Mandurah duo open eco-educational not-for-profit

Passion for nature: Jamie and Sebastian van Jones are starting a eco-education not-for-profit to teach people about Peel's natural environment. Photo: Supplied.
Passion for nature: Jamie and Sebastian van Jones are starting a eco-education not-for-profit to teach people about Peel's natural environment. Photo: Supplied.

Salt and Bush Eco Tours owner Jamie van Jones and her partner, Sebastian have a passion for the environment which is evident in everything they do.

Not satisfied with simply running an ecotourism business, they have now decided to share their knowledge and love of nature with the wider community by starting a not-for-profit.

"We thought we needed to do something more than just our business," Jamie said. "We started Swanlandia Inc., which is all about ecology education. It's inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards."

The name comes from Swanland which was an early name suggested for Western Australia; and the term Landia which has the urban definition of 'A fictional relationship to a non-fictional place'.

"Our mission is to connect people to the natural world through fun and educational experiences," Jamie elaborated. "We believe that if you experience nature in a way that opens your eyes, then as you learn more about it, you fall in love with it and will want to conserve and protect what you love."

Jamie and Sebastian say running Salt and Bush Eco Tours and working as naturalist guides for the last seven years around the world, they have seen first hand the positive impact experiences in nature can have on people. They wanted to make that accessible to youth.

Salt and Bush Eco Tours and Swanlandia Inc. are run as a hybrid-eco-enterprise.

"Both our business and not-for-profit have the same aim of sharing about the natural world in fun and educational ways," Jamie said. "We just have different methods of achieving it. We are going to have 10 percent of Salt and Bush Eco Tour's profits go towards funding programs for Swanlandia Inc. programs.

"We are also applying for grants locally, to help grow our not-for-profit dream into fruition."

The couple are currently awaiting the outcome of a grant application through the City of Mandurah which they will find out about in early May.

"Even if we're not successful we'll keep trying to find another way to go head, even if it's smaller to begin with and we work our way up to what we want to eventually do," Jamie said.

The first step will be to start a group called the Cygnets which will be for six to eight-year-olds. There will be fortnightly meetings with hands on learning such as finding out how many frogs there are in a local wetland by identifying their calls, then learning about their role in echo system. Similar to scouts, children will put their learned skills to the test in their own neighbourhoods to earn badges and progress through the program.

"We'll cover all kinds of things, from birds to fungi and mammals," Jamie explained. "We hope to grow as an organisation to offer programs to all ages. We believe citizen science is a great way to engage in nature and contribute to science. Bird surveys, biodiversity counts, or programs like the Western Ringtail Possum tally, which is on over the next month, are programs we will help people to connect to locally."

Jamie and Sebastian have travelled to some of the most amazing natural habitats on the planet, such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Borneo and Papua New Guinea, but they say living in Mandurah still makes them feel blessed.

"We can see how lucky we are to live in Mandurah and be surrounded by the diversity of the wetlands, the coastline and the bush. It truly is a world class place to live," Jamie said.

Go to saltandbush.com.au for info about upcoming projects and events.