A Sustainable Journey in Angkor Wat

When my father and I found ourselves in Bangkok with a few days to spare, we simply could not pass up the opportunity to hop over to Cambodia to visit one of the most impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the world’s largest religious monument, Angkor Wat.

Seeking a Sustainable and Authentic Angkor Wat Experience

The massive temples of Angkor Wat were left to the mercy of the forest for decades while the Cambodian government restructured and its people recovered from years of tragic genocide and conflict under the Khmer Rouge regime of the 70s. You can also play mobile casino no deposit at the UK’s leading themobilecasino.co.uk site. Since it became a World Heritage site in 1992 and international development funds have supported its restoration, Angkor Wat quickly flourished as a major tourism attraction in the region. Last year alone, it attracted an estimated 2 million tourists.

I asked myself, how do we experience the highlights of this amazing place without having the mass of visitors steal its authenticity. One sure bet is to find a sustainable tour operator. In Cambodia, we got in touch with Andrea Ross, who runs Journeys Within, an acclaimed operator in Southeast Asia that offers customized tours. Andrea’s reputation and expertise has been recognized internationally; for the past 5 years she has been listed in Wendy Perrin Travel Specialist List, published by Condé Nast Traveler.

Angkor Wat, meaning “Temple City” or “City of Temples” is the name given to the main temple complex, recognizable on the Cambodian flag. However, more than 200 temples, originally built between 800 and 1200 AD, are now restored and accessible to visitors. Living up to its namesake, the city of temples has more sites than you will likely get a chance to explore. If you stick to the guided group tours, you are surely going to miss the tomb-raider feeling of exploring unique corners of the hidden ruins within the forest. If you set out alone with a mere simple tourist map, you are sure to miss out on some of the cool features that guides can point out.

Thankfully, Journeys Within set us up with a great guide and driver that knew how to get us around the crowds and have unique experience exploring the temples.

We were happy to wake up early – 5am – every morning to catch the 12th century Hindu temples with the first rays of sun.

It was truly magical, climbing through ancient stone archways engulfed by the roots of massive trees.

By 1pm there was no point in fighting the heat of the sun or its affects on our pictures. We leave crowds at their peak and head for a retreat at the Journeys Within boutique hotel. Just outside of Siem Reap, this little oasis of 10 rooms was set up by Andrea and her husband Brandon in 2004.

We are greeted by Narla Phay, Journeys Within’s Cambodia Director, who invites us to have lunch by the pool. I order a brilliantly cold pilsner, also named Angkor, and savor a refreshing green papaya salad with mangos, while Narla tells me a little more about the Journeys Within Story.

Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC)

Narla explains that in 2005, Andrea and Brandon – founders of Journeys Within – established a local NGO called Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) with the intention improving living conditions of local communities through health, education, economic, and emergency relief projects. Narla states he was among the first to receive a scholarship from JWOC to complete his university studies in tourism and that today is one of the directors of the company.

Intrigued by the project, we are invited to go next door and visit JWOC headquarters which houses several beautiful classrooms, a library, computer lap and offices. Nicola Ball, the JWOC managing director tells me, “Today we have over 70 scholarship recipients, like Narla, who donate 5 hours a week to support all our other JWOC programs that include: free extracurricular classes for over 700 students, microfinance loans, and projects to support access to clean water and emergency relief.” Narla adds, “JWOC is based on the premise of See a problem, Solve a Problem.”

We meet up with a group of students leaving their computing class, who are thrilled and honored to be part of JWOC.

Inspired by the JWOC’s contribution to the community, we head back to catch the sun set on the Angkor temples. We climb up Phnom Bakheng, a popular site to witness the last sunrays of the day. Our guide makes sure we get there early, to get a good view, given that now the authorities of the Angkor Archeological Park carefully regulate the number of visitors allowed on top of the temple at once. As we climb up the wooden steps placed to protect the original sandstone structure of the temple, I reflect on my footprint as a tourist.

It feels good to know I made the right travel choice!

Kyrgyzstan: Genghis Khan, Mountains and Mutton

This article was first published by Travel Culture Magazine, who have agreed to its republication here. View original article on Travel Culture Magazine here.
By Michael Soncina

I often still find it strange that I can tell people I spent 2 months living in Kyrgyzstan. I am sure listeners conjure up images of something like Genghis Khan’s horde or a land ripe with civil war. Though there are times when I felt like a nomad or in potential danger, Kyrgyzstan is not a dangerous place. Actually it is a peaceful one with green hills, kind people and about 1000 different kinds of mutton.

I was fortunate enough to receive my introduction to Kyrgyzstan from a local NGO called CBT Kyrgyzstan, also known as Hospitality Kyrgyzstan. The organization set me up with lodging and food in the mountain town of Kochkor. This is where I would be living for two months in order to complete my internship requirement for my International Development degree in Canada. At OnlineCasinoMaple.com you can find a list of best online casino in Canada and online slots.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking: why Kyrgyzstan? My answer: why not? The North American perception of the entire region of Central Asia is like a dark abyss, but what better way to approach the darkness than head on?

Unlike neighboring Uzbekistan which is famous for its Silk Road structures, Kyrgyzstan is a country of mountains. Because of this the Red Horde – descendents of the Mongols – settled and created the very distinct culture that is Kyrgyz. Sprawling mountains with flocks of sheep, sheppards, smoke-stacked yurts and wool tents, are common scenes for a country-side adventure.

CBT does a great job of utilizing the local people and nature to capitalize on a sustainable tourism approach that benefits both locals and tourists alike. Whether you are looking for horse trekking, chatting with a local over tea or checking out a handicraft workshop, CBT is able to provide the means and opportunity for a variety of budgets.

Ok ok enough promotion; though they deserve it, Kyrgyzstan is really a spectacular country, though small. Unlike France or Italy where tourists visit to see specific sights, it is much better to plan your trips in the country in relation the nature you want to see. Travelers tend to spend around four days traveling around Lake Song Kul by horse or exploring the walnut forests of Jalalabad in the south.

If history is what you’re after, Tash-Rabat in Naryn province is the place to be. The reconstruction of a Silk Road military post is something to be admired. Though the outside is beautiful once you enter you feel as if you have entered some forbidden dungeon.

Horse trekking, KyrgystanMy personal favorite adventure was a horse trek I took to Kol Ukok lake near Kochkor. I enjoyed this beautifully picturesque glacial lake with almost no other tourists. Here the mountains are breathtaking and the turquoise water will make you think you found a little piece of heaven! My second favorite destination was the hot springs at Altyn Alashan. I laugh at it now but every guide and guide book will tell you this is an easy trek for beginners. I am a beginner and I assure you it is not; the road is tough and the trek takes several hours so if you can I would rent a horse and guide for this part of the trip. But don’t worry, you won’t regret it once you arrive – the hot springs are perfect!

It is easy to let your guard down in this fantastic country because people are so helpful and the nature is so beautiful. But roads are bad and police are more than happy to intimidate to get what they want. Don’t ever show your passport – only photo copies – and if a police man demands it don’t be afraid to resist a little, a local that you drank tea with will probably back you up since they tend not to like the police either.

One last word of advice, as any other culture Kyrgyzstan has its share of customs. One is the consumption of fermented horse milk called Kumis. In my opinion it is horrible and you will always be offered it in generous amounts. But, refusing would be immensely rude. So take a small sip smile and just leave it, it is mildly alcoholic so some more adventurous people may want to enjoy… but drink at your own risk!

On a final note, one of the biggest hassles I had while traveling Central Asia, especially Kyrgyzstan, was with visas. Fortunately, the Kyrgyz government has recently announced free three-month visas for 44 countries, including Canada and the United States, making access to the country that much easier.

So for your next adventure why not considers Kyrgyzstan, you might be pleasantly surprised!

About the Author

Michael Soncina is a sustainable tourism enthusiast from Toronto, Canada holding an Honors B.A in East Asian Studies from York University and a certificate in Marketing and Post Graduate Diploma in International Development from Humber College. He has lived in Singapore, WWOOFing and working with youth groups as a volunteer throughout Japan. This past summer Michael went to Kyrgyzstan to intern with the organization “Hospitality Kyrgyzstan,” also known as CBT Kyrgyzstan.

About Travel Culture Magazine

Travel Culture MagazineTravel Culture Magazine is a combination of travel and culture enthusiasts, who live to explore the world, seek new adventures and inspire others along the way. Travel Culture Magazine promotes responsible travel, with the core belief that education and knowledge can change our planet for the better.

Four Off-the-Beaten-Path Responsible Travel Experiences in Peru

With plenty of investment in transport and tourism infrastructure it is now possible to see the highlights of Peru, including the relatively remote Machu Picchu, in just a few short days. Spend just a little more time, however, and you will begin to uncover some of the ‘hidden’ Peru – people and places that most visitors don’t get to experience, all while contributing to local livelihoods and communities.

Here are four examples of ethical and responsible slow travel experiences in Peru that foster interaction with local communities, provide stable livelihoods, and enhance the wellbeing of host communities throughout the Andean region.

Tierra de los Yachaqs

Working together with several communities in the Sacred Valley, La Tierra de los Yachaqs preserves the culture of the local people while allowing them to support their economy through responsible tourism.

La Tierra de Los Yachaqa

Crucial to this initiative is that the design and operation of the tourism remains in the hands of the community members, selecting the aspects of their culture they want shown and determining how they want to portray these aspects. Each of the five communities has its own unique experiences, and during a visit guests can pick and choose combinations of the activities depending on their own tastes and interests.

For example, visitors can engage in a textile demonstration or an exploration of herbal medicine and homeotherapy at the community of Amaru, learn about the traditional and sustainable agricultural practices of the Huayllafara community, or participate in the gastronomy experience, trying locally grown and traditionally prepared food of the Huchuy Qosqo community. These are just a few of the opportunities available to visitors of this ethical and sustainable experience.

Luquina Chico

At the tip of the Chucuito peninsula of Lake Titicaca lives the indigenous, Aymara-speaking community of Luquina Chico. The village is relatively small and seldom visited, yet the rural population living here as maintained thousands of years of tradition, apparent in its festivals, the clothing, and their everyday rituals.

Luquina Chico

This Andean community, whose way of life continues to be unaffected by mass tourism in the region, is protected by strict travel regulations with the guidance of an NGO called Swiss Contact. Supporting the local community financially, the Luquina Chico initiative raises money and uses the funds to help alleviate poverty in the region, raise their living standards, and provide basic necessities.

During the visit, travelers will have opportunities to view, and participate in, the daily rituals of farming, fishing, sailing, and cookery that allow this community to retain its self-sustainability. Visitors of the Luquina Chico community also have the privileged opportunity to enjoy the traditional dancing and music during the various festivities celebrated here.

Kusi Kawsay School

Located in the Urubamba Valley, walking distance from the Pisac market in Cusco, the Kusi Kawsay (meaning “happy life” in Quechua) school teaches students ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade. The school was founded by five families dedicated to improve the school system in the area, and through grants, donations, and personal sacrifice, they have raised, and continue to raise, money to fund the school and provide the area’s children with an alternative style of education.

Kusi Kawsay’s pedagogy aims to promote high self-esteem to its underprivileged youth through the integration of the native and traditional Andean culture into the classroom, allowing students to fuse their education and culture into one empowering identity.

The school welcomes visitors to come see the classrooms, interact with the students, observe the teaching principles, and contribute financially to the improvement of education for children in the Sacred Valley.

Living Heart

NGO Living Heart, a UK registered charity, provides a wide range of services to a variety of communities throughout the Sacred Valley. Founder Sonia Newhouse utilized her entrepreneur and organic gardening skills, compassion, and integrity as a foundation for what later would become a successful organization that would improve the lives of countless women, children, and communities in need.

Among many other services the charity provides, Living Heart donates educational and school materials to local children, organizes art and theater classes with volunteer teachers, delivers nutritional food to children and the elderly, teaches them about sustenance and healthy habits including contraception, and works on water purification projects to eliminate the risk of water-born parasites.

Collaborating extensively with the local communities and assessing their needs, Living Heart provides cost-effective and sustainable solutions that provide safety, knowledge, and a brighter future for Andean communities in need.

Visitors can get involved with Sonia Newhouse’s NGO during their trip by choosing to donate one of the essential items on their Wish List or more directly by volunteering your teaching, marketing, medical, engineering, agricultural, or other areas of expertise.

Volunteering Abroad for Women’s Rights

According to the Human Rights Watch, “Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women.”

Women all over the world are fighting for the protection of their basic human rights. From the extremes of “honor” killings in Pakistan and female genital mutilation in Africa, to a universal lack of educational opportunities and reproductive choices, to worldwide domestic and sexual abuse, there is still a long way to go to reach gender equality.

Luckily, there are many opportunities to get involved with women’s issues on every continent. The most common and best ways international volunteers can contribute to empowering women are related to creating new opportunities and a sense of self-worth by teaching vocational skills, supporting women’s shelters, and giving them access to education and health opportunities, to name a few.

Take some time to educate yourself on gender equality issues and the programs that address women’s rights. Here are five great examples…

United Planet: Women’s Empowerment Volunteer Quests

Description: “Women’s empowerment and vocational training programs offer sustainable solutions, giving women the tools necessary to gain social and economic independence to lift them and their families out of unhealthy circumstances. United Planet’s unique Volunteer Abroad program combines volunteering abroad, language learning, cultural activities, learning excursions, and special Cultural Awareness Projects to provide an incredibly fulfilling experience for volunteers and valuable support for communities in need.”

  • Time commitment: Short-term (1-12 weeks) or Long-term (6 months or one year)
  • Dates: Short-term Women’s Empowerment Quests are available year-round with two start dates per month. Specific start dates vary by location. Long-term Quests begin in January and August of the year.
  • Fees: Short-term fees start at: $945, Long-term fees start at: $5285
  • Locations: Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru

Cross-Cultural Solutions: Empowering Women

Description: “Our volunteers work with local community organizations that are striving to help women in a variety of ways, from teaching vocational and language skills to offering micro-credit loans to educating about proper hygiene to providing a safe shelter for abused women and their children and more.”

  • Time commitment: 2-12 weeks
  • Locations: Ghana, India, Brazil, Morocco, Guatemala, South Africa, Peru, Tanzania

The Cornerstone Foundation: Women in Belize

Description: “Celebrating Women’s Wisdom, Worth & Ways.” You will be working with local women’s groups and government agencies directly. All the work that you do will immediately help local women that really need this assistance. Issues that affect women’s development: financial dependency, inadequate education and vocational skills, size of families, and domestic violence.”

  • Time commitment: 1 week up to 3 months
  • Fees: Starting at $385, the cost covers all program fees and accommodation (group living) including one midday meal per day.
  • Locations: San Ignacio, Belize

GeoVisions: Improving the Lives of Women

Description: “This project began in 1975 in honor of a famous Argentine woman who, during the foundational process of the Argentinean state in the 19th century, fought unfair conditions of women and proposed a free and public education where women could learn the same disciplines and subjects as men. The project regularly organizes workshops and seminars in local schools to promote and raise awareness on gender equality and women’s rights. There are also debates about violence against women in other associations and public places. There are also lectures and teaching women about law, prevention and health issues.”

  • Time commitment: 1-3 months
  • Fees: $2,435-$3,015
  • Locations: Cordoba, Argentina

Institute for Field Research Expeditions: Women’s Development Projects

Description: “IFRE’s Women Empowerment project helps with both formal and informal education (“street smarts”) as well as skills to earn a living by manufacturing crafts, producing various works of art and arranging for their sale.”

  • Time commitment: 2-12 weeks
  • Dates: First and Third Monday of each month
  • Fees: Starting at $648
  • Locations: Delhi, Alwar, Jaipur (India); Arusha, Tanzania; Kenya; Costa Rica

Learn more about the need to support women’s empowerment:

  • Office of Women’s Global Issues (WGI) in the U.S. Department of State: Promoting women’s social, political, and economic equality around the world.
  • Global Issues, Women’s Rights: Articles on global issues highlighting their inter-connectedness.
  • Human Rights Watch: Dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world.
    Women Watch: Information and resources on gender equality and empowerment of women from the United Nations.
  • World Health Organization’s section on Gender, Women and Health: Highlights how gender and gender inequality affect health.
  • World Volunteer Web, Gender equality & women’s empowerment: Supported by the United Nations Volunteers program, the World Volunteer Web supports the volunteer community by serving as a global clearinghouse for information and resources linked to volunteerism that can be used for campaigning, advocacy, and networking.

About the Author: Katie Boyer

Katie studied public relations at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA and is now working with Go Overseas in the Bay Area. Her experiences with traveling abroad combined with her passion for Latin American culture and community service fuel her writing and creativity. Follow Katie on Twitter @VolunteeReviews, Google+ and her Blog.

Three Ecotourism Hot Spots in Malaysia: Dolphins, Marine Turtles, Elephants

This article was first published by our friends at WHL Group, who have agreed to its republication here. View original article on The Travel Word
By Oshin Chin

Malaysia is a hard-to-rival ecotourism destination. And now, through a combination of charismatic animal species and government programs to protect them, several areas of Malaysia have found a way to regulate and harness tourism as a positive force for animal conservation. Whether it’s dolphins, monkeys, turtles or elephants you’re hoping to encounter (and maybe even help), Malaysia is the place to be.

The Irrawaddy Dolphins of Sarawak

Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, is well regarded as a hot spot for Irrawaddy dolphins (known to locals as pesut). The Irrawaddy dolphins’ unusual features are its blunt, rounded head with a flexible neck, an indistinct and almost non-existent beak, a small triangular dorsal fin with a blunt tip and its long broad flippers. Irrawaddy dolphins usually swim in groups of two to six, but in Santubong and Buntal, larger groups of more than 30 have been sighted.

Since the Irrawaddy dolphin is a protected species in Sarawak, the local government has created dolphin-watching programs to control tourism and limit the number of visitors. Unfortunately, Irrawaddy dolphins are still facing great risk of extinction due to human encroachment. The biggest threat of all is entanglement in fishing nets. Dolphin-watching season runs from April to November, but due to unpredictable weather, sightings are not frequent. It is therefore best to combine a dolphin watching tour with a mangrove cruise that offers the opportunity to see a wide range of rare wildlife such as Borneo’s famed proboscis monkey.

The Marine Turtles of Talang-Satang National Park

Sarawak’s first marine national park, Talang-Satang, comprises four islands on the southeast coast of Sarawak. These four “Turtle Islands” are responsible for 95 percent of all the turtle landings in Sarawak. Talang-Satang National Park covers approximately 48,000 acres, including beautiful shallow reef areas surrounding the four islands. The park also includes a wildlife sanctuary, important nesting sites and fish-breeding areas, as well as rare species of hard and soft corals. Most importantly, though, it provides shelter and resting ground for sea turtles.

Marine turtles are amongst the world’s longest-living creatures with many reaching more than 100 years of age. Marine turtles will only start breeding at between 30 and 50 years of age and the females usually produce eggs only once every four or five years. They also do not lay eggs on just any beach. They will migrate back to their beach of birth, which sometimes can be more than 3,000 kilometres away. Their ability to find their way back to that particular beach, deftly navigating across an ocean world of deadly predators, is considered to be one of the greatest exploits in the animal kingdom.

The peak nesting season for turtles is from April to September. Due to the decline in turtle populations and deliberate poaching of turtles’ eggs, meat and shells, Sarawak Forestry has created a conservation program involving the local communities. As part of the project, turtle eggs are removed from the nests and placed in guarded hatcheries from which young hatchlings are released at night to reduce losses from predators.

In addition, some are tagged with radio tracking devices to learn more about their ecology and life cycle. Pulau Satang Besar, the largest of the four Turtle Islands, is open to visitors, but conservation takes top priority over tourism. In fact, parts of the island and surrounding sea are off-limit to visitors.

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary is situated in Pahang, 160 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur City. To get there, take the Karak Highway toward Lancang. Before reaching the elephant sanctuary, you pass through the Che’ Wong Orang Asli (aborigines) settlement, the last tribe of its kind in Malaysia.

Gandah Elephant Sanctuary was set up in 1989 and is managed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Malaysia. Its main objective is to continue locating, subduing and then relocating wild elephants to a bigger and safer jungle reserve when their natural habitat is being encroached upon by human development. It is estimated that only 1,200 wild Asian elephants are left in Malaysia, and Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary is the only conservation centre that provides safe sanctuary for these elephants rescued from all over the Malaysian Peninsula.

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary also looks after orphaned elephants to ensure their continued survival. At present the sanctuary houses a number of elephants brought in from Thailand, India and Myanmar. These elephants are trained and used in the process of translocating wild elephants found in problem areas throughout Malaysia. The sanctuary strives to promote public awareness of the elephants’ plight in Malaysia and to educate the public on the importance of habitat and environmental preservation. Visitors are welcomed to join the elephant activities throughout the year and take part in one-of-a-kind adventures.

About the Author: Oshin Chin

Of Chinese descent and married to a Malay from Sarawak, Oshin and her husband have been living the nomadic life for ten years. They’ve resided in Australia, Holland, Malaysia, and currently call Brunei home. Oshin joined MegaBorneo four months ago where she works on media and PR. She’s always staying active with swimming, running, cycling, trekking, marathons, duathlons, and netball.

Seeking Positive Changes: Biodynamic Farm Internship at Finca Luna Nueva Lodge, Costa Rica

Here at Luna Nueva, we are preparing ourselves to be conscientious cultivators, dedicated to the seed, defenders of the soil. Farming in the biodynamic tradition empowers us with tools for healing and restoring the Earth. Walking these grounds awakens one to the vitality of a living Earth and the necessity of maintaining an open dialogue with Her.

In the tropics, life cycles are dramatic and accelerated, like “biology on steroids”. Things are either alive or decomposing, often right before your eyes. The deep ecology of the rainforest reminds the waking mind of its relationship to the real world, not the world of edifices but one that pulses and breathes with organic life.

Far from Eden however, it is more like unplugging from the matrix to discover muscles atrophied from disuse, skills not yet acquired, and an inherent lack of work hardening. The saying goes you are never alone in the jungle, and it’s quite remarkable how many of its inhabitants seem to desire a taste of you. Tiny ants and mosquitoes are so stealthy you are not aware of their presence until they are injecting you with formic acid or botfly eggs. Poisonous spiders, snakes, toads, frogs, and caterpillars abound. Some ants are big enough to see their facial expression as they bite down on your flesh. Is that a smile or smirk?

With biological diversity exceeding any other ecosystem on Earth, the tropics are so much more than the wellspring of oxygen production for the entire globe. Here there is cooperation, agreement, and interdependence. Where there may be risk from natural threats there are even greater offerings of healing and vitality. Healing plants like ginger and turmeric, super, nutrient-dense foods such as coconut, katuk and pejibaye and the milk from cows, goats, and buffalo grazing on lush, verdant jungle grass exist alongside powerful medicinal plants that show promise for treatment of ailments ranging from malaria to rheumatoid arthritis, influenza, and even cancer.

Finca Luna Nueva is the tireless Lorax poised to preserve irreplaceable botanical species through their Sacred Seeds Sanctuary and create a model for coexistence with a landscape that can simultaneously yield bountiful nutritious foods for humans while providing abundant habitat for diverse species of native creatures. It seems we needn’t compromise one for the other. It could be argued there really is no other way to be on this Earth.

Coming here to practice Biodynamics and continuing to learn this esoteric science and art, my ambition remains to imprint myself into the cosmic rhythm of Life. My own circadian rhythm has naturally recalibrated to the cycles of the Sun, and I am noticing waxing and waning physical energy as well as psychic activity that seems to flow with the lunar cycles.

Early upon my arrival, I was bestowed the chance to spearhead a rehabilitation project of Luna Nueva’s small cacao plantation. Suffering from a combination of what Luna’s Chief Executive Farmer Steven Farrell describes as benign neglect, poor soils, pod-eating squirrels, and frosty pod rot (Monilia roreri), it has become a life-affirming exercise in learning the language of the Lorax. We will be employing comprehensive cultural and Biodynamic sets of protocols for treating disease, nutrition, pest management, and overgrowth.

We began with heavy pruning during the second quarter, waning moon in May. It is in this period when tree sap recedes to the roots. We are learning here that the influences of the waxing and waning moon trump those of ascending and descending moon when you are this close to the equator. The opposite is true when one is north of the Tropic of Cancer or south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Observation, so far, is reinforcing this principle.

Next, fellow intern Sara Hartley and I made a huge batch of biodynamic tree paste which includes such nifty ingredients as: Fine Sand,clay,cow manure,wood ash,compost,whey,B.C.,crushed quartz,egg shells. In keeping with the spirit of biodynamic farming, all these were harvested from the farm. After the new moon, when I could no longer prune, I turned my attention to spreading the tree paste on all the cacao trees.

Hot sun, torrential rains, insect bites, bending and squatting at awkward, uncomfortable angles top the list of challenges to this task but the chance to saturate the cambium with invigorating nutrients and vital forces is too good to pass up. Added benefit: every day my relationship with the orchard grows more intimate. What began as the implementation of a series of tasks has evolved into a running dialogue. Now, I incline myself to contemplate the gesture of each tree and attempt to understand what it wishes to tell me. My profound aspiration is fluent tree-speak.

Earlier this week Steven ordered 35 hybrid trees bred by CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) that are the only varieties in the world which have shown resistance to Monilia. As such, we will be thinning the orchard and replacing aged and/or diseased trees with this new variety. I spend some of my time among the trees distinguishing gestures of vitality from gestures of morbidity. This challenges me to develop the skill of reading subtle, etheric energy. I am pushed every day into new frontiers. It is a project I pursue with rapt enthusiasm. Biodynamics is indeed a formula for positive change, even in ourselves.

Pura Vida!

Farm Internship Opportunity at Finca Luna Nueva

Finca Luna NuevaFinca Luna Nueva is inviting applications for farm interns. They are an organic and biodynamic farm and eco lodge, located next to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest in northern Costa Rica. This is a wonderful opportunity for those interested in studying and expanding knowledge about tropical biology, farming rhythms and practices and Costa Rican culture. As a farm intern there, you will engage in biodynamic and sustainable farming, rainforest ecology/gardening, medicinal plants and animal husbandry.

Responsibilities and expectations are to learn the current rhythm of the farm by working with the farmers every morning, to facilitate a smooth and rich experience for visitors by supplementing the staff with your knowledge and your ability to do farm tours, work with the administration on projects to improve the tourism component of the farm and design and carry out independent research of your own choice.

It is very important that you are a SELF-DIRECTED learner and willing and competent to work hard exhausting, but rewarding farm hours (in rainforest climate). A work day typically begins at 6 am and ends at 3 pm where you have time to relax and use pool or jacuzzi, take hikes in the trails, computer time or catch up on personal or academic reading. In return for volunteering and a commitment of at least three months, all interns are given lodging, three hot meals a day, internet, and laundry services.

There is no monetary compensation. It is a good life. Perhaps the highest quality of life you’ll ever live, but it’s an adventure, and it requires flexibility and a zest for exploring the unknown.

Intern applications are accepted at any time. Please contact us at stevenfarrell[at]gmail.com with your interest in the opportunity. You can also visit http://fincalunanuevalodge.com/ to find out more.

Meet a Sustainable Adventure Pioneer: Bodhi Surf School, Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica

Much Better Adventures Pioneer Series

We set up Much Better Adventures to promote adventure choices from people like us, who saw a problem with the world, but also saw an answer. This is an answer that begins with an adventure, but doesn’t end there. These particular adventures go on to advance local conservation and sustainable development, educate, change perspectives, and improve lives. These are our muchbetter Pioneers – world leaders in sustainable adventure.
Bodhi Surf School offer a fantastic surf school in Costa Rica, where not only can you learn to surf on some amazing breaks, but also take part in their yoga programs.

Who are you and your team?

Our team consists of 5 individuals: 2 husband and wife combos, and one baby:

Travis, 31, San Diego, USA
Pilar, 34, San Jose, Costa Rica
Gibran, 31, San Blas, Mexico
Adrianne, 24, Vancouver, Canada
Maya Paz, 1, San Jose, Costa Rica

Travis and Gibran both attended the University of San Diego and met during a semester abroad in Spain in 2002. They had both been surfing since they were kids, and found that they had much in common aside from just that. Gibran and Adrianne got married in 2007, and Travis and Pilar got married in 2009. Travis and Pilar had a daughter, Maya Paz, in 2011 and the team was fully formed.

Bodhi Surf School Locals

What inspired you to start, and how long have you been doing it?

Travis joined the Peace Corps in 2005 and was placed in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica. He immediately fell in love with the community, and that same year when his friend Gibran came to visit, they spoke about some day starting a business together. When he finished with the Peace Corps in 2008, Travis saw that there was still a market for a surf school, so he and Gibran began discussing different possible scenarios. By the end of 2009 it was decided that the 4 of them would give it a shot, and by mid-2010 Bodhi Surf School was in existence.

While Bodhi Surf School is just that – a surf school, all 4 of the members have very strong inclinations towards environmentalism, social awareness, and responsible/sustainable business practice. The word “Bodhi” is Sanskrit for “awareness” and was chosen for that very reason; while the company aims to teach surf, yoga, and provide its clients with a fun and fulfilling vacation, it also strives to promote awareness about the spheres within which it operates (marine conservation, sustainable tourism in Costa Rica, and community outreach, to name a few). We aim to be more than just a surf school, to provide an experience that is unique to the area and our personalities.

Bodhi Surf School Team Building

Why did you choose Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica?

We chose Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica, for several reasons. First, during his time stationed in the community with Peace Corps, Travis became very well acquainted with the community, many of its members, and some of the issues that it faces. He decided he wanted to start a business not just for personal benefit, but also for the benefit of the community; to be able to give back to a place he had fallen so in love with. Second, he realized that the community’s main beach was perfect for learning how to surf – a long, flat, sandy beach with beginner-to-intermediate-friendly waves all year round. Third, we all knew that due to the beauty of the area, it was just a matter of time before it would become as popular as other areas of Costa Rica, and so we wanted to help the trend of sustainable tourism take off in the region.

What makes you “muchbetter?”

Our excitement for what we do makes Bodhi Surf School “muchbetter”. We have the great advantage of doing something that we not only totally and completely believe in, but also love with a great passion. We have been told by former clients that while the surf and yoga does indeed live up to (or exceed) their expectations, it is actually eclipsed by our very-apparent enthusiasm and joy for what we do.

Any insider tip for your area?

If you come to Marino Ballena National Park, keep in mind that you will have to pay a $6 USD fee as an international tourist. To get the most of your money, bring a lunch and make it a full day: you can surf, boogie board, and swim at high tide, read a book and do some sun-tanning during mid tide, and do the unforgettable walk down the whale’s tail during low tide.

There are a whole host of great surf holidays on Much Better Adventures – check them out!