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Kwita Izina: Where Conservation Meets Sustainable Tourism

Written by Belise Kariza – Chief Tourism Officer at Rwanda Development Board

Around much of the world, the hearth is the heart of the home. Especially in Africa, as a meeting place for warmth and wisdom, families and societies would sit in front of the fireplace and without realising it develop the very traditions and values that are passed down to future generations.

While the fireplace has been replaced by central heating, there is still a central hearth where Rwandans gather as a united community with one of our most important shared values: conservation of our natural treasures. Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony, has become a platform which ignites and sustains the fire for conservation and the sustainable tourism dialogue. In other words, the ceremony is the fireplace of common sense when it comes to the direction of the tourism industry in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region.

Izuru's baby. Image: © Rwanda Development Board/Keiko Mori.

Izuru’s baby, Ndumunyarwanda meaning ‘I’m Rwandan’. Image: © Rwanda Development Board/Keiko Mori.

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A Short Guide to Sustainable Key West

Home of the Southermost Point of continental United States, Ernest Hemingway’s island home and the most unusual cemetery I’ve ever seen, Key West is that charmingly quirky place you crave when traveling. The streets are lined with performers, artists and shops with hilariously unusual keepsakes. Trek a few blocks and you’ll find yourself on the brim of a wildlife sanctuary that locals dedicate themselves to preserving. Food, the outdoors, excitement and sustainability sums up Key West, Florida.

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off-grid hotel

Tubakuba :: An Off-Grid Mountain Retreat

Looking for mountain retreat far from the madding crowd? Then maybe this 150 square-foot cabin in Bergen, Norway will appeal. Located on a steep mountainside on the outskirts of Bergen with a commanding view of the valley below, Tubakuba, or Tuba Cube, is Norway’s only off-grid hotel room.


Designed and crafted by students at the School of Architecture, the cabin has four entirely different outward facing walls. Made of 95 percent wood, the south wall is made from untreated larch, which will fade with time and blend in with the forest. Another wall is made of burned larch in a Japanese technique that inhibits decay. The wall facing the valley is made entirely of glass for striking, unobstructed views.

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The Best Eco Experiences with Ecotourism Australia

A few weeks ago, when I was asked what I thought the best ecotourism experiences in Australia were, I will admit to being totally flummoxed. There are so many amazing things to do, places to go and stay in the country that I found it almost impossible to pin down ‘the best’. And my idea of the best may not be the same as someone else’s.

There are a growing number of websites where you can search for eco holidays. A few I recommend – and sites I scour often for my own travels – are Book Different, Book Greener and Ecobnb. Greenloons is a great site too, especially for those Stateside, and Responsible Travel and Greentraveller are two favourite UK-based sites. But for Australians, Ecotourism Australia is a particularly good resource as their list of members is available to the public so you can find all accredited accommodations and activities on the same site.
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merri creek community garden

Community Gardens: Your Home-Away-From-Home

Longer-term travel often means being away from friends and family for extended periods of time. Sometimes this can come as a much welcome break, but inevitably some home-sickness pangs will pluck at heart-strings before too long. Many savvy travellers will no doubt opt to travel lightly and avoid packing too many sentimental home trinkets.

Whether you are uprooted for work, study, pleasure, or otherwise, there is no way, as yet, to package up your established network and the intangible values of a community that you will be leaving behind – a favourite local organic shops; the barista who knows your coffee order; the park on the corner.

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culinary train journeys

5 Classic Culinary Train Journeys

Whether it’s the gentle sideways undulation of the train on the tracks that makes rail travel so incredibly relaxing or the fact that, until you reach your final destination, there is nowhere else you have to be but right there in your seat, it’s easy to sit back and revel in the moment. Add great food and wine into the mix and you have an unholy Mary Poppins type of experience – practically perfect in every way.

There are so many wonderful culinary train journeys available throughout the world, it is much too hard to whittle out the best five. Instead I have opted for five train journeys I have either taken or are on the neverending list of things to do.

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Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year Eco Travellers!

Happy New Year!

I hope you’ve had an amazing 2015 and have had the opportunity to add lots of wonderful travel memories to your bank of good times past.

It’s been a relatively quiet year for me in terms of travel. A new part-time office job means the joy of freelance isn’t as free as it once was. After eight years of working from home, I craved some human interaction and a change of work environment and started working with luxury tour company Epicurious travel at the beginning of the year. Although office based, the role is varied and offers a good balance of writing, editing, admin and travel design. There are also opportunities for travel and this year I visited Tasmania for the first time and joined one of the 6-day Larapinta trail tours, which was definitely a highlight of 2015 for me.

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7 Reasons to Visit Noosa

The seaside haven of Noosa, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, lies two hours north of Brisbane. It is has been a popular holiday destination since the 1800s, and continues to be a firm favourite with adventurers, retirees, backpackers and families, many of whom return time and time again.

Noosa is a small, relatively quiet township with National Parks and Reserves lining its boundaries and a river running through it, fed by the lakes of the Great Sandy National Park. The shoreline sweeps in a great arc from Noosa National Park on the headland right around to the tip of Fraser Island. The almost-perfect main beach draws surfers, sunbathers and people watchers to its beautifully clear waters and fine golden sand, and in behind the strip of hotels and restaurants along the beachfront you’ll find great shopping on Hastings Street.

On the surface, Noosa seems like any other seaside town, but there is so much more to this captivating region than sun, sea and sand. Conservation and sustainable tourism ideals are ingrained in the community and business life. Action groups ensure development is restricted, wildlife is cared for and management programmes are in place to help protect this wonderfully diverse environment. Added to that some seriously good places to eat and you can see why people keep coming back for more.

Here are a few more reasons why we think you should visit Noosa.
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Wine Tasting Tours at Vinopolis

Located on the south bank of the River Thames, not far from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Vinopolis is as close as you’ll get to a winery in central London. Touted as a wine tasting experience, Vinopolis offers a glimpse into the world of viticulture and a chance for me to learn how to swirl and spit wine like a pro.

Built into the massive Victorian railway arches between London and Southwark Bridges, Vinopolis is easily accessed from the Thames pathway. The cobbled streets leading to the venue hark back to long before Vinopolis was built. If walkways could talk you’d be sure to hear some sordid tales of Southwark’s past.

History of Drinking in Southwark

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the cobbled streets of Southwark and Bankside were the recognized areas for prostitution. Ale houses and wine bars were commonplace at a time when alcohol was generally safer to drink the cholera-tainted water, making Southwark the capital’s main centre for drunkenness and debauchery. How fitting then that Vinopolis is built on the same grounds.

vinopolis wine tasting

Wine History Tours

The Wine Odyssey tour starts in the entrance foyer and allows visitors to step back in time on a self-guided pictorial or audio tour of the history and origins of wine, with special reference to London’s involvement in the wine trade. Some of the exhibits are self-explanatory while others are lacking in written explanation, encouraging the purchase headsets. I make a beeline for the tasting room in case I miss the slot for our tour group. There is no time limit to the visit so you are free to roam the exhibits after the tastings.

Wine Tasting Teaching

Near the beginning of the tour, visitors are lead to a mini amphitheatre for a short wine tasting teaching session. The sessions last around half an hour and provide enough information to be able to enjoy the rest of the day tasting, even for those who have never tried their hand at wine tasting before. Everyone is given a small Vinopolis notebook on entry to record all tips and advice. I scribble frantically even though I’ll probably never look at the book again.

wine tasting tours

Vinopolis Tasting Rooms

Wine tables are spread at intervals throughout the warren-like route, allowing for tasting from start to finish. The large wine tasting rooms are spilt into old world wines, new world wines and premium wines, however there are also a few surprises too – a champagne bar, absinthe bar, whiskey bar and beer tasting bar means that even those who aren’t mad about wine can enjoy their favourite tipple.

Depending on the level of tour purchased, visitors can taste a few wines from each section. Enthusiastic staff are quick to offer ideas and samples along with background information on the wines and their vintners. If you put on your best smile, you may also score a few trays of beer nuts and bar snacks.

It’s impossible to leave Vinopolis without learning something new, even for those who think they already know everything about wine. So, why not pop in for a tipple or two on a day out in the capital?

Top Tip: If you book dinner with the tour, it is advisable to do the tour first then have dinner. People who have opted for the three-course meal with wine prior to the tour are generally too full to enjoy the wine tasting.

Vinopolis is set to close it’s doors in December 2015, so you only have a few months left to enjoy this unique wine tasting experience before it becomes yet another piece of Southwark’s drinking history.

For packages and times, visit Vinopolis’ website.

syrian refugees hungary

Worse Than the Chance of Drowning

Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn. ~ Robert Burns

I’ve had that line in my head since I was seventeen, when I was obsessed with writing down poems and quotes that rang true with my tortured teenage soul.

It’s been a mantra I’ve repeated to myself ever since, and over the past month or so it’s been going round and round my head on a daily basis.

You would have to be far removed from society to not notice what is happening in the world today. The biggest refugee crisis since World War II is in full swing due to a cataclysmic shift in the balance of power in the Middle East. Increasing conflict has seen millions flee their homes in search of safety. Yet those trying to cross borders are getting kicked by journalists, beaten by those they thought would help, turned back, shunned. Left to drown at sea.

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