San Miguel del Bala to be presented "TO DO!" Award at ITB
The beautiful jungle Ecolodges of San Miguel del Bala were created by the local indigenous community as a means of celebrating the native Tacana culture and the amazing biodiversity of the Bolivian Amazon. SMdB’s success story is a true testament to the benefits sustainable tourism can offer local communities.
Today on March 9th’s at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin San Miguel, along with Addiopizzo Travel of Sicily and the Nkwichi Lodge in Mozambique, will be honored for all of the ways in which it has helped to empower the local community.
What are the TO DO! Awards?
The "TO DO! Contest for Socially Responsible Tourism” is organized by Studienkreis für Tourismus und Entwicklung (Institute for Tourism and Development) and invites entries from all over the world. The award was created in 1995 in response to newfound global focus on conservation and ecotourism initiatives. Although the organization welcomed the mainstream change in tourism policy, it sought to take things a step further by encouraging tourism enterprises to also account for the needs of local populations. It also aimed to push local populations to participate in sustainable tourism practices on a broad scale.
San Miguel an Embodiment of Social Responsible Tourism
San Miguel del Bala’s story exhibits all of the goals and practices commemorated by the TO DO! Awards. The formation of Madidi National Park in 1995 was a large win for environmental conservationists, but a blow to local inhabitants of the area. Many of the Tacana, including the residents of San Miguel del Bala, felt that the Bolivian government was infringing on their ancient lands and placing their ancient hunting and agricultural traditions in jeopardy. Instead of combating the governmental policies, San Miguel created a lodge intended to celebrate the Tacana culture as well as the rich Amazonian ecosystem. Today, San Miguel del Bala and the 35 families that own the lodge are directly benefiting from lodge employment and the increased health and educational benefits it has brought them.
A CHOCOLATE LOVER’S PARADISE …..
When I heard the words “chocolate wine” I was immediately intrigued—I mean who wouldn’t be? Take the Tour de Chocolate—every chocolate lover's paradise—and enjoy a homemade Dominican meal surrounded by beautiful tropical scenery and learn about free trade practices, cocoa production, watch the creation of and sample an array of cocoa treats from wine to chocolate and even marmalade made by local women. For those who want to savor a part of the experience at home, these chocolate delicacies are available for purchase, as are local handicrafts. If you’re not ready to leave the sanctuary of the tropical forest and rural life—no fear—visitors can opt to stay a night in a cabaña and enjoy the food and drinks provided by a local women’s group “Asociación de Amor y Paz”.
The Fairtrade Chocolate Tour is a member of one of our collection members, the Dominican Treasures, a network of authentic and unique tourism destinations throughout the Dominican Republic dedicated to the promotion and practice of sustainable tourism. Today over 8,500 small-scale producers of “CONACADO” export their cocoa to markets in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The Tour de Chocolate (Fairtrade Chocolate Tour) was created to help visitors familiarize themselves with fair-trade cocoa production and exportation. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about all facets of cocoa farming and exportation as they are welcomed by local farmers at their processing plants and learn first-hand how Fair Trade has improved the quality of local life.
The Tour de Chocolate is dedicated to helping local populations. In fact, 70% of the proceeds generated by the tour are reinvested into the community to cover salaries and development projects. These development projects cover an array of initiatives such as: supporting English courses for community youth, improving road work within the communities, increasing the support of medical teams to benefit community members, funding a site for the association of women in Yabón, and contributing funds for the construction of a children’s playground in the community. The community is also dedicated to environmental preservation. The Tour de Chocolate has been working on a project that will give both the community and visitors an opportunity to plant trees in areas that have no forests—this is done in coordination with a series of community training programs that will cover issues such as solid waste management, conservation of water sources, and erosion reduction.
So what are you waiting for? Come spend the day immersed in the tropical forest savoring rich chocolate concoctions and know that while sampling these delicatessens you are simultaneously contributing to environmental conservation and socio-economic development!
I was not surprised when Pampa Estancia was listed by Guardian Travel readers as one of the best ranch experiences in South America. Run by Lipiko Tours, one of our collection members in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, Pampa Estancia is a fantastic tour that literally fulfills the childhood dream of millions: to be a cowboy for a week! So for all you kids out there who dreamed of ridding off into the crimson sunset, lasso in hand, this is your chance to realize this fantasy with a little Bolivian twist!
The tour’s natural setting in Bolivia’s Reyes pampas region wedged between the famous Amazon rainforest and the undulating Andes mountains is a major draw for visitors on its own. Couple this magnificent setting with an authentic ranch-immersion experience, and you have one rip-roaring good time. Attendees spend a few days living in a traditional Bolivian ranch house with vaqueros, Bolivian cowboys, and accompany them during their daily duties such as rounding up and milking the cows, or preparing traditional meals in a clay oven—that visitors enjoy after.
In true cowboy form, visitors horseback ride through “uncharted territory” in pampas and discover hidden lagoons and a swathe of diverse wildlife like capybaras, wildcats and tapirs. In addition to this cowboy experience, Lipiko tours is participates in Rurrenabaque’s Green Action best practices program, which only reinforces its commitment to running a responsible business and the conservation of cultural and environmental resources. Visitors can feel good that their tour is not only offering a authentic and memorable cultural experience, but it is simultaneously benefiting the surrounding local economy and minimizing its impact on the environment—and that is what The Undiscovered Travel Collection is all about.
Announcing a Discovery Alert—a member of our Undiscovered Travel Collection—Namibia was featured on the Today Show! This week Today Show Host Matt Lauer surprised viewers when he kicked off the Today Show’s “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” series skiing down sprawling sand dunes in Namibia’s Namib Desert. His vivid expose of the country featured an array of compelling attractions such as the region’s famous Skeleton Coast where the Atlantic meets the desert and adorned with whalebones and shipwrecks. He also explored the country’s stunning array of native species such as the rare desert-roaming elephants, and experienced the culture of the indigenous cattle-herding Himba tribe, that make up some of the worlds only remaining nomadic peoples.
During the NBC series, it was clear that Matt was awestruck by the country, its breathtaking culture and landscapes. He raved about how Namibia was one of the only destinations were conservation was a component of the country’s National Constitution, which filters down into tourism policy. He also was sure to mention that the country was one of the most amazing places he has visited in the last ten years. Click here to see The Today Show’s coverage of Namibia.
Namibia is not only one of the newest additions to The Undiscovered Travel Collection, but the Namibia Tourism Board just so happens to be our parent company, Solimar International, clients. Solimar International has been working with the Namibia Tourism Board to carry out an innovative, online trade-focused marketing campaign to increase the country’s overall presence in the North American travel industry. To learn more about Solimar’s work with Namibia click here.
I’ll see you skiing down Namibia’s sand dunes!
Hi everyone, Karen Megarbane, here. You could say that I was naturally brought up for a career in international development and sustainable tourism. Different cultures, traditions and languages have always fascinated me. By the time I was seven years old, I could speak three languages and had already traveled to over twenty different countries. I was quickly becoming a citizen of the world. This global feeling continues to grow, as does the number of counties I have visited. (That is me in The Bahamas below). By the time I am thirty, I plan to have visited all the continents—the only two remaining on my list are Australia and South America.
Growing up in Syria with multicultural roots and voyaging through most of Europe, traveling has always been an important aspect of my live and an obvious career path. As I plan to expand my career in International Development and capitalize on my undergraduate degree in Marketing from American University, joining the Undiscovered Travel Collection became an obvious choice.
I was immediately drawn to the diverse members of The Collection. Each destination, lodge and community represent different corners of the world, but they share the common thread of authenticity and offer visitors a one-off travel experience that they could find no where else. In addition to providing patently local encounters, the travel industry members who make up The Collection strive to conserve and improve their surrounding environments and communities.
Can’t wait to cross South America off my list, so I hope to see you in San Miguel del Bala!