Best of the Maldives: Largest Floating Solar System – LUX South Ari Atoll

LUX South Ari Atoll - floating solar system 1

LUX South Ari Atoll floating solar farm is using the sea to save the sea. Exploiting the expansive areas of sun-drenched waters, their floating solar system is the not just the Maldives’ largest, but the world’s largest:

  • “This unique technology called SolarSea gathers solar energy directly on the ocean to power the island in an eco-friendly fashion. As part of the resort’s commitment to sustainability, LUX* South Ari Atoll has pledged to minimize carbon dioxide emissions. To achieve this goal, the five-star luxury resort partnered with the leading solar provider Swimsol, an Austrian-Maldivian company, which provided a solution to overcome the limited space available for solar panels on small tropical islands. Consequently, Swimsol developed the first and only patented floating solar system that is designed to withstand the harsh conditions of the waves, storms and saltwater…The resort is already using a rooftop system with the same solar company. Once all suitable roofs were covered with solar panels, the resort decided to expand beyond the shoreline with twelve SolarSea platforms. Thereby the solar capacity increased by 40% and reached 678 kWp, enough to power all guest villas with solar energy during the peak sun hours. The result is cheaper energy and a saving of more than 260,000 litres of diesel per year that previously were needed to produce the same amount of electricity with combustion engines.”

Sunny days to un-warm the ocean.

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Best of the Maldives: Coral Reef Art – Sirru Fen Fushi

Sirru Fen Fushi - coral frame 2

I rarely visit the same island twice (there’s just too much great stuff left to discover) much less write about the same feature twice. But islands get revamped and become entirely different properties which warrant taking an entirely fresh look. And the same is true with Sirru Fen Fushi’sCorallarium” which started life as a surf-breaking art installation, but is now morphing into a reef regeneration project:

  • The Coralarium structure, and the sculptures within, act as an artificial reef, encouraging local marine life to make it a home. Up to 5m tall, each one of the soaring sculptures is constructed of more than 500 ceramic ‘starfish’ that have been specifically designed to attract a variety of fish and crustaceans – the hard shells catch and hold biomass, or ‘fish food’, which encourage coral larvae to attach and thrive, while nooks and dark cubbyholes in the structures provide a hiding place for a variety of fish and shellfish. Each sculpture is brought to life through its union with the life that attaches to it, transforming them from concrete to textured, living organisms.”

Great to see the second life to this installation giving the coral reef new life.

Sirru Fen Fushi - coral frame

Best of the Maldives: Lights Out Event – Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru / Angsana Ihuru

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru - dawn till dusk

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru holds a monthly event to raise awareness of energy conservation to reduce carbon footprint by completely shutting off all electrical lights on the resort for 12 hours:

  • “Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru launched a 12-hour lights-off event under the name ‘Connect to Earth from Dusk till Dawn’ on September 14. The monthly occurrence is scheduled for full moons in order to take advantage of natural luminescence while the two resorts switch off their lights from 1800 to 0600 hrs. Connect to Earth from Dusk Till Dawn is inspired by the Earth Hour Movement, an annual celebration marked by switching lights off for a one-hour period. ‘By switching off the lights for one hour, we can make a substantial difference in the energy consumption and we can help reduce the effect of global warming’, stated the General Manager of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru, Hicham Najdi…During the event, dubbed 6to6, restaurants and bars will be candlelit and a special full moon in-villa dinner can be arranged for guests upon request. The Marine Lab Team will also organize an ‘Under the Full Moon Night Snorkel’ to provide a unique underwater experience to the guests.”

The initiative is not just eco-friendly but imparts an extra romantic tone to the evening with candlelit areas and meals. Furthermore, turning off the lights in one of the few electrified places in that part of the ocean reduces light pollution making star gazing all the more dazzling.

Best of the Maldives: Easy Wipe Forms – Reethi Faru

Reethi Faru - easy wipe forms

For decades, the dream of the digital revolution was the eco-friendly paperless office. Yet, despite the profusion of connectivity and devices, dead trees still seem quite prevalent in the world of administration. You can understand that there are just some areas and applications where electronic record keeping is just impractical. Like on a dive boat where water is sloshing around and the risk of loss is high. Still, despite the extra obstacles of its environment, the Sea Explorer dive centre Reethi Faru is one of the most radically paper-free operations I have come across.

And they have not had to invest tons of money into fancy applications and sophisticated electronics. Just some clever approached. Their innovation is simply to laminate all their forms and fill them out with easy-wipe markers. Once completed, the centre takes a smartphone picture of the phone and saves it electronically. Simples. They use this technique for their registration forms, nitrox logs, dive logs and every part of their business that needs something completed and recorded.

Best of the Maldives: Ghost Net Bracelets – Faarufushi

Faarufushi - ghost net bracelets

Not just a “Best of the Maldives”, but possibly the Best of the Best from the 2019 Tour, or at least the most enduring, as both Lori and I are still wearing ours back in Blighty – Ghost Net Bracelets. Faarufushi’s Marin Biologist Giulia Pellizzato working on retrieving “Ghost Nets” – fishing nets that have gotten snarled or caught up and so the fishermen just abandon them in the water where they continue to trap and kill sea creatures.

The nets themselves are made of nylon and so Giulia wanted to come up with a way to upcycle them rather than have them add to the landfill of the Maldives. She decided to unravel the strands of plastic twine that they were made of, and use that material to make some woven bracelets. The process is a bit labour intensive so she has a small stock now. She gives them out as a reward to guests who help her with her reef survey work on the island.

The blue and green of the material, coloured that way by design to blend into the ocean when fishing and not scare away the fish, evoke the tapestry of colour which makes up the Maldivian seascape. I’m not a big accessory person, but there is something heart-warming about wearing something that was removed from the Laccadive Sea and is now on my wrist rather than snaring turtles, dolphins and other tragically unfortunate ocean friends.

Faarufushi - ghost net bracelets 2

Best of the Maldives: Sand Flow Research – Taj Exotica

With the help of MIT, the Maldives are looking for some “homegrown” islands themselves. A study taking place at Taj Exotica, is investigating ways for islands to build themselves: “MIT’s bold plan to save the Maldives–and the world”. Ocean currents notoriously strip shorelines and sandbars taking their material away. The “Growing Islands” Self-Assembly Lab is looking at ways to turn that ocean force to advantage, but instead to get it to deposit sands onto the islands to build them up.

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Video Series – Soneva Fushi

 

The Netflix series “Our Planet” is the latest in the David Attenborough wildlife adventures with an increasing emphasis on its fragility and need for preservation. Soneva Fushi introduces a slate of its own budding guides to the natural world of its own little plot of sand in the middle of the ocean with its Change-Maker series and the efforts they are undertaking to preserve this little corner of our planet…

  • “Films that highlight how we’re recognising and tackling some of the issues greater than ourselves; told by the Change-Makers of Soneva. These amazing individuals represent everything we stand for – recognising that it’s their role to be part of the positive change we want our planet to see. From Ellie Butler, Soneva Jani’s Marine Biologist tackling ocean plastic to Chef Kevin Fawkes, who creates dishes beyond our wildest imagination with ingredients from our organic garden.”

Best of the Maldives: Ultrasound Scanning – Six Senses Laamu

Inventive electronic gizmos to help you see go to new depths at the Six Senses Laamu reefs where they have introduced underwater ultrasound. No, not another bizarre underwater activity designed for babymooners, but a thoroughly innovative technology to research the gestation of baby mantra rays.

  • “The Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) at Six Senses Laamu…facilitated introductions between the creators of the world’s first non-invasive underwater ultrasound scanner and provided a site for field testing…Two years ago, MUI brought together some of the great minds in veterinary technology and challenged them to create a device that could ultrasound scan Laamu’s resident population of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi). ‘MUI aims to be a marine conservation visionary,” says Marteyne van Well, Six Senses Laamu general manager, ‘One of the ways we’re leading conservation efforts in the Maldives is by providing a platform for discussions on, and the field testing of, this world-first technology.’..IMV Imaging’s Duo-Scan:Go Oceanic is the first ever technology to allow contactless scanning of wild marine animals at depths of up to 98.5 feet (30 meters), while also being portable (the dive rig weighs less than 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms). The aim of bringing this technology to Laamu was to scan wild pregnant reef manta rays in order to study gestation and embryonic development…Laamu is home to 125 reef manta rays, which display courtship behavior during two annual courtship periods: May-June and October-November. Each year the Manta Trust has identified between one and 11 pregnancies…Manta Trust researchers have been field testing the Duo-Scan:Go Oceanic in Laamu for the past year and a half. Over this period, they successfully developed approach methods and obtained ultrasound scans of wild pregnant and non-pregnant reef manta rays.”

Best of the Maldives: Reusable Straw – Kuredu

What you don’t want to find on your underwater
Maldives adventure is a bunch of ugly and harmful plastic. People around the world and no less so in the Maldives itself are re-examining how they use plastic and looking for non-plastic alternatives. One option to throwing out plastic straws, it to have a re-usable, non-plastic straw. That was the objective of FinalStraw which is like the straw that James Bond would have (if he drank his martini that way).

Kudos to Kuredu for being the first resort to introduce this elegant innovation to a challenge affecting very close to their home…

  • Now available for guests, FinalStraw allows guests to take our commitment to reduce single-use plastics beyond Kuredu Island Resort, and provides great souvenir as well.”

Best of the Maldives: Solar Building – Kudadoo

Kudadhoo - solar 1

The roof over Kudadoo’s over water pavilion sets a new standard for solar ambition. The Champa resorts keep upping the bar on the solar investment across their estate after their snaking jetty of panels at neighbouring Hurawalhi. The 320-kWp solar system generates enough electricity to power the entire resort:

“Committed to your well-being and that of the planet, Kudadoo reinvents sustainability – we take pride on the island being powered by the sun 100%, and on eco-conscious choices that intertwine the design, conceived by the architectural mastermind Yuji Yamazaki, and adventures to create a luxury experience that threads lightly.”

With all of these energy sustainability investments in the country, I’ve add a new “Solar” tag for all of the sun powered initiatives in this sun-drenched destination.

Kudadoo - solar 2