Nature as classroom
04:20pm, Thursday 22 October 2015
When building Faasai Resort and Spa we were very conscious that one of the worst aspects of tourism is the destruction of wildlife habitat. So we bought the land which we now call White Water Lake and set aside pockets of nature such as swampland and groves of trees for the local wildlife. We also planted nectar-bearing and fruit-bearing trees at the resort so there would be plenty of shelter, water and food for birds and other small animals such as squirrels.
Meanwhile we also established gardens and orchards and since we do not use any chemicals or poisons or traps, it is not only safe for us but the local wildlife although we do put nets over our rice to stop the birds from eating it all.
We wanted to have young people come to stay so they would have the chance to experience nature, learn some practical farming and gardening skills and also give them hope that they too could make their dreams come true.
Over the years we have had a steady stream of young travellers from around the world come to stay with us. They help out in the gardens, at the farm and at the resort and in return we give them a free room and charge only a nominal cost for meals.
As well as volunteers from countries like Latvia, Argentina, Spain, Russia, Australia, America, France, Germany, England and China we have also had interns from Sweden, Austria and soon France, But we also dreamed of being able to share this experience with young Thais - after all it is their heritage.
That dream finally came true with a visit on October 16-17 by the Eco club of Ruamrudee school a Bangkok international school which sets a high priority on caring for the environment, social responsibility and learning from nature.
Jean, the President of the club, worked with us to develop a programme which included activities at the resort as well as visits to the rich ecosystems of the surrounding area that include mangroves and other kinds of forest, bays, swamps and fresh water springs and mixed types of farming. The group from the school, comprising just over 30 students and three teachers, arrived on Friday night. On Saturday they went for a walk in the mangroves at Kung Kraben, visited the aquatic nursery at the bay, which has turtles and leopard sharks as well as giant gropers and met with the scientists from the Kung Kraben Bay Royal Development Study Centre who talked to them about how the mangroves are the nursery of the sea.
In the afternoon the group went for a ride on the harbor in boats belonging to the local fishermen and then afterwards to a nearby fresh market where they could see and sample the produce of the local villagers. On Sunday we visited the farm at White Water Lake where they planted coconuts and endangered Siamese rosewoods and learnt how to make compost before coming back to the resort where they met an official from the district office who talked about the local history and how protecting the environment and ecotourism provided a livelihood for the local people. Unfortunately we didn't have time for a planned forest walk behind the resort but they did have a chance to stop by the scenic lookout overlooking Kung Wiman Bay before departing for Bangkok.
In between times they enjoyed sports activities at the resort, namely volley ball, badminton and table tennis, as well as swimming in the pool.
So our dream has come true - with this school study trip from Ruamrudee we were able to share the experience of nature and organic gardening, Thai-style, with Thai youngsters, as well as students from other countries also studying at the school, so they too could enjoy the richness of their own heritage.