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.

A third of all 2014 Qantas Australian Tourism Award Winners are ECO certified!

Ecotourism Australia certified operators took home a third of all awards at the 2014 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, presented at a Gala dinner in Adelaide last week.

The Qantas Australian Tourism Awards celebrate the epitome of excellence in the Australian tourism industry. A broad and diverse range of tourism businesses enter their state and territory Tourism Awards, the winners of which progress through the National Awards as finalists.

This year, Ecotourism Australia proudly sponsored the Ecotourism category, and we were pleased to see that all finalists in the Ecotourism category were ECO certified. Further more, over 40% of all eligible finalists across all categories were ECO certified! The National awards are a clear demonstration of the high calibre of operators choosing Ecotourism Australia and joining a network committed to sustainable best practice and premium quality experiences.

Ecotourism Australia certified operators won a total of eight Gold awards, ten Silver and seven Bronze, including all awards across the following categories:

  • Major Tour & Transport Operators
  • Adventure Tourism
  • Ecotourism
  • Tourist Attractions
  • Australian Tourism Legend

Also to be commended are Advanced Ecotourism certified Pennicott Wilderness Journeys. They took home two Gold awards for their product Bruny Island Cruises in the Ecotourism and Tourist Attraction categories, Gold for their product Tasmanian Seafood Seduction, the prestigious Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism, and saw Robert Pennicott named an Australian Tourism Legend!

“In an age where quality is king, customers are increasingly choosing credible and authentic operators that can demonstrate their sustainability and commitment to high quality experiences. The sheer number of ECO certified operators recognised at these awards is a clear indication of this trend to quality” says Rod Hillman, Chief Executive.

We would like to congratulate and commend all of our certified operators for their phenomenal achievements in this years’ Awards program. Here is a full list of our certified award winners:

Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism: Pennicott Wilderness Journeys (Advanced Ecotourism)

Australian Tourism Legend: Robert Pennicott (Pictured)

Major Tourist Attractions
Silver: Taronga Zoo (Advanced Ecotourism)

Tourist Attractions
Gold: Bruny Island Cruises (Advanced Ecotourism)
Silver: Taronga Western Plains Zoo (Advanced Ecotourism)
Bronze: Capricorn Caves (Advanced Ecotourism)

Ecotourism
Gold: Bruny Island Cruises (Advanced Ecotourism)
Silver: Out of Sight Tours (Advanced Ecotourism & Climate Action Business)
Bronze: Life’s An Adventure – Blue Mountains Products (Ecotourism)

Heritage & Cultural Tourism
Silver: Venture North Australia (Advanced Ecotourism & Respecting Our Culture)

Indigenous Tourism 
Silver: Tri State Safaris/Mutawintji Eco Tours (Advanced Ecotourism & Climate Action Leader)
Bronze: Mossman Gorge Centre (Ecotourism and Respecting Our Culture)

Major Tour & Transport Operators
Gold: Par Avion Wilderness Tours (Nature Tourism)
Silver: SeaLink Ferries, Tours & Holiday Packages (Advanced Ecotourism & Climate Action Business)
Bronze: Cruise Whitsundays (Advanced Ecotourism)

Tour & Transport Operators
Silver: Fun Over Fifty Pty Ltd (Advanced Ecotourism, Ecotoruism & Climate Action Leader)
Bronze: Life’s An Adventure – Blue Mountains Products (Ecotourism)

Adventure Tourism
Gold: Enchanted Adventure Garden & Tree Surfing (Ecotourism)
Silver: Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours (Advanced Ecotourism & Climate Action Leader)
Bronze: Life’s An Adventure – Blue Mountains Products (Ecotourism)

Unique Accommodation
Silver: Rawnsley Park Station Eco Villas (Advanced Ecotourism & Climate Action Business)
Bronze: Taronga Western Plains Zoo (Advanced Ecotourism)

Deluxe Accommodation
Gold: Yondah Beach House (Ecotourism)

New Tourism Development
Gold: Tasmanian Seafood Seduction (Advanced Ecotourism)
Silver: The Frames (Nature Tourism)

To see the complete list of award winners, please click here.

Jungle Adventures Cape Tribulation introduce the human hamster wheel!

Advanced Ecotourism and Climate Action Leader certified operator, Jungle Adventures Cape Tribulation (also known as Jungle Surfing), have opened to the public the world’s first “Human Hamster Wheel” interactive cable lift as part of their Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour. The innovative and sustainable cable lift acts as a treadmill, using man-power to winch guests into the treetops for their Jungle Surfing adventure.

With no mainland electricity supply and a UNESCO World Heritage Site to preserve, the team at Jungle Surfing had to get creative and think outside of the box for a minimal impact solution for transferring their surfers skyward. It was over a light-hearted discussion in the staff hut that the concept of a Human Hamster Wheel was born.

“We’re extremely proud of the wheel which utilises customer power to introduce the concept of alternative/sustainable energy production as part of our tour experience. We think it’s pretty innovative, as do our customers” says Managing Director, Sheena Walshaw.

Jungle Surfing is situated in the pristine Daintree Rainforest at Cape Tribulation, 2 and a half hours North of Cairns. The Queensland Tourism Award-winning Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours take guests on a unique rainforest tour through the treetops using a series of flying fox ziplines. Surfers stop at five different tree platforms to soak up spectacular birds-eye views of the rainforest, cascading streams, and the Great Barrier Reef shoreline.

Jungle Surfing has a stong commitment to sustainable best practice, with the ultimate aim of becoming a carbon neutral tourism destination. Their mission is to be a benchmark and inspiration for their community and other tourism businesses in wilderness locations, and their goal is to protect and promote the pristine natural environment surrounding them through the provision of unique, adventurous and educational activities with sustainable operations and minimal environmental footprint.

They can’t promise you a cube of cheese for your efforts, but they can deliver epic views of a Jurassic world perched on the shoreline of the Great Barrier Reef. The team at Ecotourism Australia love what they’re about!

Visit the website: Jungle Surfing.

Learn more about the Human Hamster Wheel.

Congratulations to Flyboard Cairns

Congratulations to Flyboard Cairns for achieving Advanced Ecotourism certification for their innovative Flyboard Experience, Charters and Special Events.

Flyboarding is an exciting and innovative new water sport that uses pressurized water to power a wake board like device to enable the flyer to dive through the water, hover above its surface and perform all manner of tricks and stunts. Customers can come and experience the Flyboard water jet devices with Chris and Luke offering one-on-one instruction and personal attention. Flyboard Cairns has a variety of packages suited to individuals or small to medium groups.

Flyboard Cairns have also become sponsors of Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre patient, ‘Barbarella’. She is an Olive Ridley Turtle who was found trapped in Ghost nets up in Cape York and transported to the Centre with the assistance of Pennefather Rangers and Qantas Link. Marlin Coast Vet Hospital treated Barbarella and were able to save her life by amputating a flipper. She has received ongoing treatment for the deep hole in her top shell but has been recovering well with a healthy appetite. Sponsorship of a patient assists the centre to meet the cost of her food while she continues her rehabilitation with the care provided by Jennie Gilbert and the dedicated team of volunteers at Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. Check out the turtle rehabs Facebook and Website to see how you can get involved at the centre too.

To find out more about Flyboard Cairns, click here.

To find out more about Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation, click here.

(Photos Courtesy Christian Miller)