#BeResponsible – “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.”

Building a biorock together with Gili Eco Trust and ISS

Blog post by IYOR2018 intern, Talia Wong:

Today we’ll be kicking off the series with #BeResponsible.

We’ll be talking about Ecotourism and Responsible Tourism and how The Dorsal Effect as an eco-based travel agency fits into it.

First, we’ll be revealing the defining traits of Ecotourism & Responsible Tourism, identifying their commonalities and differences.


The terms Ecotourism and Responsible Tourism have been used interchangeably, especially by tourist operators, mainly because the boundaries between these two terms are rather blurred since they are based on similar concepts such as soft tourism, ecodevelopment, appropriate tourism, sustainable tourism etc.

Ecotourism taps onto the appeal of the local natural, ‘undisturbed’ ecological environment with the emphasis on maximizing community benefits and minimizing environmental damage through an environmentally responsible behaviour. Fundamentally, ecotourism is still a form of tourism which aims to have its tourists leaving satisfied with the whole experience.

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Responsible Tourism has to do with the impacts of tourism on both the physical environment and social well-being of the local community. As such, Ecotourism is enveloped in this broader Responsible Tourism concept.

Screenshot 2018-01-09 at 10.02.01

Social engagement generally takes place due to an internal conviction related to socially based motivations. For example, if you’re an animal lover, you’ll be more inclined to donate money to an animal care foundation or more likely to volunteer at SPCA shelters. This is the same for tourism. By engaging the values of the tourist, we can enable change in their behaviour through physical work, social interaction or even financial compensation for environmental footprints.

Unfortunately, while the knowledge of an environmentally responsible behaviour comes from greater awareness and the possession of environmental knowledge, it does not often translate very well into the appropriate actions. This is particularly so during vacations when making a compromise between personal pleasure and environmental protection is difficult. (“We’re on holiday, why should we care?”)

For us, we believe that being environmentally responsible need not be confined to the eco site. In fact, such behaviour crosses into both the public and private sphere be it in an activist movement or just a pro-environmental habit you picked up along the way. It does not necessarily have to effect immediate and large-scale changes, it can be something personal and small if it is consistently performed that it becomes an automatic action.


Tourist numbers per trip are kept low
Tourist numbers per trip are kept low


Here at The Dorsal Effect, we have adopted a responsible ecotravel approach. The foundation of our ecotourism is based on the physical environment and the support of local shark fishers. With the help of YALE-NUS and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), we were able to conduct coral surveys and identify potential attraction sites. Tourists are not left out of the equation (cue, environmentally responsible behaviour) as they too play an important part in maintaining the site and sharing their experiences after.
Of course, we note that becoming environmentally responsible does not take place overnight. As an ecotravel agency, we seek to spark curiosity among tourists who come along on our trips which can then potentially pave the way for more responsible environmental behaviour in time to come.

Building a biorock together with Gili Eco Trust and ISS
Building a biorock together with Gili Eco Trust and ISS


The Dorsal Effect currently organizes 2 types of eco-trips – one catered for the public and the other for students.  The former itinerary involves a visit to the Tanjung Luar shark market and boat snorkelling trips which usually takes up 1-2 days and is usually part of the tourists’ larger holiday itinerary. The latter itinerary has more of an “eco-fieldtrip” experience with students not only visit the shark market and go on snorkelling trips but are also being taught to build bio rocks, collect beach trash, visit the local schools at Tanjung Luar and more.

The Dorsal Effect intends to focus more on students and has collaborated with YALE-NUS, ISS International School (ISS) and Singapore Management University (SMU) since starting the business.

In hopes of enabling pro-environmental practices, The Dorsal Effect wants to reach out to more schools and engage young minds who possibly hold future leadership positions.

For the school trips with YALE-NUS, ISS International School and Singapore Management University (SMU), we conducted a post-trip survey to identify areas we excel at and areas we can improve on.

There were three main takeaways from the eco-fieldtrips.

Firstly, a positive experience can influence attitudes and influence environmentally responsible behaviour. All students found the eco-trip to be enjoyable, meaningful and educational with 97% intending to commit to some form of action after the eco-fieldtrip with 56% intending to reduce their single-use plastic usage and 10% reducing their seafood consumption.


When asked about the direct influence The Dorsal Effect had on them regarding shark fin consumption, 80% agreed to avoid eating shark’s fin for the rest of their life.


Besides, the multi-sensory experience experienced through snorkelling, visits to the shark market, involving stakeholders, end-of-day debriefings and reflections offers a chance for the student to be more involved and connected to the Lombok situation and shark fin trade. Students have suggested for a longer eco-trip duration conducted under more informal settings to improve the experience. A student from ISS mentioned that she came “to do things not to listen in a classroom setting”.  After all, students and tourists, in particular, are voluntary learners. Long hours of sitting and lecture-style educational programmes are ineffective and not meaningful.

Lastly, the survey also sheds light on the potential emergence of a different kind of service learning trip that interacts with the marine environment and coastal communities.


“need for conservation is as much a human issue as … the survival of our planet”

As tourism in Lombok is still in its initial stages, it is more vital for the Indonesian government or the local government to make a conscientious effort to publicly manage assets, regulate operations and prioritise sustainable practices. For example, the government can support initiatives to reduce transport pollution and protecting eco-sites.

A suggested poster of things to do and what to avoid for the locals
A suggested poster of things to do and what to avoid for the locals


We have seen in recent times that with other fishers or locals seeing value in joining this new trade, many of them do so carelessly and irresponsibly, risk damaging the fragile marine environment. Examples of irresponsible behaviour include dropping anchors onto corals, unregulated tourist numbers at sites, littering, feeding fishes at snorkel sites, not informing tourists to refrain from touching, harassing marine life and picking shells without a care for the natural environment. Not only does it damage the environment, it risks the option of a viable alternative livelihood from the finning trade.

Moreover, research has shown that by publicly involving the government, tourists are more likely to be open and trusting to the idea of ecotourism which can favour the further development of responsible ecotourism.

For many of us, “travel(ling) more” is up there on our 2018 resolution list. However, there is frequently little mention about travelling more responsibly despite soaring literacy rates and environmental degradation being the talk of the town.

So, we urge you, why not make 2018 your year of responsible travel?

Till next time, we hope you enjoyed this entry (:


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