich back here again soon!


North Andaman University – Spreading the Word

Nahoko (left) with her students in Japan
Over the past two months, Andaman Discoveries has been privileged enough to work with universities from three continents. In September, we welcomed Nahoko Shimizu, a lecturer in tourism studies at Hagoromo International University in Osaka, Japan. Nahoko came to observe our programs, interviewing villagers, government officials, and local conservation activists. Nahoko has kindly offered to help raise Andaman Discoveries’ profile in Japan, and possibly bring a study trip to Ban Talae Nok.

As an expert in rural tourism development, Nahoko was very impressed with Ban Talae Nok, observing "Everyone welcomed us with plenty of hospitality. This is a unique situation compared with examples of community-based tourism I've seen in other areas. Ban Talae Nok values CBT highly and takes pride in doing it well."

She went on to note that “the overall coordination balance – tourism management, community participation, and the contribution to the whole society – in Ban Talae Nok is excellent. Each family helps and supports all visitors, even families that aren't acting as hosts.”


Ban Talae Nok Receives “Best Eco Tourism Attraction” Award

Cha accepts the award of “Outstanding Performance: Best Eco Tourism attraction” in Bangkok
The Eco Tourism club of Ban Talae Nok won the silver Kinnaree Award for “Outstanding Performance: Best Eco Tourism Attraction” in this year’s Thailand Tourism Awards, presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). “I’m very proud of our village. There are communities who are supported by larger organizations, sometimes even by the government, and still couldn’t win the award,” said village chief Raywat Harnjit.

A 20-member selection committee from TAT visited the village in August and assessed it on such criteria as environmental stewardship, community participation, sufficiency-economy philosophy, good governance, and responsibility to society. The honor reinforces recent positive feedback about Ban Talae Nok’s commitment to community-based tourism as well as the great strides the villagers are making as guides and homestay hosts. “Winning the Kinnaree Award has inspired the members of the Eco Tourism group to be more engaged and confident, and to express their opinions during village meetings. They feel that the award proves that they are doing things right, and they’re now encouraged to aim even higher in the next year,” observed Andaman Discoveries guide Piyawich “Mai” Budhagesorn.

The awards ceremony took place in the Central Grand Hotel and Bangkok Convention Center in Central World Plaza on September 27, 2008. Ban Talae Nok community coordinator and Andaman Discoveries staff member Darunee “Cha” Pakee attended the festival. “We were all really surprised about winning the Kinnaree Award. It had always seemed too far for us to reach, but we did, eventually. However, it was not easy at all. There were even prizes without winners, because there was no one who qualified for the demanding conditions.”

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