About Araucaria Ecotours
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The hoop pine (Araucaria Cunninghamii) grows on our property and in neighbouring forests.
The other Australian species is the bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii, important to the Aboriginals), and some of these have been planted on the Araucaria property. The Norfolk Island pine and the monkey puzzle tree of South America are also Araucaria species.
The Araucaria family - Araucariaceae - has a long history. It seems to have originated in Gondwana (the great southern supercontinent that included Australia, Antarctica, South America, Africa and India) before the days of the dinosaurs, and spread through much of the world. Later the family contracted again to be primarily southern hemisphere while Pinaceae while was the main conifer family of the Northern Hemisphere.
Araucaria species are nowadays found only in eastern Australia and neighbouring islands (New Guinea, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island) and the southern half of South America. Others in the family are the wollemi pine (found only in one locality west of Sydney) and Agathis (including the kauri pine of New Zealand, with other species in Fiji, Australia, New Caledonia and New Guinea, and extending into south-east Asia as far west as Sumatra
"Ecotourism" refers to tours which are: (a) nature-based, (b) environmentally sound and where possible contributing positively to conservation, (c) educational and (d) benefiting the local community.
Ronda was involved in ecotourism long before the word was coined. Inspired both by a wonderful week at Binna Burra and a far less enjoyable experience at a holiday farm, she left school to found and run a holiday farm which emphasised both horsemanship and nature studies for almost three years before entering university to study zoology.
Click here for more details on ecotourism, our own dedication to ecotourism principles, and eco-accreditation
Ronda holds a doctorate in zoology and has had many years of experience both in ecological research and in nature interpretation for all ages, and is the main designer of the tours. She's currently chair of Wildlife Tourism Australia She speaks some Spanish and a little French and German.
Denis, her husband, has been a science and maths teacher, an industrial chemist and a computer programmer, includng interpretive nature programs.
Darren, their son, has spent his life amongst the forests and wildlife of south-east Queensland, and is a keen nature photographer as well as a talented musician. He is learning Mandarin and also speaks a little Spanish.
Ronda and Darren are the main guides for the tours. The whole family keeps the first aid training up to date, Ronda and Darren have also completed a food safety course and an AussieHost course. All have traveled overseas, including wilderness areas and cities in several continents.
We sometimes also employ local people on a casual basis, and have at times hosted work experience students and Wwoofers (Willing Workers On Organic Farms).
However, we kept trying.
After some intensive searching, we found it: 87 acres at the foot of Mt Chinghee near the Queensland-NSW border, about a third covered in fairly mature rainforest regrowth, and almost another third in regrowth, adjacent to Mt Chinghee National Park (which harbours seasonally-dry rainforest) and with views to Border Ranges National Park and Lamington National Park. It borders one kilometre of Running Creek (which has never stopped running in even the worst of droughts), and is just a 90 minute drive to either Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Steep slopes that were covered largely in weeds and land-slips are now on their way back to being rainforest.
We began running ecotours in May 1997, with just one product, the 3-day wildlife tour, in a 5-seater vehicle, advertised by photocopied fliers to backpacker hostels. Soon after, we purchased an 8-seater minibus, started our first website, and achieved eco-accreditation for our tour. Travellers who could not stay in Queensland long enough for our 3-day tour started asking about day-tour possibilities, so we added three of these (bird-watching, bush-walking and Coochiemudlo Island) and soon had advanced eco-accreditation for all four tours. We achieved our first tourism award in 2002 and have won other awards since then. All our tours have now achieved advanced eco-accreditation.
When a beautiful new Bed-and-Breakfast, Cougal Park, opened much closer to our house than the accommodation we originally used (Mt Barney Lodge: still a good place to stay), we switched to this, as Cougal is much closer to home and to rainforests with a good networks of walking tracks, and also a bit closer to the coast, enabling us to add sandy beaches, rocky headlands and mangroves to the tour.
We celebrated the tenth anniversary of Araucaria Ecotours ion 2007 with an open day for our wildlife ecology centre, butterfly trail, creek activities and 4WD trip up the hill to the rainforest regeneration area (some of the party crowd, including the mayor of Beaudesert Joy Drescher, in the photo to the right)
Our tour vehicles
Our usual vehicle is a 12-seater HiAce, but when we head to the outback, for some custom tours, or when heavy rains have made local unsealed roads muddy (on the second day of our three-day wildlife overview tour), we use a 4WD 'troopie.' Both are air-conditioned.
We tow a covered, lockable trailer. We can also bring a baby seat or a collapsible wheelchair as needed.
Wildlife Tourism Australia and Wildlife Queensland (mostly Scenic Rim branch), and represent these in other community events.
Ronda also acts as mentor to students from Griffith University, and we sometimes provide work experience to students.
Darren gives free public performances of his piano compositions to community events such as Arts Dinners and the Drumley Walk, and Ronda and Darren do heavily discounted fauna surveys for conservation groups.
See publications by Ronda here
Denis Green has written a bird call quiz which has proved very popular at the Lamington Natural History Association's Information Centre at Binna Burra (at the edge of Lamington National Park). Ronda wrote an extensive natural history information program for the same computer, using photos taken by herself, Darren Green and Lesley Hutley (former LNHA president)
Ronda Green has designed a number of nature trails and published 'Guidelines to the Preparation of Nature Trails through the Australian Conservation Foundation. She has had long experience in nature interpretation for all ages, and is currently expanding the displays in the Scenic Rim Wildlife Ecology Centre and associated nature trails on the Araucaria property
We are available for consultation on the development of interpretive materials, including nature trails and computer programs
Darren Green showed talent for music at an early age when we got our first piano and at age three, barely able to see above the keyboard, he started working out not just simple melodies but quite complex ones. He has played violin, guitar and recorder but his favourite instrument is the piano, on which he writes many of his own compositions. He also composes on an electronic keyboard (solar-powered of course) and an Apple computer. He has studied musical composition at tertiary level and gets something akin to withdrawal symptoms if away from a piano for more than a couple of days. He now performs his own compositions in various public venues.
He can be contacted on 07 55441283 for performances and for consultation on possibilities for composing music for videos (especially nature videos), games and other projects.