Experiencing Gayana Eco Resort – Sabah

Borneo and Sabah

Borneo is South East Asia’s biggest island and is collectively made up of the two East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. The island of Palau and Gaya is located just off Sabah’s Capital, Kota Kinabalu, about a 2.5-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur.

Gaya Island is the largest of the five islands that make up the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Marine Park and is famous for its ancient, dense Dipterocarp forest which offers a rare glimpse into a primordial jungle

Gayana Eco Resort

Departing from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal on the edge of Kota Kinabalu, we take a tender to the Gayana Eco resort, about a 25 minute trip sees us arrive to a small jetty at the base of a stunning jungle backdrop.

Stepping onto the jetty you are greeted with hundreds of tropical fish swimming beneath you in the crystal clear aqua waters, to the right a number of Kingfish that have been rescued from old nets swim freely in a protected rehabilitation area.

The Eco resort itself sits right against the jungle and rocky outcrops of National Park of Tunku Abdul Rahman, a number of over water villas house guests and have been designed to enhance the soothing sounds of the ocean below and the jungle beside, while capturing the enduring vistas of Mt Kinabalu on the distant horizon.

One of the main features at Gayana is the Marine Ecology Research Centre or (MERC). The centre is a must visit and showcases the product of their research and conservation program efforts. Passionately propagating endangered Giant Clams and restoring vital natural coral reefs; a place where visitors can actively participate in restoring vibrant life back to once damaged ocean floors.

Striking the perfect balance of forward thinking ecology and visitor comfort Gayana is a place your body and mind will enjoy.

The rest of day one was taken up with an immersion in the MERC facility. The guide directed visitors to the, quite modern, theatrette complete with advanced audiovisuals and tiered seating for approximately 80.

A 20 min presentation soon followed which gave a detailed insight in to MERC and the great work that has been under way for a number of years. After the presentation visitors stroll along the over-water jetty to an educational aquarium, housed in more than 20 tanks visitors get up, close and personal with the local fish species, Giant Clams and our guide facilitates an informative discussion about the centre, the habitat and how climate change and human impact has placed this area at risk.

Next to the aquarium is a more ‘touch and feel’ area, stroking star fish, baby clams, sea cucumbers, coral and the like gives visitors an appreciation for how precious and vulnerable the marine habitat is. MERC is all about conservation through education, which is why it hosts many school groups and visitors from across Malaysia, Brunei, and Borneo and across the globe.

Adjacent to MERC’s main facility an in-ocean protected area and home to numbers of rescued marine life. A green and olive turtle were rescued overnight, found stressed and tangled in a disused Fishermans nets, bought to MERC by a local, the centre assesses and nurtures the turtles back to health before releasing back into the marine reserve. Along side the turtles are a number of kingfish, which had been also rescued by locals and are being cared for by the centre.

In addition to the conservation of fish, mammals and Giant Clams the centre is also developing and restoring coral reefs through initiatives like replanting of broken and damaged coral and the establishment of two solar powered bio rock reefs. Placing large steel structures in areas of the habitat where reefs have been lost forms a Bio rock reef; by directing a very low voltage current through the steel it encourages and attracts rapid coral growth.

One of the best ways to explore the marine reserve is via kayak and snorkeling or free diving which visitors are encouraged to undertake.

Very early morning on day two at Gayana gave rise to the sounds of monkeys clambering down to the rocky ocean edge at low tide to fossick for breakfast, more than 30 were busy feasting on crabs, baby clams anything they could find, or steal from each other.

Later that day as I walked along the jetty, just below a monitor lizard appeared from the jungle, at more than 1.5 meters long, it slowly slide into the water every so smoothly swimming around, glad it did not find me enticing. Looking above, a few rare Hornbills flew in formation, a fantastic sight to see.

As the sun sets on my last day here I was lucky enough to see a mass bait ball swimming very close to the jetty, thousands of young fish darting left, right, up and down, they clearly like being in a protected marine reserve also.

To see more images from the trip please see flickr link on the home page.

Informative sites

www.gayana-eco-resort.com

www.sabahtourism.com

Portsea Polo 2012 had a touch of ‘Green’

Cool Australia Green Room at the Portsea Polo

A warm Saturday in early January 2012 saw the annual Portsea Polo get a ‘touch of green’ through the addition of Cool Australias ‘Green Room’ marquee thanks to Jason Kimberley, Deb Hallmark and the team at coolaustralia.org

With more than 4000 at the polo, just 180 guests were able to enjoy the eco friendly, sustainable marquee where we drank champagne from recycled jars, through biodegradable straws, whilst sitting on hay bales surrounded by walls of potted strawberries and wooden crates filled with  herbs, fruits and vegatables.

Contributions made by Joost design and  food by Damm Fine Foods and with the best field side position we enjoyed the polo matches whilst making a worthy contribution to the Cool Australia Not-for-Profit organisation.

As the day drew to a close guests grabbed their potted strawberry plant, said goodbyes to new friends and headed off. A great day was had by all and I am sure future polo events will also get a ‘touch of green’.

Geoff Gourley Founder Shape Our Future and Jason Kimberley Founder Cool Australia

 
 

The Green Room

About Cool Australia

Cool Australia is your one-stop info-shop for all things environmental, inspirational, practical and sustainable. Full of facts, they are the eco-link between science and our community, businesses and schools.

Cool Australia explains global warming and environmental issues in plain English. They promote the great green stories happening in Australia and help you to find out the challenges we face and what people are doing to get us back on track.

Australian’s are embracing a low-impact lifestyle because it is the smart, cool and healthy way to live. It makes us feel connected to our neighbours, family and friends. If we work together we can build a city that is cleaner, fairer, safer and happier.

Rainforest Eco Camp -Khao Sok, Thailand

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Rainforest Eco Camp – Khao Sok, Thailand

I was invited in October 2011 to visit this amazing eco retreat as part of an educational trip to study eco based retreats and resorts; I also visited Elephant Hills as part of this trip. See Elephant Hills post.

The Rainforest Camp, one of the only floating tented camps in the world is surrounded by the jungles and towering Limestone Mountains of Khao Sok National Park. The plants and animals resident in the flooded forest still thrive in the dense jungles and towering mountains that surround the lake. Species include numerous monkeys, elephants, water buffalos, bears and countless plants including the world’s largest flower species the Rafflesia which can measure almost a meter across.

Following on from our stay at the Elephant Hills Camp we arrive at Cheow Larn Lake, a Hydro lake operated by the Thai Government. Here we board a traditional Long Boat which takes us for a pleasurable 1 hour ride to the far reaches of this huge, 185 Square kilometres, and deep, an average of 90 metres, lake.

10 Luxury Safari Tents with en-suite bathrooms provide an intimate base for us to explore southern Thailand’s tropical rainforest. Powered purely by both Solar and Wind energy and using unique waste management systems, Black Water Recycling, our stay at the Rainforest Camp will leave no negative impact on the surrounding forest. Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp is designed to be as responsible as possible, allowing you to be at one with nature. This has to be the most unique and responsible way to experience the true beauty of Southern Thailand’s endangered rainforest habitat!

On arrival we were greeted by the local camp manager and our guide who was to be with us for the next couple of days. We dropped our gear and quickly took one of the many kayaks to paddle through klongs and channels in search of monkeys and birds, we were lucky enough to see a flock of the rare Horn Bill birds which are known for inhabiting this area but rarely seen.

Once back to the camp we relax from the front of our tent and watch the sun set over the jungle, followed by a swim in the emerald waters of Cheow Larn Lake. The evening meal is a combination of fish, fresh from the lake, local salads and vegetables and a few refreshing cold beers.

Day two we raise to a stunning sun rise and hearty breakfast, in readiness for a half day trek in a part of the National Park. Here we climb up, very steeply, through the dense jungle on a narrow track, seeking out wild hogs, butterflies, birds and gibbons, and it’s HOT.

Almost at the top of the mountain our guide takes us into a deep, and cool, cave where, from a safe distance we encounter a number of snakes, an amazing experience if somewhat frightful.

Our decent is steep and slippery through the lush jungle but we finally make it to a deep blue lagoon where a Long Boat is awaiting to return us to the camp to collect our gear and have a final refreshing swim.

As we speed across the lake we can see many monkeys and bird life scattered across the high cliffs and low grass banks of the lake. The journey ends with a boat ride back to Cheow Larn Lake port where we head off to Khao Lak with many great learning’s about these fantastic and unique eco retreats.

See Elephant Hills post for more information and follow Flickr link to see photos.

http://www.rainforestcamp.com

http://www.youtube.com/user/ElephantHills

Elephant Hills Eco Camp – Khao Sok, Thailand

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Elephant Hills Eco Camp – Khao Sok, Thailand

Elephant Hills is Thailand’s first luxury tented jungle camp combining the camp ideas of African national parks with the Thai tropical forest environment.

I was invited in October 2011 to visit this amazing eco retreat as part of an educational trip to study eco based retreats and resorts.

Elephant Hills 30 luxurious tents are tailor-made and set in the largest area of protected rainforest in Southern Thailand. Each tent features twin beds, fan, kettle, and a luxurious bathroom with toilet and hot/cold shower. The tents provide ample space and are well protected against mosquitoes and other possible intruders. The furniture is handmade by local skilled craftsmen using natural materials and provides all the comfort you would normally find in a hotel room. There are enough lights to read by and fill your diaries with the day’s observations and importantly power to recharge your iPad and Camera.

At the centre of the camp is the semi-open air, main camp housing the restaurant. This serves as the place to meet other guests, dine and relax. It also has a number of information boards which give guests an in-depth understanding of the local area, wildlife and history.

The forest is filled with animals and plants, some of them can only be found in this environment. Two nights and three days at Elephant Hills is a unique experience; the temperatures drop, campfires create a romantic and warm atmosphere in which to share travel tales and the rainforest and its inhabitants form an exciting concert that accompanies visitors through the night.

Upon arrival the camp manager personally guided us around the camp and explained the main features, the next few days’ activities and helped all guests get settled in.

Fantastic traditional Thai fare was on offer for the evening, served at a communal table this enabled all guests to get know one another and chat about the retreat and how we came to be there. Some had been travelling around Asia, a couple caught the train from Bangkok and I transferred from Kamala where I had visited an area devastated by the Tsunami a number of years ago.

In the morning we awoke to the different noises of the forest; the jungle wakes up whilst the hills surrounding the camp are still covered in mist. Once the mist disappears, the lush greenery of the tropical rainforest stunningly lights the day and it is possible to take in the magnificent views of the surrounding rainforest covered mountains.

With a guide we kayak down river for approx 1 hour slowly and quietly drifting past local villages, farms and stunning landscape, and in the distance the Elephant Hills which rise above the rainforest.

We arrived at a historical local cave where we left our canoe guides and walked through to an area where a jeep was waiting to transport us to the Elephant Hills Elephant Reserve.

Here we spend the day assisting the local handlers to feed and wash the Elephants, prepare various foods and maintain extensive vegetable gardens.

Upon return to the camp we took a dip in the pool which rests at the base of the Limestone Mountains.

Dinner that evening included a cooking lesson in traditional jungle curries and a dance performance by children from a local school which is part of Elephant Hills Corporate Social Responsibility charter, the school directly benefits form a portion of profits from the camp and any donations guests make.

On our last day here we are transfer to the Elephant Hills other camp the Rainforest Camp, one of the only floating tented camps in the world, situated on one of Thailand’s most spectacular rainforest lakes.

See Rainforest Camp post for more information and follow Flickr link to see photos.

www.elephant-hills.com
http://www.facebook.com/ElephantHills

We Wood Watch

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Great collection of Wooden Watches

WEWOOD has emerged out of Italy as an emblem of eco-luxury and design, committed to the health of our planet. WEWOOD is the avant-garde approach to sophisticated sustainability. I received a We Wood Watch at Christmas and love the designs they have.

WEWOOD lets us rediscover nature in its beauty, its simplicity and inspired design. It reminds us of a tree’s powerful way of life; rooted, yet reaching.

Completely absent of artificial and toxic materials, the WEWOOD Timepiece is as natural as your wrist. It respects your skin as you respect nature by choosing it. Your WEWOOD Watch breathes the same air that you breathe and may awaken memories from another time and place. Your WEWOOD Watch records your sensations and shares your experiences as the perfect natural mate, whose story also becomes yours to wear, smell and feel.

Rebuilding an Endangered Ecosystem – One Tree at the Time

A philosophy not implemented is only a dream. Conversely, when you get your WEWOOD Timepiece, you can feel confident you’re making a difference. One Timepiece plants one tree, and together we help to ensure the health and survival of the natural world.

One Watch  – One Tree – One Planet

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

Visit www.we-wood.com.au/