Starting my journey

My story with environmental advocacy began the day I found out about the BP oil spill in 2010. I was a simply naive 18 year old Florida native that thought the Earth has infinite resources and that it was impossible for humans to have a tremendous impact through our activities. As I watched the aftermath of the BP oil spill, I had heard of people finding oil balls on beaches along the Panhandle. I was livid at the thought of the beauty of the ocean and beaches being ruined by an oil spill that occurred miles away.

Few months later, my friends and I traveled from Tallahassee to Destin to have fun at the beach. I was so excited about getting some time at the beach! When we arrived there and set up our things, we finally got to go into the ocean. As my friend and I were floating and talking, I had not noticed anything at first until I saw a dark ball go by. Puzzled, we went to go investigate it. My friend had picked it up and it reeked of oil. We immediately made the connection to the BP oil spill that had occurred a few months back. I was livid that the oil balls were still in the ocean and that the BP company was not making effort to clean up the mess thoroughly. From there, my life changed.

I started researching different topics regarding climate change from that point on, but was always overwhelmed by the complexity of perspectives and approaches, as well as problems. I would talk about it with friends when I attended Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. I also joined as a member to Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and Green Gallaudet Club. I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college and after. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.

It was not until I went to Climate Reality conference in Miami, FL that I felt a calling. Spending time with empowered activists, business leaders, climate change experts and environmental educators inspired me to explore different paths that I could connect with. As I was watching my interpreter interpret Al Gore’s comment on the growth of green economy regarding solar jobs, renewable energy innovations, and job creations, that comment stuck to my mind for some reason I couldn’t identify at first. But at that point, I knew I had to learn more about what the green economy pillars is made up of.

“I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.”

Afterwards, I went to a different conference hosted by the National Association for the Deaf that was focused on language acquisition, improving educational opportunities, and removing barriers to job opportunities. As I discussed with different people at the conference, I noticed a common barrier faced by deaf people which is that job opportunities and job training are not readily accessible for the deaf to take initiative on. At that point, I was able to make the connection of addressing a social issue experienced in my community and turning that into job opportunities that could also promote the growth of green economy in the United States. That connection led me to Patel College of Global Sustainability, thus I am here today to study Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

I am very excited to be here and share my journey with you all.

Week 5-Achieving Growth while focusing on the Environment

I do apologize for the delayed post, it has been rather hectic at the office as there are new projects to be handled.

Last week I was predominately in the office conducting more research on the different companies I am looking to compare.  Although the sustainable companies look good, I may have to change the sample for non-sustainable companies due to the fact that they have implemented sustainability strategies and were featured on a similar list.  This will help to give me a more accurate comparison to see if sustainable companies are more valuable than non-sustainable businesses.

Along with the research efforts, I was also reaching out to local banks to see if any partnerships could be created for many of our different strategies.  When approaching these groups, they like to know how the growth will be achieved and also have a proven track record of success.  While looking to the marina strategy, we began to think how we could achieve our growth and to reduce overall environmental impact.  One area we found was in the racks we were looking to add.  We learned early on that a similar business failed and were needing to sell the assets immediately.  When we heard this news, we decided to pursue the owner to see if we could acquire his racks and transport them ourselves to our established marina.  We decided it would be more efficient to transport the already made racks to our facility than it would be to build new racks that could create more wastes from production.  At the same time we continue to pursue more green designations and may add more to the business in order to make the venture truly green.

Now to devote more time to further research.

Week 4-Growth and Partnerships

This blog is to reflect the events that occurred two weeks ago.  It has been rather busy and dynamic at the firm so please do forgive the delayed post.

Being involved in a Private Equity Firm as well as an Investment Advisory Firm, it is important for us to continue growing each entity respectively.  This will help the company to grow in size, increase our scope of services provided, and to develop new partnerships that will directly impact the firm and the clients as well as indirectly impact the local community.  To help us grow in these endeavors, we reach out to the local community to not only offer our business services, but we also outreach to the community to help make it a better place to work, play and live.

We have been active in several organizations that help to improve the local communities.  These groups include Metropolitan Ministries, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, and the University of Central Oklahoma Foundation.  These efforts help us to give back to the community through improving the local environment and by helping to provide an education for future leaders.  Along with these current opportunities, our team is always looking for more ways to get involved to help enhance the community locally with a global focus.

In regards to the business side, we always involve ourselves within the different community organizations that allow us to interact with local business owners and business leaders that share the same goal to grow their businesses and to improve the local community.  One of our goals in doing this is to ensure that healthy businesses remain in the area and are able to grow successfully while reducing any negative impacts that come from the business.  We don’t just focus locally.  We have been successfully internationally helping these businesses to continue their growth.  This has allowed us to establish and discuss partnerships with local businesses that specialize in business services to helping potential startups provide bio-diesel and other energy saving devices.

BLUE Ocean Film Festival | P1

BLUE Ocean Film Festival & Conservation Summit

Getting Serious for the Oceans

I believe that media can make a difference. I know that communication is as much visual as it is verbal, if not more. For part one of this series, we will explore the ‘if not more’ and begin a short tale of how an internship can ignite a flame under an entirely different side of yourself, previously uncharted. I call this side ocean.

But seriously…

giphyInternships do not just magically appear for anyone- not usually.  You must put in the time and effort towards finding an opportunity which best suits your goals.  Luckily our Internship Coordinator is in constant pursuit of opportunities for us, but it still requires a lot of work to find the right opportunity.  For my Capstone Experience for both masters degrees ( Entrepreneurship/ Sustainable Tourism), I sought an atypical internship experience. I wanted to work for a cause locally while having an effect, globally. In other words, we can all do our best locally to create or inspire noticeable change on a global scale. What better way to put my experience to work for the oceans and in turn, for humanity and all living creatures? What better way to set an example for younger eyes?  Scientists say that we know around 5% of the world’s oceans but in the age of crowd-sourced knowledge, this library is growing exponentially. Normal human activity is naturally disruptive. Naturally, I aim to disrupt that.

Where I am Coming From

I like to recycle experience.  I like to make stuff with data and code with Anthropology on my mind.  At first, I imagined something educational, impactful and simple to love. I pulled from my experience.  Since 2010, I have worked in close collaboration with scientists on sailboats, before enrolling  to USF, called Beautiful Nation Project.  Within Land Surveyors United community, members annually collaborate on the day of the summer solstice for Survey Earth in a Day, remeasuring the entire surface of the planet in a single day with great accuracy. I decided to get involved with an incredible cause in the form of an annual international film festival, as an intern. My mission is a BLUE one.

Where I am Going

00blue-ocean-film-festival-logoMany of you have likely heard about the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and Conservation Summit, but I’d bet most of you haven’t thought about how much work goes in to actually making an event like this happen.  In the coming weeks, I will unfold this story in my blog posts for Patel College of Global Sustainability and give you all a bit of insight into what I am doing to help make BLUE 2016 to be a success.

About BLUE Ocean Film Festival

BLUE Ocean Film Festival 2015 in Monaco

BLUE is an event administered, planned and executed by Make a Difference Media founders Debbie and Charles Kinder.  The first BLUE Ocean event occurred in 2007 in Savanna, GA.  Since then, it has become an internationally recognized catalyst for change and education regarding ocean conservation and ocean literacy.  You can read more about Blue Ocean Festival here, but I would like to briefly point out how the “5 Elements of Blue” factor into global sustainability.

BLUE Headquarters Downtown St. Petersburg, FL

The five elements of BLUE come together and create a truly unique event which:
• Honors the world’s finest ocean films through the best-in-class film competition.
• Brings together the world’s esteemed leaders and ocean luminaries.
• Presents the world’s most comprehensive underwater film & photography professionals.
• Showcases Science and the Arts for the stewardship of the ocean.
• Changes the way the world sees the ocean.

This year, the festival just happens to be in St. Petersburg, FL on November 10th-13th.  You can get your tickets here on Eventbrite and even become a volunteer by submitting the forms found here.


How Did I Find This Internship?

It all started with an introduction from the wonderful master of coordination, Rhiannon, to the Co-Founder and CEO of Make a Difference Media, Debbie Kinder.  We met one day in Rhiannon’s office to discuss the types of help needed to get the film festival planning underway. At the time, I had been webmaster for PCGS for close to a year and Mrs. Kinder had seen all of the work I was doing for the college.  The three of us had a brainstorming session and discussed a possible internship, helping BLUE with things like website redesign, social media management, marketing  and content administration for the upcoming event in November.  I was given the initial task of wrangling all of the existing and past social media footprint and developing a plan for how to best reengage followers, reconfigure existing media assets and ultimately reinvigorate participants and followers for the new year.  However, this opportunity came during a time when there was a film submission process in action and over the years the process for submitting films had devolved into something quite difficult and time consuming to manage.  BLUE needed a new method of receiving films for review, so my first action item was to build them a way for film creators to upload their videos directly into a single Youtube channel for review.  This was difficult due to the fact that Youtube had recently disabled the ability for channels to allow community-style uploads.  This meant I would have to build it with the Youtube API as a massive workaround. In fact, I have been told that the only other web app known to exist like this is used by Sundance Film Festival.  You can imagine their excitement when I built this for them.

Screenshot of Video Uploader for Youtube

Next on the list was taking inventory of all media assets such as video submissions from previous years so that I might make them fresh again. We wanted to celebrate all of the wonderful submissions from previous film festivals to let contributors know that we haven’t forgotten about them in addition to providing some examples of the types of films we accept.  In short, we needed a way to sift through the Youtube Channel videos outside of Youtube.  So, I built a way to filter and jump to specific videos using a Google Spreadsheet at the database.  You can see and play around with a demo of this project here, if you like.


Up Next!

In my next post, i’ll tell you why I left the Patel College as webmaster in order to convert my internship into a full time job.  I’ll show you more of my work geared towards improving media outreach and helping BLUE reach their goals- helping the world thirst for knowledge about the oceans and how we can collaboratively mend the wounds we’ve dealt the oceans inn exchange for so much life.


Get Involved and Spread the Word

giphy1If you use social media and enjoy being involved in world changing projects, friend and follow BLUE Ocean Film Festival on the following platforms.  Reach out to us if you would like to volunteer towards the efforts set forth and do your part to help increase ocean literacy worldwide.



Google +



I will leave you with some action shots from BLUE 2015 in Monaco and a shot of my new office, at the Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach.

New Headquarters at Don Cesar Hotel St. Pete

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading.


Week 3-Private Equity Action

Week 3 at my work place was definitely different for the AFLG Team.  Starting this past Tuesday, the AFLG team began to work with the team at Blue Pelican Marina.  This Marina is located in Hernando Beach and is a popular location for many locals to partake in fishing, boating and scalloping in the local waters.While there we were able to learn more about the marina by becoming more involved in the activities and getting to know everyone better there.  They have a goal to grow larger and to serve the surrounding areas outside of Hernando Beach.  Prior to becoming involved with Blue Pelican Marina, there were efforts being made to earn the Clean Marina designation.  This Green Designation would state that Blue Pelican Marina would have a focus on protecting the waterways near the marina and provide a clean environment for the employees, customers, and surrounding environment.  We decided to continue these efforts and put them as a top priority for the marina.  We have begun to diligently work on the application with the team to be submitted and potentially approved for the designation.  Currently we would b the only marina in Hernando Beach to have earned this designation.  The more I worked with the team, the more I learned how active and involved they were in the local community.  Each year they host several events to reach out to the community .  They treat everyone like family, from the very beginning of the day to closing time.  To continue their growth efforts, we have also begun to look for more green designations for them to add to the marina.  The goal is to not only grow the revenues an implement their long term growth plans, but to make them as green and eco-friendly as possible.  We will be continuing our efforts at the marina to learn more about the business and to assist in their growth efforts.  While at the marina, we were able to take out one of the pontoon boats to explore the local waterways.  It was a breath taking site to see. We were able to even go in for a swim.  We look forward to continue working with Blue Pelican Marina and to see their continued successes.


Week 2-Monitoring the Markets

From September 12-September 16, I began to monitor the markets to see how companies with a sustainable focus  compared to companies that had a financial focus.  I took ten different companies to begin monitoring their progress and compare their respective outcomes.  These companies differed in which sector they cater to as well as to which index they appear on.  The main companies that are utilized which incorporate ESG, or environmental, social and government, strategies appear on an index known as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.  Each year, this index adds and removes companies from their index based on specific performance criteria and the specific principles that are incorporated into their company practices.  To effectively see how these companies compared, I took their price at the end of the trading day to see how they performed against each individual company.  What I saw was that each company performed similarly on a day to day comparison.  Looking at this data, it led me to believe that I would see little deviation from the selected companies.  This would mean that my study would not yield significant data that would either support or deny my hypothesis.  My next step was to take a step back and reevaluate my approach to see what research and work related activities I could do to approach the different companies.  At this point, I sat down with my work adviser and other co-workers to see how this problem can be approached.  To get a better idea of how these companies performed, it was derived that a historical look should be the main focus of the companies.  By this approach, it can be seen when the companies implemented the strategy, if they made any changes to their strategies and how the market reacted to those changes.  To help in the historical approach, data began to be compiled about each company in regards to when the sustainability strategy was incorporated.  Whatever data was available on their websites and other resources were utilized for the study and if there was no data available, then the companies would be reached out to in order to acquire the data.  After the data was acquired it was then stored in order to prepare for the upcoming weeks of monitoring and analysis.

Week 1-Introduction

Hello, My name is José Foradada and I am a current student here at the University of South Florida Patel College of Global Sustainability pursuing his Master’s of Arts Degree in Global Sustainability with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.  I currently am doing my Capstone Professional Research at AFLG Investments Private Equity, Private Equity firm in the Tampa Bay Area.  AFLG offers many different services, such as consulting companies, wealth management, M&A advisory, and direct investments.  At this firm I participate in many different strategies as the Vice President of Business Development.  These strategies include Consulting, Mergers and Acquisitions, Real Estate and Analysis.  With my experience and my education, I am looking to conduct my research on established companies that traded on public indices.  The reason I chose to do this strategy is to see if incorporating sustainability into company practices has raised the value of a company stock.  It is important that individuals and investors are aware of company activities in order to make an impact for future generations.  During my first week, I began by compiling a list of companies that are listed on different exchanges to be my sample for analysis during this project duration.  At the same time I began to add more information about investing, socially responsible investing/investments, as well as the methodology I will be utilizing throughout my eight weeks of analysis.  It my goal is to establish this correlation in order to help advise clients on smarter investments that will help to add value to their portfolios and to their financial strategies.  I am excited to see what the results will yield and look forward to utilizing what I have learned in the workplace and in the classroom toward developing this research.

Finding and Re-Finding Yourself

Interview with Senator the Honourable Robert Tonge, Minister of Tourism and Urban Renewal for the Commonwealth of Dominica

For my project, I wanted to meet with the government ministers and get a pulse for what they feel is needed in order to create more jobs on the island and reduce poverty. Tourism seems to be one of the biggest ways to make that happen. What are your thoughts on tourism as an avenue for employment generation?

As you rightfully know, here in the Caribbean our choices are somewhat limited in terms of bringing economic activity to the country. The tradition here has been agriculture, but when Dominica and some of the other Caribbean islands lost preferential treatment in agricultural trade, we really couldn’t compete on the same scale as the larger nations. We can still sell our produce to other island nations, but it obviously does not generate the income as exporting to Europe once did. So now, many are turning to tourism as an economic driver. For example, countries are using a citizenship by investment program to create income. For families who have the means and interest in purchasing land or traveling, this is sometimes of interest for them.

Tourism is one of the major drivers for Dominica now because we see it as a way to create more jobs for our people. Entering the tourism market however is not without its challenges. One of the major challenges we’ve faced is how to promote the country. The average person does not know about Dominica. More than likely, they know of the Dominican Republic and so when they hear about Dominica they assume the Dominican Republic. But if they were to see our island and compared us to the Dominican Republic, there would be no mix up.

IMG_2438We have to be very clear with our marketing for the country. Spending is limited, so we cannot just cast out a wide net; we have to be very pointed with marketing. If we place our advertisements in front of people who are more interested in a white sand beach and drinking a tequila, as opposed to someone who is into nature and sustainability then we are marketing to the wrong crowd. But if can place our advertising in front of people who appreciate what we have to offer, then we we believe that we can provide the kind of experience that they are looking for. So the idea is to be very pointed with are marketing. We try to use technology and analytics that allow us to place our advertising in front of people who are interested in nature, healthy food, hiking and diving. Using analytics helps us to connect with the right people in a much shorter period of time and at a time of decision when they are actively in the market for a tropical destination like ours. We want Dominica to be a country where it is all about finding and re-finding yourself. Dominica is a place to come enjoy nature, taste wonderful food, meet friendly people and find yourself again.

Sustainability is also very important for us here in Dominica. We want our hotels to provide the type of experience that shows sensitivity to the environment. When you hear that Dominica is the “Nature Island” of the Caribbean and the world, you expect to see certain things when you come here. Something that we are concerned about right now is keeping our country clean. It all starts with us. I always use the phrase: “Garbage has no legs, no feet and no hands; garbage cannot walk or crawl. We are the ones that determine where garbage ends up.” We have the ability to reduce our impact upon the environment. We want visitors to see that our island is clean. One of the efforts I have embarked on is the cleanliness of the gutters in Roseau. We have guys that wake up at 5:00 AM in the morning to go out and clean the streets of the capital city. Rather than campaigning first, let us begin to clean first and set the example. Let us start the trend and then say, “Hey, I am Dominica and I do not litter.” A city that is cleaner, a city that doesn’t smell, a city that is not overrun with rats and cockroaches will be more pleasant for residents and more attractive to visitors. We are passing legislation that require restaurants to have grease and food traps so that waste is not running off into gutters and polluting our waters.

IMG_2303We also want to make Dominica more accessible. Sometimes booking travel to Dominica can be very difficult. Many travel agents do not know who we are, so we are joining different travel associations that will make more people of aware of who we are. We are trying to put our name in the Global Distribution System (GDS) so that more travel agents will have visibility of Dominica and so that when you go on those different search engines, Dominica will pop up more. Someone trying to book a flight to Dominica should have more information and options on how to get here. We can potentially lose around 20% of our business if someone goes to a travel agent wanting to book for Dominica, but not enough data is available quickly. After spending 15 to 20 minutes searching, the agent may suggest someplace else.

We want to increase our budget for marketing so that we can get more people to come to Dominica. If we can fix the awareness, we know that people will come here and have a fantastic experience. From the time a guest hits the ground, we want our customs and port officers to welcome them with a smile. We want our receptionists to be welcoming. We want our bus drivers to exemplify courtesy and safety. We want our hotel staff and bartenders to practice hospitality. We know that we will need to improve in all of these areas to make our tourism experience better and so that what a guest experiences matches what has been advertised. The government is making an effort to encourage this mindset and invest in developing these kinds of accommodations. We are looking for ways to promote our unique hotels, describe their various amenities and facilitate hotel bookings through a hotel booking system that can be utilized by guests to make and pay for a reservation online.

Another step for us would be to improve our human resources by ensuring that more people are properly trained and certified. We will utilize a strategy to train trainers in different areas of hospitality. This will not only improve our services, but it will help our workers feel more confident and content in their roles. A certified worker will be more marketable in the industry and more trained workers will raise the standards of excellence island-wide. We have to improve on our hotel stock and we have to ensure that the sites that our guests go to are more people friendly. We are more or less soft-adventure, but we are going to have people who come here who cannot walk to the waterfall. So at some point we are going to have to build a track that will make it possible for anyone to be able to see and enjoy beautiful waterfalls.

So the idea is that, if we can put all of these things in place: marketing, awareness, sustainability, accessibility, technology, hospitality and training; then more people will come to Dominica, more jobs will be required in the tourism industry and many others will be indirectly employed as a result of the influx of people. From the perspective of the Ministry of Tourism, we can make our stakeholders happier by attracting more people to our shores. We are guided by principles in our tourism master plan and we have tourism initiatives taking place around the island, but when all is said and done it is about creating as many jobs as possible.

What about tourism niches like agri-tourism where guests are taken out to visit farms or pesca-tourism where people are taken out on fishing excursions that support local fisherman and at the same time helps to mitigate the exploitation of fish populations?

As a tourism destination, Dominica is unique in that we are all about the experience as opposed to just spending your entire vacation just relaxing on one beach. What is offered at hotels on most of the other Caribbean islands is all-inclusive and they are more profitable by making it so that you never leave their hotel. Dominica is different because we want you to go out and explore. Passengers of a cruise ship in port can take an agri-tourism excursion to an organic farm, survey the island landscapes, learn about local practices, sample some of the produce and make a donation. One farmer said that the tips he made on the tour were more than he could make by selling the produce in the market. Tropical Storm Erica has damaged some of the roads that lead to those farms and the cruise ships are only here for a season, but these are still areas that we feel can benefit tourism in the local communities. We want to advise our hotel owners, stakeholders and potential entrepreneurs with some ideas that have been successful on other islands to see if they might be interested in capitalizing on some of those same tourism and ecotourism opportunities here.

How do you encourage communities to develop their own special tourism niches?

We have also been supporting Community Based Tourism so that individual communities can benefit from tourism. The reality is, if the communities do not benefit from tourism then they really do not care to uphold the standards that we would like to reflect. One of our better projects is the village of Mero, where the entire community has realized that the beach is a major asset. So now they make sure that the beach is clean and they ensure that the area is safe for people to come. Even among the locals, on a Sunday the number of Dominicans that visit Mero beach is amazing compared to what it was before. This is all a result of the tourism and cleanup efforts that have been put in place there.

There are other areas around the island where we are trying to encourage community-based tourism projects. In the North of the island, for example, we have the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services, (PAYS), which provides nightly security in the harbor, island tours, hikes, dives and other services for people and their boats that are anchored in Prince Rupert Bay. This has been so successful that we are looking at the possibility of providing moorings for boats in other coastal areas of the island so that they too can offer similar services in those communities and introduce more customers to their shops who might purchase fresh produce, water, food and other items.

Another idea we have been thinking about is developing an App like Uber or Lift that not only provides transportation but also puts tour guides on board. So if you are visiting the island you can open up the App and find a tour guide in your area. There is a company out of Jamaica that does this. This app will give better visibility and improve the chances of persons in those respective areas of generating business as a result of this technical tool. Community tourism really makes a difference because it can decrease unemployment in specific areas and give people a sense of responsibility to care for and protect those areas.

If university students were to come to Dominica to complete their internship projects in the areas of tourism or entrepreneurship, what particular projects would you suggest?

I think that for short projects one of the best things that a university student could offer is training. That could be training in the areas of tourism or concepts in entrepreneurship and also some motivational speaking. Also, as previously mentioned we could certainly benefit from assistance with marketing and creating awareness about our Nature Island.  In the area of technology, we could use some assistance in App development from computer programmers. Students could also assist in other areas like water and sewerage management.


It was really great for Senator Tonge to take the time to meet with me. We had a great conversation and the focus of his work was so fresh on his mind that he answered many of my questions even before I could ask them.  Dominica offers so much in regard to ecotourism, adventure tourism, beautiful landscapes, healthy food and undisturbed natural environments.  Though it’s tourism industry is relatively young, that is what makes it a great opportunity for entrepreneurship.

Plugging in data

The past few weeks have been a little slower with meetings from various companies that will help with the development and most importantly my constant ‘Performance Metrics’ document that is expending. As mentioned in a previous post I believe, I am trying to quantify as much data as possible in order to then tell an accurate story about the district. From the current air quality in the district boundaries, number of jobs,  access to green space, traffic crashes in the last five years, to the current active transportation support there are many metrics to quantify. I am now to the point that I have almost all the information needed and will be able to present accurately the current data in my final presentation. With this precious data, a master plan specifically for the WELL Community certification will be easier.

I have also been able to compare the LEED ND and WELL Community Standards a bit better and now have a better idea of where we stand to potentially certify the district LEED ND as well. So as you might see, all of this requires a lot of data research and plug in excel spreadsheets.

As my internship is coming to an end within the next few weeks, I am spending a lot of time working on my paper and trying to make all this research meaningful for my team.

Below is a drawing of the transit and bicycle facilities in the district which I am sure most will enjoy considering the fact that transit in Tampa Bay is a novelty. There are no current plans for a light rail tram system in Tampa, even though it would be a dream come true for me, but as you may know the transportation issue in our region is extremely political and sensitive.

Transit - Copy

Ecotourism Meets Cultural Heritage

For some travelers, sun and fun on a popular beach surrounded by creature comforts, modern amenities, and easy accessibility to restaurants and shops is their idea of vacation. More and more people, however, are hoping to truly experience something unique in a place that is hard to get to, that is surrounded by sites and sounds entirely different than the familiarity of home and that involves a certain degree of adventure.  Ecotourism is a way for people to really capture the pulse of a place and to discover the spectacular wonders of the natural environment.  When I am in Dominica, I am always amazed at the sounds of birds at dawn and at dusk, I find peace in the quiet solitude of a mountain overlooking the sea, I feel the exhilaration of jumping into a crystal clear river and I tap into my sense of adventure with a hike through the cinematic rainforest.  Exposure to these kinds of special experiences is the real magnetism behind ecotourism.  Additional value comes in the preservation of the environment, the economic benefit to indigenous people and the introduction of guests to the cultural heritage.

Dominica is perhaps the greatest location for ecotourism in the entire Caribbean.  It’s biodiversity is still intact and the cities have not been overdeveloped like other places of tourism.  For that reason Dominica is often a destination for reality TV shows that showcase adventure travel, secluded resorts or extreme competitions.  I have literally hiked a jungle trail, swam up a river gorge to a waterfall, and relaxed on a black sand beach all in the same day.  You can easily experience a whole lot with a vehicle and a roadmap, but if you hire a local guide for the day you get the backstory to everything that you are witnessing.  For example, you can travel to the village of Belles and hike the trails carved out by the maroons who had escaped into these forests during the days of slavery.  An African chief name Jacko was the pioneer and leader of an entire encampment in the rainforest.  Large steps, some three feet high, gave them an advantage over the French and English soldiers who had battled over this island for years.  Ruins of military fortifications still exist in places like Cabrits National Park near the village of Portsmouth.


Dominica also offers the opportunity to connect with the living history of the Kalinagos, who are the largest remaining colony of Carib Indians in the world.  Travel to their territory, taste the cassava-coconut bread, watch them make wooden boats by hand, purchase some of their intricately woven baskets and if your timing is right you can experience some of their cultural celebrations that reveal ancient dances and traditions.  Their everyday lifestyle already reflects principles of sustainability and their new developments are considerate of these same values.  Their cultural center, for example, is running on electricity generated by solar panels.  I had the opportunity to meet the Kalinago chief and he said he would welcome the opportunity for university interns to come and help them develop new strategies that generate employment for their mountain community.

These days, information about cultures, cuisines and customs can be found on the internet and television, but it is so much better to encounter the people for yourself and enjoy a great big world beyond the screens that are always in our faces.  I encourage you to discover Dominica at least once in your lifetime.