Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why Biodiversity Matters

Danjugan island marine biodiversity2

Danjugan Island Marine Biodiversity – a genuine ecotourism experience in Negros Occidental, Philippines

A guest post from Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Cielito M. Habito. 

Consider the following: Southeast Asia occupies a mere 3 percent of the earth’s total surface, yet is home to 20 percent of all known species of plants and animals on the planet. The region possesses 284,000 square kilometers, or one-third, of all of the earth’s coral reefs, and as divers will attest, what we have are among the most diverse, and the most beautiful, in the world. The mountains, jungles, lakes, rivers and seas of our region make up one of the biggest pools of biological diversity in the world.

Isla Bulungan_Al

Isla Bulungan, Coron, Palawan, Philippines, one of the attractions being conserved and protected by The Coron Initiative.

Three Southeast Asian countries—Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines—are among the world’s 17 megadiverse countries, a term applied to those that harbor the majority of the earth’s species, and large numbers of endemic (native) species. But there are also “biodiversity hot spots”—geographic areas with significant levels of biodiversity under threat from humans. Such “hot spots” are distinguished by having at least 1,500 endemic plant species, and have lost at least 70 percent of primary vegetation. And it is alarming that among the three Southeast Asian megadiverse countries, only the Philippines is in the biodiversity hot spot list. We are, unlike our neighbors, causing the destruction and disappearance of plant and animal life at a rate so fast as to imperil our environment’s ability to sustain human life.

Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica

Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Canopy, Madre de Dios, Peru. Learn about the Amazon biodiversity and its inter-relationships at various levels of the rainforest ecosystems. Travel green to Peru!

Human life is only one form of an estimated nine million life forms that inhabit our planet. Most of us understand that the myriad life forms all around us interconnect in simple and complex ways to one another, in an intricate “web of life.” The interconnections can be visible and obvious, as with predators and prey in the food chain. They can also be subtle, indirect or invisible, as when chemical reactions in certain organisms affect other organisms positively or negatively. For example, the class of plants called legumes develops nodules in their roots that host bacteria capable of converting nitrogen from the air into ammonia. As such, otherwise unusable nitrogen in the air is turned into useful compounds like amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which are in turn vital to animal and human life.

Don Salvador Benedicto Waterfalls

Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental, Philippines has a rich rainforest soon to be claimed by urban development.

In this intricate web of life, a change in one link of the food chain can lead to far-reaching disruptions elsewhere in the ecosystem. A 2011 study conducted by 24 scientists from six countries documented how the decline of large predators at the top of the food chain has disrupted ecosystems all over the planet. As observed by the study, large animals were once ubiquitous across the globe, and shaped the structure and dynamics of ecosystems. Their decline, largely caused by humans through hunting and habitat fragmentation, has had far-reaching and often surprising consequences, including changes in vegetation, wildfire frequency, infectious diseases, invasive species, water quality, and nutrient cycles.

Bulabog Beach Boracay

Bulabog Beach, Boracay Island in the early 80s. The island has but a few remaining forest and The Boracay Initiative is aimed to save Boracay Island and its remaining biodiversity.  Photo via Rene Thalmann.

A well-studied example of how human intervention can severely disrupt the natural equilibrium was the deliberate elimination of wolves in Yellowstone National Park in the United States between 1872 and 1926. When the wolves were gone, the elk population rose, and led to overgrazing of deciduous woody species such as aspen and cottonwood. Over the years, conditions in the park drastically deteriorated, leading park authorities to trap and move the elk, and eventually, kill them. Elimination of wolves also led to a dramatic increase in the population of coyotes, which in turn adversely impacted the population of the pronghorn antelope. Studies on the park’s ecosystem spanning decades led to the decision to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone in 1995. This has since led to a decline in the elk and coyote populations, which in turn had further effects on the population of foxes, and on various forms of plant and insect life in the park. The new and often unexpected impacts of the reintroduction of wolves continue to unfold to this day.

There are many other similar documented examples elsewhere in the world of ecological disruption arising from human intervention into the biological system on land and in the seas. The lesson is clear: Compromising biological diversity and the complex interrelations therein will have unforeseen and far-reaching undesirable impacts that are bound to hit back on us humans in ways hard to anticipate. The World Wide Fund for Nature asserts: “Biodiversity underpins the health of the planet and has a direct impact on all our lives. Put simply, reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease, and where fresh water is in irregular or short supply.”

twin lagoons2

Twin Lagoons, Coron, Palawan, one of the target conservation sites of The Coron Initiative. Palawan is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.  Photo by Al Linsangan III.

The Philippines has the distinction of hosting the Asean region’s knowledge and advocacy center for biodiversity conservation, at the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus in Laguna. Established in 2005 with initial funding support from the European Commission, the Asean Center for Biodiversity is now supported by the 10 member-states. In the second Asean Conference on Biodiversity that it organized in Bangkok last week, hundreds of scholars, government officials, stakeholders and advocates explored the links between biodiversity and human health, business and biodiversity, and how biodiversity permeates the global Agenda for Sustainable Development and its accompanying Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

“A treasure trove of plant and animal life”—that’s how our part of the world is often described. Protecting that treasure is critical not just for the sake of the treasure per se, but also for the sake of our very welfare as human beings, now and far into the future.

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Our Society for Sustainable Tourism & Development Inc.-SSTDI offers Capacity Building and Educational programs for LGUs, host communities,  private stakeholders and the grassroots  in  Sustainable Ecotourism, Social Responsibility and Environmental Conservation especially in biosphere reserves, marine protected areas and biodiversity hot spots.  Training programs include Good Governance, Climate Change Mitigation and Disaster Prevention and Management education. WASTE TO ENERGY solutions are now offered to LGUs for their ecological solidwaste and renewable energy solutions. For more information and assistance, contact us.

Photo Credits: Al Linsangan, Rene Thalmann, Inkaterra, Danjugan Island

101 Reasons to visit Lima!

On a global scale, Lima, Peru moves up in rankings for international events, which started with hosting the World Travel & Tourism Americas Summit and the COP 20 (UN Climate Change) last 2014, the World Bank-IMF Summit in 2015, APEC Peru 2016, EITI 2016 & the UNESCO World Congress for Biosphere Reserves, among the varied world summits.

Caballo de Paso - Marinera.png

Caballo de Paso – dancing the “Marinera,” Peru’s National Dance. Photo via Hacienda Los Ficus

 

Called Ciudad de los Reyes (City of Kings) by the Spanish conquerors, the capital city is much more than the gateway to Peru. With the country’s best museums – more than 20 of them, plus striking baroque and renaissance churches, colonial mansions and houses (casonas), world-class restaurants, and outstanding night life, Lima deserves more than a quick stopover. The old colonial center, now identified as a World Heritage site, was the crown jewel of Spain’s South American empire. 

A mix of colonial heritage and Latin passion, grime and glamour — Lima is a tantalizing appetizer of what Peru has to offer. – Frommer’s

Modern Lima is an enigmatic, energetic city of contrasts, dotted with pre-historic sites and archeological ruins, and comprised of distinctive districts and neighborhoods. Sophisticated San Isidro, with elegant old homes and the lovely Olive Grove; as well as the galleries and bistros of artistic Barranco, and the charming flower filled parks and artisan shops of Miraflores, offer intriguing, uniquely Peruvian, urban attractions.

With Peruvian cuisine having captured the fancy of international epicures, Lima has become Latin America’s gastronomical capital, so let’s begin our breakdown of  101 reasons to visit Lima!

Huaca Huallamarca

Huaca Huallamarca, against backrop of high rise apartments.

12 Huacas (Ancient Adobe Pyramids): Pachacamac, Pucllana, Huallamarca, Maranga Complex (8 pyramids), and a little further up north, Caral;

Lima Art Museum

Museo de Arte de Lima – “MALI”

 9 Museums: Larco, Museo de Oro, Amano, Arte Lima, Arte Italiano, National Archaeological, Anthropology and History, Pedro Osma;

 9 Theaters: Gran Teatro Nacional (Grand National Theater), Municipal Teatro de Lima, Plaza Isil, Teatro Peruano Japones, Segura, PUCP Cultural Center, La Tarumba, Teatro Canout, Marsano;

 12 Historical Buildings: Casa Aliaga, Palacio Torre Tagle,  Archbishop Palace, Presidential Palace, House of Congress, Lima Municipal Palace, Casa de Riva Agüero, Casa Larriva, Casa de Osambelo/Casa Oquendo, Casa de la Moneda, Casa Miguel Grau, Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes;

9 Churches: Lima Cathedral, San Franciso, Santa Rosa, Nazarenes, San Pedro, La Merced, San Sebastián, San Agustin, Convento de los Descalzos;

Lima is also a mecca for handicrafts and arts enthusiasts, and a top shopping destination where hundreds of stores offer outstanding traditional crafts of the highest quality, as well as remarkable silver and gold jewelry, antiques, objets d´ art, tapestries, exquisite wood carvings, paintings and pottery. Colorful outdoor markets are popular, filled with dazzling traditional Peruvian items not to found in shopping malls.

Artesanias Markets/Shops (Handicrafts) Market & Specialty Shops: Mercado Central Lima, La Paz silver crafts Street, Miraflores antique shops, Mercado Indio, Barranco, Dedalo, Alpaca Shops in Larcomar.

43 Cuisine Specialties. Comida Criolla(Peruvian/creole): Jose Antonio, El Senorio de Sulco, Huaca Pucllana, Brujas de Cachiche,  Panchita, El Rocoto, La Rosa Nautica Fiesta, Malabar, Central, Astrid & Gaston; Cafés: La Tiendecita Blanca, Café café, Mangos, San Antonio, Café del Museo, Manolo; Cevicherias(seafood): Punta Arenas, La Rana Verde, La Red, La Mar, Pescados Capitales, Segundo Muelle, Punta Sal, Big Ben; Chifas (Peruvian Chinese): O Mei, Lung Fung, Wa Lok, Royal, Salon Capon, El Jade; Fusion/Japanese: Costanera 700, Cala, Hanzo, Kintaro, La Miga, Matsuei, Rafael, La 73, Osaka,  Amor Amar, Toshiro, Edo.

Cuisine Collage

Blessed with a mind-blowingly fertile ecosystem—3,000 varieties of potatoes is just the half of it—Lima is emerging as a new global culinary epicenter. – Conde Nast Traveler Magazine

43 restaurants, are just a tip of the iceberg, so to speak.  Hundreds more, old and new, big or small, are yet to be explored and savored!

For more information on Lima &  Peru, check out our blogs on Peru. Take a PERU DREAM TRIP by Inkaterra, Peru’s Eco Pioneer and Conservation Leader since 1975; 100% Carbon Neutral travel and stay – any day departure. For travel assistance and bookings, check our Green Travel Exchange or contact us.

Photo Credits: Visit Peru, Gran Teatro Nacional

 

Peruphernalia- travel essentials to Peru

Peru is host to APEC 2016 and other key international events that started with EITI 2016, the 4th World Congress of Biosphere Reserves, among others. In order to make the most of your visit to this empire of hidden treasure and to prepare for probably the most incredible trip of a lifetime, here’s a compilation of useful guide and insider’s tips for you! Know and share.

Watch Peru, Empire of Hidden Treasures. Don’t just watch the movie, live it for real! “Enjoy the highest level of comfort, the most exquisite cuisine, breathtaking landscape filled with magic and fantasy and the entertainment you can only find here. Only in Peru. Empire of the hidden treasures.”

If Peru didn’t exist, travel guide books would have to invent it. It’s a land of lost cities and ancient ruins, brooding Andean peaks, dense jungles, quaint cities, festivals con-celebrating Roman Catholic masses with mysterious Incan rites. It’s like a whole world in a snow dome.- from the Travel Book.

Rich with majestic natural beauty, gracious people, and the legacy of  great ancient civilizations, Peru is a country that touches the soul.

The multifarious faces of Peru, one of the  friendliest people on earth.

The multifarious faces of Peru, from its three major geographical zones- Pacific Coast, the Andes mountains and the Amazon Rainforest – are some of the friendliest people on earth.

When planning to travel to Peru, in order to fully capture its magic and mystique, you need to understand what to expect. Prepare wisely with these important information for what will be one of the most amazing trips of your life.

Scenes from Lake Titicaca, seat of at least thre Peruvian cultures/civilizations.

Amazon River, one of the World’s New Seven Wonders of Nature.

 PERU FAST FAQs(Frequently Asked Questions)

 Acclimatization

Acclimatization is the process of the body adjusting to the decreased oxygen at high altitudes. Considering varying altitudes of the Andean mountain region destinations (Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca), try to go first to the lower ones before ascending to higher altitude cities. It is a slow process that could take place over a couple of days. Given enough time, your body will adapt to the decrease in oxygen at a specific altitude.

Multi-civilizations - conserved cultural scenes from Lake Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake at 3,800 meters (17,000 feet) above sea level.

Multi-civilizations, scenes from Lake Titicaca, world’s highest navigable lake at 3,800 meters (17,000 feet) above sea level.

Altitude Sickness Prevention

Altitude sickness, also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS) or soroche is a pathological condition that is caused by acute exposure to low air pressure usually above 2,400 meters (approximately 8,000 feet). The main cause of altitude sickness is going too high too quickly. When you travel to a high altitude destination, do these to avoid altitude sickness: rest upon arrival, limit any walking or touring activity on your first day, drink plenty of water (or tea – they usually serve mate de coca – coca tea, for soroche), avoid taking alcoholic beverages and only eat light soup for your meal.

Connectivity / Communication

Peru is well connected with telephone landlines and mobile phones, as well as internet/ WiFi connections in most hotels and internet shops (cabinas de internet) in smaller cities and towns.

Seven Wonders: Peru has an archealogical motley of at least seven civilizations before the Incas.

Seven Wonders: Peru has an archealogical motley of at least seven civilizations before the Incas.

Currency/Credit Cards/ Foreign Exchange

Peru’s currency is the Nuevo Sol (S/.) or Soles (plural). Peru is typical of many South American countries that operates a dual currency system; US$ American Dollar and the local Sol. In the provinces, credit card facilities may be limited only to major establishments. Travelers’ cheques are not common, so have cash  preferably in Soles on hand as foreign currency exchange is limited. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are mostly available only in the main cities.

As varied as the multi-cultures, wide array of exquisite cuisines awaits you at the Gastronomy capital of Latin America!

As varied as the multi-cultures, wide array of exquisite cuisines awaits you at the Gastronomy capital of Latin America!

Health/ Medical/Travelers Common Illness

To avoid any illnesses or travelers’ diarrhea, take care when eating raw or exotic foods. Drink bottled or boiled water and take precautions when buying/eating  street food/beverages. Hospitals and clinics provide adequate services, especially in Lima and the other main cities and can contact health care insurance directly.

Language

The official languages are Spanish (80% of the population), Quechua(Andean and highland regions), and Aymara (in the region of Puno high plateaus). It is generally easy to communicate in English with tourist service workers such as tour guides, travel agency employees and hotel staff in general, however it is very handy to know and practice a few basic phrases in Spanish. Besides, it also projects you as a savvy traveler, not to mention an educated one!

Luggage/Baggage Limit

Please know the baggage limit, number of pieces and weight allowed by domestic airline to your destination. Most domestic airlines have lesser baggage allowance (usually max. 10 kilos) than the international airlines (usually max. 23 kilos). In case of multiple destinations, it is advisable to travel light and bring only the essentials.

From the Amazon to the Andes and many cities in between there's an outdoor thrill for everyone.

From the Amazon to the Andes and many cities in between there’s an outdoor thrill for everyone.

If you are going to Machu Picchu, please take note that Peru Rail has imposed luggage limitation on the train to Aguas Calientes. Peru Rail Luggage Transport is a maximum hand-carried allowance of only 5 kilos/11 lbs. and measuring not more than 62 inches/157 cm (height, length & width) per passenger. Your heavier and bigger baggage may be transported in another train at an extra cost (US$1.80/kilo, one way, maximum 10 kilos) or may be left for storage at Peru Rail’s Luggage Storage only in Ollantaytambo Train Station at US$5.00/day.

Security  

It is important that you take common sense precautions when visiting Peru, just like in any major destination in the world, such as taking extra care of your belongings in public places or avoiding deserted places at night. The following are recommended as precautionary measures:

  • Secure electronic copies of your passport, airplane tickets and credit cards. Leave all your travel documents (passport, tickets, hotel vouchers etc) in the hotel safety deposit box and take only electronic copies with you.
  • Know the unsafe areas of the city/destination and avoid visiting them, especially at night. If you must exchange money, do so authorized money changers and exchange bureaus, or in banks. Avoid doing this in plain sight.It may not necessarily an immediate threat to you, but you should always be extra careful in crowded places such as busy avenues, airports, markets and tourist sites.
  • Try to learn a few key phrases in Spanish before you go, if not to help yourself get by, then at least to make the locals think you can speak the language and thus make you a more conscientious traveler who is careful and prepared.

    With over 3,000 festivals, how many native dances shall there be?

    With over 3,000 festivals, how many native dances shall there be?

Travel Insurance

It is recommended to buy a travel insurance to provide you general coverage in case of emergency or medical expenses, trip cancellation/interruption, lost tickets, baggage or damage, etc. This way, for any unforeseen event or circumstances, you have an insurance to fall back on.

Vaccinations and/or Medications  

It is recommended that you take the proper measures to protect yourself, specially from mosquito bites, in order to prevent infection from, among other diseases, yellow fever (vaccination) and malaria (repellant and medication). Consult your doctor before traveling.

Water

Potable water is limited in some areas. It is recommended to drink bottled water only and do not buy from street vendors or hawkers.

Conserved handicrafts, a living and thriving culture through centuries.

Weather/What to Wear

The Peruvian Coast is hot and sunny (northern area) or very humid (raw or damp, in Lima). Generally light comfortable clothing and footwear during the day and a light jacket for cooler nights.

At the Peruvian Andes, rainy season is between November and March, so best to bring water proof windbreaker or parkas. Temperatures drop dramatically at night, thus one should always prepare warmer clothes to layer. The Peruvian Jungle is hot, with a tropical climate, so we suggest light, (neutral-colored, khakis or forest green) cotton to wear; however certain times of the year, the jungle experiences “friaje” or cold front. It has daily temperatures averaging the 30°C and night temperatures could drop to cold 15°C so bring warmer clothes to layer. For more accurate information, please check your favorite destination weather website for forecast prior to travel.

Take a PERU DREAM TRIP  by Inkaterra, Peru’s Eco Pioneer and Conservation Leader since 1975; 100% Carbon Neutral travel and stay, any day departure. For more information and travel assistance about our Green Travel Exchange, or contact SSTDI.

Photo credits: all photos via Visit Peru

Eco-Friendly Lodging: Green Tips for Hotels

Guest post by Bryn Huntpalmer of Modernize

From filling out paperwork to selecting vendors and managing staff, if you own a hotel, you are certainly busy. With so many elements to juggle, environmental friendliness can slip down the ladder of importance. It may seem daunting to address the term “eco-friendly” when it involves company-wide changes, so we at Modernize have a few tricks to maintain a greener environment without sacrificing your guests’ comfort and satisfaction.

Boost Your Energy Efficiency

Let’s face it; hotels require significant energy levels to function, from heating and cooling to laundering and powering electronics. Monitoring utility bills is the first step in making a change. Set a goal to reduce energy consumption and design an action plan.

One of the biggest users of energy is a hotel’s HVAC system. Go eco-friendly by upgrading to an adjustable, green system that will keep both you and your guests comfortable. Innovative HVAC systems are equipped with digital thermostats that guests can set, just like they would at home. The revolutionary “unoccupied” setting is the key to conserving energy. Smart systems can sense when a guest leaves the room, reset to a standard temperature, and then sense when the guest returns and readjust accordingly. This eliminates wasted energy when no one is even in the room to enjoy that cool blast or cozy heat.

You’ll love the lower utility bills, the raving reviews from guests and the clear consciousness of doing your part to protect the world we love.

 

Stock Your Kitchens with Organic Food

Food can be a decadent part of the hospitality industry, from buffets to room service, breakfast bars and restaurants. Improve the taste and quality of your cuisine by shopping for organic ingredients. Guests will appreciate how much you care and enjoy the deliciousness of your meals. It may seem like a small change, but supplying your business with organic food is actually better for the environment, too.

Organic gardens are more sustainable over time, and farmers don’t use harmful chemicals and nonrenewable energy sources to grow their crops. Agrochemicals, which are often used for non-organic produce, contribute to global warming and water contamination. Supporting organic farmers and local vendors will reduce these harmful effects.

If you are ready to make a huge change, you can even grow your own garden and pull herbs, produce and legumes right from your own backyard!

3Rs

Recycle and Reuse

Switch to green paper products crafted from recycled material to eliminate paper waste. Unbleached and recycled paper towels, coffee cups, plates and straws are a few of our favorite eco-friendly hospitality products.

Promote recycling in your hotel by training staff and setting up recycling bins in each guest room. Don’t forget to encourage eco-friendly practices by placing recycling bins in the lobby, gym, pool room and other common areas. Order supplies in bulk to cut down on the amount of packaging waste.

Reduce waste by reusing items and donating to the local community. When it’s time to update your hotel’s decor, donate unwanted furniture and linens instead of tossing them out. You can also donate wrapped, unopened groceries to local food banks, benefitting both the planet and your neighbors!

 

Best Practices for Eco-Friendly Hotels

Establishing green practices is a team effort, so train your staff to be on team Earth. Establish rules for turning lights off when exiting a room, unplugging unused electronics and reducing personal waste levels. Offer incentives for staff who are dedicated to eco-friendly practices, and applaud their efforts regularly.

When choosing vendors for supplies like toiletries, coffee and tea, support local, fair-trade businesses. Keep everything bright and shiny by switching to non-toxic cleaners to improve indoor and outdoor air quality, so that you and your guests can literally breathe easier.

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Our Society for Sustainable Tourism & Development Inc.-SSTDI offers Capacity Building and Educational programs for hotels with Global Sustainable Tourism Council criteria. Training programs include Environmental ConservationGood Governance, Climate Resilience, to address global challenges of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals: poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and climate change.  For Training information and assistance, contact us.

Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an Editor for Modernize. In addition to regularly contributing to Home Remodeling and Design websites around the web, her writing can be found on Lifehacker and About.com.

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