|Big Blue honours eco-partners|
|Thursday, 26 January 2012 10:52|
Celebrating 12 years of ecotourism in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Big Blue Unlimited shared its passion for the environment and honoured those who have helped in their mission over the years.
On Jan. 23, Big Blue held its Expo 2012 on Providenciales, where it presented six awards to individuals and one company who have supported it over the years, making a significant impact on the growth of tourism on North and Middle Caicos while respecting and honouring the culture and environment they represent.
Cardinal Arthur, Susan Butterfield, J.D. Thomson, Lawrence Campbell, and Sara Kaufman and Daniel Forbes of the Middle Caicos Co-op were all presented with Ecotourism awards by Mark Parrish and Philip Shearer, co-owners of the ecotourism adventure company. Parrot Cay was also presented with an award for its ongoing commitment to find ways of being green.
Big Blue also officially launched a short film about the company. Since its inception 12 years ago, Big Blue has been highly focused on giving visitors a unique perspective on the islands. From above and under the water and everything in between, it offers opportunities for guests to get up close and personal with nature. More than just experiencing the environment, Big Blue is educating visitors about the marine and underwater wildlife.
Looking toward the future, Big Blue hopes to help foster the desire in young people to continue to care for and protect the islands’ natural resources.
The expo also marked the official launch of the company’s education initiative with TCI’s public high schools. The company plans to partner with local schools to promote a Marine Aptitude Program offering TCI school children the opportunity to learn more about the aquatic environment in which they live.
“We want to identify youth who can safeguard the future of this country,” Shearer said.
He said there is a dire need to support sustainable ecotourism in the country, and while the task is large, “One change is better than no change at all.”
Ecotourism award winners
Born in 1949 on Middle Caicos and schooled there in Conch Bar, Cardinal has vivid memories of Hurricane Donna that ravaged the islands in 1960. Like many islanders, he left to find work in Freeport in the late 1960s and returned in 1975.
He then made his living working the ocean off South Caicos and in construction on Grand Turk and later on Providenciales. In the 1990s Cardinal turned his hand to tourism and has been a leading ambassador for Middle Caicos ever since. His knowledge of the islands is unsurpassed. His stories and anecdotes are legendary.
Johnston arrived in 1989 from Galveston, Texas, to help build new roads on Provo, and like many of us fell in love with the Turks and Caicos Islands and its people. Affectionately known as J.D., he is what you would refer to as the “salt of the earth;” he’s hardworking, honest and innovative. J.D. can make and fix anything from row boats to home brew, and of course a favourite among the women of North Caicos are his skills repairing washing and sewing machines.
A bush mechanic in the truest sense of the word, he has been essential to the support of Big Blue’s remote and roving ecotourism base on North Caicos for the last 12 years by keeping the bikes, kayaks, scooters and vehicles running and turning up with all in tow at the right place at the right time.
Known to most as Mac or M&M taxi, Lawrence has been an integral part of tourism and transport on North Caicos for many years. Born and bred in Sandy Point, Mac and his family have supported Big Blue’s ecotour program for many years and have introduced many other key partners along the way. A jovial and knowledgeable guide, Mac knows his trade inside and out.
He is an expert on everything and everyone on North Caicos and has contributed enormously to tourism on that island. He has stuck it out through thick and thin when North Caicos was a sleepy little island with nothing more than a rickety old dock in Sandy Point. Now he sits at the gateway to the heart of the Caicos Islands.
Big Blue is currently collaborating with Mac to open an information center in Sandy Point village. The center will provide information to visitors and an opportunity to learn more about and donate funds to conservation initiatives on North and Middle Caicos.
Susan Butterfield is a leading matriarch in the village of Kew on North Caicos. She has built her own house, farmed her own land, brought up countless children in her household, including two of her own, and worked hard all of her life to make it happen. She spent a number of years working as a chef in Freeport before coming home to work at the Prospect of Whitby.
A chance encounter in Kew back in 1999 and a brief discussion about providing lunches for riders on the then new North Caicos Bike Ecotour has led to a decade-long relationship with tourists visiting the Garden Island. Since that day she has provided countless delicious meals and many interesting and worthwhile experiences for Big Blue guests and has become a key component of the award winning “Heart of the Islands Ecotour.” Now 72 years old, she is still cooking and entertaining Big Blue guests on a regular basis.
Sara Kaufman and Danny Forbes have been instrumental in the facilitation of ecotourism on Middle Caicos for more than a decade. Daniel’s famous café and Sara’s untiring energy and organizational skills have propelled the island into the mainstream for exposure and a must see destination for visitors in the Caicos Islands. This is especially impressive given the historic inaccessibility of the Middle Caicos. One major contribution to ecotourism that we would like to highlight tonight is the ongoing success and role that is played by the Middle Caicos Co-op.
By guaranteeing the purchase of handcrafts, this entity has been able to improve the lives of many residents across North and Middle Caicos and has safeguarded the skills and traditions that have existed on these islands for more than two centuries. The co-op has been entirely funded by Sara and Danny, and their unwavering faith in its purpose has resulted in a now more or less self-sufficient, non-profit organization that we are all grateful for and they should be very proud of. We at Big Blue would like to show our appreciation to their enormous efforts by presenting them both with an ecotourism award.
Photo: Big Blue team
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