Kutoa Community Impact Award Winners 2012

Kutoa Community Impact Awards 2012

Kutoa Community Impact Awards 2012 – Winners


Kutoa recognizes eight winning eco-lodges, hotels, and tour companies for their positive community impact over the past year.   Winners were chosen for their impact in proportion to the size of their business.  We commend each and every winner, as well as all the business owners and travelers out there who are making a difference in local communities.  We hope you’ll be as inspired as we are by the stories below.  Congrats to the winners!

  • Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique – Overall Winner and Best in Community Empowerment
  • Desafio Adventure Company, Costa Rica – Best in Combining Environmental, Economic & Social Projects
  • Hacienda la Esperanza, Honduras – Best Small Hotel with a Big Impact
  • Ecoventura, Galapagos, Ecuador – Best in Environmental Education
  • Beqa Adventure Divers, Fiji – Best in Green Economic Development
  • Hale Ho’okipa Inn Makawao, Maui, Hawaii – Best in Inspiring Guests to Volunteer
  • Marlin Lodge, Mozambique – Best in School Development
  • Estrela Community Tours, Brazil – Best in Community-Based Tourism

Nkwichi Lodge, Mozambique – Overall Winner and Best in Community Empowerment





Nkwichi Lodge


On the wild shore of Lake Niassa, the ninth largest lake in the world, sits beautiful Nkwichi Lodge.  The crystal clear freshwater lake forms the eastern border between Malawi and Mozambique.  Nkwichi Lodge was carefully designed to provide comfort and privacy for guests.  With a maximum of only 14 people staying at Nkwichi, the lodge offers guests privacy, relaxation, and adventure.

By staying at the lodge, guests contribute to nature and the development of the community.  The founders of Nkwichi Lodge established the Manda Wilderness Community Trust to foster long-term community development and nature preservation.  The Trust has actively involved some 20,000 local people in 16 communities along the Lake Niassa/Malawi shoreline.  Through charitable donations from guests and outside organizations, the Trust focuses on education, roads, bridges, and building a sense of community.

In 2011 alone, the Trust accomplished the following:

  • Secured land titles for the villagers and created a 120,000-hectare conservation area designated for community development through tourism and other forms of sustainable economic development.
  • Community Empowerment Group: Worked steadily to foster a sense of community action among the 16 remote villages in the area.  Taking both the pace and direction from the people themselves, the Trust helped establish an Umoji Association (meaning ‘as one’), with four members from each village.  The Association helped draw government attention to a previously neglected area and empowered its members with a unique platform to share their views.
  • Built a girls’ dormitory near the area’s only secondary school, in the local hub of Cobué, to improve access to education for talented female students in surrounding rural areas.  The dormitory accommodates 45 of the area’s most disadvantaged yet talented girls.
  • School Construction: Upgraded the local grass hut buildings of the local village schools by building the first concrete school blocks for two remote inland villages – Matepwe and Magachi.
  • Constructed a bridge over the Micalanga river, a large river that can be life threatening to cross during the rainy season.
  • Staff Education: Offered the staff English language lessons and extensive training on the local flora and fauna by Schalk Pretorius, a renowned expert from the South African Field Guides Association.
  • Sponsored the annual Manda Wilderness Community Choir festival, a hugely popular event that sees choirs from each of the 16 villages in Manda Wilderness compete in front of a captivated audience of over 2000 local people.
  • Provided uniforms and equipment to the Manda Wilderness Football League, in partnership with the London-based Fit4kidz, for a fiercely competitive team in each of the 16 villages.  In 2011, the teams played 32 games over a period of 3 months.  During football season, the number of teenage boys admitted to the local clinic for alcohol abuse dropped substantially as they trained hard in the biggest sporting event of the year.
  • Sponsored the annual dugout canoe race with each village entering a men’s team and a women’s team.
  • Established maize mills in two villages to reduce the time and costs of transporting food supplies for milling, and to provide a regular income for the communities.

In addition to its direct contributions to the community and community organizations, Nkwichi Lodge boosts the local economy through a strong commitment to buying, staffing, and training locally.  The lodge employs 54 staff members from the local surrounding communities and pays among the highest salaries on the Mozambican lakeshore.  The lodge also buys its construction materials and its produce locally, giving a sustainable income to nearby families.  Nkwichi Lodge contracted with local tailors to create its staff uniforms and lodge fittings, and commissioned all its serving dishes from a nearby pottery maker.  The lodge management provides free advice and support to small businesses in the area and provides on-site training for tourist guiding and other job skills.

Congratulations to Nkwichi Lodge as the Overall Winner and Best in Community Empowerment.

Desafío Adventure Company, Costa Rica – Best Combination of Environmental, Economic & Social Projects




For many years, the team at Desafío Adventure Company has participated in various activities with the local community and has taken the initiative on several innovative joint-venture projects.

In 2011, Desafío gave their philanthropic approach a name and officially launched their People+Planet=Prosperity triple-bottomline program.  The program included the following projects:



  • “Adopt a Tree”: They worked with the local high school to reforest 100 hectares of former cattle ranch.  This project joins the high school with the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and the Arenal Volcano National Park by involving students from surrounding communities and bringing them to the reforestation project and to learn about other environmental education issues.
  • Student Recycling Challenge: Desafío gets the local schools to compete against one another to see which one can collect the most recyclable material and donate it to the local recycling center.  The winning school gets a special party thrown by Desafío Adventure Company for the annual Day of the Child event.
  • No Child Without Christmas: The surrounding communities are very rural and very isolated, so as a company, Desafío chooses a small town to organize a holiday party for and collects school supplies and other gifts for over 100 children at each party.  Desafío garners participation from different companies, individuals, and travelers to participate and share in the gift-giving and party activities.
  • Proyecto Asís Animal Rescue Shelter: Desafío has partnered with Proyecto Asís to take tourists to do volunteering activities at the shelter to take care of animals that have been injured in illegal hunting incidents, poaching, encagement, etc., and tries to release them back into the Children’s Eternal Rainforest whenever possible.
  • Humanitarian Hero Award: To recognize some of the many notable people who do good things in the local community, Desafío launched the Humanitarian Hero Award.  The recipient for 2011 was the director of the local orphanage.  Desafío organized a benefit concert and invited a popular US musical artist, Todd Schaefer of Railroad Earth, to raise funds for the orphanage.
  • Local River Surf Wave and Public Swimming Areas: Desafío worked with the local authorities to help get permits to develop permanent surf waves for local kayakers and water enthusiasts, as well as public swimming areas to encourage the local community to appreciate their river ways.

Next year as part of their People+Planet=Prosperity program, Desafío is developing a community newspaper, website, podcast and Facebook page written and produced by the young people of the area.  They will be responsible for taking photos, conducting interviews, and selling ads, among other things, to learn how to run their own business.  Desafío clients have donated used laptops and cameras for the students to get started on and will also donate time for training and supervision.

In addition, Desafío is developing a proposal to reintroduce the Green Macaw to the region with help from Finca Luna Nueva Organic Farm, Proyecto Asís, New Chapter pharmaceuticals, and other institutions.

Desafío also runs projects centered on river clean-ups and team-building with local law-enforcement, teachers, and firefighters.

In addition, Desafío ensures its employees are fit and filled with both energy and enthusiasm by providing free gym passes and offering payment plans on the company’s slightly used adventure equipment like mountain bikes and kayaks.

Congratulations to Desafío Adventure Company for winning Best in Combining Environmental, Economic & Social Projects.


Hacienda la Esperanza, Honduras – Best Small Hotel with a Big Impact

Hacienda la Esperanza 

This unique Bed and Breakfast is a one of a kind place located in the heart of the famous ruins of Copan Ruinas, Honduras.

Hacienda la Esperanza’s sole purpose for doing business is to support the indigenous Mayan Indians of the Copan valley in Honduras, Central America.

Hacienda la Esperanza gives 100% of its income to support programs for the poor through Paramedics for Children, school supply programs, and the on-site health clinic called Clinica la Esperanza.  The bed and breakfast, as well as the clinic, are run by Rodger and Pam Harrison, founders of Paramedics For Children.

Presently the Clinic La Esperanza treats up to 600 patients per month through a subsidy program started by Paramedics For Children in 2006.  The program works by giving local doctors access to the clinic for free, and then paying a subsidy for each hour that they are open.  The clinic is open seven days per week and the fee for a consultation and medicine is very low due in large part to the income derived from the bed and breakfast, as well as regular donations from the US and Canada.  Presently the consultation fee is only 50 lempiras ($2.64 USD), which often includes medicine for free.  This rate is about 20% of what the normal consultation fees run in the town.

Hacienda la Esperanza doesn’t let its charitable purpose get in the way of hospitality for its guests.  The bed and breakfast offers four luxury rooms with all modern amenities in an incredible setting.  Guests can relax, lay back, and have fun with their hosts Rodger and Pam, who entertain visitors with stories about the local area and can arrange tours to the nearby Copan Ruins.

Congratulations to Hacienda la Esperanza for winning Best Small Hotel with a Big Impact.


Beqa Adventure Divers, Fiji – Best in Green Economic Development

Beqa Adventure Divers 

Beqa Adventure Divers - a dive shop and SCUBA trip operator that specializes in diving around wrecks, reefs, and sharks - is one of Fiji’s premier ecotourism operators.  Frustrated with the knowledge that their boats and vehicles were emitting carbon into the atmosphere and thereby contributing to global warming, Beqa Adventure Divers set out on a mission to off-set their carbon emissions through locally-grown mangroves that could provide a livelihood to the local Fijian population.

Beqa Adventure Divers started Mangroves for Fiji, a privately funded project that combines the advantages of planting mangroves, with the advantages of off-setting one’s carbon footprint.

What are mangroves?  Mangroves are like rainforests by the sea and are equally threatened.  They are vital habitats that not only protect the coasts against tsunamis, hurricanes and sea level change, but also directly benefit the adjacent reefs by being the nursery areas of countless marine organisms from crustaceans to sharks.  Mangroves are also largely overlooked excellent carbon sinks that sequester large amounts of carbon, as compared with tropical and temperate forests.  Beqa Adventure Divers set out to protect the mangroves, seeing them as nature’s answer to global warming.

Beqa Adventure Divers, through Mangroves for Fiji, encourages other businesses to completely off-set their carbon emissions by sponsoring the planting of mangroves in Fiji.  For this project, it is assumed that one hectare of mangroves (or 10,000 mangrove trees) sequesters one metric ton of carbon every year.  Participating businesses calculate their carbon emissions and sponsor planting by local stakeholders in Fiji, who will be paid FJD 1,000 ($570 USD) for every hectare of restored mangroves.

Beqa Adventure Divers’ journey to becoming completely carbon neutal and encouraging others to do the same dovetails with other current environmental efforts.  Fiji’s Department of Forestry is aiming at planting 1 million trees, so the mangroves link in well with this country-wide undertaking.  The Department of Fisheries and Department of Environment consider mangrove habitats essential in their effort to preserve the country’s natural resources.  Other NGOs in Fiji have long run ongoing mangrove projects and are pitching in to assist in the project.  Partnering with these institutions has allowed Beqa Adventure Divers to grow its knowledge and skills quickly and has assisted them in liaising with local mangrove planters.  In line with their belief that in order to achieve sustainable results, they need to cooperate with local stakeholders, they have decided to preferentially engage with Fijian villages and settlements, schools and grassroots initiatives whilst availing themselves of the welcome mediation and assistance by the various government departments.

Money earned by the mangrove planters is already being converted into funds for education, infrastructure, farming equipment, and other local causes as determined by the local Fijian mangrove planting groups.  Additionally, Beqa Adventure Divers teaches visiting groups of divers and travelers about carbon off-set and the mangrove project in general.

Beqa Adventure Divers offers its advisory services and its website template for free to any other group wishing to replicate and manage a similar program.

Beqa Adventure Divers also sponsors the training of snorkeling guides from local villages and conducts local trips to Beqa Island to enjoy a day out seeing the sites and supporting the local economy.  The company also established the Shark Reef Marine Reserve in 2004 and a youth program dedicated to educating and training unemployed youth to become dive professionals.

Congratulations to Beqa Adventure Divers for winning Best in Green Economic Development.


Ecoventura, Galapagos Island, Ecuador – Best in Environmental Education


Keeping Galapagos biologically pristine has been, and continues to be, a constant and hard-waged battle against potential dangers such as introduction of alien species, illegal fishing, unsustainable tourism, illegal migration and population growth.  Ecoventura, a leader in luxury and sustainable Galapagos cruising, has become a recognized leader in responsible tourism to the Galapagos Islands.  Ecoventura operates by a core commitment to the ongoing sustainability of this fragile and at-risk ecosystem, making sure the local communities can benefit from tourism by discouraging irresponsible tourism.

Ecoventura is a family-owned cruise company based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, established in 1990.  It transports over 3,000 passengers annually aboard a fleet of three expedition vessels named Eric, Flamingo & Letty; superior first-class 20-passenger motor yachts; and a 16-passenger dedicated dive boat named the Galapagos Sky, which offers comprehensive 7-night itineraries.

Ecoventura was among the first company to earn and maintain the voluntary certification, SmartVoyager.  This ensures their operation complies with a set of strict environmental and social responsibility policies, including producing their own water, waste management, using four stroke engines, as well as providing good living conditions and benefits to their crews.

Ecoventura was the first company in Galapagos to offset carbon emissions from the company’s four yachts and sales offices through NativeEnergy Travel Offsets.  The company reduced emissions by 10% through the use of high performance filters and installation of solar panels and wind generators on the Eric, converting her to the first hybrid yacht in Galapagos.

In 2006, Ecoventura established the Galapagos Marine Biodiversity fund in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund to support environmental education and marine conservation by strengthening the local communities’ ability to manage natural resources.  To date, the fund has provided scholarships for local students to study at the university level, a micro-enterprise business that creates alternate sources of income, and control of illegal fishing activities through a permanent floating station at Darwin Island and refit of National Park patrol boats.

Ecoventura has pledged to sponsor the cost of 12 scholarships for a course for local students age 16-17 from the islands of Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz to study conservation and ecology-related issues.  The program is under the auspices of Ecology Project International, a non-profit NGO that has benefited over 600 Galapagos students since 2003.

Students sponsored by the program spend 50 hours in the field directly involved in conservation actions concerning invasive species and the health and release of turtles into the wild.  A $400 donation makes the course possible for one student, and Ecoventura also encourages its guests to donate to the scholarship fund at www.ecologyproject.org/donate.

Through the foundation “Gotitas de Esperanza” (drops of hope), Ecoventura has pledged to sponsor the salaries for teachers and physical therapists who work at a local school called Alejandro Alvear on San Cristobal Island.  During the day, the school provides therapy for children with physical disabilities and also serves the adult population through programs such as teaching sign language for the hearing impaired.

In 2011, Ecoventura teamed up with Pack for a Purpose, a charitable organization.  By packing up to 5 lbs (2.27 kgs) of suggested supplies, passengers have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives on children who live in Galapagos by bringing needed items with them on their trip.  Ecoventura collects and delivers supplies to the students at the Alejandro Alvear School and also the New Era Foundation that supports art programs, Eco Scouts and English activities.

The approximate value of Ecoventura’s donations in 2011 totaled $112,000.00 USD.

Congratulations to Ecoventura for winning Best in Environmental Education.


Hale Ho’okipa Inn Makawao, Maui, Hawaii – Best in Inspiring Guests to Volunteer


The Hale Ho’okipa Inn Makawao, a welcoming and relaxing retreat in Maui, Hawii, devised a simple and effective idea for inspiring guests to volunteer on vacation.  The Inn created www.volunteer-on-vacation-hawaii.com as a way to highlight volunteer opportunities in the local area.

Guests can arrange a project through the website, and the inn will give them a 5% discount on their stay.  In an ingenious win-win scheme, the inn then donates that same 5% to the group for which the guest volunteered.

Volunteer projects recommended by the inn include opportunities to connect with the land on some of the most beautiful and special places on the island by planting, pulling invasive plant species, or cleaning up the beach.  But guests can choose any project they want, and they can pick a project that strikes their fancy.

The inn also models volunteering and connecting with the local community by collecting food items from shoppers at the local grocery store and donating them to the Maui Food Bank around Christmas.  The inn has donated three years in a row.

Congratulations to Hale Ho’okipa Inn Makawao for winning Best in Inspiring Guests to Volunteer.


Marlin Lodge, Mozambique – Best in School Development

Marlin Lodge 

Marlin Lodge is a luxury, beachfront retreat on the spectacular and serene clear water coast of Mozambique.

Marlin Lodge has been involved with the small island school since its inception in 2008.  There are just over 300 students at the school, Grades 1 through 7.  Along with Rotary Canada, the lodge built a classroom with a library and toilet facilities in 2010.  All the desks in the school were supplied by guest financial donations over a period of approximately 18 months from 2008 to 2010.

Financial donations are controlled separately by Marlin Lodge’s accounts department on the island.  Guests always receive photos and feedback on how their contribution has made a difference.

In 2011 alone, the lodge raised over $7,000 USD from guest donations to pay for school equipment, stationary, school uniforms for all children, building maintenance and water system, International Children’s Day celebrations, and the annual Children’s Christmas Party.  Guests also contributed books for the library, stationary, and sports equiment directly.

In addition to their school projects, Marlin Lodge supports the local children by running a weekly soup kitchen on Sundays throughout the year.

Marlin Lodge infuses additional income into the local Chirigoma village by hiring traditional dhow boats for every guest to enjoy a 45-minute sunset through the Bazaruto Archipelago.  The art of sailing and building these dhows is something that has been handed down from father to son, generation to generation.  Not only a method of transport, dhows also allow islanders to maintain a self subsistence way of life.  Marlin Lodge purchases the fish caught by local dhows for service at their restaurant.

In September 2011 Marlin Lodge became a patron supporter of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).  EWT launched their Dugong Emergency Protection Project exclusively from Marlin Lodge to protect the local endangered dugong, a large marine mammal similar to a manatee.  The lodge hosts EWT’s Dugong Project Manager, Karen Allen, as an in-house conservation expert to inform and educate guests about the surrounding marine environment and the resident endangered dugongs.  This provides guests with an opportunity to experience the wonder and fragility of East Africa’s last viable dugong population.

Congratulations to Marlin Lodge for winning Best in School Development.


Estrela Community Tours, Brazil – Best in Community Based Tourism

Estrela Community Tours, Brasil Estrela is a small British/Brazilian charity that seeks to advance education and inter-cultural understanding between Brazil, Britain, and other countries by focusing on disadvantaged youth and communities in northeast Brazil.  The organization works primarily alongside local youth and community initiatives in Salvador, Brazil, training and preparing young people to give educational and informative cultural tours.  Estrela’s aim is to address the lack of attention and investment in urban community-based tourism – a tourism niche Estrela sees as having enormous potential.  The community tours bring travelers to Brazil’s poor neighborhoods in a sustainable, educational, and celebratory way.

In 2011 alone, Estrela Community Tours provided local community tours in Salvador, Brazil, to hundreds of international and national visitors, via tour operators, universities and volunteers.  Estrela’s sustainable tourism model involves the community from conception to implementation.  The grassroots initiative aims to raise self-esteem and help bring about change in communities where it is needed.  Giving tourists a chance to visit such communities and meet local people on an equal footing brings an open-minded approach to learning about each other and, thus, is mutually beneficial.  This ensures balanced cultural exchange between tourists and locals and fosters long-term relationships between individuals and groups around the world, as visitors become agents of sharing and solidarity.  Estrela Community Tours, as a multicultural, bilingual initiative, makes these connections a reality.

In 2011, Estrela Community Tours organized over 800 volunteer hours, and directly benefited approximately 50 young people and women from disadvantaged communities in the area.  Estrela is new but growing and, in 2011, formed 9 new partnerships with tour operators, universities, official guides, and local governments.  The company donated approximately $8,700 USD in direct financial contributions and volunteer hours.

Congratulations to Estrela Community Tours for winning Best in Communit Based Tourism.

Blog Kutoa Community Impact Awards

About Kutoa Travel

Kutoa believes that travel can impact, improve, and empower local communities. Every hotel, eco-lodge, and tour company you find on Kutoa donates directly to important local causes. Use Kutoa to find socially green hotels, safaris, honeymoons, tours, and adventures of all kinds around the globe. Get outdoors and trek off on your socially green adventure!

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