Freshman Year

Villagers Experience First-Hand Training

The village of Ban Lion on Koh Phratong became a real-life classroom for two days in June. Built after the tsunami, Ban Lion is a collective of people from many different villages and cultures, yet they live together harmoniously.

We held a training and pilot tour on how to manage and develop activities for tourists, with help from the Mangrove Action Project. The villagers’ enthusiasm was encouraging…

“A place is about the people. The people of the Ban Lion Village made the experience. The guides and homestay hosts exuded an enthusiasm that cannot be imitated. Their pride and willingness to share their way of life was remarkable,” said Program Development Manager Mimi Cheung.

Ban Lion is surrounded by a fertile mangrove forest and swamp forest, and the villagers take pride in the biodiversity in and around their village. There are marine animals such as sea turtles, dugong, and dolphins. Bird watchers rejoice at the abundant avian offerings, including the rare lessor adjutant stork.

Ban Lion Village was built with the support of Lions Club International for tsunami-affected people from several villages on Koh Prathong, including Pak Jok Village, which was totally destroyed. The ultimate goal of the training is to promote development of community-based tourism. “By sharing their lifestyle and the jewel of Koh Phratong, the villagers pride increases as well as their motivation to preserve the place they call home,” said team member Leslie Welshimer.

Koh Phratong’s stunning environment has made it a focus of conservation groups like Naucrates and Mangrove Action Project (MAP). Andaman Discoveries, North Andaman Community Tourism Network (N-ACT) and MAP (Mangrove Action Project) collaborated to offer the training for Ban Lion village in June (with funding support provided by the Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism).

Jeannine Curd, volunteer English teacher and pilot tour participant, said, “I feel honored to have been a part of the first group to come to this village on a CBT program. The people were all very helpful.”

Jaruwan Kaewmahanin (Ning), Thailand Field Project Manager for MAP, said, “Ban Lion is unique because it is a collective of people from many different villages and cultures, yet they can live in a harmonious way.”

Read Leslie Welshimer’s pilot-tour participant story.