Do you want to see the bridging of conservation and tourism? Do you want to experience a hostel who promote localism? Do you want to see whales and turtles in a sustainable way? If so, we recommend visiting Praia do Forte hostel, in the cute village of Praia do Forte. Just an hour outside Salvador, the capital of the north-eastern state of Bahia, you will find this wonderful touristic village. Here you have beaches as far as the eye can see, perfect surfing waves and cute shops. It is also a breeding area for turtles and humpback whales. A popular touristic site in the middle of such an important ecological area, how does that work?
The community of Praia do Forte has done something extraordinary – been able to be a touristic town whilst continuing to preserve its wonderful marine wildlife. We got to experience this first hand as one of the for-runners for this is Paulo, owner of the Hostelling International hostel Praia do Forte Hostel.
Conservation + tourism = true
Paulo has been in the hostel game for over twenty years and has always had a sustainability mindset to the running of his hostel. In addition, he is a partner in the tour company Portomar, offering whale watching in cooperation with Projeto Baleia Jubarte. We at Say HI was lucky and got to participate on a whale watching tour. Their ability to bridge conservation with tourism was impressive and well thought through. The whole system is made in a way conserving the environment while giving the tourists the experience they want. First, we visited the whale center Baleia Jubarte and received a presentation of the history of whaling and what we can do to protect them. Following, we were informed about which rules they have to follow on the tours. For example, it is only allowed to spot whales from a 100 meters distance and only staying by them for thirty minutes.
All boats going out to look for whales need to have a biologist onboard. Making sure rules and regulations are followed, as well as educating the tourists and answering questions. On our trip we saw four humpback whales and with the information gotten from before actually seeing them, it was even more powerful. In addition to be a touristic thing, the boat also brings people who mark which whales they see. This way they can see which whales they have seen before and who is new. It is nice for us working with both sustainability and tourism seeing that there are concrete and functionable examples of these two fields working together. We were informed that whale tourism like this can help to ban whale hunting as it puts pressure on the few countries that still conduct such activities.
Another species that needs protection from humans are turtles. Conservation of turtles is also done in Praia do Forte, through a project that can be found all over the Brazilian coast. Namely, Projeto Tamar. With This project is known to be one of Brazils most functionable conservation programs, and for a good reason. We visited the project’s center in Praia do Forte and got a guided tour around the facility. Here you can see turtles, learn about their migration patterns as well as how we best can conserve them. It was very educational and it is inspiring how much this project has done for the turtles in Brazil. A very important part of this project is their rooting to the local community. From the very start they listened to and engaged the local community.
When the project started they actively went out and talked to the largest enemies of the turtles – the fishermen. Earlier, catching turtles and turtle eggs were a big business in many coastal areas. Projeto Tamar approached this problem by hiring those who use to catch the turtles, changing their job to now protecting them. At the same time, they educated the coastal community about the impact of the hunting and the importance of conservation. With this approach, Projeto Tamar has become very popular both with the local community, conservationists and tourists. Paulo at Praia do Forte Hostel has made a cooperation with Projeto Tamar and when you stay at his hostel you get free access to their facilities.
Local community and tourism
When we visited Praia do Forte hostel, we got to see what an important role a hostel can have in the local community, as they do what they can to make local businesses thrive. The recyclable waste at the hostel is collected by Djalma Cooperativa. This is a business created by Djalma, who lives close to Praia do Forte but in a poorer neighborhood in the area. He collects waste at different businesses in Praia do Forte, sells this and what he earns from this he reinvests into education of young people in his community. We had the pleasure of meeting Djalma and to see how his business work. He has bought a few computers so that young people can learn about IT. In addition, he supports different sport initiatives in the area to engage kids in healthy activities. He is a very engaged man who wants to help his community as best he can. Cooperating with businesses such as Djalma’s are a good way for hostels to support their local communities. In addition, it is a way to take responsibility for the waste you produce in a sustainable and smart way.
Continuing, Praia do Forte hostel also wants to speak up local people offering different touristic things. Paulo decided the best way to do this was to pick out a few people, make a poster and promote them in the reception area. Here you could read a bit about what the different people offered as well as their number to contact. The Say HI team really wanted to try out surfing and as this poster recommended a surfing teacher we just had to try. We had a blast and took several lessons with our very patient teacher Ian. This poster made our life easier, helped out the people in the community and was just a very cool and easy way to do something good.
We had a great time in Praia do Forte. Especially since it gave us new perspective on how tourism can help out with conservation. It was very fun to see how Praia do Forte hostel actively work with promoting sustainable tourism. Something interesting about this village of Praia do Forte is that it has several large resorts which probably outsource much. However, this hostel is dedicated to keeping the income within the community. That’s how you see hosteling is important, not only for tourist but also for the local community where it is located.
Written by: Hanna Jacobsen and Eirin Heddeland
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