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Responsible tourism Awards

Best for Wildlife Conservation

Best Wildlife Responsible Tourism
2015 Sponsor:

Florida Keys & Key West Tourism Development Council

Florida Keys and Key West

The Florida Keys and Key West is a 150 mile long string of tropical Islands located at the southernmost point of Florida’s mainland. In the Florida Keys you are a world away from the theme parks of central Florida! Visitors are encouraged to experience the island chain's priceless natural resources, and the therapy they provide the mind, body and soul.

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Best for Wildlife Conservation

The Best for wildlife conservation - category is awarded to a tourism business or initiative that preserves and carefully manages habitat and wildlife species.

Explained: One of two categories this year focusing on animals in tourism, the focus of Best for wildlife conservation is on holiday providers, whether operators or conservation organisations committed to the conservation of habitats and animals in the wild and using tourism to achieve conservation objectives . This might include wildlife watching experiences, nature trails, places to stay or other holidays which otherwise benefit wildlife and habitats.

What the Judges want: Integration of great holiday experiences with progressive and sustainable programmes in wildlife and habitat conservation, measures of success and ideas which can be adapted and developed by tourism providers around the world.


Our gold winner this year is Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education, and there are three silver winners: Coral Cay Conservation, North Island Seychelles and Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge.

Gold award: Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education

Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education

The Ambondrolava mangrove complex in SW Madagascar is not only one of the country's most stunning habitats, home to many endemic bird species, but also home to five mangrove communities. Communities that have depended on the mangroves for wood, fish and other animals for centuries. But as populations rise, the mangroves start to disappear, and so this charity works closely with these communities to help sustain an eco-equilibrium for everyone.

A Belgian registered charity, founded in 2007, works with the communities and also with visitors to inform and educate about the importance of the mangroves, from its Mangrove Information Centre. The Centre not only plays a vital role in interpreting the ecological importance of Madagascar's Ambondrolava mangrove complex for visitors, but also in educating the surrounding mangrove dependent communities. Training in community-based mangrove management aims to secure a more sustainable future for this region, as the swamps are vital fishing grounds for local people to earn a livelihood. For example, the creation of a local community association, VOI Mamelo Honko, has led to the restoration of 18ha of deforested mangrove. Lands that are also habitat for 39 wetland bird species, including some endangered endemics. In addition, Honko runs training in sustainable fishing practices as well as educating about ways in which communities can diversify their much needed income sources. Such as through ecotourism, beekeeping, tilapia farming, and artisanal handicraft weaving. Consequently, the success of the Centre as an ecotourism and training organisation is now being used as a model in other mangrove wetland regions.

For more information see the Honko Mangrove Conservation & Education website.

Silver award: Coral Cay Conservation

Coral Cay Conservation

You don't just go on a diving holiday with Coral Cay Conservation, you go on a marine expedition, taking part in vital research and marine exploration which contributes to the conservation of some of the most beautiful reefs in the world. Working mainly in the Philippines, Cambodia and, more recently in Montserrat, Coral Cay has been diving to make a difference since 1986.

With years of experience under their diving belts, Coral Cay knows that conservation isn't just about reefs and regulations. It's about people. And livelihoods, many of which depend on fishing. Protecting reefs through zoning is always an area of conflict when it comes to fishing communities, and understandably so. However, through education and patience, Coral cay has succeeded in establishing the first large scale Marine Fisheries Management Area in the beautiful Kompong Som Region of Cambodia and a Marine Protected Area in Sogod Bay in the Philippines. These have allowed fish populations to thrive again, meaning that when fishing is managed sustainably, the fishing communities also benefit. Coral Cay also identified a potential area for Marine Protected Area in Montserrat, having been the first people to dive here since the island was destroyed by volcanic eruptions, since when the reef has remained relatively untouched.

Community conservation awareness doesn't happen overnight however, and Coral Cay is expert in educating all ages, from school children to college age, the latter benefiting from CCC scholarships to study marine conservation and diving. Meaning that, one day, the communities will be able to take over their own conservation and diving programmes. And all will, in theory, go swimmingly.

For more information see the Coral Cay Conservation website.

Silver award: North Island Seychelles

North Island Seychelles

Abandoned in the 1970's invasive species took over North Island in the Seychelles. Now a private island, the current resort restored it to luxurious standards, creating not only five star places to stay for their guests, but also five star habitats for the endemic residents, which they reintroduced to the island slowly but surely. Because creating a stunning resort is one thing, but rehabilitating an ecosystem is another grand design. But one which they have achieved on North Island.

North Island Seychelles resort could have made their island all pristine and perfect, following the route of neighbouring golf or spa islands, but they went down a responsible rewilding route instead. A route that didn't just take on precious pockets on the island, but the whole place. And because of that, it works. The restoration of this paradise has been undertaken in phases, named aptly Noah's Ark projects. After ridding the island of feral rats and cats, wildlife came back in various different ways. There are now 80-100 giant tortoises, many donated by other islands. Others have come back of their own accord, finding fresh new flora to thrive on, such as the Seychelles blue pigeons, wedge-tailed shearwaters and white-tailed tropics. Hawksbill and green turtles have returned to nest on the beaches in ever increasing numbers. And the extremely rare Seychelles White-Eyes was reintroduced to North Island in 2007, with an introductory population of 25, although this has quadrupled since then. Because, let's face it, when you land on North Island the way it is now, with stunningly maintained, beautifully biodiverse habitats, as well as a team of scientists, researchers and conservationists to look after you, you'd be mad to want to leave.

For more information see the North Island Seychelles website.

Silver award: Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge

Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge

Tigers don't always shine brightly, sadly. In fact, there are only 3000 tigers left in the wild. Worldwide. Their demise is often related to the destruction of habitat, but Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge located in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, at the entry point of the Tadoba National Park, in the Maharashtra state of central India, is extremely proactive in changing this.

When you look at the luscious lands surrounding Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge, it is hard to imagine that they were once barren and boring. In just 20 years, since the founders of this beautiful bush camp, Amrut and Aditya Dhanwatay, set foot here, this landscape has been restored. Resurrected. Rewilded. It is now surrounded by dry deciduous forest and grasslands with perennial waterholes replacing dried out streams. Consequently, they have created a gleaming new green corridor between two sections of the national park, which enables free movement of many species. Working closely with 100 tribal families, the Lodge has succeeded in communicating the advantages of conservation of the landscapes and wildlife. The Lodge also employs directly from these communities, and their ongoing relationship has undoubtedly instilled a pride of place. A place that is, in fact, sacred. Because Tadoba is named after the god "Tadoba" or "Taru", worshipped by local tribal people.

For more information see the Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge website.

Previous winners


Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours was our gold winner last year. There were two silver winners in this category: Chambal Safari Hotels Pvt Ltd in India and On Track Safaris in South Africa, Zambia and Uganda.

2014 Gold award: Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours

Echidna Walkabout puts wildlife conservation at the heart of all their wildlife tours. Which sounds like the norm but when income raised from tours is ploughed back into serious conservation research, this takes tourism onto another level. Such is the work of Echidna, which was founded by Janine Duffy and Roger Smith in 1993 in Melbourne, Australia.

Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours is a social enterprise and for-profit company which offers tours around the wildlife-rich regions of south-eastern Australia and also in the Northern Territory. As well as offering tours, their area of research expertise is wild koalas, one of the animals they introduce to their guests on tours into the Australian bush. Educating guests about the koala's history and lifestyle is almost as vital to their conservation efforts as their eminent research has been, because they guide a lot of people who aren't wildlife experts at all, and whose attitudes they can change about saving wildlife generally.

The research began in 1998 when Janine discovered that koalas have distinctive nose markings, meaning that research could be done using photography only. This is in contrast to traditional research methods which capture, tag and radio-collar koalas - a procedure that is expensive, dangerous and highly stressful to both animal and researcher. Echidna Walkabout now has 19,000 photographs to contribute to their research, and a scientific paper outlining their method is being prepared for publication. Echidna invests a huge amount of time and profit in koala research annually, as well as to other conservation efforts such as improving and preserving habitats.

For more information see the Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours website.

2014 Silver award: Chambal Safari Hotels Pvt Ltd

Chambal Safari Hotels

Chambal Safari Hotels in Uttar Pradesh, is located on 36 acres of woodland and heritage farmland that has been owned by the same family since 1472. Now in the hands of birding enthusiast and conservationist Ram Pratap Singh, it has been transformed from its previous life as hosts of a bi-annual cattle fair and festival, to an eco lodge. Now part of the National Chambal Sanctuary, the lodge has not only put this wildlife retreat on the tourism map, but also been instrumental in saving and protecting their important habitats over the last fifteen years ago. At that time, the Sanctuary was under tremendous pressure to be exploited for sand mining purposes. Chambal Safari Hotels led a sustained campaign to stop this, educating villagers about not only the risks to wildlife and habitats, but also to local water levels if mining was to take place. The focus of Chambal has always, therefore, been to reassure the community that their inextricable link to their landscapes and resident wildlife is fundamental to their wellbeing and livelihoods.

Like all progressive wildlife organisations, Chambal has helped local people realize that they can also make a living from nature, from inviting and hosting tourists to enjoy the precious natural resources they have on their doorstep. And not take what must have felt like the easy way out, taking money from mining, or indeed poaching. Instead they now host visitors to celebrate the amazing abundance of wildlife here including gharials, marsh crocodiles, Gangetic River Dolphins, turtles, smooth-coated otters and over 300 species of birds. The ravines on either side of the river are home to striped hyenas, jungle cats and jackals. However, because this isn't a tiger sanctuary, the animal that all tourists want to get their eye on, it is under constant threat of being thrown back into the hands of industrialists. Something Chambal works tirelessly to lobby against while all the time protecting and conserving the wildlife that they treasure so dearly.

For more information see the Chambal Safari Hotels website.

2014 Silver award: On Track Safaris

On Track Safaris

On Track Safaris lead small safaris to South Africa, Zambia and Uganda, although the work that really stands out for us is on leopards. This company has always had a mission to put conservation at the core of all its safaris. As well as offering all the usual elements of a safari, they invite and attract guests who want to play a role in the conservation of wildlife, not just capture them on camera for posterity. Consequently, they support non-profit conservation organisations, such as the INGWE Leopard Research program, which they created themselves to gather data on leopard behaviour and numbers. This was in response to the fact that although leopards are in significant decline, there was little data available to monitor this. In addition, leopards are still being trophy hunted, or shot because of conflict with livestock owners. On Track works on intense education programs with all of these parties, a task that requires much patience and understanding of the varying social and economic issues, in order to highlight the importance - ecological, ethical and economic - of keeping their leopard populations healthy.

And in terms of the safari themselves, they definitely are on track when it comes to offering a top experience for visitors too. As well as seeing a wide array of wildlife, guests are given the opportunity to be involved with their team of conservationists, helping to set trail cameras to monitor nightly happenings, or just simply take time to sit viewing an elephant, or a herd, in order to understand its behaviour. Taking notes, photographs as well as having that all important once in a lifetime experience. Except, guests love it so much, they keep coming back for more.

For more information see the On Track Safaris website.

2012 - Best for conservation of wildlife and habitats

A group or initiative working for the conservation of wildlife and/or their local habitat, such as a national park or wildlife sanctuary.

Winner: Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile
Since 2000 the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve has conserved over 100,000 hectares of Patagonian temperate rainforest. The owners have changed the way in which they, and the local community, secure a living form this large piece of Patagonian forest, moving from logging to conservation and sustainable tourism. The judges were impressed by the scale of the transformation at Huilo Huilo.

Awards winner

Read more about our 2012 winners in the official Awards newspaper.

Previous winners

Winner: Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Malawi
"Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is a wildlife rescue, conservation and education centre in the heart of Malawi's capital city. Fending off developers, the centre has reclaimed and revived 90 hectares of urban wilderness to provide sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals, and promotes conservation to locals and tourists alike. It now takes over 20,000 visitors per year, showing its value as a centre for both the people and wildlife of Malawi."

Highly commended:
Africat Okonjima, Namibia
Great Ocean Ecolodge, Australia

Winner: ZEALANDIA: The Karori Sanctuary Experience, New Zealand
With a 500 year vision, Zealandia immediately stood out as an ambitious conservation initiative which engages with tourism to secure local support. But when you're trying to return an area to a time before humans - over 80 million years ago - it is this vision that is required! This unique conservation project is already a safe haven for some of New Zealand's most endangered native species. The ecological restoration of this urban wildlife sanctuary is well underway and through the removal of invasive species has enabled the successful reintroduction of species.

Highly commended:
Steppes Discovery, UK

Winner: Great Plains Conservation, South Africa
For incorporating a range of innovative projects across five African countries. Their work in the Maasai Mara is particularly impressive, facilitating the creation of an 80,000 acre conservancy, and guaranteeing regular payment to the local communities for the use of their land for tourism purposes – regardless of the number of guests. On an unequivocal basis, they provide protected revenue for the indigenous peoples of the Mara, reducing the negative social and economic impacts of tourism.

Highly commended:
Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust (CSWCT), Uganda
Way Out Experiences, Malaysia, Indonesia & Borneo

Winner: Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camps, Kenya
For demonstrating that a high revenue, low impact tourism development approach can benefit the local Maasai, enabling them through developing conservancies and tourism in partnership with safari companies to create employment and community income and to conserve their land for wildlife.

Highly commended:
Turtle Conservation Project, Sri Lanka
Peak District Environmental Quality Mark, UK
Caiman Ecological Refuge, Brazil
Read about our winners