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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
Not the Martha and the Muffins classic, but a new perspective on beach beauty by Six Senses Laamu who are preserving vibrant marine life even if it means much bigger landscaping budget (thanks Paola):
“It takes a lot of effort to maintain the picture perfect white beaches and powder blue turquoise lagoons at tourist resorts. Many of the resorts in the Maldives actively destroy their seagrass beds to maintain this facade. Six Senses Laamu has changed this attitude and are now actively promoting the protection of their seagrass beds as they are a haven for megafauna including green sea turtles, sting rays and baby sharks in addition to being a nursery for juvenile fish, providing oxygen, storing carbon, improving the health of adjacent coral reefs and preventing erosion of the island.”
The resort clarifies that “We have a team of gardeners at Six Senses Laamu that rakes the beach and place the dead seagrass in the jungle so that it can still contribute its nutrients to the coastal system, while also ensuring guests can use the beaches.”
For an helpful introduction to the importance of sea grass in the Maldives, check out the video below.
“Going green” is common practice for Maldives resorts who very existence if so dependent on and interwoven with the surrounding natural beauty. But I’ve never seen quite as much “green” as Hurawalhi’s staff compound wall. Nearly all resorts have segregated staff areas where a lot of the machinery of the resort is situated and the staff can conduct their lives freely (eg. walk around in their casual clothes instead of smart uniforms). A number of resorts make an effort to dress these walls or fences up a bit so they blend into the surrounding a bit more, but few have gone to the length of Hurawalhi with their greenery wrapped enclosure.
“The world’s largest and the Maldives first 3D-printed reef was installed by a resort at the weekend, with the technology being used to help protect coral reefs. The artificial reef, assembled with hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules, was submerged in seven metres of water in a part of the lagoon where Summer Island Maldives is building a new coral reef ecosystem…The project started in Australia, where industrial designer Alex Goad of Reef Design Lab used computing modelling to design reef structures similar to those found naturally in the Maldives. A 3D printer took 24 hours to print moulds which were then cast in ceramic, an inert substance similar to limestone rock, and shipped to the Maldives. They were filled with marine concrete on the resort’s beach before being taken into the lagoon and assembled. Like a giant aquatic LEGO set the 220 ceramic, concrete-filled moulds were slotted together underwater to create the new reef. Coral fragments, grown on the resort’s existing and extensive coral nursery, were transplanted onto the 3D reef. In a few years, when the corals have colonised the reef, the resort wants a new reef teeming with fish and other marine life. If the 3D printing technology proves successful, it could be a new way of helping coral reefs adapt to a warming climate.”
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.”
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.
Do not touch or chase the animals, including marine creatures such as sngrays, turtles and crabs.
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)
It is not permied to catch, kill and eat animals.
Do not pick up coral or shells. Do not damage them.
Do not cook any kind of food in the room ‐ kindly contact the Front Desk for any special requests.
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.
There is no lifeguard on duty, snorkeling and swimming is at your own risk. Please make sure you are using the proper safety equipment.
Each accompanying parent is deemed responsible for the safety and behavior of their children.
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.”