New Species Of Gecko Discovered At Cobbold Gorge

Newly Advanced Ecotourism certified operator, Cobbold Gorge Tours, has recently made the news as two new species of gecko have been discovered in the Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge. The two new species were discovered in May by scientists from Australian National University (ANU), who work collaboratively with Cobbold Gorge Tours to classify and register fauna in the area.

Gaye Bourke from ANU’s Research School of Biology says the recent discovery has been an exciting find, as the two new species are genetically distinctive, “The genetic data indicates that the geckos from this area are distinct from the common and widespread group of striped geckos they resemble, but there are differences in scales and colour patterns” she said.

“The individuals from this region are strikingly different genetically… We are still working on the physical examination of the genetically distinct geckos and hope to name and publish full descriptions of these groups as new species in coming months.”

The find is also a positive indication that there may be more unidentified species to find in Far North Queensland, and brings greater understanding of the biodiversity of the Gorge. The remote Jurassic, sandstone gorge environment provides an ideal habitat for geckos, the recesses in the sandstone providing refuge from the elements.

Bourke also noted, “Understanding the biodiversity of an area can also assist in land management.”

Working collaboratively with Universities, National Parks and Government Agencies can be a great way for tourism operators to become involved with research projects and conservation efforts for the environment in which they operate, and a great opportunity to work together toward sustainable management of our valuable ecosystems.

Cobbold Gorge is situated deep in the heart of the Gulf Savannah region of Far North Queensland, only a six hour drive from Cairns and Townsville. Cobbold Village offers all of your modern comforts, as well as modern ensuite cabin accommodation, and RV and caravan friendly camping facilities. Cobbold Gorge Tours provides guests the opportunity to explore the unique environment and Nature Refuge, which boasts a spectacular landscape, and North Queensland wildlife and birdwatching, for the ultimate Outback Queensland experience.

Read more about the discovery of the two new species of gecko here.

Find out more about Cobbold Gorge Tours’ ECO certification here and visit their website here.

Cobbold Gorge Tours Achieve Advanced Ecotourism Certification

Congratulations to Cobbold Gorge Tours for achieving Advanced Ecotourism certification for their tour products and accommodation.

Cobbold Gorge tours has achieved Advanced Ecotourism certification for:

  • Cobbold Gorge Tour
  • The Ultimate Outback Adventure Tour
  • Robin Hood Cattle Station Experience
  • Cobbold Gorge Village (Accommodation)

Cobbold Gorge is situated deep in the heart of the Gulf Savannah region of Far North Queensland, only a six hour drive from Cairns and Townsville. Cobbold Village offers all of your modern comforts, as well as modern en suite cabin accommodation, and RV and caravan friendly camping facilities, while the unique environment boasts a spectacular landscape, North Queensland wildlife and birdwatching, for the ultimate Outback Queensland experience.

The protected Cobbold Gorge area is accessible only by guided tour. Cobbold Gorge Tours take guests to explore the ancient geological landforms on their awe-inspiring and educational, guided tours of the vast sandstone gorge. Then to ice the cake of your outback experience, the Robin Hood Cattle Station Experience offers a rare opportunity to experience life on a working cattle station! Cobbold Gorge is an ideal weekender destination for the whole family to enjoy.

In the establishment of Cobbold Gorge Tours the main criterion was, and is to this day, that the operation is conducted with minimum impact on the environment. In line with this commitment, they conduct their business in accordance to an outstanding and strict Environmental Policy. The 4720 hectare Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge was established in 2009 through a voluntary, formal agreement with the Queensland Government. The agreement acknowledges a commitment to manage and preserve the land, which holds significant conservation and cultural values, while allowing them compatible and sustainable land uses to operate their business. Cobbold Gorge Tours is also an accredited Savannah Guides Station, whereby accredited guides foster ecologically sustainable, interpretive tourism and demonstrate high standards of operation. They also work in collaboration with Australian National University to classify and register fauna in the Cobbold Gorge Nature Refuge, which has lead to the discovery of a previously unidentified species of velvet tailed gecko which is to be named in honour of Cobbold Gorge. Through these efforts, their Advanced Ecotourism certification has been well-deserved.

To find out more about Cobbold Gorge Tours, please visit their website.

Image: Cobbold Gorge Staff proudly showing off their Advanced Ecotourism certificate

Straddie Camping Introduce New Eco Shacks

Advanced Ecotourism, ROC and Climate Action certified operator, Straddie Camping, has unveiled two ‘first‐of‐a-kind’ EcoShacks at Amity Point Camping Ground on North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah), with the first guests welcomed on the 1st of July. The EcoShacks bring a new and unique ‘glamping’ accommodation experience to Straddie.

The new accommodation offering is part of Straddie Camping’s strategy to improve the North Stradbroke Island camping holiday experience, and to present the campgrounds in such as way that the nature and Aboriginal culture of the Island is celebrated and respected. The design of the EcoShacks, refers to the local traditional Aboriginal culture and kn wledge, while also reflecting on North Stradbroke Island’s proud history as a holiday destination.

Inspiration for the design of the EcoShacks was drawn from three sources:
1. The style of the traditional Australian tent,
2. The quintessential North Stradbroke Island beach shacks, and;
3. Quandamooka People’s culture and connection to country.

They feature their own rainwater tanks, large windows, fan cooling, and off-the ground positioning to take advantage of the island breezes. Windows and doors are fitted with heavy-duty roll down canvas zippered screens, and the main door features an inlayed design by local Quandamooka Artist Belinda Close. The EcoShacks face directly onto the beachfront, taking advantage of the magnificent sunsets over Moreton Bay.

A world renowned design team oversaw the construction of the EcoShacks, ensuring the Quandamooka People’s cultural considerations to land, seasons and wildlife, were integrated in the design concept and application. Environmental best practice technology is utilized for the treatment of water and sewerage to ensure a minimal environmental footprint, and landscaping use native species endemic to North Stradbroke Island.

Along with the new EcoShacks, a family friendly interpretive walk has been established, with signposted points of interest around the Amity Point Camping Ground providing information on the area’s rich Aboriginal history, as well as featuring ancient Aboriginal stories. The interpretive walk lets guests immerse themselves in the living cultural landscape of Minjerribah, and learn about the Quandamooka people’s connection to the land – dating back tens of thousands of years. Long before European settlement, Aborigines would meet on Minjerribah to share and exchange food, stories, knowledge; to trade, dance, perform initiations and participate in other cultural activities. This tradition of the Quandamooka people is one of generous hospitality and sharing. It’s a message that is equally important today.

The Amity Point township has a laid back seaside village vibe that welcomes all visitors, and is a popular fishing spot with the locals. The Amity Point Camping Ground is a spacious family friendly campground with calm water beach perfect for the kiddies, and an abundance of native wildlife. Straddie Camping will market test the new EcoShacks for use in other camping grounds, and will continue with cutting edge sustainability and cultural initiatives throughout all aspects of the business going forward.

Straddie Camping is a partnership between the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) as shareholders, trustee and Traditional owners of the landand Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), a Commonwealth Statutory Authority. Considerable funds have been invested into the business, which have been used to refurbish the camping grounds and extend services, resulting in strong growth in recent years.

The business has also been awarded a number of Queensland tourism awards, including a Best Campground in QLD award.

Congratulations To Peninsula Hot Springs

Congratulations to Peninsula Hot Springs on achieving Nature Tourism certification for their Natural Thermal Mineral Spring Baths that offer a great opportunity for guests to enjoy nature and relax.

Officially opened in 2005, Peninsula Hot Springs (PHS) is the first natural hot springs and day spa centre in Victoria, located just 90 minutes from Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. Natural thermal mineral waters flow into more than 30 pools, private baths and other bathing experiences from a geothermal aquifer 637 metres below the surface. Peninsula Hot Springs is a multi-award winning ecotourism attraction that sees more than 440,000 visitors per year. Entering the bathing area is like stepping into another world, a sanctuary where mind and body can relax in the beautiful natural surrounds.

Peninsula Hot Springs focuses on balancing the relationship between business and environment, incorporating sound environmental practices into every facet from initial construction through to daily management. They work towards the ultimate goal of developing an ecotourism facility which is recognised as a world leader in environmentally sound, minimal impact resort management. Well on their way to achieving this goal, they have introduced projects and policies for the protection and re-vegetation if their surrounding indigenous landscape, weed and pest management, protection of potential Aboriginal archaeological sites, waste, water and energy consumption.

Peninsula Hot Springs have also developed a climate change action policy through the engagement of an environmental consultant, which promises to educate guests on relevant environmental issues and climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate their environmental impact, and sourcing local, sustainable produce and engaging sustainable service providers.

To find out more about Peninsula Hot Spring, please visit their website.

Key Findings from Australian Tourism Exchange 15

Last week, our Operations Manager, Emily, joined over 2,500 delegates at the Australian Tourism Exchange 2015 in Melbourne. The event proved to be a valuable experience, providing an opportunity to network, build positive relationships, and gain insight into current trends within the tourism industry and various markets. Tourism Australia put on a great event, showcasing some of the best culinary experiences from all across Australia in light of the Restaurant Australia campaign.

It was fantastic to see that Ecotourism Australia’s (EA) members made up 20% of all the Sellers present at the event, a strong indicator of the high standard of our certified operators. We shared a booth with our partners at Conservation Volunteers, and Emily was pleased to touch base with many of our members, put faces to names, and learn more about the success of their businesses. Across a busy schedule of 70 appointments, she also met with representatives from an array of wholesalers, retailers, travel agents and state tourism organisations. By the end of the four-day event, Emily came to several key findings based on the feedback received from Buyers:

  • The greatest interest in ecotourism, nature based tourism, and sustainability certification came from the European (particularly German), Canadian and the US markets.
  • Representatives from various Asian countries noted that interest in ecotourism and “getting off the beaten track” was beginning to grow among younger generations and more seasoned travellers. They also predicted interest would grow further following the introduction of Australia’s multiple entry 10-year visa for Chinese citizens as a result of the Australia-China free trade agreement.
  • Many Buyers showed great interest in EA’s online Green Travel Guide (GTG), the searchable database found on our website featuring all of our certified members, and indicated they would use it to search for new product. The GTG was a very valuable tool and was used during most appointments.
  • A number of Buyers expressed great interest in “hands on” voluntourism experiences that allow guests the opportunity to contribute to some form of conservation effort during their visit.
  • Buyers from online distribution channels and online travel agencies noted that when given a choice between a certified or non-certified experience, travellers were more inclined to choose the certified option, and that this is an increasing trend. These Buyers also noted that many certified operators listed on their sites often do not mention their certification in their listings.

Over the coming weeks, we will be following up on connections made at the event and working to further develop new and strengthen old relationships with the ultimate goal of bringing greater value to our members.

If you have any feedback or questions following our participation in the Australian Tourism Exchange, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

(Pictured: Several of our certified operators with Rod, our CEO)