Local Eco Tourism Champions
There’s green-gold in Byron shire. Local eco-tourism businesses, Byron Bay Eco Cruise & Kayaks and Vision Walks – Eco Tours, have enhanced their green credentials in the regional tourism awards hosted at South West Rocks on Thursday 1 August.
Byron Bay Eco Cruise and Kayaks were inducted into the hall of fame, for winning the eco-tourism award consecutively: from 2016-2018. They also went on to win the NSW Tourism awards for eco-tourism in 2016 and 2017 and were a finalist the Australian awards in those years too. Byron Bay Eco Cruise and Kayaks is owned and operator by Ocean Shores locals Simon and Lorraine Freeden. They have been operating their tours on the beautiful Brunswick River since 2011. They have now handed the green-gold baton onto Vision Walks – Eco Tours.
This year was the first time Vision Walks – Eco Tours has entered and they won gold for eco-tourism. Vision Walks will now be automatically entered into the NSW Tourism awards in Sydney in November. This means a Byron shire based business has now won gold, in Eco Tourism for NSW North Coast Tourism awards, the past 4 years running. Wendy Bithell is a Brunswick Heads local who has been operating Vision Walks since 2007.
Advanced Eco Tourism
Both businesses also have Advanced Eco Tourism Accreditation issued by Eco Tourism Australia, they represent 2 out 3 businesses in region with this level of certification. The main difference between Advanced Eco Tourism and the lower levels, is that they are all nature based, but businesses with Advanced Eco Tourism Accreditation, must prove their sustainability, interpretation, education, and contribute to conserving the environment.
Both businesses support other local businesses when they purchase their supplies and resources. They employ local people as guides. They support local community projects through sponsorship. They are respectful of Bundjalung culture and do not support or condone the climbing of Wollumbin (Mount Warning). Through her tree planting efforts (with Bangalow koalas and Landcare) Wendy Bithell has enable Vision Walks to gain a carbon neutral status and is now moving to a carbon positive status. They both minimise waste as much as possible and recycle and compost as much as they can.
Education and interpretation
Both Simon Freeden and Wendy Bithell, have degrees in environmental science and are able to use this knowledge to create informative and responsible nature-based activities including:
- Rainforest River Cruises (Byron Bay Eco Cruise and Kayaks)
- Cruise, Kayak and SUP tours (Byron Bay Eco Cruise and Kayaks)
- Guided kayak and SUP tours (Byron Bay Eco Cruise and Kayaks)
- Night Vision Walk (Vision Walks – Eco Tours)
- Wildlife Safari (Vision Walks – Eco Tours)
- Platypus Walk (Vision Walks – Eco Tours)
- Minyon Falls Walks (Vision Walks – Eco Tours)
- Nightcap Historic Track hike (Vision Walks – Eco Tours)
- Hinterland tours (Vision Walks – Eco Tours)
Wendy and Simon entertain and inform customers on their tours with their immense knowledge and passion for the environment. Their customers discover this biodiversity hotspot, learn about the natural and human history and what they can do to protect the environment.
Byron Bay Eco Cruise and Kayaks, contribute to conservation by conducting bird counts and clean ups on the Brunswick River. Vision Walks, contributes by helping local groups like Bangalow Koalas and Landcare in their tree planting days, helping with wildlife rescues, and supporting Big Scrub Rainforest Day.
Both Byron Bay Eco Cruise & Kayaks and Vision Walks – Eco Tours, have been collaborating for a number of years, by supporting each other and sharing resources. They produce a weekly timetable which is emailed to accommodation places and agents. They offer some package deals including each other’s tours.
Eco tourism is a great fit for Byron as it receives 2.5 million visitors a year, it is a sustainable solution for tourism but in our opinion all businesses should be striving for sustainability.