Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RTA 2010 Finalist Site Visit: Heritance Kandalama

[To perch] - The noun befits birds gently and gracefully sitting on tree branches, covered with lushes of green for shade. That’s once upon a time for the tiny village of Kandalama, 20 kilometres from Dambulla, a small town in Sri Lanka. Blessed with rich biodiversity many of which endemic to Sri Lanka, this region serves as a perfect spot for nature lovers.

An [idea] - This word calls for an intention to create, and often times, accompanied with a representative image. The idea back in 1992 was to create a seamless hotel that blends into the natural surroundings. Many surrounding villagers did not think this idea was congruent with the blessings Kandalama had, but the designers, innovators and entrepreneurs behind Heritance Kandalama, a now well recognized hotel had a plan, a plan to prove the sceptics wrong.

Since its inception in 1992 for construction, Heritance Kandalama had a very close stake to sustainability ensuring that from its development to operations, the area’s biodiversity and community must be preserved. Among many awards the hotel has won, it is also the first LEED certified hotel to be recognized outside of USA.

As though emerging out from the lush of nature, the Heritance Kandalama building was aligned to fit the profile of the craggy land. Instead of blasting stones or removing trees, they elevated the Dambulla and Sigiriya on stilts in order to eliminate any ecological impact.

Situated in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle’s heartland, Heritance Kandalama is flanked by two UNESCO world heritage sites – the 1st Century BC Dambulla Cave Temple and the 5th Century AD Sigiriya Rock Fortress. The hotel is surrounded by rocky outcrops, lush forests, and overlooks the glistening Kandalama Tank.

With its commitment to sustainability, Heritance went one step further in setting up an Eco Park as a tool for wildlife and environment education. This is where waste from the hotel is being sorted and waste water treated. The Eco Park also has a unit for making paper out of elephant dung and waste paper and a nursery to cultivate indigenous seedlings. Over the years, this facility has also evolved into an animal rehabilitation centre where wildlife is rescued, cared for and prep for the wild.

After 16 years, the hotel is not only conserving the environment, they are giving back to local communities and playing the role of a change agent in the country. Its doors are constantly open for the occasional sceptic, curious researchers, students and tasteful travellers who seek a different kind of travel experience.

This idea became a vision and turned into reality. Heritance Kandalama, not just a pride of Sri Lanka, but soon to be an example to the world.

By: Terence Ooi & Deborah Chan (Dambulla, Sri Lanka: 10 – 13 September, 2010)

Special Note: Heritance Kandalama is one of the finalists for the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Large Accommodation). For more v-blogs on Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards, please visit our Wild Asia Channel.

RTA 2010 Finalist Site Visit: Sarinbuana Ecolodge

Nestled in the rainforest of Mount Batukaru, in the northwest region of Bali, Sarinbuana Ecolodge offers a welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of the tourist track, and a refreshing experience that most people do not feel when visiting this island. Sarinbuana Ecolodge, which was started ten years ago, is run by Linda and Norm vant Hoff and their extended Balinese family. The eco lodge demonstrates a clear and committed practice of responsible tourism in every aspect of its operation, and is nominated this year for the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Award.

Although a small lodge, with only 4 villas, Sarinbuana Ecolodge has had an enormous positive impact on the local village. Since the arrival to the Sarinbuana village, the vant Hoff family has dedicated themselves to improving local livelihoods, establishing a good relationship with the community, and learning the local language and culture in order to truly integrate with the local community. The eco lodge has provided a surplus of extra income for many village members. All staff are local and live within ten minutes from the eco lodge, including the lodge manager. The eco lodge believes firmly that the key to a successful lodge is by providing economic opportunities to the local communities. Whether it be from generating jobs on site, or through numerous workshops offered for guests, trekking guides, soccer coaching to a local team, employing a team to manage the tree planting program, or many others, Sarinbuana Ecolodge excels at generating income for the local community, while instilling a sustainable development philosophy. The lodge also aims to unite other eco lodges in the Bali area and helps to provide consulting and courses for other developers.

In terms of best environmental practices of responsible tourism, the lodge has adopted a number of strategies ever since the formation of the business. All cleaning materials, as well as soaps are all natural and 100% biodegradable. No plastic bottles are used on premises, and all waste is segregated and recycled. Organic waste is composted on site and used as fertilizer for the extensive permaculture gardens which cover the property. All villas are constructed with local sustainable timber, including coconut and bamboo and have a very low impact design. Water is sourced from a natural spring and all waste water is carefully treated and released into leach gardens, which in turn, support the gardens and various fruit trees. The eco lodge has successfully established an 800 hectare rainforest reserve and guests are offered the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions by physically planting trees in the neighboring reserve.

At Sarinbuana Ecolodge, one can embrace the cool mountain breezes, lush tropical rainforests, rich Balinese culture, and appreciate life at its purest. The eco lodge operates in a truly holistic manner, exemplifies sustainability environmentally, economically and socially, and provides comfortable and pristine surroundings for true peace of mind.

Written by: Melissa Cornejo (Bali, Indonesia: 6 - 9 September, 2010)

Special Note: Sarinbuana Ecolodge is one of the finalists for the 2010 Responsible Tourism Awards (Category: Small to Mid-size Accommodation). For more v-blogs on Wild Asia’s Responsible Tourism Awards, please visit the Wild Asia Channel.