Andaman Discoveries Blog

Friday, October 30, 2009


Charmed a Third Time

Short-Listed for Wild Asia Award

For a third consecutive year, Andaman Discoveries has been selected as one of the eight finalists in Wild Asia's Responsible Tourism Awards. These awards aim to support the creation of sustainable destinations in Asia. “We are delighted to be considered for this prestigious award. Our team sends a big thank you to the Wild Asia team for their patience and support while filming the villages, our projects and our staff,” said Tui Chomphusri, Andaman Discoveries Director.

Wild Asia sent a team of experts to visit each of the finalists; Deborah, Gonthong, and Imran visited and inspected our program in September, and were able to join the FAM trip. To get a taste of what they experienced, check their entry on the Responsible Tourism Awards’ blog, and don’t miss their video on You Tube!

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Familiarity Breeds Connections

FAM Trips Promote Region

Andaman Discoveries and the North Andaman Community Tourism Network recently hosted two familiarization (“FAM”) trips, and were honored to host media and leaders in Southeast Asian tourism. As the name implies, the goal of the trip is to provide potential partners with an overview of the richness of area and its potential for responsible tourism. Nick of Buffalo Tours observed: “[T]he best parts of the FAM were when we were hanging out with the Muslim villagers. Spending time with local people in a respectful manner offers the chance for cultural exchange.”

People from Berlin to Bangkok attended. From the Thai perspective, Rattanaporn from SpiceRoads tours observed that our community-based tours and homestays are “a good trip for Thais to learn more about our country and culture, and discover sustainable travel.”

The tour also provided an exchange of ideas, while giving the villagers additional experience with groups and media. The program included livelihood activities in five villages, as well as optional visits to the Burmese Learning Center and a local orphanage. “Being a part of this trip was brilliant. It gave me an opportunity to build stronger ties with villagers through further collaboration,” said Karen Spackman, Andaman Discoveries client and community relations manager.

The FAM Trip is essential to the support and development of Andaman Discoveries and N-ACT programs. Thank you to all who participated in the event. If you’re interested in collaborating and exchanging ideas about responsible tourism, please contact us to learn more about attending our next FAM trip.

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Life’s a Clean Beach

UK Family Supports Environmental Effort

Andaman Discoveries and the village of Ban Talae Nok are extremely grateful to the Hannah Family (UK). Shortly after their recent village homestay, this benevolent family of four donated 10,000 Thai Baht (about $290) to the Ban Talae Nok Youth Group to support a regular beach clean-up effort. “We had such a fab stay at the village and thoroughly enjoyed the relatively unspoilt beauty of the coast there. We believe it would be a good thing, for everybody, if the beach was kept free of rubbish,” said Susan Hannah.

Every two months the youth – armed with gloves and trash bags – will work their way down the beach picking up shoes, bottles, and plastic. The funding will also supply them with drinks and snacks. “Through just a little effort a few times a year, Ban Talae Nok will keep its stunning beach,” added Susan Hannah. “The Hannah family’s generosity reinforces the importance of keeping our beach clean and litter free,” noted an appreciative Ladda “Pink” Aharn, community coordinator in Ban Talae Nok.

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Conservation and Culture

Holiday Specials Showcase Region's Diversity

Planning to travel in Thailand this holiday season? Check out the expanded range of activities and villages available in this year’s special holiday tours. We’ve covered everything from reefs to rainforest and hikes to handicrafts! We invite you to explore the traditional culture and natural environment of the North Andaman region of Thailand--whether you’re traveling with family or exploring on your own, these special itineraries showcase the best of everything this unique region has to offer. Best of all, you will be helping local communities preserve their traditional culture and environment.

The spectacular natural beauty and cultural diversity of the North Andaman region make it a fascinating place to explore--the area boasts the largest concentration of mangrove forest in Thailand, as well as tropical jungles, beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and sea grass beds. It is also home to the rare dugong and the green turtle. No less diverse are the region's people: Muslims, Buddhists, and Moken Sea Gypsies all co-exist with their own unique cultures.

While many fishermen and farmers still make their living by traditional methods, much of the area's fauna and flora is under threat from habitat loss. In recent years local communities have realized the potential of sustainable tourism to negate these threats and conserve the ecological and cultural beauty of the region.

Contact us for more information about this special two-day adventure, or any of our Cultural, Family, or Hands-On itineraries today!

Can’t travel to Thailand but still want to support community conservation? Please consider purchasing a holiday gift from the Andaman Discoveries handicrafts store. We offer hand-made cards, Ban Talae Nok herbal soap, and hand-carved Moken boats. Proceeds help provide local people with a complimentary source of income while still continuing their traditional way of life.

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Polls Closing!

Please Vote for us Today

Thank you to everyone who has already voted for us in the BBC World Challenge -- we sincerely appreciate your support. “The BBC World Challenge is a chance for us to share the difference we are making. Whether it’s providing income to women’s handicraft groups or training the next generation of conservationists, community-based tourism allows visitors to enjoy the traditional Thai way of life, while helping to preserve the unique culture of our region,” Tui Chomphusri, Director of Andaman Discoveries, observed.

Voting is open until midnight (GMT) on Nov. 13. If you haven’t had a chance yet, please help us and take a moment and vote today!

The World Challenge is a global competition aimed at finding projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level. Andaman Discoveries is one of 12 finalists is this competition. The winners will be announced in December.

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Congratulations Kelly!

There’s a new member of the Andaman Discoveries family! Fyena Rose Lenni May was born on October 24; she weighs in at a healthy seven pounds and twelve ounces. Several of Kelly's close friends at Andaman Discoveries were honored to be asked to act as the child's godparents. "I will be a single mother, but I know with the love and support of the Andaman Discoveries family and network, little Fyena will not want for anything," said Kelly.

Please join us in congratulating Kelly. We look forward to seeing her and the little one in Kuraburi again soon!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Samoan Tsunami Relief (Part 1)

We received a letter from our good friend Kimina Lyall -- with a great suggestion on how to support the relief effort in Samoa. Kimina’s book is a deeply felt and engaging account of our collective journey in the aftermath of the 2004 disaster:

I have been in deep sadness for the islanders whose lives have been tossed upside down from the latest tsunami. Mostly, I am worried that they are now "yesterday's news" and will soon be forgotten. As you know, I wrote a book a couple of years ago about my experience in the 2004 tsunami. I have been selling copies on my website and I have decided that all the proceeds from sales of my book will go to support the tsunami relief efforts. 100% of the proceeds. I estimate I can raise at least $15,000 this way. It is easy to buy through paypal on the site and I am happy to post to anywhere in the world. The money I raise with Andaman Discoveries will go to Seacology, an international environmental non-profit organisation that focuses on saving endangered species, habitats and cultures of islands throughout the world. Seacology has indicated it will focus its tsunami efforts in three affected villages. I'm hoping everyone in the world who donated money to the 2004 tsunami relief effort will consider donating a portion of that amount to the people of the Pacific. Thank you for helping me help!



Samoan Tsunami Relief (Part 2)

Dear Bodhi and Andaman Discoveries:

Seacology has been very busy since the tsunami struck the Polynesian archipelago of Samoa. With our island focus and roster of projects there, we became involved immediately. Falealupo village in Western Samoa is the location of Seacology’s flagship project where we partnered with a concerned community to preserve a 30,000 acre rainforest in the early 1990’s. Naturally, we waited with baited breath to get word.

Here is the most recent news from our field representative:

Thanks you so much for your concern and prayers. Samoa is still trying to come to terms with the tragedy. SO many lives were lost including one of my extended family (young child) and some friends and their families. As my family live on the hill and on the north part of the islands, we were safe from the tsunami which caused the most damage.

In terms of the national situation, all the district of Aleipata (on the south eastern end of Upolu islands) has been destroyed. Other districts most affected are all along the south coast (Falealili; Siumu; and Lepa). Over 30,000 people (close to 20% of the population) live along the affected areas. In most cases, all the houses have been destroyed along with all the belongings. To date over 115 people have been found dead while search is on going for some missing people.

The situation at the affected areas are that relief efforts for food, water, clothing are now moving there from families and groups around the country. Outside relief work is also starting to arrive from Australia and NZ. The US, I think, is providing the bulk of the assistance for Am Samoa. The roads to the affected areas are washed away in some cases so reconstruction is focusing on roads, electricity, and water supply and transporting the injured to the hospital as well and burials for the dead I’m heading off soon to the affected areas and will try and take some photos.

For the Indonesian tsunami of 2005, four of our projects and the villages surrounding them were hit: the Kendhoo School, Maldives; the Kiralakele Mangrove Center, Sri Lanka; the Mangrove Biological Garden and Resource Center, Andaman Islands; and the Dugong Conservation Project, Trang Province, Thailand. Seacology repaired all of these projects from our operating budget, which we will also do for our Samoa projects. However, since the villages in proximity to the projects were so integral to our efforts, we felt compelled to help them. We had a field representative in each project area plus an economic infrastructure already established, so offering serious assistance was realistic.

Our emergency efforts started by asking our field representatives to find out what were the most critical needs to help the villagers put their lives back together. Of course, as you would particularly understand, it was different for each village. We will proceed in the very same way with the Samoan tsunami by having Cedric, our field representative, ask the Samoan villages what they need. Those villages are: Satapuala village, Upolu Island; and Falealupo and Tafua villages, Savai’i Island. We are anticipating that all of the villages will need repairs to public facilities and basic infrastructure.

With the proceeds of the Samoa Emergency Relief Fund, we will assist the islanders with the projects they have identified are most necessary. We plan to work in a concentric circle, starting with the greatest needs. In general, the islanders and field representative feel that additional funds should go to help the poorest families and work outward from there.

Bodhi, as a fellow grassroots island supporter, I very much appreciate your interest in supporting Seacology’s tsunami relief efforts for Samoa. Seacology has chosen to target three villages where locally based volunteers live and work and where our field representative can monitor the disbursement of funds. Seacology ensures that all money raised will go directly to assist victims of this devastating tsunami. On behalf of the more than 100,000 islands of the world, we appreciate your inquiry to support Seacology’s island conservation endeavors.

Best regards,
Susan Racanelli
Development Director

P.s. Your work with Andaman Discoveries is wonderful.

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