Costa Dulce retreat

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An off the grid ecolodge that provides sustainable retreats. Yoga, surf, wellness and sustainability. Located in southern Nicaragua on the pacific ocean
Member since: 27 Apr 2019

How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...

Economic responsibility

We encourage local suppliers to employ local people, this is what we live by 100%. We do everything we can to buy from our neighbours, including micro financing for there food production projects. Walmart owns Nicaraguas supermarkets. We do not buy anything from them. Our menu is 100% local with exception of Olive Oil and a few other condiments/spices that are not available in Nicaragua.

We are the major employer in the area, hiring locals only with two exceptions. We have sponsored schools, water projects, sports fields, and environmental organizations.

Our staff of 30 is 90% from our surrounding villages (Yoga teacher (Anne), Bookings manager (Kit), And myself are the exceptions) We see the value in training/educating our neighbours even if it poses significant challenges in the short term. I can tell you from experience it is worth it.

Our vision is to create an employee owned Co-op to help build a robust and diverse local economy. As we have done so far we will continue use profits to diversify our communities economic activities

Environmental responsibility

We have a growing nature reserve that is integrated with our carbon offset program. The offset program is designed to help us preserve and reforest the surrounding valley.

Our retreat is solar powered and off the grid. We are very responsible in our water use having been through drought. We only use local and seasonal ingredients in the kitchen, while serving very little meat, no red meat or pork. Locally sourced chicken and seafood only.We mainly serve a plant based diet.

We also co-sponsor a extremely well run turtle hatchery right in front of the hotel. With the emphasis on the turtles not the tourists. And we help them with beach clean ups as well.
When I first arrived on Playa Escameca, 100% of turtle eggs were harvested for the food trade. As someone new to the community I did not feel in the place to forcefully tell my new neighbours how to manage their resources, especially when they were using the proceeds to feed their families. I tried to educate them about the consequences of taking 100% of the eggs (no more turtles) but it was not successful. Then Tim arrived. He had a concept of having volunteers (foreigners) patrol the beach to protect the nests. I did not agree with the strategy but his passion and energy was definitly in the right place. Together we came up with a system to employ the same locals who were relying on the eggs to feed their families to protect the eggs. We raise money through our guests and elsewhere to pay rewards for the nests that are brought to the nursery, and pay salaries for our local staff who manage the nursery. Last year nearly 100% of eggs where protected and over 35000 babies released. I know the program is not perfect, but we are doing our best to constantly improve it. We do not use tank, nor do we see the benefits of using them.

In regards to our techniques:
- We do use gloves (even biodegradable) and everyone involved is fully trained when it comes to scientifically proper collection and relocation of nests as well as non-encroachment.
- We do not have space to rotate the location of the hatchery yearly. We are aware of the issues of sand contamination and to address this in our model we diligently remove the sand from completed nests as well as a bit extra of the surrounding area and replace it with clean sand from the nesting area of the beach.
- We do maintain data collection and assessment. Total of nests, total of eggs, who handles nests, time, hatch percentages, average sand temperatures, and more.
- Nests are monitored continuously and hatchlings are always released within minutes of emerging.
In regards to the percentage of nests relocated:
I do understand that the ideal situation for the sea turtles and the entire natural process would be to leave the nests where they are planted. In some areas of the world it is helpful to relocate and protect others left on the beach. Unfortunately where we are located leaving eggs in the sand is a certain death sentence. I have only seen 3 nests in 4 years in this particular beach that would have been left behind by the egg collectors (because they were laid too low at low tide). We would need a very aggressive, oppressive, and expensive model to have any nests protected while left on the beach. For this matter we have decided to move as many nests into protection as possible. We saved 98% of the nests last year on this beach with no incidence of violence. That took the beach from 0 hatchlings to over 34,000. It would be a definite goal to work for changing the social climate in the area towards being able to leave nests on the beach safely. But we see that as a slow shift that we (or the turtles) simply cannot wait for.

We are all about educating our guests and encouraging them to minimize their impact, not only here but where ever they are.

Our local guide takes guests each week to the nature restoration/reserve project we are working on.

Social responsibility

Part of our yoga retreats are a trip with a local guide to our jungle reserve, with information on how it affects the local community. Guests have the option to tour the reserve with a local horse tour operator. With more success we hope to create more independent eco-tourism jobs.

We work with Barrio Planta project running the BPP escamequita project which is an english school that also has important environmental, and agricultural aspects ( Nicaragua is still an agriculturally based culture) . A trip to visit the school is also part of our weeklong retreats.

We have completed water projects in two nearby towns, providing running water where there was none before. We made a football/baseball pitch in another town. And we have purchased land to be used in an affordable housing project.

Travellers are provided with accurate pre-trip information on the social and political situation in the destination. This is part of the experience.

We do our best to avoid negative impacts on our local culture, and therefore work with our guests to minimize theirs.

All our guides are from the communities (we wouldn't have it any other way)

We have cofounded a school in a neighbouring village. The programming includes sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, English and arts. The during the visit our guests connect with kids, play games and practice English. We do this for the students not the volunteers. I can see your reservations with day volunteers and school visits. It is typically about the volunteer's ego and nothing more. In our case I think there is some background that will help with this one.

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