Friday, August 5, 2011

A Tour Through Our Gardens, But Not A Garden Tour

Over the past several months, among other things, I've been spending time honing the tour of our Gardens that we offer to guests and the public three times each week.  I described in an earlier post about how I was encouraged by the enthusiastic responses from those who agreed to a tour.  I'm very happy to say that responses and feedback from tour participants continue to be extremely positive.  No doubt one of the major reasons for this is because I've especially been working on my technique when it comes to pointing out bromeliad flowers, so that it's pretty much flawless by now.  Here's a rare look at the technique in action during a tour, though a photo doesn't do it justice:

Now you might say, "Rick, no offense meant to you at all because I know just how ridiculously awesome you are (aw shucks : P ) but people on the tour might just be saying that they loved it, especially if they're talking directly to you...I mean they're not just going to tell you straight up that it was boring."  Good point, friend.  I acknowledge that feedback given directly to me may or may not be genuine, but after almost every tour Tracey and Denise, who work at the front desk, are able to corroborate.  Now even if you might be skeptical about that, the most objective evidence of enjoyment I can offer is that I will sometimes reach the hour and a half we have allotted for the tour without covering everything, so I'll inform them of the time and ask if they'd like to keep going, and unless they have activities scheduled, the answer has always been an enthusiastic "yes."  Keep in mind, too, that this is precious vacation time and I am competing with some pretty impressive offerings, such as relaxing on the beach, cooling off in the pool, swimming with dolphins, going snorkeling/diving/fishing, yodeling on the pier (or is that just me?), etc.  The fact that these folks end up being happy to spend more than an hour and a half of that precious time with me on our tour is quite wonderful to see and a concrete affirmation that people are really getting a lot out of it.  Both the front desk and I have collected quotes from our tour participants, so you can get an idea of what people are saying:

"I've stayed at Kona Kai in the past and the Gardens and Tour are why we'll be staying here in the future."
"Well beyond any of our expectations."
"I'll never look at plants the same way again."
"My wife had to drag me along but now I'm really glad she did."
"This was a major highlight of our vacation."

If I had any negative feedback, I would present it, but honestly I don't.  And while the original tour focused almost exclusively on ethnobotany and economic botany, it has evolved to incorporate a number of other areas including history of the Keys and the Resort property, botany at microscopic levels, chemistry, ecology, spirituality, ethics, conservation, biodiversity and global environmental issues.  After the tour, we not only hope that participants will leave with a dramatically new perspective on plants, but also how intricately and actively connected they are with the rest of the world, humans in particular.  That being said, this is much more than what one might call a "garden" tour and I think I've found a better name for it that is much more intriguing and descriptive: a "plants-and-people-but-also-much-more-including-history-chemistry-ethics-conservation-connection-spirituality-biodiversity-environmental-issues-etc.,-and-you'll-learn-so-much-and-be-really-glad-you-took-the-time-because-it-is-ridiculously-mind-blowingly-amazing" tour.....well, maybe I'll see if I can cut out a word or two.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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