On top of the weekday work to get my initial recommendations ready for my last day at Andaman Discoveries, my last two weekends were consumed with “research”. One weekend on Koh Ra at the Koh Ra Ecolodge and another at Our Jungle House in Khao Sok gave me a great opportunity to see what midsize eco-resorts are doing to reduce their impact.
The Khao Sok and Koh Ra Trips weren’t all play though. I had fascinating discussions with one farang and one Thai resort manager. Both agreed that the foremost issue in starting environmental protocols was persistence and patience. Instilling a conservation mentality in a land of plenty takes time. My interviews show that well-behaved tourists can have a huge impact upon how local people think.
Here are a few of my favorite villager thoughts on how local tourism has changed their appreciation for nature. Every time I heard people say things like this it made me hopeful for local conservation. Conservation can be taught and modeled. Please think about these people next time you are on holiday, and treat the place you are visiting at least as well as home.
“I had one experience. It was the earliest experience that made me think about garbage. I was driving the boat for the resort. I saw foreigners smoking cigarettes and they would throw the ash away and keep the filter. They would carry them around. I always wondered… their shirts and pants, they are dressed very well, sometimes expensively. Are they not afraid that the cigarette butts would stain the clothes? But still they do it. Even the foreigners, they care about the things that they use, so I should also care about these things as well.”
“When you see a lot of people being impressed by the beauty of nature, suddenly you will be affected as well, and you will want to keep it, because you feel proud of it. You want to keep it to be able to show it to others.”
“Through tourism the local people have learned. With the forest chickens, you can shoot them right now and eat them, or you can keep them so the tourists and guests can come and see the forest chicken, and that would be used for much longer. People have started to see different values for how important nature can be, like aesthetically and for guests.”
“Now through tourism our community has been much more opened. We wanted to see farang for a long time, but lacked the opportunity!”
I’ve just presented my first set of recommendations, and and will continue to work on sustainability planning for Andaman Discoveries throughout the academic year as my MP. Tomorrow I’m embarking on 33 hours of travel to get back to Durham (4 hour bus to Phuket, 7 hour flight to Dubai, 3 hour layover, 14 hour flight to New York, 3 hour layover, 2 hour flight to RDU — ughhh). In the meantime I will enjoy some super spicy Thai food and go to the most painfully amazing Thai masseuse in town.