Good examples of sustainability

Conservation of our natural resources is an extremely important issue world wide. Each of us is responsible for taking care of the earth in some way or another so that we may pass it on to the next generation and so on. Obviously with our business based upon eco adventure we are concerned about these issues. We subscribe to a variety of publications and are members of different groups which work to support the earth and all of its inhabitants in one way or another.

I recently came across two different initiatives that I found compelling. One was an interview that the Adventure Travel Trade Association did with Neil Rogers of Francis Ford Coppola Resorts. I have never personally visited any of the Coppola family’s resorts, but I have studied them a bit. As we were developing our business here in Panama we researched throughout Central America for businesses which had a like-minded outlook on sustainable tourism. We studied each of these businesses and took away pieces of information that might help us as we developed our own lodge. This article gives a brief look into many of the issues facing sustainable tourism. Sustainable tourism can be a challenge and a blessing no matter where the business is located.

The second initiative I encountered over the weekend was one put out by The Nature Conservancy. TNC has a new campaign called Use Your Outside Voice. Now, as a mom of young children I thought I knew all about “outside voice”, but apparently I was a bit off. TNC has put together a campaign to have people speak up for nature and is calling it Use Your Outside Voice. This appealed to me. If each one of us would do something for our community a long the same vein as we do for our children’s schools or our other affiliations then we would be able to make a difference. One of my children’s favorite stories is Dr. Seuess’ The Lorax. Our children received it as a gift from our dear friends David and Linda Cerutti. The Lorax speaks for the trees. More of us should speak for the trees. Maybe this campaign by TNC is your chance to speak up a bit.

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Another use for plastic bags

Widecast has worked with a group of women in Costa Rica and Panama to create a variety of handbags made entirely of recycled plastic bags. These women and their communities collect plastic bags off of beaches and any other place where they may be found. The plastic bags are cleaned and then made into a yarn to be crocheted into bags. Each bag is made by one woman in the community. Her name is attached to the bag as well as a brief description of the process to make the bags.

In 2007 (as an example year) alone:

This project collected and reused more than 50,000 plastic bags and worked with more than 220 pounds of collected bags each month. The project placed collection containers in 12 supermarkets in the Automercado chain in Costa Rica and organized groups of weavers in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, representing more than 100 women. The project made approximately $20,000 in sales, 80% of which went to the women weavers.


These bags are being created as a tool to raise awareness of the problem with plastic bags for sea turtles specifically and our planet overall. Each bag is a unique work of art. No two are the same. The striped bag on the wall behind Catta is an example of these bags. We have a small selection of them for sale at Tranquilo Bay.

Books for a Better World

We all know what a difference a book can make to our own lives. Imagine if you didn’t have easy access to good quality books for yourself. Would you be willing to do something about it? The local island schools down here have very limited access to books.

We have a container scheduled to deliver some goods to us in Panama in July. We know how difficult it is to acquire good quality children’s literature in Spanish at reasonable prices here in Bocas del Toro. So, I contacted Books for a Better World to see about how we might be able to sponsor a library for one of the local public schools. Fortunately, Alice Finn Gartell, President of Books for a Better World thought it was a great opportunity to send books down to Panama.

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We have worked out a sponsorship rate for a small 50 – 60 book library for these schools. Normally, Books for a Better World requires a $350 donation to support this size library. We were able to get a reduced amount because Tranquilo Bay will be providing the transportation from the USA and out to the individual locations to deliver the books.

You can make any contribution toward sponsoring one or more of these libraries. We will group the donations together until we reach the reduced sponsorship amount. Tranquilo Bay will be donating the transportation of up to ten of these libraries from the USA to Panama. We will work with a variety of people to deliver the books out to the individual communities. Please contact me at info @ tranquilobay (dot) com if you are interested in sponsoring one of these school libraries and I will give you the details on how to move forward.

Green Living Project – Austin Premier

Just a quick reminder to any of you living in Austin, Texas – the Green Living Project is doing an Austin Premier of its Best of Global Sustainability program in Austin on March 24. See here for more information. Tranquilo Bay is included in Green Living Project’s Central American Expedition. We will be represented onsite by Panama Boutique which is a subsidiary of JB Journeys. Panama Boutique will have information about Tranquilo Bay and why you should choose Panama as your next vacation destination. Have fun!

Punta Valiente Community Project

Punta Valiente is a beautiful area in the indigenous comarca of the Ngobe Bugle people. We take guests over to hike the lovely terrain and spend time on the beaches when the weather permits. It is a unique experience that our guests truly appreciate. This excursion is a bit farther a field than most that we do, but it is well worth the boat ride.

Audrey Blocker, the current Peace Corp volunteer on Punta Valiente, has applied for a loan from the Peace Corp programs to build a bridge for the community. She explains the process herself in this open letter to the community:

What we like about this process is that the community must participate and put forward at least 25% of the funding for the project. We have found that the projects which really make a difference in the long term are those where the community has buy in from the beginning. These projects where the community must either participate in the construction of or the funding of the project have a much greater return on investment than those where the community is a recipient of a gift.

I made a donation on behalf of Tranquilo Bay. It takes very little time. You can donate $5 or more to the project. The community is providing over 50% of the overall cost of the project through their own labor. The project needs around $3600 to begin the bridge. Thanks for considering this project. Please forward this information to anyone who might find this project interesting as any donation helps. Thanks.

Much Better Adventures

Review us on muchbetteradventures.cin

Tranquilo Bay is now a member of!

We are delighted to have been approved as full members of, a carefully selected collection of adventure providers who have a strong ongoing commitment to sustainability. is the ‘trip advisor’ of adventure travel, specially designed to support local businesses and reward true ethical practice. You can get in direct contact with members through the site, avoid paying commissions, and check out reviews from others who have been to where you are planning to go. worked closely with Sustainable Travel International and The Travel Foundation to develop a careful sustainability vetting procedure, so you can be sure that if someone claims to be ‘muchbetter’, they will be just that! The long-term aim is to build the widest and fairest selection of ethical adventure travel choices that outdoor lovers have ever seen, and bring support to many important conservation and community development projects around the world.

Check out our profile here: Please leave a review to help us benefit from the site, and spread the word to your friends.

Green Living Project

Earlier this year, we participated in Green Living Project’s Central American Expedition. The folks from Green Living Project came down to Bocas del Toro to check out how the community is supporting sustainable tourism. Tranquilo Bay, La Loma Jungle Lodge and Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance all participated. Check out this video and the page on Green Living’s website to learn more about their experience.

Tranquilo Bay & La Loma from Green Living Project on Vimeo.

Bocas del Toro 2010 Environmental Fair

Here is a long video summarizing the 2010 environmental fair put on by the Bocas del Toro Research Station of STRI. This video includes some of the exhibits and presentations during the fair. One of my favorite things about this fair is that it is all about teaching the children. We all know that our children are our future. This fair teaches them to value both the cultural and natural resources that Bocas has to offer. We appreciate that STRI puts this on each year and that each of the different groups participates.

Travel with a purpose

Last year around this time the US Ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson, visited a variety of USAID funded projects in Bocas del Toro. I was fortunate to be included in one of those meetings as the Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance was created out of one of these USAID funded projects. The ambassador suggested that I look into Rick Steves’ books. So I did.

All of Rick Steves’ books and most of his website are related to travel to specific locations or tours, etc. that he himself offers. He has radio and television shows on public broadcasting in the United States. So, you could say he is well-travelled and has been exposed to many different countries and cultures. Given that I wasn’t going to be traveling to any of the specific locations for which Rick Steves has books, I selected a book which struck a cord with me: Travel as a Political Act.

Travel as a Political Act is a bit of an extreme title. I found it to be more of a book about traveling with a purpose. The book works through how to travel more thoughtfully to any destination. This is something that is extremely important to anyone who wants to participate in sustainable tourism. Our world is so interconnected at this point in time that to better understand people outside our own country helps us even within our own country or country of residency.

I personally came to realize how interconnected our world was several years ago. Do you remember when the oil and gas prices were climbing on a daily basis? It was crazy. All of my former colleagues in Houston, Texas were thrilled with the increasing prices as it meant their own personal incomes would increase. Bonuses, etc. are based upon the financial health of the corporation. Makes sense. Or does it?

As that oil price goes up for developed countries, it also goes up for developing countries. Granted, in developing countries the amount of oil and gas used is far lower than in developed countries. The cost of oil was driving up the cost of transportation for everything. So the cost of living here in Panama increased drastically. The cost of living on an archipelago went up even higher since most things must be transported over to the islands in one form or another. Only certain things can be produced right here in the archipelago. A large contingency of people living here in Bocas del Toro are below the poverty line. How do they deal with this increase in cost of the very basic things they need? It isn’t easy.

Now, the price of oil went down about six months later. The price of the goods on the islands did not go down. The blame was based upon the transportation costs. Baloney. People somehow stomached the increase and therefore the store owners refused to reduce the price. The difference in transportation costs was now going directly into the vendors’ pockets. The price of fuel went down but the cost of goods did not. All of this was before the world economy began taking hits. So it was before the blame could be based upon inflation. Panama has since raised its minimum wage to offset some of this increase in the cost of living. It was a pretty substantial increase, fifteen percent or more, with less than one month’s notice to employers, but it still isn’t enough for these people living below the poverty line as most of them do not work regular jobs.

What this process taught me was that those of us in the developed world have no idea how these types of price increases effect the rest of the world. We see only what affects ourselves.

Rick Steves brings out the point that people who travel with a purpose have a much broader outlook on life than those who do not. When you expose yourself to other countries and other cultures you learn to look at things differently. The book as 9 chapters and is about 210 pages long. The first chapter goes over how to travel with a purpose. The last chapter brings some of the different things that you have learned during your travels home.

To me, traveling with a purpose goes directly along with both sustainable tourism and geotourism. While everyone may want to take a trip to a Disney park at some time in their lives, this trip is not travel with a purpose. Traveling to Central America, spending time in nature and amongst some of the different cultures located there can fit within all three: travel with a purpose, sustainable tourism, and geotourism.

If you are interested in sustainable tourism or geotourism, I would suggest you check out Rick Steves’ book Travel as a Political Act. I didn’t consider it political, but I did take away a variety of different points that will help me make more out of all of my future travels and work here in Panama.