Our Envirnomental Practices
Our staff, and those that come to share in the Koh Ra Ecolodge experience, care deeply about how our individual behaviors collectively influence the persistence of biodiversity and ecosystem function, as well as the local communities, our neighbors. Our hope is to create a model that demonstrates that travel, eco-tourism, and staying somewhere does not necessarily have to place additional stress on the integrity of natural systems. Having just opened in November 2008, we are still very much engaged in putting our vision into practice. Your ideas about how we can continue to evolve greener behaviors are always most warmly welcome.
Ways in which The Koh Ra Ecolodge strives to lessen our Ecological Footprint, and what this means for you during your stay with us:
1. Minimizing energy consumption; incorporating alternative, renewable energy sources...
- The majority of our electricity is supplied by a diesel-powered generator that is only run between the hours 6:00 pm - 10:30 pm when we have guests (it is rarely run otherwise). Therefore, you will have electricity in your bungalows only during this time period.
- We have installed a 125 watt solar array (check it out atop kayak shed!) and accompanying inverter/batteries which provides power for computers, cell phones, iPods, batteries, etc. during daylight hours. However, on cloudy days we are limited in the number of devices we can charge. The goal is to expand this system to provide full power to the sala day and night.
- We purposefully do not have hot water heaters here at our Ecolodge.
- Nor do we have electric washing and drying machines (all laundry is done by hand and hung on the line to air dry; that means on rainy days the laundry doesn't dry).
- We only use fluorescent and compact fluorescent light bulbs.
2. Waste reduction, separation, recycling, composting...
- Please place your waste in the appropriate receptacle on the sala. We separate: aluminum/steel cans (recycled), plastic bottles/containers (recycled), glass (recycled), paper/cardboard (burned here on island), organic vegetable waste (composted), meat waste (fed to dogs) and finally rubbish (which we continually pack out to mainland refuse facilities, along with all of the recycling).
- We have two large and well-fed compost bins which produces the rich soil for our gardens and beds. Please ask one of our volunteers to learn about composting tips!
- We attempt to purchase products which have minimal packaging. We purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables and especially support organic growers. Get ready for a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies and devoid of most processed foods! Our coffee is fair trade grown northern Thai Arabica mixed with locally grown Robusta.
- We eliminate/minimize our use of toilet paper because it slows or clogs the decomposition process (available only upon request).
- We are continually finding ways to utilize random “stuff” (= permaculture) which traditionally would have simply wound up in a landfill. For example, old mattresses were cut open so that the coconut fibers could be used as floor mats and garden bedding. Some plastic bottles are used to start seedlings in the garden. Styrofoam washed up on the beach is collected for a future bean bag project. :-)
3. Eating locally, thinking globally...
- We have a small, fledgling organic garden in which we grow a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, and ornamentals. The soil was created by our compost. We regularly collect local bat guano (high in Nitrogen) for use as fertilizer.
- We harvest bananas, pineapples, cashew nuts, leafy greens, and wild herbs from abandoned plantations/secondary jungle around the Ecolodge and prepare them for our communal meals. We regularly harvest fish and squid from off of our small pier.
- We purchase the majority of our food from the local, Kuraburi market (the bulk of which is grown/produced here in this region). Coffee comes from a small Thai farm north of Khao Lak (Robusta) and also northern Thailand (Arabica). We purchase our seafood from a Thai fishing village here on Koh Ra or from the fisherman directly at the Kuraburi pier. We do not buy shark meat and we try not to purchase overfished reef species such as Grouper.
- As in Thai culture, “kin kaow” (mealtime, translates literally as “eat rice”), consists of large quantities of rice, vegetables, and fruit. Meat is used to flavor many dishes, but consumed sparingly, i.e., it is not the centerpiece of the meal (as in many western cultures). Eating lower on the food chain can dramatically lessen our carbon footprint. Vegetarian meals are always available upon request.
4. Benefiting the local environment: ecological monitoring and research, regular beach and reef clean-ups...
- We believe that one of the aspects of our Ecolodge that might make your stay here unique is participating in our long-standing, ongoing research program. We have two biologists on staff: Kim Obermeyer (Ecolodge Founder/Manager ) received his M.S. in Biology from the University of Nevada researching predation on salmon fry in southeast Alaska. Jarod Raithel (Ecolodge Divemaster) received his M.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana researching mortality causes and rates of calf elk in the Blackfoot Valley, Montana.
- The Koh Ra Ecolodge is homebase for Reef Check Thailand; Reef Check is an international non-profit organization consisting of marine biologists and volunteers who annually monitor the condition of coral reefs in 87 countries. Kim Obermeyer has served as the Thailand Reef Check Country Coordinator for 6 years and has collected data on the health of coral reefs up and down the Andaman Coast and the Gulf of Thailand. The training session to become a certified “EcoDiver” is a 4 day commitment. However, Jarod and/or Kim are always elated to take snorkelers/divers on guided, educational day trips.
- Beginning in November 2008, the Koh Ra Ecolodge initiated a terrestrial project to estimate the density of hornbill birds on the northern end of the island by conducting regular walking surveys along our trails and conducting habitat mapping. Please inquire about how you can participate. The island of Koh Ra is designated a “proposed” national park by the Thai government. Our hope is that the ecological data that our staff and guests acquire will help persuade Thai officials that full park status should be granted to Koh Ra.
- An alarming quantity of litter washes up on the sand beaches and coral reefs of Koh Ra. Our staff and guests regularly conduct beach cleanings and SCUBA assisted reef clean-ups. Give it a try, it feels great!!!
5. Benefiting local communities...
- We have started a community-based tourism program with the local Sea Gypsy (or Moken) community. We have trained several of their interested members as guides and togther, conduct tours on traditional lifestyles and medicinal plants. A community fund from this endeavor uses a portion of the proceeds for community projects benefiting the entire community.
- The first project, at the village's request was an improved drinking water well and rain catchement, and was completed in April 2009.
- We also support other mainland and island communities in their community-based tourism programs. Our Craft Shop for local products, includes Ban Thalay Nok village handmade soaps from the women's post-tsunami cooperative, handmade hammocks from the Mlabri tribe, and products from the Moken on Koh Ra.
- Guests and visitors: one of the goals of the Ecolodge is to educate guests about the local environment and culture. As above, we do that through readily available information, like the “Natural History Guide to Koh Ra”, ecologically designed trail system and educational trail map. Also, we have the ecological projects available for guests to join as volunteers. Guests can learn about coral reefs and jungle ecology while helping collect data that will be used for management of these precious resources.
- We have conducted programs on community capacity building with eight local villages, focusing on providing responsible snorkeling tours to visitors.
- We are currently starting a Learning Center at Koh Ra with educational materials in English and Thai about native habitats, wildlife and sustainable use of resources. This will be available as a resource for local school groups and visiting study tours.
7. Appropriate water use . . .
- Koh Ra is fortunate in that it has an abundance of fresh, clean water. Your water is originates from a fresh-water well, and is supplied, via gravity, from a large cistern. Drinking water is filtered in a 3-step process. No shipping in crates of bottled water to Koh Ra!
- We have constructed a small-scale biological filtration system (consisting of sand, gravel, and water plants) that filters our kitchen gray water.
- Each bathroom unit has an individual, enclosed, septic system. Sewage, as so often is the case in other resort centers, does not immediately flow back into the sea.
8. Using natural, local materials whenever possible within bungalows . . .
- Much of the wood (support beams, posts, railing) used in constructing your bungalow was selectively harvested or scavenged (e.g. “Rua Mai Ken”, hardwoods that have fallen and undergone a natural preservation process on the jungle floor) here on Koh Ra, using hand tools (chainsaws are so over-rated). Walls and flooring are finished using natural rattan, jute and bamboo weavings. The simple structures are pragmatic, yet clean and comfortable. They are not extravagant, maybe even a bit unsymmetrical in places, but they offer a peaceful nights rest nestled in the jungle.
- Mattresses are made using coconut fibers and natural latex foam, so they may initially feel a bit different to that which you are accustomed.
- You will likely quickly notice, that our bungalows are built amidst the jungle, as opposed to over the jungle. Many of the large trees and natural vegetation around the bungalows were left intact at the Koh Ra Ecolodge, instead of clearing the space and replanting with non-indigenous ornamental species.