Can there be gender equality in the Kenya tourism industry? Eva from AA Kenya believes so.

My names are Evelyn Muronji Walluckano and I’ve worked in the Kenya tourism industry for nine years after I pursued a diploma in food production and a second in tour guiding and administration.

When I enrolled in college the ratio of men to women was 4:1 however the number of women doing tour guiding courses was almost zero. Even today, years later, there are still less than 10 women who actively work as tour guides in Kenya. The reason? Well there is an old perception that tour guiding is a role for men. Many women, even after going through their years in college, end up working in hotels doing bookings for safaris, cleaning rooms, receptionist duties and secretarial roles; they don’t pursue what they studied and instead believe that the afore-mentioned roles are the female jobs in the tourism industry.

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Despite many years of academic analysis and practical feminist activity, despite prestigious international resolutions and declarations of intent, despite increased awareness of women’s issues in the discourses of governmental and non-governmental organizations alike, progress towards gender equality is still painfully slow. Although advances are being made on particular fronts there is still a long way to go.

Looking at the tourist industry in Kenya women are treated as second class to their male counterparts, despite many women having apt skills, knowledge and qualifications and quite often more so than their male counterparts, they are prejudiced and frustrated in terms of remuneration and career growth; organizations would rather hand leadership roles to male employees rather than women. As a result there is no degree or recognition of merit when awarding these posts. Many women are left frustrated and forced to stay in a job only for the meager pay, not because they want to chart a future for career growth within the organization or industry. The contempt shown to women stems from the outdated belief that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and looking after the family whilst the man is the king and has the ultimate say in all aspects of family life.

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Initially I worked for an organization which did not value my education, my skills nor my positive input in terms of business development ideas and plans. My career growth stagnated and I was never nominated for any skills development workshops or courses. My male counterparts were however given every opportunity to better their skills and all leadership roles given to them. Remuneration was also gender biased and all my male counterparts earned more than me. All posts from directors to managers to tour guides were males as the organization believed that men are better, which to me sounded very ridiculous to say the least! I was frustrated by my supervisors and managers who saw me as a threat. I can confidently say that despite this I worked hard and out performed all of my male colleagues; but the organization neither commended nor nominated me for any posts. Frustration grew, but God answered my prayer in the form of a new job at Adventure Alternative.

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At Adventure Alternative I found a different work ethic, something unique and most definitely not the norm in Kenya! It was indeed alternative, it was friendly and the emphasis was on team-work and equality. It was more like a family, everyone was regarded as an individual and not by sex and my career growth is headed on an upward course. My Director Mr. Gavin Bate holds constant briefings and mentors us intensively. He gives each and every one of us an equal shot at becoming their best, he goes an extra mile to follow-up on everyone’s personal development and suggests ways in which we can develop our skills further. Here in this organization we have all come to regard each other as family. We feel that we matter and we feel we grow and develop.

Ever since I joined Adventure Alternative I have worked with men in the field of tour guiding but unlike the past I have experienced equality. If we have the willingness and opportunity to learn from others on an equal basis and mutual respect and if we believe in ourselves, then I believe women can have a bright future in this industry and the sky is the limit.

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http://www.adventurealternative.com/news_stories

First Ever Photo of a Wild Singing Dog?

Is this the first ever photograph of a New Guinea Singing Dog in the wild?

Photo from the trail, cropped to show dog

We had word of some very exciting wildlife news at Adventure Alternative HQ recently. It was of a potential sighting (and photo capture) of one of the rarest (if not the rarest) breeds of dog in the world – the New Guinea Singing Dog (NGSD).

The sighting was made by Adventure Alternative Borneo director Tom Hewitt whilst on trek in the remote Star Mountains of Western New Guinea Island. These elusive dogs have most probably never been photographed in the wild before, so this is potentially huge in the NGSD world.

Tom, who has been living and working in SE Asia for the last ten years, is now based in Sabah and Sarawak from where he runs Adventure Alternative Borneo – the company that came into existence after a chance meeting 3 years ago with Adventure Alternative founder Gavin Bate. Along with a rainforest camp called Lupa Masa next to World Heritage Mt Kinabalu Park in Sabah, Adventure Alternative is also providing assistance to new community tourism and reforestation project based around 6 Penan villages in the remote interior of Sarawak. With financial support provided by Moving Mountains Trust, Adventure Alternative’s partner charity, the villages aim to plant 15,000-20,000 new hardwood saplings per year on previously logged and burnt forest.

Every year or so, Tom leads expeditions to New Guinea, an island shared between the independent Papua New Guinea and Indonesian controlled West Papua.  New Guinea is a truly remarkable destination as these facts and figures testify:

  • It is the 2nd largest island on earth, covering 785,753 sq km.
  • Although this landmass covers less than 0.5% of the world’s surface, it is estimated to contain up to 8% of the world’s known land and sea species, with countless still unknown and waiting to be discovered.
  • In terms of size of continuous rainforest it is exceeded only by the Amazon and the Congo.
  • And whilst only 1% of the world’s population call New Guinea home, the number of native languages spoken, account for over one sixth of all languages on earth – that is over 1,100 distinct dialects!

The Main Photo in Question

The photo taken from the trail of the dog on the hillside above

The same photo again (hence the slightly low resolution)
Now cropped closely to the dog its self

The details of the Sighting

We invited Tom to offer his own account of the trip and the sighting…

A client approached me at the end of 2011 requesting a bespoke trip that was ‘beyond any usual tourist or trek route, ideally mountainous and not hot and humid’. For a long time I had been looking at Mandala Mountain on the West Papua map. It is the 2nd highest free standing peak in Oceania with very little information available about it. It seemed to fit the requirements.

At an unconfirmed 4,760 m (no one is really sure) Mandala Mountain is the highest peak in the Star Mountain range – one of the most remote and unexplored areas of the world and until 40 years ago Mandala mountain even had it’s own permanent glacier. Here the native flora and fauna species, including the secretive singing dogs have remained in virtual isolation and undisturbed for thousands of years.

The twelve day tour included myself and the client, plus a trusted cook and guide that I had used before and seven local porters and guides from the starting village, itself an expensive 1 hour chartered plane ride from the capital of West Papua, Jayapura.

At the time of the sighting we were in a dramatic, wide valley with 4,000m peaks and limestone walls with waterfalls on either side. We spent a total of 4 days camping in this valley and there was regular contact with a number of exciting animals: couscous, possums and even tree kangaroos were seen most days, as well as many unidentified ground nesting birds living in the swamp grass. One species of bird of paradise was heard in the lower forest, but not seen. There were a few highland flowers and grasses and occasional groves of an ancient cycad species – primordial in every respect.

The guide and cook were 10 minutes ahead of us on day 1 of the return the trek, they had stopped I presumed, for us to catch up. When we reached them the guide proclaimed ‘dog’. This took me quite by surprise and it took three explanations by him for me to understand. But sure enough above us on the rocky outcrop in the bush there was a dog – the guide seemed as bemused by it being there as we were. After initially being quite close to the guide, by the time we arrived it had taken position on the hillside above us; this is the position found in the photos. We watched it for around 15 minutes as it continued to watch us. It seemed as curious as we were but not particularly scared or nervous. What stood out was how healthy it looked upon closer examination with binoculars.

I had no in-depth knowledge of NGSD’s at the time of the expedition and the photos in question were merely one of a huge number taken. To my utmost regret I did not make any video footage, nor did I try to get any closer. But in the context of any trip to Papua at the time this was no stranger than other events that happen daily – such as waking up one morning to see one of the porters using a tree kangaroo as a neck scarf to keep him warm.

There have been no previous confirmed reports of Singers in that general area. This can be easily explained by the fact that it is not an area the locals would ever go to, or at least not very often. There is much better hunting in the lower forests and hills. It is also very rarely visited by any other visitors.

When we returned from the trek, I searched for more information on the Singing Dogs of Papua and realized that I had possibly the only ever photo of one in the wild. The photos have since been disseminated amongst various experts including the American based New Guinea Dog Conservation Society.

Here are some more photos that were captured on the trip:

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In 2013, Adventure Alternative will be offering the chance to climb the 3rd highest mountain in Papua, Mt Trikora, on the 100th anniversary of the first ever summit expedition. At 4,750 m Trikora is also in an area that the New Guinea Singing Dogs have been seen by the locals. The scheduled climb will either begin or end with the annual Baliem Valley tribal highlands festival – this is when all the various highlands tribes come together for a big party in Wamena. For all of the trip information, click here.

History of the New Guinea Singing Dog

The intense topography of Papua as a whole coupled with low scale political troubles in the Western side of Papua has meant that little research has been done into the existence of NGSG in the area. The dogs themselves are believed a close relative of ancient dogs that were domesticated from Asian Wolves between 10-15,000 years ago and are related to the dingo of Australia.

The first live ‘Singers’ were caught in the Eastern province of the island in the 1950s and taken to Australia – nearly all of the Singers outside Papua are now descended from these 4 dogs. More recent expeditions have failed to locate any singers, including a month long expedition to the Eastern province highlands in the mid-90s. In this case, the Singers were heard but never seen. The NGSD is considered an evolutionarily significant unit. New Guinea Singing Dogs are named for their distinctive and melodious howl, which is characterized by a sharp increase in pitch at the start and very high frequencies at the end.

The future and the ethical dilemma faced.

The latest consensus from the experts regarding the photos is that “all of the photos have been examined forensically and there is no indication that they have been tampered with or are fakes. No layering is present. We also have had these photos examined by a PHD in Tropical Biology who is currently involved in rainforest research and conservation in New Guinea and his conclusion of the photos are that the plant life is consistent with the Star Mountain Range of the New Guinea Highlands”.

There are some people that may well question why there is a need to capture a wild animal and take it from its natural habitat. We asked Tom Wendt, founder of New Guinea Singing Dog International to explain further:
There are a couple of reasons why actually capturing a Singer is important. You first need to know that the NGSD is genetically nearly identical to the AU Dingo and the first descendant of the wolf. Although it’s yet to be proven, I believe that before the end of the Ice Age (when PNG and AU were land locked) the AU and PNG Dingo/NGSD were the same being.

The first good reason follows the same theme as the Australian version. Hybridization of both versions threatens their survival in their pure form. There was a day when the NGSD lived everywhere on PNG in a pure form. It was us humans who started the decline of numbers by bringing in domestic dog breeds. The hybridized NGSD or Village Dogs are man-made. This is the main reason that the NGSD could only be found these days in the place where you found one.

Both halves of the island’s governments are in such disarray, there is virtually no interest in setting up and funding some type of sanctuary for the NGSD that would serve to keep it in it’s pure form.

The other threat to the NGSD’s survival is that the natives are known to kill and eat a ‘Singer’ before preserving it. This is especially true in the highlands as the unhybridized versions are supreme hunters. In AU most provinces encourage the hunting and elimination of Dingoes as they are a threat to livestock. The same holds true in PNG.

The goal is to have a healthy population of NGSD’s here available to go back into the wild or to a sanctuary or preserve designed to keep the Singers alive in their pure form. Until the day comes that sanctuaries can be setup in PNG to keep the Highland Wild Dog from going extinct, we are the best option for their survival. With the population here being from a very limited gene pool the fear is that inbreeding will render the captive NGSD’s defective.

The Basenji (Africa’s wild dog) went through some severe health issues years ago and actually got to the point where inbreeding defects had threatened their very survival here. It was a group of folks passionate about the breed (not the experts) who raised the funds for the expeditions that captured new bloodlines and saved the Basenji from going extinct”.

Options for following up this significant and rare sighting are still being considered. Including return expeditions subject to funding and permissions.

More Information:
YouTube video about New Guinea Singing Dogs
For updates on the story, follow us on our Facebook page.
Further photos from the expedition on the Adventure Alternative Borneo Facebook page.
In 2013, Adventure Alternative will be offering the chance to climb the 3rd highest mountain in Papua – Mt Trikora on the 100th anniversary of the first ever summit expedition. For all of the trip information, click here.

Scientific American have written a great article on the sighting, with more extensive information on the NGSD to visit, click here.

Good & Green Guides

The Good & Green Guides are for travellers and inhabitants alike, covering London and a range of Dutch cities and allowing people to support sustainable business.

At home we can gradually construct a web of sustainable and ethical outlets, becoming knowledgeable about suppliers, locality of produce and organic and Fair Trade credentials, amongst other criteria. When we move city or travel to foreign lands, the conscious consumers amongst us face a dilemma: where is our money really going?

As consumers we have a lot of power and we can truly encourage change, especially when our choices extend to every part of our lives, including travel.

Founder, publisher and author, Harold Verhagen introduces the concept of the Good & Green Guides, offering examples of the content found in the Amsterdam edition: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZbdBLo-_LU

Each guide focuses on five key areas that consumers can ‘green’:

  • Eat & Meet: bars, cafes, tearooms, food shops, food markets, restaurants, herbs & food supplements
  • Dreaming: hotels, bed & breakfasts, hostels and campsites
  • Experiencing: kids, mobility, mind & body, parks & gardens, down & out
  • Shopping: cosmetics, fair trade, fashion, office & home, second-hand, vintage, repair, online shops, banks
  • Getting involved: aid & activists, collection & recycling, ECO interest points, freedom interest points, volunteering, offsetting CO2

Good & Green Guide covers – Amsterdam

Each organization can be rewarded a maximum of 10 stars (Good & Green Star rating):

3 good stars (for taking care of the development of people),

3 green stars (for taking care of the environment) and

4 great stars (for being transparent about good and green actions and results).

Stars are rewarded when organisations meet verified national or international standards. There are also certain actions that will result in a star, such as striving towards CO2 neutrality or partnering with a charity.

London’s Good & Green Guide iPhone Application was released to coincide with the Olympics. We think it’s great that a digital version has been made available; if you’re going to go green, you may as well go a step further and reduce physical consumption.

Features of the iPhone application include:

– GPS tracking, maps, searches, browses, look up what’s nearby
– Thousands of recommended Good & Green places to visit and things to do
– Extensive editorial content from the guides
– Sustainable top 10s using the Good & Green Guides Star System
– Add favourites and integrate with Twitter & Facebook
– Swipe to scroll through cities, main categories and subcategories
– Background information about sustainability & certifications

There are also apps for certain Dutch cities, including Rotterdam as the example above displays.

In order to green your actions, as well as the products and services you choose, use Adventure Alternative’s Sustainability Handbook. It’s the perfect complement to the Good & Green Guides, offering tips for before, during and after travel to try and make your travel choices more sustainable.

Travel sustainably 🙂

The Greenest Games yet…

Part of London’s strength throughout the Olympic bidding process, and consequently their win over Paris back in 2005, was the promise of regenerating London’s East End and the strong sustainability pledge put forward to make it the ‘greenest Games ever’, in the words of David Cameron.

Five themes offered a framework through which to implement the sustainability strategy, so here’s a snapshot of the main objectives…

Climate change

Aim: To deliver a low carbon Games

  • London 2012 is the first games to attempt to measure its carbon footprint. All activities, including building work and the sporting events, will incur a ‘carbon cost’ that will contribute towards a running total for the games. See, now even the Olympics has started to benchmark its sustainability progress!
  • Over £10m went towards active travel policies. If the horrific numbers taking to the roads and tube wasn’t enough to attract people towards more sustainable forms of travel, 75km of upgraded cycling and walking routes should have helped.
  • More than 4,000 trees were planted around the Olympic Park area, not only to improve the aesthetics of the area, but to account for emissions produced throughout the Games.
  • This may be the most successful Olympics yet in terms of sustainability, but the CO2 emissions created by the event are the equivalent of adding a city the size of Cardiff to the UK, highlighting that there is still a lot of progress to be made before the games are carbon neutral.

Biodiversity

Aim: To conserve biodiversity and create new urban green spaces.

  • A major triumph has been to remove, clean and reuse over 2 million tons of soil in order to create new habitats. This includes a huge area of wildflower meadows, the largest ever sown in Britain and also the largest rare wetland in the country.
  • In addition to over 300,000 wetland plants, organizers have planted more than 4,000 trees and 130,000 plants and bulbs. This will hopefully attract local wildlife into the area whilst also proving to be a pull for tourists and Londoners alike in the years following the games.
  • The European eel; smooth newt; kingfishers; bats; and grass snake are all amongst the species that the biodiversity plan aims to attract – all sounds very exotic for inner-city London!

Inclusion

Aim: To host the most inclusive Games to date.

  • It would be difficult to find any culture unrepresented on the streets of London and the organisers wanted to ensure that diversity and social cohesion were a prominent part of the Games, as expressed in the Opening Ceremony.
  • Volunteer participation in the ceremony, and throughout the Games, was one of the most endearing points of the whole celebration. Over 15,000 volunteers offered up their time for the production of the Opening Ceremony alone.
  • The Games collaborated with 6,075 people to transform the Olympic Park area. Volunteers performed all sorts of tasks, from planting trees to removing waste. The hope was that, by participating, local residents would retain the feeling that the area is there to improve their wellbeing and happiness.

Healthy living

Aim: To inspire people across the UK to take up sport and develop more active, healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

  • The Games was committed to improving eating habits and the natural environment, and trying to engage people in physical activity, from the workforce behind the Games, extending out to the whole population of the UK.
  • One of the themes of London 2012 was ‘Inspire a Generation’. The Games supported numerous UK-wide sporting programmes attempting to encourage fitness and competitive sport amongst young people.
  • There were strict guidelines on catering – strictly free-range eggs and sustainably sourced fish, amongst other criteria.  Despite this, McDonalds opened its largest (pop-up) restaurant in the world in the Olympic Park, hardly nutritious and responsibly sourced but presumably a vital source of funding through sponsorship.

Waste

Aim: To deliver a zero-waste Games

  • Recycling was a prominent feature at the games. Two thirds of the steel used to build the Olympic stadium was recycled, much of it comprises of old and abandoned gas pipes. The stadium used only a tenth of the amount of steel used to create the impressive Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
  • Some 200 largely derelict buildings were demolished and 98.5 per cent of the resulting waste was reused or recycled.
  • For the first time in the history of the Games, no waste will go to landfill. Also, water reclaimed water from a local sewer was treated, and used for irrigation and toilet flushing.
  • All of the uniforms worn by staff were fashioned from recycled polyester and the trilbys worn were made of responsibly sourced paper.

These are but a snapshot of the ‘green’ credentials of the Games, and impressive they are!

Watch this video to get an idea of the overall sustainability pledge:

But there is still a way to go to make the Games truly sustainable… As The Sunday Telegraph has revealed, 350 tons of ore must be mined to produce each gold medal. And, most damaging of all, sponsors Dow Chemicals and BP have been widely attacked for tarnishing the Games’ green credentials.

All these objectives form part of a long-term plan to regenerate a deprived area of London. The Games were a huge success, but down the line we shall see if these actions can really transform not just one area of London, but the rest of the UK.

Dancing all over the World

So, it’s 2012 and just where the hell is Matt (the dude that travels to exotic locations to dance with randoms)? It’s been 4yrs since his last instalment but, as always, it’s well worth the wait: http://bit.ly/Matt2012 This time around he has taken it upon himself to learn a traditional dance from each chosen destination.

Matt Harding in Poria, Papau New Guinea

One of Matt’s objectives, one that we fully subscribe to, is to inspire people to travel! How does he do this? By dancing, quite ridiculously, in front of famous landmarks and beautiful scenery. Yet his most recent video, released after a four year hiatus, shows him engaging with local cultures through dance. He must have realised that it’s much more fun to dance ridiculously with a bunch of enthusiastic locals than on your lonesome.

AA client partaking in traditional Maasai dance

Matt got us thinking…

A common theme that we have recognised throughout the numerous trips that we have led, is that no matter where in the world, however great the language barrier may be, dance can bring a group of people together.  We think the following photos, taken on Adventure Alternative trips, show how dance can be used in celebration, bringing people together.

Students at Bumburi Primary School, Nepal

The picture above shows past and current students of Bumburi Primary School in Nepal performing traditional dances. In Nepal, dances are often region-specific and dedicated to Buddhist Gods and Goddesses.  Whilst below, we have long-term supporters of Moving Mountains, Dani and Chris Wilde, dancing with students of Embu County Primary School. Many of our trips offer close interaction with local communities. If you ever meet these amazing people, we’re sure they will be happy to show you the ropes.

Students at Embu County Primary School, Kenya, showing Chris and Dani the ropes