Monday, 9 November 2009

Malabar Holiday auction

Malabar was once a British Principality of India. After Independence, Malabar as a state was no longer recognized and the region was divided to form the northern part of what is today called Kerala. Though Malabar has no geographical boundaries, no presence on a map of India, it still exists as a state of mind: laid-back, slow, to live and let live.

While most of Kerala is recognised as a traveller’s must–visit destination, Malabar is yet to be discovered. And hence to the uninitiated, Malabar offers a plethora of delights ranging from a river cruise to legend trails to spice tours to tea estate visits to craft villages and heritage sites.

This is a Kerala where the everyday and exotic merge seamlessly. For a traveller who is weary of experiencing shrink wrapped plastic package tours, the Malabar leg comes minus hype and spin and instead is a way of life that asks little of the traveller except an open mind.

The Malabar holiday is now available for an auction through The International Eco Tourism Society website. Check here for more details.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Art auction at ITB Asia

Responsible tourism networking event at the ITB Asia in Singapore on the 22nd OCT saw people from more than 25 different countries gathering to interact with like-minded people working in Responsible Tourism. The event also became very unique by providing a platform to organise an art auction. WIT conference attendees drew doodles on a canvas which was later transformed into a stunning visual by local artist Sarbani Bhattacharya based in Singapore. An initiative by Issu.E.Rasers, the proceedings from the event went to Himmapaan Foundation based in Thailand. The RT networking event was organised in partnershisp with The Blue Yonder, Wild Asia and

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Responsible tourism networking at WTM - London

The Blue Yonder is partnering to organise another responsible tourism networking which is coinciding with World Travel Market, London. Kindly join us to meet partners in Responsible Tourism from across the world.

Monday, 09 November 2009
18:30 - 23:00
Pavilion End Bar
23 Watling Street
London, United Kingdom

Location Map here. The event is organised with support from Intrepid, Rough Guides & To ensure that everyone gets to meet those attending the event, there will also be a fun-filled speed networking. Please RSVP on facebook or write to Sally

The Blue Yonder is exhibiting at the World Travel Market from 09-12th November. For appointments contact us over email or drop by at AS4600 /03 (International Centre for Responsible Tourism - India).

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Green Circuit to be launched officially at World Travel Market London

Green Circuit, an idea mooted by Social Tours - Nepal is now a partnership between 5 responsible tourism operators in the India Sub continent. Social Tours, Grass Routes, Ecosphere, The Blue Yonder and Help Tourism are coming together to provide a unique network of responsible holidays in the subcontinent.

Green circuit proves the fact that tourism industry can work together and complement each other, rather than competing with each other other. Green circuit features various destinations covering Nepal, Eastern and Western Himalayas, West Bengal and North Eastern India and South India.

We welcome you to join us at the official launch of Green Circuit at World Travel Market - London. Fiona Jeffery - Chairman of WTM and Just a Drop, will launch the initiative on the World Responsible Tourism day on 11th November 2009 at the stand of International Centre for Responsible Tourism - India (AS4600 / 03).

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Certification makes green see red!

The following is my comment on Catherine Mack's article on certification:

"When responsibility comes from within, whether someone is certified or not doesn't make a difference. However unfortunately that's not how majority of the industry functions. To what extend can reporting back from travellers bring in a control on green-washers? To what extend can tourist actually see the entire supply chain and report back? To what extend would a traveller run around and report back on the green credentials of operators / properties, rather than enjoying their holidays?...

In 5 years of running our company, we have come across many DMC's in India who are many times transparent and accountable than any that has been certified by someone like Green Globe. To do a fantastic job, they don't need certification, however this doesn't mean that any one of these people might be unwilling to respond to questions from those who are interested in the responsibility factor of their business.

We know personally many stories of poorest of poor artisans in the state of Rajasthan who are cheated by so-called fair trade organisations funded by many international organisations. It's not about taking massive amount of margins. (A leather bag bought at 7 Euro sold at 110 Euro in Habitat isn't our concern.)But, to pay these poor artisans, below standard rates to mass produce these bags and then call it fair-trade is the crime. When we ask the illiterate artisan(sitting in front of a big poster announcing the fair-trade practices of his partners (meaning organised buyers in Europe and their whole sale agents in India))what he understands by "fair trade", he says, he gets about 20 GBP per year to send his kids to school ! For me, that is scandal and not fair trade!

When you see a stamp of fair-trade on a product that one purchases in the west, people buy those (to an extend) as a guilt free experience. 'My purchase is making a difference to the destination from where this product came from. I know that this product I buy hasn't been sourced through exploitation'. Oxfam fair trade coffee became a hit earlier mainly because of this. However, as in the case of a traveller, who might want to know more of about the responsibility factor of the supply chain on which the holiday is running, the lay customer who quickly runs into a fair-trade shop doesn't have or resources or energy to investigate the 'fairness' of these products.

I am not suggesting that we need to have another organisation that certify the 'fairness' of the organisation that has already certified these products. Though that will be a hilarious situation.

What is missing in all the certification process is the matter of 'Trust'. Our guests purchase many souvenirs from the artisans we work with mainly in Kerala and Rajasthan. They buy leather products, bell metal art, pottery and puppets without any question of 'certification'. None of these are certified products in any case!

The reason they purchase these with genuine interest is because of the 'trust' they have developed with the company they are travelling with, and most importantly because they are purchasing it straight from the hand of the artisan without a middle-man. ( certified or not!).

I don't know how this 'trust' factor can be built in the purchase when you buy it from elsewhere. (, a purchase in a shop in London claiming to have fair practices)

However one way to sort out of these issue of trust / certification is for the operators ( Tour, or property owners) to be pro-active about their claims. Orchid Ecotel in Mumbai for e.g, are so proud to show their guests on check-in about the responsibility in which they are running their business! This touch and feel experiences makes all the difference.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Art auction at RT networking ITB Asia

One stroke, one good deed

Make your stroke on our canvas and inspire artist Sarbani Bhattacharya, to create a piece of art that will commemorate WIT 2009. The art work will be auctioned off and proceeds will go towards the Himmapaan Foundation of Thailand.

A project of Isse.E.Rasers a volunteer initiative which uses creative mediums to increase people's sensitisation and action in social and environmental concerns so individuals become "issue erasers".

Sarbani Bhattacharya is a freelance artist in Singapore. Her painting style is semi-abstract and represents narrative art.

Himmaapaan Foundaiton supports sustainable tourism in Thailand. It strives to restore or improve the quality of local people in their communities and their surroundings and supports environmental protection projects.

The auction will take place at the responsible tourism networking event Oct 22, 2009 between 18.00-20.00 Room number 208. RT networking at ITB Asia is co-organised by Wild Asia, The Blue Yonder and

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Kerala tourism roadshows in Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm

We are participating in the Kerala Tourism roadshows organised in the Oslo,Helsinki and Stockholm. This is continuation to the roadshows in Brussels and Milan. In a newly designed format, the business meetings are organised in well-known Indian restaurants rather than in hotel auditoriums.

Wonder how much of business can be talked over mouth-watering spicy meals! Let's see!

Oslo 2 Nov 2009 Agra Restaurant,
Stranden 3, 0250 Aker Brygge, Oslo, Norway

Helsinki(Finland) 4 Nov 2009 Samrat Restaurant
Intialainen Ravintola, Etelä Esplanadi 22c,
00130 Helsinki, Finland

Stockholm (Sweden) 5 Nov 2009 Alishan Restaurant
Timmermansgatan 35 11855 Stockholm Sweden

The Blue Yonder will be represented by our Scandinavian representative Linda Veråsdal. All meetings will be between 5-8 pm on respective dates. For more information please contact us .

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

October newsletter released

Our newsletter for Oct 2009 is now available online. It features a travelogue written by Zainab Kakal who visited Sunderbans immediately after Cyclone Aila that hit Eastern India on 25th May. It carries an interview with Jeremy Smith, founder of on the potential of the website to bring together innovative solutions to sustainable development. Two other articles show case The Blue Yonder attending ITB Asia and WTM London. A short summary of latest recognitions to TBY can also be read here.

For more details, check online here

Monday, 12 October 2009

Ivili - innovations for sustainable solutions

Jeremy Smith is a writer and producer specializing in environmental, travel and cultural issues. Former editor of Ecologist magazine, Jeremy recently co-authored 'Clean Breaks - 500 New Ways to See the world' with Richard Hammond. His interest in sustainable development led him to set up, an online platform to bring together solutions from practitioners from different parts of the world. Jeremy is also a winner of "exemplary journalism" for writing one of the top ten censored stories of the year, called Re-Engineering Iraqi Agriculture.

Jeremy in conversation with The Blue Yonder on is a free and evergrowing library of tools, solutions and inspirations for sustainable living. Whether you are looking for advice on sustainable living, such as growing food in your garden using permaculture techniques or generating your electricity in a more ecofriendly way; or if you want ideas and inspirations for community projects that might work in your own area; or are keen to volunteer on an environmental project but don't know what's out there; or perhaps you are a funder looking to support essential work in an area you are passionate about, then Ivili is a unique place to start looking for what you need as it only focuses on bringing you sustainable solutions from all over the world.

Read the complete interview here

Memories of Cyclone Aila

Ravaged Beauty : Sunderbans copyright � 2009 Zainab Kakal

Cyclone Aila Support Group managed to raise 5,00,000 INR (appr 10,550 USD) through the facebook campaign. Compared to the devastation and the need in Sunderbans, this amount is quite small. However with guidance from Association for Conservation and Tourism, the money is spend on basic needs of the affected people. Charities Aid Foundation India is doing the due diligence, programme planning, funds disbursement, monitoring, auditing and reporting. Updates from us will be send to all donors. We thank all the organisations and people who raised awareness about the disaster. We salute the resilience of the people of Sunderbans and self-less work by our partners at Help Tourism who stood by the communities when they needed them the most."

Seeing a posting on facebook for a volunteer to document the Cyclone Aila that hit the Eastern India on the 25th May 2009, Zainab Kakal went to Sunderbans to share the need of the people and give her insights into the disaster that affected millions of people in West Bengal and neighbouring regions. The following text and photos are from Zainab's personal journal that she maintained during her travel to Sunderbans.

Sunderbans: the land of floating green islands:

Arrival: (June 2009) "I enter the Sunderbans exhausted. The endless journey jumping from boat to boat through the riverines has taken about 4 hours and I am drenched and extremely skeptical. The Sunderbans, even to a tired eye looks like a marvel. It is close to being called mythical for it could not be real - it is the land of floating green islands.

I am sitting in a boat huddled in cargo and open umbrellas. My umbrella is poked in too many places to offer any protection and my baggage is wet and drippy but I could not care less for I was in the Sunderbans. Yes, there is a wonder of it all - the endless skies, the elegant angler dropping his nets into the birthing seas, the exodus of people traveling back and forth; all in the palette of murky grays and soft blues." Read the full text here:

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Blue Yonder to attend World Travel Market, London

The first time we visited the World Travel Market was in 2005. The next year we were glad to be highly commented for Responsible Tourism awards, and there after we have been regularly exhibiting at this international trade fair in London every November. Exhibiting with the Incredible India stand, this has become a trade show that we can't afford to miss. 2007 edition saw the launch of Responsible Tourism Networking - an initiative kick started by The Blue Yonder and Your Safe Planet.

The official forums at WTM were largely focusing on larger corporations, (rightly so, as even a small change towards sustainability by these companies will have a large impact in the travel industry) so we got together many small operators from different parts of the world in a little pub in London and prompted them to pitch their RT initiatives. Since this was not officially part of the WTM programs media called it as a 'fringe event', a name that stuck and continued to be used by many of our partners as well.

Since then similar networking events have happened in London, Berlin (supported by ITB Berlin), New Delhi (supported by SATTE and ITB Berlin) and for the first time in Singapore (supported by ITB Berlin and ITB Asia) on the 22 Oct 2009. For the 2009 World Travel Market, preparations are going on for the third get together, details of which will be announced by Sally.

This year at the WTM London (9-12 Nov), The Blue Yonder is exhibiting along with Help Tourism, Ecosphere, River Retreat and under the banner of International Centre for Responsible Tourism - India. There will be new initiative launches, media interactions etc at Incredible India stand AS4600, details of which will be announced shortly.

The combined marketing initiative by DMCs and related partners focusing on responsible tourism in India is a new beginning for successful partnerships that we believe should be emulated across the world. We believe that complementing each other with their core competency is the way forward rather than competing in a cut-throat business environment. This partnership has helped us understand a lot from each others work and stand by each other when there is a need. Cyclone Aila support group that was formed as a facebook group is another example of how such networks can be formed for the benefit of people and destination. We are also officially supporting WTM World Responsible Day on the 11th November 2009 to highlight other initiatives on Responsible Tourism.

We welcome you to visit us and know more about our unique holiday experiences at the ICRT India stand at AS4600.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Blue Yonder to exhibit at ITB Asia

The Blue Yonder will be exhibiting for the first time at ITB Asia Suntech, Singapore. We will be introducing our holidays in India focusing on Kerala, Karnataka, Orissa, West Bengal, North Eastern India, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

ITB Asia is a B2B trade show and convention for the travel industry and is designed to become the primary event for the Asia Pacific travel industry, much like its parent event, the ITB Berlin itself.

We are also co-organising Responsible tourism networking on the 22nd Oct 2009 at 1800 in partnership with ITB-Asia, and Wild Asia. There will be a dedicated stand focusing on Responsible tourism S01, where details of the Responsible Tourism Networking can be collected. ITB Asia has announced that pre-registered attendees for the RT networking can visit ITB Asia on the 23rd without any payment.

We request our trade partners and visitors to fix appointments before visiting the stand, so that prior meetings are not clashing. Click here for appointments. You can also reach Sandeep Sinha on email who will also be available at the stand C17 (The Blue Yonder).

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Children initiated into world of letters

The 'Mandapam' in Thunjan Parambu where the author was initiated into learning in 1976

'Vidyarambham' is a secular South Indian tradition of initiating children into the world of knowledge by wiring letters on sand or rice grain. Yesterday, more than four thousand toddlers were initiated into learning as part of the Navarathiri festival at Thunjan Parambu near Tirur, in Malappuram district in Kerala. Thunjan Parambu is a memorial of medieval poet Thunchath Ezhuthachan, revered as father of Malayalam literature, where children are brought to write their initial letters on sand and rice grains.

Writer C Radkahrishnan says, "It was in Thunjan Parambu that Ezhuthachan modified the Malayalam alphabets and wrote the Harinamakeerthanam to popularize them. Even after centuries people from various parts of the state come to take sand from Thunjan Parambu to initiate their children to the alphabet."

It was in Thunjan Parambu that Ezhuthachan taught and spent better half of his life. Here one can find the original stylus which Ezhuthachan wrote the Malayalam Ramayana, a Hindu epic. Legend says that the whole Ramayana in Malayalam was recited to the author by a parrot so that he could compose tirelessly without having to stop in between.

The literature park designed according to traditional Kerala architecture, has a beautiful bronze statue of the parrot and larger version of the Iron stylus and the palm leave in with which he wrote the epic. The legend says that the Nux Vomica tree with bitter leaves here has lost their bitter taste to sweet wisdom.

Thousands of children were initiated into the world of letters on Monday at public functions organised by religious/educational institutions, charitable organisations, cultural and media establishments across the state as part of the Vidyarambham ritual marking the conclusion of the Navaratri festival. More news here

a peaceful journey through Tirur river

Most of the trips that The Blue Yonder organises along the River Nila is initiated by a visit to Thunjan Parmbu followed by a serene country boat ride through the Tirur River that joins Nila before pouring into the Arabian sea at the estuary in Ponnani. Check out for more details here.

Symbols akin to Indus valley culture discovered in Kerala

engravings at the edakkal caves

According to
The Hindu newspaper of 26th Sept 2009, "A rock engraving, indicating clear remnants of Harappan culture, has been found in the Edakkal caves in neighbouring Wayanad district, linking the Indus Valley civilisation with South India.

“There had been indications of remnants akin to the Indus Valley civilisation in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but these new findings give credence to the fact that the Harappan civilisation had its presence in the region too and could trace the history of Kerala even beyond the Iron Age,” historian M R Raghava Varier said. "

Even before the latest findings, Edakkal Caves have attracted serious travellers for its pre-historic etchings and engravings. Brought to the attention of the world by an English officer Fred-Fawcett, the site was identified to be a habitat of Neolithic people (i.e. late Stone Age, c4000BC to c1700BC).

Except for the hue and cry that we hear when similar archeological findings are publicised, there is hardly any care being taken to maintain the sanctity of the site. If not for the interest shown by passionate individuals and responsible hoteliers nearby, the site would have been in doll drums long time back. Wayanad Tourism Organisation and some of the well-known archeologists in Kerala has been trying since 2007 to get the attention of UNESCO to declare the area amongst the World Heritage sites.

More information on similar sites are recorded in this website.

Wayanad: Where butterflies come home to. First advertisement on Wayanad from TBY

Rich in wildlife, Wayanad's mountainous terrain houses the best in wildlife and spreads the aroma of all possible spices found in Kerala. Situated in the southern region of the Deccan plateau bordering Karnataka state, this district is untouched by rail or air traffic and is approachable only by road.

The Blue Yonder organises responsible holidays in Wayanad which includes heritage and legend trails, rain forest trekking, bamboo rafting, spice tours, wildlife safari and walking tours. More information on our Malabar holidays can be found here.

Responsible Tourism Training Workshop in Kuala Lumpur

The Blue Yonder has announced it's participation at the Responsible Tourism Training Workshop organised by Wild Asia in Kuala Lumpur on the 29-30th OCT 2009. We will be presenting the trends and development of Responsible Tourism Partnerships and networks with a focus on India.

Wild Asia announcement says, "This workshop, which targets business owners, tourism operators and media, provides a background to sustainability principles in tourism and numerous case studies from the region. The workshop is an excellent opportunity to learn and share with your peers, as well as, an opportunity to take home ideas for your own businesses. For the media, the workshop will highlight areas where travel journalism can expand."

Check out the site for more details on venue, time, participation fee etc.

Wild Asia will also be partnering with The Blue Yonder and to organise the Responsible Tourism Networking at the ITB Asia (Suntec, Singapore) on the 22nd OCT 2009. We believe this partnership will be able to bring together many RT initiatives across South and South East Asia and share their experiences.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Responsible Tourism Networking at ITB Asia - Singapore

We are glad to announce the Responsible Tourism Networking to be organised on the 22nd OCT 2009 between 1800-2000 at Suntec City Singapore. The event is a continuation of RT networking initiated by TBY and YSP in London, and later organised with support from ITB in Berlin and SATTE in New Delhi.

The event in Singapore is co-organised by The Blue Yonder, and Wild Asia. Travel Mole's Vision on Sustainable Tourism also has joined us as official media partner.

The previous editions of networking in Berlin and New Delhi and fringe events in London saw many Responsible tourism operators and stake holders sharing their unique experiences. The events helped operators talk about their initiatives, find partners to do business in originating and destination markets and build partnerships across various countries. 'Green Travel Circuit' initiated by Social Tours which is now run between 4 different operators based in Nepal and India (Social Tours, Help Tourism, Grass Routes, The Blue Yonder) is one such example that saw partnership developed within the travel industry.

We invite you to attend the presentations, discussions and networking followed by cocktail sponsored by ITB Asia at Suntec Singapore on 22nd OCT 2009. If you wish to attend the event or give a presentation on Responsible Tourism initiatives please get in touch with the organisers through or RSVP on facebook.

This will be a great opportunity to network with like-minded people and continue to promote Responsible Tourism.

Attendees for the 2 hour networking will be given a free pass to enter the trade show on 23rd OCT 2009

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

TBY in Brussels

The Grand'Place in Brussels pic copyright
The Blue Yonder exhibited with other 5 operators in Brussels as part of Kerala Tourism Road series. It was for the first time Kerala tourism is organising a Roadshow in Belgium. Good response and interesting buyers!

Friday, 18 September 2009

TBY Rajasthan holidays "10 Incredible Eco Travel Destinations"

One of The Blue Yonder's Rajasthan itinerary (explore the kingdoms of India) has been reviewed amongst the "10 incredible eco travel destinations" by Green Living. The selection is a further shortlist of 500 eco destinations and experiences selected by the authors of Clean Breaks (August 2009), Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith, from around the world.

"To see the true Rajasthan, the largest province in India, The Blue Yonder tour company facilitates a program that avoids the tourist traps and takes visitors to family-run hotels, artisan-based communities and lesser-explored regions".

The following text is from Amanda Rappak of Green Living:

"These days, so-called ecotourism or green holiday options are advertised everywhere, but what makes for a truly legitimate eco-vacation? The authors of
Clean Breaks (August 2009), Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith, have done the digging for you and selected 500 eco destinations and experiences from around the world. "We studied the green claims made by many hundreds of operations worldwide before selecting those that we felt both offered the best experiences combined with genuine environmental and social commitments," says author Hammond. "We show how you can see the world in a responsible way through minimizing your environmental impact on your journey and at the destination - by choosing carefully how you travel and the nature of places that you stay at. We also hope to show how you can have a positive impact in other ways - by contributing to the conservation of wildlife and local heritage and supporting local economies."

We suppressed our wanderlust to pick just 10 of their incredible sustainable vacation ideas to share with our readers. Here's a snapshot of what's awaiting you, so start packing and get out there.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The Lavaux vineyard terraces & Lausanne Roule!

St Saphorin in the back drop of Lake Geneva

Beginning of this month, I was travelling through Lausanne, the Lavaux vineyard terraces and Montreux in Switzerland. The distances were covered through scenic train journeys, biking and hiking.

Listed amongst the UNESCO's World Heritage in 2007, The Lavaux terrace stretches for about 30 kilometres along the shores of Lake Geneva, from Lausanne to Chateau de Chillon, south of Montreux.The best way to explore these regions however would be on a cycle.Lausanne Roule is a non-profit association that makes bicycles available in Lausanne, Renens and Vevey. This project is based on the principles of sustainable development, promoting soft mobility, social integration and health.

View of the village Rivaz from Chebrex

In collaboration with the 'Etablissement Vaudois Accueil aux Migrants', asylum seekers are incorporated into the taking care of the rental service. About thirty asylum seekers are working at the three stations during each seasons.

With the help of the Oeuvre Suisse d'entraide ouvrière, school-leaving young adults are also involved in bicylce maintenance as part of professional integration especially in Vevey. Local people are entrusted with the supervision of the asylum seekers . The team of Lausanne Roule consist of a group of professionals, a subsidised post intended for an unemployed person and a committee of volunteers.

Vevey in the back drop of Lac Léman

Itinerary from Lausanne to Vevey or vice versa: 20 kms. The same distance can be covered on a return journey by the ferry in 60 minutes. The bike rental is free until 2100 with a refundable deposit amount of 20 CHF .

Thursday, 3 September 2009

TBY to support 'Shanti Deva'

"Born in the late seventh century monk Shantideva was an Indian Buddhist philosopher of the famous University of Nalanda.

Praised throughout the Buddhist world for his writings on the Bodhisattva path and philosophy of the Madhyamika, Shantideva remains one of the authors most read and discussed today.

Beyond the qualities of scholarship and poetic power of his work, Shantideva urges all people to pursue the path of wisdom and compassion."

A Tashi Lhumpo monastery - TBY promoted Calendar

Continuing its long term association with the monastery of Tashi Lhumpo in Bylakuppe in Karnataka state, The Blue Yonder is supporting the initiative of several volunteers and supporters to set up 'Shanti Deva' - an association to preserve and promote cultural and spiritual heritage of the Tibetan monastery of Tashi Lhunpo restored in southern India in 1972.

Besides learning of Tibetan language and Buddhist studies, it allows its members to frequent visits to the monastery of Tashi Lhunpo, as well as the discovery of the Himalayan regions of Ladakh, Zanskar, Spiti, Lahul, Sikkim and Tawang through cultural travel.

For more details visit the official site here:

Monday, 24 August 2009

50 Social Entrepreneurs - Outlook Business Sept 2009

Outlook Business (5 Sept 2009) has come out with an independence special edition on '50 Social entrepreneurs ' and 'how they are making India better'. The Blue Yonder is humbled to be amongst the 50 new wealth creators. Quoting Outlook Business, "Social entrepreneurs: The new wealth creators:They put society above self. They use entrepreneurial means to drive social change. These 50 entrepreneurs are enriching the nation. They're in different fields, doing different things. But each of these entrepreneurs has made a huge social impact with his or her enterprise"

What is even more exciting for us is to know that some of our friends and partners with whom, we have worked and interacted personally in the last few years in Community development, Disaster Management and Responsible Tourism are also among the 50 social entrepreneurs! They are Prema Gopalan -Sakhi/SSP, Ishita Khanna from Muse / Ecosphere, Vijay Aditya - Ekgaon, Ashok Khosla - Development Alternatives, Ela Bhatt - Sewa, Bunker Roy - Barefoot College, Gijs Spoor - Zameen Organic and Anshu Gupta - Goonj. To read fellow entrepreneurs check this link on Outlook Business. To read about the entry on The Blue Yonder follow this link.
To follow some other recognitions and awards we have won in the last 4 years, please check this link.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Golden Triange - Delhi Agra Jaipur

Travellers in Agra with Sandeep Sinha (L - standing)

About an year back we got an enquiry from a Swiss NGO asking if we could organise a holiday after their volunteer work in North India " where our volunteers can discover India not as a simple tourist, but meet local people and be part of the Indian culture. Their goal is to continue enjoying India in simple but clean places, with local food, customs and visits".
On completing the holiday, we received an email from the trip coordinator as follows. "Thank you very much for all your work. It was a very good work which was appreciated by everybody. I saw one of the participants today, he was really amazed and in a way changed. They won't see the world again like before".
It's glad to hear that we have only improved our standards in Responsible tourism in the last five years, irrespective of us spreading our holidays in 6 different states of India. When we were asked initially to offer tours based on Delhi and Agra on the way to Rajasthan, we were a bit skeptical as our USP was not Golden Triangle tour;. We were approached by guests because we could offer our guests the most intimate and personal insight into an India that not many tourist don't get to see. This was the case in Kerala where we started, then later in Sikkim, Makrana in Rajasthan, Kaza in Spiti Valley, and later in Sunderbans in West Bengal and now in rural Orissa.
Even on their way to visit the most visited tourist sites like Taj Mahal, we have now started combining many small initiatives in rural tourism that makes positive difference to local people and environment.

To read more such experiences, check out the guest feedback here

The Real Rajasthan

page 330 : Rough "Guide's Clean Breaks - 500 New Ways to see the world"
The largest state in India, Rajasthan is also one of the most beautiful and exciting - home to colourful markets, welcoming cities, vibrant music and delicious cuisine. The royal palaces that pepper the state feature heavily o tourist itineraries: rich, decorative and intricate, they epitomize the luxury and decadence of the Raj. but for those who want to go behind the scenes, India-based travel company The Blue Yonder runs custom-made trips that allow you to explore what really makes Rajasthan tick.

A trip could kick off in the rose-pink city of Jaipur, famous for its magnificent sandstone Amber Fort. After staying for a night or two in an attentive, family-run hotel, you might decide to travel on to the semi-arid areas of Shekhawati or the desert city of Bikaner, where you'll meet artisans busy weaving Rajasthan's famous patterned carpets and making pretty tie-dye garments. You can even make your won bangles, like those you see dripping from most Indian's writs.

Elsewhere, you'll join the Makrana people, who practice puppetry not just to entertain tourists but, in conjunction with The Blue Yonder, to educate and inspire illiterate local children. You could finish your trip with a shopping expedition in a market-filled Udaipur. And in the evenings you'll sit among the community and listen to folk songs and stories, watching the whirling choreography of the richly bejewelled dancers.

As well as looking behind Rajasthan's cultural scene, you could choose to go on a jeep tiger-siger in Rathambore Park, visit the Karni Mata Temple, where thousands of rats are worshipped, or hop aboard a camel for a bumby ride among the sand dunes of the Thar Desert. Allowing visitors a large variety of ways in which to meet the local people and to see little-trodden areas of the state, Blue Yonder's trips give a vibrant taster of the real India.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

River Life in Kerala

The following is text copied from page 322 Rough Guides "Clean Breaks - 500 new ways to see the world" co-authored by Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith.

"To really discover the heart of Kerala you need to leave the beach, jump off the houseboat or troop down from the hills to the banks of the River Nila, where a variety of traditional activities are on offer with The Blue Yonder. You could spend a day river-rafting with former smugglers, help out an elephant rehabilitation centre for admire the spectacular kicks and dives of Kalari payattu, Kerala;s traditional martial art.
The Blue Yonder works with local artisans and communities to promote and preserve their culture; as such they encourage you to earn how to play Kerala musical instruments, visit villages along the river and watch traditional Kathakali(Theater) and mohiniyattam(dance).

The accommodation is also much more than just a place to lay your head0 it's integral part of the experience, especially if you opt for the homestay option with local families in preference to a stay at River Retreat, a former summer palace of the Maharaja of Cochin. You could stay with Praveen, retired early from the Merchant Navy to run a homey stay with his wife-they both also manage the local school. Or with the Namboodiris in their calms and elegant 200-year old home.

Pillars of their local rural community, the Namboodiris are well-travelled and erudite companions(he's a water engineer and expert on international development; she's an excellent guide to India's spiritual traditions.) you're free to wander round their beautiful, herb-filled garden and say hello to the resident - and cherished -cow. In the evening, you'll dine on delicious, home-grown vegetarian food while conversation drifts easily between the relevance of the Vedas to the adventures of the Namboodiri's daughter - India's first female elephant trainer - and her husband, a snake priest. "

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Blue Yonder to support WTM World Responsible Tourism Day

WTM World Responsible Tourism Day, the only global day of action of its kind, is being supported by the UNWTO and leading industry associations. The day is vital – for business, for profitability and for our planet. It means taking care of a world that we seek to promote, preserving our heritage and cultures and taking into account the views and needs of local communities.

The Blue Yonder
has been supporting this initiative for the last three years and has once again shown our commitment to Responsible Tourism. Our role doesn't stop by celebrating the Responsible Tourism day, but in sustaining our initiatives to promote and build Responsible Tourism as the way to travel.

For more details visit the official website.

As in the last 4 years, The Blue Yonder will also be exhibiting at the WTM. Details of attendance are being finalised and we will announce the details at the earliest.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Offering holidays in West Bengal - India

West Bengal, a state in eastern India, stretching from the Himalayas to the Bay Of Bengal in the south, is a popular tourist destination for its art, culture, history and natural beauty. West Bengal is an agricultural dependent state. Rice and fish are traditional favorite foods. West Bengal offers everything for a discerning tourist. From wild life tours, himalaya expeditions, exotic beach holidays to waterfalls, coffee and tea plantations.

The Kolkata city, also known as 'City of Joy' is well known for Howrah Bridge, local Bengali sweets and the world famous Shantiniketan (Visva-Bharati University) - set up by renowned poet and Nobel Laureate Shri Rabindranath Tagore.

Near the coastal region is the world's largest delta covered with 10,000 of mangrove forest, popularly known as Sunderbans. The wild life of of Sunderbans offers a fascinating diversity of terrain, flora and fauna.

On the eastern side, lies the Darjeeling, 'Queen of Hills, well known for Sandakfu, the highest peak of the state, Khangchendzonga hill ranges, Tiger Hills and heritage railway station. Kalimpong, Dooars valley and Siliguri are quite close by to Darjeeling city and make the visit a worthwhile experience for nature and adventure sport lovers.

With a combination of holidays in nearby Sikkim, we are now offering some unique and of course responsible holidays in West Bengal. Check it out here for more details.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Gardening the biosphere back to life

Monsoon clouds setting above the valley en route to Wayanad

Day before yesterday some of us from The Blue Yonder (Arun, Sandra, Gopi) went to visit our friends at Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary in Wayanad to update them on our recent initiatives and leveraging on our common interest. It was Suprabha Seshan who inspired us to launch the concept of 'One Metre Forest' in the villages where we come from. Similarly we came back smiling as she gave us another beautiful term to define the work Botanical Sanctuary is involved in : "Gardening the bio-sphere back into life". We don't think there is no other way to express what they do!! How beautiful...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

"Wishing trees" of Nila

sapling planted last year post monsoon.
7th July 2009, as part of eco-restoration initiative along Bharathapuzha (River Nila) in Kerala, we had an initiative where we invited friends, volunteers and our local community members to plant a tree. The event which is part of Traveller's Forest initiative we started last year, brought together people from various background and locations for the common cause. Musicians from Vayali, volunteers from Pravah, The Blue Yonder, Nila Foundation, Gandhiyan Prakrithi Chikilsalayam and Punarjeevani Trust celeberated the day planting about 120 indigenous saplings that constitute a typical sacred grove of Kerala. Another 100 saplings will be planted in the coming week and volunteers are also implementing what is known as "one metre forest".

The idea is to ensure that we don't just plant some saplings here and there, but replicate miniature sacred groves that were so plenty in our area even couple of decades back.

Dr M. S Swaminathan once said of Sacred Groves "Unlike, a botanical garden where a wide range of trees and plants are collected and cultivated for the purpose of education and enjoyment, the sacred groves are one method of expressing the gratitude of human families to the trees which sustain and support life under a given agro-ecological condition."

volunteers from Vayali on their way to traveller's forest
Arun our colleague at The Blue Yonder and Nila Foundation, who is leading the Nila Foundation's initiative on 'one-metre-forest', explained "We were inspired by the concept of One-metre-forest during a discussion at Gurukula Botanical Garden in Wayanad where Suprabha Seshan that we try to get friends plant 'forest' or let it grow naturally with no human intervention. Even at a time when the real-estate prices are sky-rocketing in places like Kerala, not many people wouldn't have hesitation to maintain a one metre forest in their plot if it's looked up on as an investment for clean drinking water for the future. Preaching about the impacts of global warming, or future war for water wouldn't stop people from leading the un-sustainable life style we all lead. However, if we can link this to a day to day reality, a reality where one ends up drinking the 'chlorine treated pipe water' instead of the clean water source from a well or a pond in villages, we are certain that people will become proactive to plant more trees."

Trustees of "punjarjeevani' who are implementing partners of The Blue Yonder and Nila Foundation
Of the 120 saplings we planted, many of them were special as we planted it on behalf of many people we knew. Listing some of them here.

** May I have a "I love my son" tree?
** Could you please plant a tree for our wedding date
** For my family
** One for the spirits of the past, present and future?)
** For a life that is full of adventures
** One for the decriminalisation of gay sex in India (which for me is a big step in a democracy),
** Another one for the strife in Iran (whatever, the outcome, it makes me happy to see that people come together to fight for their freedom. It gives me hope)
** A tree for a marriage I witnessed
** A tree just to celebrate life (and lots of thoughts and wishes).
** "THANK YOU for a good life" tree

"if its not too late, could I have one more tree for my Uncle Johnny? He loved them, would never even accept cut flowers until the end of his life - scolding people who "killed plants":) And he always wished to be remembered in this way, actually..."Plant a tree for me!" he used to smile.."And I'll be with you always.." Could you - please? "

Volunteers from Vayali and Pravah at the "traveller's forest"
While we planted for our friends around the world, we had few things to look at. We planted trees for /to
** our team at Vayali who won the Change Loom Awards last week,
** to celebrate the naming ceremony of one of our colleague's son,
** to make up for a bird that one of us killed when he was 7 years old ( yeah, now don't think this is like a carbon-offset program! ;)),
** a plant for our friends and families,
** for an uncle who died,
** for a friend who lost her son in an accident,
** for a colleague who completed an amazing book on rivers in Kerala,
** for our teachers and more than anything
** for a river that we destroyed,
** for a river that we have pledged to bring back life into it.
** for a river that brought many of us together to understand the meaning of life!

Why don't we all start planting trees to celebrate? Why gift useless presents for your friend's wedding, when giving a plant could bring cheer for many generations to come?

More pictures from the planting can be seen here

Friday, 3 July 2009

Sunderbans featured in The Hindustan Times

Click on the above pictures to read the photo feature prepared by Madhu Reddy, who travelled as a volunteer to the Sunderbans as part of Responsible Tourism initiatives to document the disaster and the work being done there. The initiative was started by The Blue Yonder, Help Tourism and, in association with Association for Conservation and Tourism to respond to the devastating Cyclone Aila that hit the eastern part of India on 25th May 2009.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Important archaeological finding left un-attended

A finding of historical importance left un-cared

Anakkara along River Nila is becoming a site of great importance because of many recent findings. So this morning we decided to go and find more details that that is available online. Idea was to meet the local Panchayat president, meet the owner of the place ( the land belongs to a private school that is constructing massive buildings in the vicinity). With such an important finding, we were expecting proper protection for the area, ensuring that no further damage is done to the location. Instead all we could see was a thin coir rope tied around a radius of about 5 metres. That's it! The following pictures were taken today and the text in quote is from two articles that came out in The Hindu 10 / June / 2009 and 21 / May / 2008

"The archaeological excavation at Anakkara in the district gave evidences of first excavated Iron Age habitation-cum-burial site in Kerala. Carbon dating of charcoal fragments and physical anthropological studies of bones would give more information on the chronology and life pattern of people lived in this area."

"Archaeologists have discovered a pre-historic necropolis (cemetery) with megalithic cairn circles dating back 2,500 years, many post holes that probably point to the ancient practice of excarnation, a 'wood-henge'-like ritual monument and a site of primitive astronomical intelligence at Anakkara, near Kuttippuram in Malappuram district."

River Nila flows in the background of the escavated site.

"Excavations at the site, a laterite plateau atop one of several primary hills overlooking the Ponnani river at Valayangad in Anakkara grama panchayat, have revealed three chamber tombs containing burnished black and red ware, black bowls and some iron objects commonly seen among megalithic grave goods. Archaic features of the burial type and the conspicuous absence of non-local artefacts among the interred objects suggest that the find is around 2,500 years old. Valayangad literally means the burial place with cairn (stone) circles, derived from the ancient necropolis of cairns. "

The three burial rooms refered in the press reports

"Interior of the stone circle is divided into three chambers using granite boulders. In this, two chambers were excavated and in each chamber large burial urns with burial goods like iron implements, bone and pots were noticed. Special features of the burials are the occurrence of a hanging lamp and the burial goods were found kept in the river sand at the bottom of the urn, possibly indicating some sort of rituals associated with riverbanks."

In less than 100 metres away from the 'escavated burial ground, laterite stone cutting is going on un-disturbed. It was in a similar site that workers came across "caves" and gets reported to the Archaeological Survey of India. If this finding was in some other countries, I can't imagine this happening. Reckless Government, reckless people?

The tiller was working hardly 20 metres away from. Wonder what all they might have crushed away ! Look at the massive construction going on in less than 60-100 metres away from the burial site?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Irresponsible NGO campaign

Independent UK review :The Barefoot resort features 18 environmentally sustainable, rustic cottages set against a jungle backdrop
Survival International accuses Barefoot group of endangering the lives of the entire Jerawa people and of potential genocide!

On 16th June 2009, we received several forwarded emails from friends and colleagues about a press release from Survival International titled, "Celebrity resort threatens isolated tribes". This was of concern for us at and The Blue Yonder as the Barefoot Group is one of our partners in business. We have recommended them to our guests , they impressed us by sharing their credentials and initiatives as a responsible service provider. We have been working together and a campaign accusing one of our partners as 'irresponsible" and worse, accused of threatening the survival of the Jarawa people of the Andaman Islands came as a shock.

" Survival believes that by constructing at Collinpur, you are endangering the lives of the entire Jarawa tribe. If a serious epidemic were to strike them then your company could be responsible for their genocide. We urge you to abandon all plans to build a hotel in this location" (read the direct letter from Survival International)

We approached Samit Sawhny (Managing Director) of Barefoot asking if the accusations were correct or not and if Barefoot had a statement to make. The well-documented reply that we received from him makes us quite sceptical about the real intention of Survival International and we believe that this issue has to be brought out in the public domain.

We urge you to read the contents in the links Press Reports from Survival International and Responses from Barefoot.

Based on Survival International's accusatory and ill-worded press release and Barefoot's response, this appears to be a malicious campaign by an NGO based on sheer ignorance, carelessness or ... We have seen many businesses in the travel industry that would fit into the domain of being irresponsible. We have also seen many travel companies, accommodation providers and governments being accused by NGOs of being irresponsible. We want to stand by one of our partners who is engaged in a legally and responsibly managed business. Campaigns based alone on emotions and celebrity name-dropping (like Kate Winslet) can bring in sound bites, but should lose credibility if the facts are not right.

We would like to hear your opinion: Can NGOs freely accuse any business of wrong doing, without substantiated research and evidence? Aren't NGOs accountable for their words and actions? Doesn't responsibility apply to NGOs as well, or is this confined only to private business and governments?

We would like to hear your voice on this topic! Join us on the forum to discuss the responsibilities of NGO campaigners.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

TBY featured twice among '500 new ways to see the world'

Cover page: edited by Jeremy Smith and Richard Hammond

Discusses 500 experiences and different ways to travel. This book lets you discover various adventures from sleeping in houseboats in Kerala and witnessing the zebra migration in Botswana to taking the train-hotel from Paris to Madrid. It offers information on the best hotels, resorts, and tours run by people who are passionate about what they do.

Pic: Kerala scenes, Kathakali performance, practicsing Kalaripayattu, peppercones growing in the sun

The following excerpts are from the book
" To really discover the heart of Kerala, you need to leave the beach, jump off the houseboat or troop down from the hills to the banks of the River Nila, where a variety of traditional activities are on offer with The Blue Yonder...."

"The Blue Yonder take guest to see people who make dolls like this"
"The largest state in India, Rajasthan is also one of the most beautiful and exciting - home to colourful markets, welcoming cities, vibrant music and delicious cuisine. The royal palaces that pepper the state feature heavily on tourist itineraries, rich , decorative and intricate, they epitomize the luxury and decadenance of the Raj. But for those who want to go behind the scenes, India-based travel company The Blue Yonder runs custom-made trips that allow you to explore what really makes Rajasthan tick. "