Best of the Maldives: Edible Straws – Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem - edible straws

We all can embrace the ocean with more sustainable choices in what we consume and discard. One of the areas getting lots of scrutiny these days is plastic use. Bottles and bags have already been targeted, but a more recent opportunity is to cut down the use of plastic drinking straws. Carpe Diem (note: the resort is not yet open, but the Carpe Diem cruising yacht is in operation) is not just taking a bite out of plastic use, but is introducing straws you can take a bite out of yourself:

  • ”It’s widely claimed there are enough plastic straws to wrap around the Earth’s circumference 2.5 times each day. Because they are so small, most straws are not recycled and usually end up in landfills and waterways, where they linger indefinitely, harming wildlife, and marring the natural beauty. Made to disappear and designed to have the same functionality expected of a plastic straw, Lolistraw will last for up to 8 hrs in a beverage and will have a shelf life of up to 24 months. When you’re done sipping your drink, you can eat the straw or compost it. The founders of LOLIWARE and the straw’s designers, Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker, have coined the term ‘Hyper-compostable’ to convey that all of their products, including Lolistraw, will break down at the same rate as food waste in compost or in the natural environment, such as a waterway.”

Best of the Maldives: Guest Contract – Medhufushi

Medhufushi - guest contract

The first principle to saving the planet is personal responsibility and no resort fosters more than Medhufushi with their inspired guest “contract” of “behaviour rules”. When I coached rowing at Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, the programme introduced a very similar contract for all the athletes to sign. It put down on paper important responsibilities and forced everyone to give it more than a fleeting consideration as they were putting their signatures on it.

One of the biggest obstacles to a more sustainable lifestyle is people simply not knowing the adverse impacts some seemingly innocuous activity can have. One of the most prominent examples is STANDING ON THE CORAL. To the uninformed, lots of coral can appear like simply underwater rocks. But despite their stony exoskeleton, they are indeed living animals (not even plants) and standing on them hurts them and can kill them.

Even if you aren’t checking into Medhufushi, their guest rules is a handy guide to do’s and don’ts anywhere in the Maldives:

Dear guest, please acknowledge the following rules. It is for your own safety and enjoyment, and they will help Medhufushi Resort to preserve its natural beauty. Any failure in following these guidelines will incur in a fine of 300 USD.

  1. Do not touch or chase the animals, including marine creatures such as sngrays, turtles and crabs.
  2. Do not feed the animals, including fish and sharks. (There is a fish feeding session organized by the hotel for all guests at 21:00hrs every evening)
  3. It is not permied to catch, kill and eat animals.
  4. Do not pick up coral or shells. Do not damage them.
  5. Do not cook any kind of food in the room kindly contact the Front Desk for any special requests.
  6. During snorkeling excursion, please, Do not stand or walk on the coral it is a delicate living creature that takes several hundreds of years to grow and it is the very foundaon of the beauty.
  7. There is no lifeguard on duty, snorkeling and swimming is at your own risk. Please make sure you are using the proper safety equipment.
  8. Each accompanying parent is deemed responsible for the safety and behavior of their children.

Best of the Maldives: Artificial Reefs – Summer Island

Summer Island - rope reefs

Earth Day today. Time to give back to the planet that gives us all so much. In the Maldives, probably the biggest initiative to strengthen the planet are the reef building initiatives to restore coral stressed by rising sea temperatures as well as outbreaks of COTS. Dozens of resorts invest in these reef regeneration projects, but I’ve never seen so many different approaches than Summer Island.

I’ve already written about their submerged Underwater Objects as well as their Coral Pops. They have also built a series of artificial reefs, the most recent being 15m x 2m x 4m constructed out of limestone rocks. Their latest innovation is a series of Coral Ropes. These serve as a coral nursery to incubate coral growth. Less than 2.5% die, and the ones that live are transplanted to the new artificial reefs:

  • “Three pipes are completely winded in rope (needed over 500 meters) and 2 in fishing nets that were removed from the surrounding reefs. The plateau is hovering (we placed buoys inside the pipes) and it’s 6 meters long & 2 meters wide. The pipes are full of Durban dancing shrimps, Bruun’s cleaning partner shrimps and banded boxer shrimps. In between the ropes we already fixed a lot of coral fragments that are all alive AND growing ! Basically a home for a lot of life and we made it hovering so that if there were any crowns of thorns, the corals won’t be eaten by these damn creatures ! Underneath are limestone rocks where lion fish and octopii are hiding.”

Reef Madness!

Summer Island - artificial reef

Best of the Maldives: Organic Eggs – Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu - organic eggs

If the Easter bunny is looking for the best eggs for tomorrow’s baskets, he might want hop on by Six Senses Laamu. Yes, April Fools is tomorrow, but this announcement, “Six Senses Laamu Crafts Out-of-the-Ordinary Experiences on Land and Underwater”, came out last week so it appears to be legic (thanks Paola):

  • “The latest crafted experiences from the resort comes in line with two other Six Senses values of sustainability and pioneering wellness. This time the newest arrivals to the island are a flock of 24 chickens from two neighbouring islands, and their reservation at the resort is made for a long stay. Before their arrival the flock was vetted by Raymond Rochester, a guest and visiting veterinarian. They were given a warm welcome by the resort hosts and upon arrival, in line with guests experience, they are assigned a Chicken Guest Experience Maker (Chicken GEM) available to help make their stay comfortable. Their accommodation is located at the newly built organic Kukulku Farm. Kukulku is the word for chicken in the local language of Dhivehi…Resident Manager Frans Westraadt along with Sustainability Manager Megan O’Beirne supervised the preparation of the Kukulhu Farm. It includes a state-of-the-art chicken gym facility, a multi-level installation with terracing steps for exercise sessions and handmade nests that follow the fundamental philosophies of the Sleep With Six Senses programme.”

One of my favourite egg-cellent press releases of all time.

Six Senses Laamu - chicken spa

Best of the Maldives: Eco Straws – Anantara

Anantara - eco straws

Happy New Year 2018! Time to set resolutions for the year ahead. Usually New Year’s Resolutions are about making ourselves better, but Anantara is leading the way with its resolution to make its properties better at making the world better…

  • “From January 1, every [Anantara] hotel, restaurant and bar at the resorts throughout Asia will use alternatives to plastic for people to sip their drinks through. Biodegradable and recyclable alternatives will replace the 2.5 million plastic straws that had been used every year.”

What’s your eco-resolution to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle?

Don’t Pass the Bread

Why We Dont Feed the Fish

Killing with kindness. That is the extreme view of often completely well-meaning serving up of all manner of ‘treats’ to seemingly eager marine life all too eager to gobble it up. But short term wins (for the fish) can often have longer term losses.

World Environment Day today celebrates taking care of our world, but also raising awareness of the complexities of this complex eco-system we inhabit. Some of the worse fish feeding is the breads pilfered from the resort buffet (as the pictogram above describes). But even feeding fish scraps to scavenging fish like jacks and rays can pose problems. While the food itself might be fine for its digestion, etc., the practice can provoke adverse behaviour. Not just bad for the fish, but bad for people too (eg. they can start to associate food with humans and get more aggressive with humans thinking you might have some fish scraps tucked somewhere in your swimsuit).

There are no easy answers to making the world a better place. All we can do is try to learn as much as possible and respect the understandings that we do have. Just like the deep-fried Mars bars and doughnut-bunned burgers, not all meals are really that good for sealife.

Best of the Maldives: A La Carte Stations – Club Med Finolhu Villas

Club Med Finolhu - a la carte station 1

When I visited Morocco, I enjoyed a night in a Bedouin tent under the desert stars, but I must say that the highlight was the bustling, buzzing Marrakesh market square at night. An acre-sized tapestry of tiny market stalls all cooking up some specific delicacy concocted from the colour full piles of spices we saw touring the souks earlier that day. Club Med Finolhu Villas has the posh version of Jemaa el Fna with a collection of gourmet stations to cook you a variety of dishes for your meal.

You get to see the food like a buffet (instead of depending on menu descriptions), but freshly prepared to order like a la carte. We’ve all had our freshly prepared eggs and noodles dishes, but these were filet beef and sautéed fish dishes with delicate sauces. The approach was particularly helpful for people with weak English. But one of the biggest benefits was reduction of food waste. The on-demand cuisine meant that only food people were going to eat was prepared instead of large mounds of buffet offerings which (by definition) never get fully consumed (see the explanatory sign at the resort restaurant below).

Club Med Finolhu - food waste

Best of the Maldives Online: Coral Bleaching Monitoring – Coral Reef Watch

Coral Reef Watch

Hopefully, reefscaping initiatives can help restore what humans (global warming) and nature (El Nino) have disrupted on the spectacular underwater world of the Maldives. To understand and track the severity of the current challenges, the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration features a powerful online tool with literal gauges for the impact of water temperatures on the sea life called “Coral Reef Watch” (thanks Paola):

  • The purpose of these Regional Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress Gauges is to provide coral reef ecosystem managers with a comprehensive summary of current satellite-monitored and model-projected bleaching thermal stress conditions to help facilitate timely and effective management actions pertaining to mass coral bleaching.”

Everyone likes it toasty and sunny in the Maldives, but we would also like to keep the ocean cool place not just for refreshing dips, but also to keep vibrant the marine ecosystem whose foundation is the bountiful coral reefs.

Coral Reef Watch 2

Best of the Maldives: Budget Reefscaping – Shangri-La Villingili

Shangri-La Villingili - reef scaping 1

Mothering Sunday today will see lots of blossoming plants given to cherished mums across the British Isles, but Shangri-La Villingili has a gift you can give Mother Earth at a very reasonable price. An eco-planter for the “earth” that makes up the vast majority of the Maldives isles.

Instead of larger wire mesh frames, Villingili’s reef regeneration uses smaller blocks of concrete. They don’t cut the coral grafts, but collect broken coral. They then affix these to small blocks with epoxy and set them in the lagoon for about 18 months after which they are moved to the outer reef.

The resort hosts coral planting 10:30 am every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday for a mere $25 (compared to what is often hundreds of dollars for sponsoring coral frames).

The small price doesn’t mean small scale. Activity leader Yawlng Wong took me through the presentation they give to the guests about the program which illustrated how popular and expansive the results have been. I’ve shared a few of both the photos and the informative diagrams below…

  • Overall objective: To develop a hard coral nursery to provide a continuous supply of cultivated corals derived from broodstock
    • Coral culture in nursery from initial fragmentation of wild colonies / ‘corals of opportunity’ collected
    • Ongrowing of broodstock to become the source for all fragments to be planted in rehabilitation operations
    • Encourage guest participation in coral program

 

Shangri-La Villingili - reefscaping 2

Shangri-La Villingili - reefscaping 3

Shangri-La Villingili - reefscaping 4

Shangri-La Villingili - reefscaping 5

Shangri-La Villingili - reefscaping 7

Shangri-La Villingili - reefscaping 8

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Planters – Six Senses Laamu

Six Senses Laamu - recycled flower pots

Earth Hour today – “The world’s largest demonstration of support for action on climate change. Last year, millions around the world across 178 countries came together to show support for action to protect our amazing planet.”

A popular celebration of Earth Hour is planting trees and other greenery to rejuvenate the Earth, sequester carbon from our atmosphere. Others will be pushing for sustainability initiatives like recycling. Six Senses Laamu offers a sustainable flower pot that combines both…

  • “Make your own sustainable flower pot! Our guests joined Megan, our sustainability officer and discovered how to make art and not waste, by making their own flower pots from our recycled crushed glass! Every month, Six Senses Laamu recycles hundreds of glass bottles that are reused throughout the resort in different forms. One of our favorite ways to use this recycled glass is in different art projects. We invited our guests to join us in the Earth Lab where they learnt how to make beautiful and unique flower pots out of reused glass. What better way to start off the spring than to plant something new in your own handmade flower pot!”

After all, glass is just sand and that’s pretty much most of the “earth” in the Maldives.  In honor of the day, I have added the tag “Recycling” to the blog.