Andaman Discoveries Blog

Friday, February 27, 2009


Seattleite Joins Andaman Discoveries Team

Welcome to Thailand - Leslie plays in the warm water at the beach.
This month we welcomed Leslie Welshimer to our team. Leslie has worked in the field of communications and marketing for about three years in Seattle, with an emphasis on public relations for architecture and technology clients. She made the journey to Thailand to learn first-hand about sustainable tourism, with the goal to take her career in a different direction. “My goal is to combine my passions of travel, nature and outdoor recreation into my career. When I read Andaman Discoveries’ Web site, I instantly was impressed by their mission and accomplishments,” Leslie said.

Leslie will be in our office assisting the team with marketing and development. She will be with Andaman Discoveries for about five months, departing in July.

Leslie learns how to make Nipa palm roofing during a cultural tour and homestay at Ban Talae Nok.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to learn about all the amazing work that Andaman Discoveries does. Being able to live and work in Thailand allows me to experience Thai life by fully immersing in their culture. I hope to learn, explore, and contribute as much as possible. Ultimately, I want to share my experiences with others,” Leslie said.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Starving Artist? Design the Winning Andaman Discoveries Logo and Win $350!

Background: Andaman Discoveries is a leader in sustainable travel and development in Thailand that allows visitors and volunteers to directly support community education, village-led conservation, and cultural empowerment. Andaman Discoveries began as a tsunami relief non-government organization (NGO) whose projects focused on long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability to create realistic economic opportunities for affected villagers. The organization has evolved into a sustainable enterprise that aims to preserve local culture and ecosystems through responsible tourism.

Further reading:

To continue our mission and further develop the Andaman Discoveries’ brand, we need an effective and appealing logo to promote our products and services. This logo needs to communicate a clear, consistent message about our organization that people will easily identify with our mission and programs.

Below is the rough idea we have developed in-house. It’s an attempt to (subtly) convey wave/tsunami wedded with renewal, sort of “yin-yang” like. We provide this as a guideline in conjunction with the information on our website. Be creative! Please contact us with any questions.

Design(s) must be received by March 20, 2009.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The End of 2008

Presenting the SEED award in Ban Talae Nok.
The year 2008 ended on a very high note for Andaman Discoveries. We welcomed a record 60 guests, most of whom traveled here to participate in a unique holiday cultural exchange. One couple had the exclusive opportunity to be the inaugural homestay in Tung Dap village on Koh Phratong, which went off without a hitch! We also solidified a new alliance with the Kuraburi Burmese Learning Center by sending our first long-term volunteer there for four weeks of English teaching. All of this came on the heels of an informative and enjoyable community forum in Ban Talae Nok with some of our most valued regional partners.

We appreciate your continued support of our work through visiting, volunteering, donations, good wishes, and words of support. We love to hear your thoughts, so please send us an e-mail or leave a comment on a story that interests you. Thank you, on behalf of Andaman Discoveries and the communities we work with.


Kuraburi Burmese Learning Center: New Volunteer Program in Partnership with Grassroots

Sharon with some of her students.
Started by Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development, the Burmese Learning Center provides education to the children of Burmese migrant workers who sometimes face discrimination in Thailand. These children have few (if any) opportunities to attend Thai public schools, and many start working at a very early age. Andaman Discoveries decided to help, and is now offering long-term volunteer English teaching placements at the school at Kuraburi Pier in partnership with Grassroots. Sharon (UK) piloted the program in late December. “I have had four amazing weeks teaching the Burmese kids at the Learning Centre. The kids were fantastic, if a bit shy at first,” she reported.

Sharon, who came to us through our partner Twin UK, taught English conversation full time at the school to students aged six to twelve years. “I quickly developed a strong bond with the teachers at the school. They were very supportive. Definitely a recommended placement; Andaman Discoveries did everything they could to make my stay enjoyable.” The students embraced Sharon, and their confidence level changed noticeably during the month Sharon was there. Andaman Discoveries’ Volunteer Coordinator Karen observed: “Confidence is so critical for anyone learning a new language. These marginalized children face so many odds, and this center gives them a chance at a more hopeful future. Andaman Discoveries is happy to form this partnership.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at the Kuraburi Burmese learning can should contact Andaman Discoveries for more information. Volunteering information will also be posted soon.


New Destinations: Tung Dap Village Homestay

Shelling oysters in Tung Dap village.
Andaman Discoveries has worked with the village of Tung Dap, located on Phrathong Island, since it began as a tsunami relief NGO four years ago. Inspired by the successful model in Ban Talae Nok and spearheaded by an energetic village youth named Duan, the ethnically-Moken villagers of Tung Dap have designed their own homestay program, which now will be offered by Andaman Discoveries. Visitors have the opportunity to learn firsthand about Moken culture and traditions -- homestay host Noi spent the first 24 years of her life as a sea gypsy, and offers a fascinating account of her time living on a “Kabang.” Galaad and Julian (France) were the first visitors, staying in the village for two days. “Being the first farang to come to this homestay, I must say I felt as comfortable as in my own home; things were done naturally, spontaneously, and genuinely from the heart.”

Guest activities can include making shrimp paste, building traditional squid traps, Moken-style fishing, and mangrove restoration. There are also opportunities for guests to teach English, with mutual language exchanges during the homestay. “Even though we had language barriers, we communicated greatly as far as getting friendly with one another. [It was a] beautiful moment of exchange and sharing. This was a wonderful and enriching experience; we will be coming back,” added Galaad and Julian.

For more information about the Tung Dap homestay, please contact Andaman Discoveries. More information will also be posted soon.


Partner’s Forum in Ban Talae Nok: Stakeholder meeting to launch SEED regionally

Peter of CBT-i leads a group activity with BTN villagers.
Andaman Discoveries, in cooperation with the SEED initiative and The Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute (CBT-i) (a renowned Thailand-based CBT consultant) hosted a partner’s forum in Ban Talae Nok in December. Stakeholders at the community- and district-level attended the forum, as well as several NGOs interested in working with the Ban Talae Nok community-based tourism (CBT) group. There were several objectives to the forum, including assessing the progress of CBT in the village, exploring options for sustainable expansion, and identifying problems. Villager feedback was overwhelmingly positive. “Income from tourism benefits the whole community. People did not realize this before, now they see others benefiting,” commented Ekarat “Hem” Chuengyang.

The forum succeeded in raising awareness of CBT as a community activity. The chief conclusion was that for CBT to be sustainable as a long-term community development tool in BTN, community members must work together with a common vision of CBT as a tool to tackle shared challenges. “The people need to know that tourism is not only bringing them income, but also helping to develop their community,” observed Ms. Darunee “Cha” Pakee, BTN Community Coordinator. Increased collaboration between the CBT and other community groups will help build awareness of the possible benefits – cultural and environmental preservation, economic stimulus, and strengthened community ties – of CBT to the whole village.

The forum concluded with a presentation of a copy of the SEED award, which will be proudly displayed at the community center.


Stone Family Donation: Family spreads Holiday cheer

Students at the Burmese Learning Center are among many who will benefit from the Stone family’s generous donation.
Simply visiting a village or sharing your expertise with those less fortunate is an enormous contribution to the communities we serve; however, some people choose to give back even more. In the spirit of the season – and at considerable personal expense and burden – the Stone family (USA) arrived in Ban Talae Nok in time for Christmas with bags of clothes and educational materials for their homestay hosts and villagers. The materials were collected by a local Girl Scout troop, and were distributed amongst the various villages and programs we work with, including Ban Talae Nok, Tung Dap, the Moken community on Koh Surin, the Phuket Disabled School, The Kuraburi Burmese Learning Center, and The Children’s Library at Wat Samaketam in Kuraburi.

Andaman Discoveries and the various recipients gratefully acknowledge the extreme gratitude of the Stone family. Thank you!


Andaman Eco Discoveries: Staff observe rare water lily

The rare lab phrung tan water lily in Klong Nakha.
Most of our staff and volunteers couldn’t be with their families this Christmas, but those selfless souls who stayed behind got to spend a day bamboo rafting in nearby Klong Nakha Wildlife Sanctuary. There they were treated to the rare fresh-water lily “lab phrung tan,” whose delicate white flowers bloom only from October through December. Due to highly localized conditions, including the flow of the river, this beautiful flower is totally unique to this area – attempts to introduce it to other regions with nearly identical climate conditions have failed.

Unfortunately, soil removal for construction and attempts at erosion control now threaten the flower. Locals also gather the bulbs for use in aquariums, although the extent of this harvesting is unclear. Recognizing the imminent threat to the water lily, a local group called “Friends of Nature” was formed to protect Klong Nakha through conservation, education, and sustainable income to villagers. Andaman Discoveries is proud to help support this cause through responsible tourism.

The bamboo rafting and lily observation activity is available to guests on a seasonal basis. Please contact us for more details.


Chok Dee (Good Luck), Mister Mai

Mai shows a guest and a friend the sights of Ban Talae Nok village.
It was with deep sadness that we said farewell to Piyawich "Mai" Budhagesorn, who left Andaman Discoveries at the end of December to continue his formal education in Bangkok. Mai joined Andaman Discoveries in April 2008 and quickly became an integral member of the team, working as a translator (he speaks fluent Thai, English, and German) and community coordinator. Mai was happiest in Ban Talae Nok, where he taught English, worked tirelessly to train local guides, and spearheaded a youth drama program. “Mai was part of the family. To the children in Ban Talae Nok, he was a big brother. We miss him very much,” said Ladda “Pink” Ardhahn.

Mai has an encyclopedic knowledge of Thai culture, history, religion, and politics, and his insights sparked lively discussions both with guests and staff alike; for more than a few visitors, he was the highlight of their homestay. Mai also plays a mean guitar and can make a blank batik canvas come alive in minutes with a stunning illustration. There’s a palpable void in Kuraburi without Mai’s presence; we miss him dearly, and wish him much success on his new endeavors. Come back soon, Mai!


Calling all Techies: Growing organization needs your help

Do you or someone you know have advanced technical skills and want to assist an Internationally-recognized leader in community development? Andaman Discoveries has limited funding for a website search engine optimization (SEO) expert, as well as an advanced database/application developer to design and implement a custom client- and booking-management system. (For the latter, on-site consultation and initial development is required). If this sounds appealing and you have the knack, please contact us for more details today!


The Month in Pictures

Lisa and Brad build orchid cages in Tung Nang Dam

Mimi (right) with a new friend in Ban Talae Nok

David and Genevieve emerge from behind the roots of a "buttress tree" in Ban Talae Nok.

Anton, Lisa, Brad, Kyle, and Barbara leaving Kuraburi pier for a holiday homestay in Tung Nang Dam.

The Jennings family and friends at their Ban Talae Nok homestay.

Kyle gets a lesson in preparing Thai food.

The Lange family gets fashionable in Ban Talae Nok.

Momo observes shells on the beach in Tung Nang Dam with host P' Noi.

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