National Geographic World Legacy Awards - Judging

Mark Thornton Safaris, Tanzania

"It takes thousands of years to create a natural ecosystem, but only a few days to destroy it forever. Tourism, when conducted responsibly, is a powerful vehicle for conserving such irreplaceable natural areas"

- Mark Thornton, Founder and Director

What does it mean for you to be selected as a World Legacy Awards Finalist?

Being selected as a finalist recognizes the dedicated work being carried out by small, grassroots organizations and companies throughout the world. Our wilderness expeditions are one small part of a broader effort to improve livelihoods and sustainably manage resources in Northern Tanzania. In an industry that increasingly focuses on luxury, we are pleased that National Geographic recognizes that true luxury is not solely about amenities, but rather about experience and exclusivity through low impact travel that keeps the wilderness pristine and free from infrastructure.

Why is sustainable tourism important to Mark Thornton Safaris?

In East Africa, we see both the rapid destruction of wild areas and highly creative efforts to conserve them. Sustainable tourism, operated with a mission to protect the natural world, can have a meaningful positive impact on local communities, visitors, and the broader environment. Our company is small and founded on a passion for the extraordinary wilderness here in Tanzania. Seeing wild areas compromised by irresponsible development gives us great motivation to be ever more involved in operating our safaris in the lightest manner possible, and in working with communities to best manage remote areas. By bringing travelers closer to nature, our expeditions allow them to gain a first-hand appreciation for the urgent conservation issues our country faces. Our safaris also give us an important opportunity to help monitor threatened habitats and wildlife.

What sustainable tourism accomplishment are you most proud of in your work?

With other concerned organizations and small companies, we are engaged in the Simanjiro Grazing Easement. We are immensely proud of the success this initiative has achieved in conjunction with the local Maasai communities to manage the Simanjiro Grasslands. These are critically important areas for migrating wildlife from Tarangire National Park, as well as for the pastoral livelihoods of local people. Without the easement, most of these areas would have been lost. We are also honored to be working hand-in-hand with the authorities in managing the road-less core conservation zones of protected areas. We are firm believers that eco-lodges and permanent camps are vital in generating income to protect areas, but that some areas should maintain the wilderness in its purest form. We believe our mobile walking safaris provide a valuable, low-impact, and exhilarating tourism option to explore such areas without leaving a trace.

Misool, Indonesia

"By considering the environmental impact of every business decision we make, we protect not only the reefs, but also the future health of our business."

- Marit Miners, Co-founder

What does it mean for you to be selected as a World Legacy Awards Finalist?

Misool's selection as a finalist in the National Geographic World Legacy Awards is an honor as well as an incredible affirmation for our entire eco-resort team. This recognition confirms that the combined efforts of our guests, our local hosts, and our Ranger Patrol are truly making a difference in protecting marine habitat, empowering local communities, and even influencing crucial policy decisions.

Why is sustainable tourism important to Misool?

Our pristine natural environment is our eco-resort's key asset; it's what our guests come to experience. Our model of operating demonstrates that private enterprise can play a critical role in conservation.

Indonesia's Raja Ampat archipelago acts as a 'fish factory' here in the heart of global marine biodiversity. The waters surrounding our resort seed ocean currents with fish eggs and coral polyps, effectively repopulating the entire Coral Triangle. This means that the conservation gains we make in Misool have far-reaching implications. As we work to preserve the world's richest reefs, our resort and charitable foundation are proving that sustainable tourism and community-based conservation can be mutually beneficial. Our guests are engaged and enthusiastic nature lovers and fierce guardians of the ocean. By joining us and supporting our sustainable tourism initiatives, they take a direct role in protecting marine ecosystems throughout this diverse area. We could not imagine a more elegant solution.

What sustainable tourism accomplishment are you most proud of in your work?

Undoubtedly, our most important achievement is the 300,000 acre Marine Protected Area which we established in 2005. Safeguarding these waters effectively expelled shark finners, who catch sharks solely for their fins, long-line fishing, and halted all marine extraction in an area of profound scientific importance. All fishing inside this zone is now prohibited, and the area is protected by our own locally-staffed Ranger Patrol. Without their vigilance, none of this would be possible. And in turn, the Ranger Patrol wouldn't be possible without the steadfast support of our guests. Through sustainable tourism, our business, our foundation, and our community are protecting our most critical shared asset: a healthy, flourishing reef system.

North Island, Seychelles

"We do not see tourism and conserving the natural world as two parallel endeavors, but rather as one single integrated enterprise working together for success."

- Bruce Simpson, Managing Director

What does it mean for you to be selected as a World Legacy Awards Finalist?

The objectives of the World Legacy Awards align perfectly with North Island's goals to be a leader in sustainable conservation, and are reflected in the success of our Noah's Ark project. As our luxurious island hideaway connects guests with the environment in meaningful, lasting ways, we prove that a world-class travel experience can go hand-in-hand with a sustainable approach to conserving the natural world.

Our Noah's Ark project is a long-term island ecosystem rehabilitation project to remove non-native vegetation and replace it with indigenous plants and trees. In this way, damage inflicted on this unique habitat by previous human neglect has been rolled back. A number of native species have returned of their own accord, and other rare species have been reintroduced now that North Island again offers pristine habitats.

Why is sustainable tourism important to North Island?

Sustainable tourism is the only form of tourism that can work in our environment. Remote, fragile ecosystems of limited extent are particularly prone to over-exploitation and degradation. We are stewards of North Island, charged with the care of this precious resource not only for the enjoyment of tourists, but also to increase awareness of Seychelles as a destination, and improve the lives of local people through job creation and skills training.

We take immense pride in offering unique experiences in a way that causes no harm to the natural environment and encourages visitors to learn more about our rehabilitation and conservation work both onshore and offshore. Many of our guests are respected thought leaders, so by sharing our sustainable tourism message with them, we also reach many others worldwide.

What sustainable tourism accomplishment are you most proud of in your work?

In 2005, the diminutive Seychelles white-eye, one of the world's rarest birds, faced extinction. Thanks to the habitat restoration work that had already taken place, North Island was selected by ornithologists and the Seychelles government as a reintroduction site for this species.

Some 25 individuals were released here and studied by our environmental team. Their findings about the white-eyes' behavior and habitat preferences helped guide ecosystem management decisions. Our white-eyes population grew steadily, and the late 2016 census showed 105 white-eyes now on North Island. The species is now listed as Vulnerable rather than Endangered, in part thanks to the North Island reintroduction.

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