Saving Dive It / Lie In

Maldives National Day today. Celebrating its independence from the Portuguese. Unfortunately, the country is still dependent on the rest of the world taking action on climate change. The very aspect which makes the Maldives to alluring, also makes it the most vulnerable. The country lies right on the edge of sea-level. Like the classic plot of sand with a palm tree. Nearly all of the Maldives wonder takes place a meter below (snorkelling) and a meter above (max elevation of the country) sea-level. As a result, changes in sea level have a profound impact on the country even existing at all (or just eventually becoming on big underwater reef).

Furthermore, one of its great attractions is it colourful reefs, but now these are being threatened by warmer sea waters in which the vibrant coral cannot survive. It is no surprise then that the entire country has become one of the most environmentally progressive on the planet. You start to appreciate your planet under your feet more intently when you only have a tiny patch of it to stand on.

Maldives Complete has been covering the many eco-sustainability initiatives by the various resorts for years now. Here is a top ten list of their ecological initiatives…

  1. EDUCATION– Kuramathi [ABOVE]
  2. RECYCLING – Kurumba
    Kurumba recycling 2
  3. REEFSCAPING – Kandooma, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, Kurumba
    Kandooma reefscaping labels 2
  4. SOLAR POWER – Club Med Finolhu Villas
    Club Med Finolhu - solar panels 1
  5. REEF RE-GENERAT-ION – Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru
    Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru Lotus project 2
  6. LOCAL SOURCING – Jumeirah Vittaveli
    Jumeirah Vittaveli - local sourcing
  7. VOLUNTOURISM – Soneva Fushi
    Six Senses Voluntourism
  8. WASTE REDUCTION – Soneva Fushi
    Sineva Fushi - food waste reduction
  9. MANTA RESEARCH – Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru
    Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru manta sculpture
  10. TURTLE RESEARCH – Four Seasons Kuda Huraa
    Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Nargis Fakhri turtle

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Welcome – Club Med Finolhu

Club Med Finolhu - solar panels 1

Welcome to the future!

Maldives has been introducing a range of eco-sustainable initiatives, but Club Med Finolhu Villas actually introduces you to their resort with an imposing eco-investment – a solar panel jetty.

In a part of the world with so little real estate but so much sunshine, the pressing question is ‘where do you find the space to put solar cells.’ Well, resorts face the same question for their villas and the answer has been, something the Maldives has plenty of, over the water. So their welcome jetty and their water villa jetties are rooved with large solar arrays. It’s not only eco-friendly, but it’s a great way to provide a shaded walkway (no more burning your toes on hot timber) and has a stylish design flair to boot.

The resort describes the initiatives as…

First ever 100 percent solar-powered high-end resort, developed by Global Pvt Ltd. Nearly 6,500 square meters of the resort, which will be operated by Club Med, feature solar panels capable of producing up to 1100 Kilowatts at power peak when the island really only needs around 600 Kilowatts at peak load.”

One of the things that I have decided to add to the Resort Profiles after this tour is a picture of the “Welcome Jetty”. It is a feature that does vary dramatically from resort to resort. I don’t think that prospective guests will choose their resort on it, but I think it is one of those details that provides a glimpse into the style and character of the property. Club Med Finolhu Villas certainly stands out in this regard with a greeting of style and innovation.

Club Med Finolhu - solar panels 2

Best of the Maldives: Food Waste – Soneva Fushi

Sineva Fushi - food waste reduction

Two global events this week nourish the appreciation of food itself especially in the Maldives. I’m not talking about savouring fine gourmet delectables, but simply appreciating the very basics we consume every day. World Environment Day this past weekend promotes a healthy planet which sustains our food supply. Too many food industry practices – from clear cutting rain forests for grazing land to indiscriminate marine life casualties of fishing practices like drift nets – spoil the very Earth that sustains us. And coincidentally, the month of Ramadan starts this week. Where cutting back on food all day (building one’s appreciation for it) it central to the celebration.

One of the biggest environmental issues with food is waste. It affects both the production (making more than we need) and the consumption (disposing of the waste we don’t use). And the resort who is actively addressing this big issue in sustainable food consumption is Soneva Fushi. Soneva recently conducted a comprehensive food audit to underpin changes in their operations to minimise food waste…

  • “Soneva Fushi, the multi award-winning luxury resort in the Maldives, has recently joined hands with LightBlue Environmental Consulting to implement a food waste audit, to understand and address the problem of food wastage that affects the entire hospitality industry and to reinforce its position as global leader in sustainability. The United Nations recently highlighted that food wastage was one of their most urgent priorities and countries all over the world are beginning to realise the true negative impact of food waste. The United States has announced plans to cut its food wastage by 50 percent by 2030; and while the European Union has set itself the same target, it hopes to do it by 2020…A detailed Food Waste Monitoring System was implemented by LightBlue across the Soneva Fushi operations for seven days, and included hands-on training as well as raising awareness among kitchen employees, stewards and service staff. Employees sorted, weighed, defined and recorded waste for every shift (breakfast, lunch and dinner) to establish a food waste baseline (grams of food waste per cover) and understand where they could focus their efforts on. The detailed audit helped answer crucial questions related to food waste: How much (in kilogrammes), where (in four categories: spoilage, preparation, buffet and customer plate waste), when, why, and what food is discarded. The assessment also reviewed how much it cost, and how much could be saved through the implementation of strategic recommendations along the food chain, mainly during purchasing, receiving, storage, prep, communication, buffet, and service…Gordon Jackson, the Waste to Wealth Manager at Soneva Fushi. ‘There was quite a dramatic reduction to the organic material being sent to out composting site. So we are down by about 50 percent already,’ Gordon said.”

Waste not, want not.

Soneva Fushi - food audit

QI Part 8 – Turtle Day Edition

Hatchling scampers to a new live at sea during our 2015 Velaa visit.


Q: What is the best way increase the odds of sea turtle hatchlings surviving?
A: Put them in nurseries to help them grow stronger?
Q: Buzzzzzz! Nope. The fairly common practice of collecting hatchlings and protecting them by nurturing them in special nursery pools turns out to cause long term problems for the turtles.

World Turtle Day today is the opportunity “to bring attention to, and increase knowledge of and respect for, turtles and tortoises, and encourage human action to help them survive and thrive”. Most people know about the dangers of plastic refuse to turtles (they get caught in six-pack rings and mistake plastic bags for jelly fish which they try to eat). But even those keen to help the critters are less aware of the issues with well-intended turtle nurseries.

The nursery misconception stems from the “numbers game”. As Marine Biologists Tess Moriarty and Dee Bello (who kindly provided most of the research for this piece) from Velaa resort (THE Turtle resort – “Velaa” means “Turtle” in Dhivehi) describes, “For turtles it is always a numbers game, they have many threats to their survival and it is commonly known that many do not make it to adulthood.” The concept of nurseries is to allow the hatchlings to grow to a more significant size where much fewer predators would be able to manage eating them.

Unfortunately, turtle nurseries have a number of problems for the turtles they are trying to help…

  • Predator Dangers – Turtles may evade predators when small, but then don’t learn to and how to avoid them later in life which keeps them vulnerable.
  • Diet – Nursery turtles don’t get to eat the staples of the normal ocean diet like jellyfish or sargassum.
  • Orientation – One of the miracles of turtle procreation is how they instinctively head to the water’s edge on birth, but then also they come back to where they were born to nest s adults. Studies show that taking hatchlings on birth into nurseries disorients them and they don’t return to nest.

So what CAN be done to help these endangered little tykes? Dee offers up the following…

  • Hatcheries: This technique is when the nests are relocated from where the female lays the eggs on the beach to a different location. This is used on beaches that have severe erosion or flooding problems and thus the nests would not survive, nests that are too close to the shore line and would get inundated and mostly on beaches where human poaching of eggs for food is abundant. This method actively saves many eggs and ensured they can develop and hatch, thus increasing the number of hatchlings making it to the sea.
  • Fencing the nests: Shielding both the hatchery and on the beach deters humans from poaching eggs from the nests as they are under surveillance. It also ensures that there must be someone present to release the hatchlings into the sea when they emerge from the nest and thus predation from crabs and birds is greatly reduced.
  • Protection laws: Creating laws that prohibit the killing or possessing turtle products it directly influences their populations. The protection of adult females laying eggs, poaching of the eggs on the beaches and the capturing of turtles in the sea, increases the amount of turtles and nests on the beaches.

Of course, all these measures are focused on the young turtles. But even when they get all grown up, they still could use our help in surviving (especially since human actions cause many of the adult hazards)…

  • Turtle Exclusion Devices (TED). Turtles need to breath air in order to survive and unfortunately when they get trapped in nets they are unable to do so. This can be avoided using TED’s where turtles can escape the nets intended for fishing other fish.
  • Research: Understanding where turtles migrate to (using advanced tools like satellite tracking), at what times and their feeding and breading patterns can help aim protection to make it more successful and increase awareness.
  • Awareness: By spreading the word about the turtle population’s vulnerability, more people understand their situation and need to protect them. This awareness leads to leads to less poaching and donations that support more conservation projects.

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Charcoal – Soneva Fushi

Soneva fushi charcoal

World Recycling Day today. Most resorts are recycling the basics these days – glass, paper, plastic, food waste. Others like Kurumba, have introduced more ambitious efforts to be “refuse neutral”. One of the eco-leaders is Soneva Fushi and their eco-charcoal facility. Charcoal for cooking and BBQs is produced out of waste wood from landscaping and construction. In fact, they produce so much that they sell it to other islands.

Soneva Fushi charcoal 2

Best of the Maldives: Tree Planting – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - tree planting 1

The first day of spring today as we passed the Vernal Equinox. A natural cause for celebration (especially up north) as the days now get longer than the nights. This celestial event is celebrated in a number of ways from throwing coloured powder (for the Hindu Festival of Holi) to balancing an egg (ancient Chinese belief says that you can stand an egg on its end on the first day of spring since due to the sun’s equidistant position between the poles of the earth at the time of the equinox, gravitational forces are balanced out).

But spring is especially a time of sprouting and rebirth. The baby lambs have started emerging on the farms in our area. The Mirror describes, “Spring equinox is symbolic of rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in ancient Italy, it was traditional for women to plant seeds in the gardens of Adonis on this day. The custom persists in Sicily, where women plant seeds of grains – lentils, fennel, lettuce or flowers – in baskets and pots. When they sprout, the stalks are tied with red ribbons and the flowers are placed on graves on Good Friday, symbolising the triumph of life over death.”

A number of resorts have offered tree planting on their property, but a few have stopped (running out of space) and others don’t support plaques. I appreciate that such commemoratives need to be done with taste and aesthetic sensitivity, but I do love the notion of being able to leave a positive part of yourself after your departure. Giving a people commemorative opportunities builds the sense of connection to this paradise and a reinforces an enduring empathy and support for its environmental challenges.

Sun Siyam Irufushi does support tree planting accompanied by simple wooden plaques noting the special occasion of the visit (cost is $300).

May your spring blossom with the vibrant colour of the Maldives wherever you are.

Sun Siyam Irufushi - tree planting 2

Best of the Maldives: Aqua-Solar Power – Gili Lankanfushi

Gili Lankanfushi - floating solar panels

Earth Hour today.

“As the world stands at a climate crossroads, it is powerful yet humbling to think that our actions today will decide what tomorrow will look like for generations to come. This Earth Hour, ​switch on your social power​ to shine a light on climate action. This is our time to #ChangeClimateChange…our future starts today.”

One of my favourite Earth-friendly initiatives in the Maldives is Gili Lankanfushi’s floating solar panels. One of the challenges to solar power is finding a place to put the surface-area driven collectors. Not a problem in the middle of a desert. But in a densely populated location a bit tricky. Some have tried putting them on roofs. What the Maldives do have is lots of water. And so Gili’s solution is so fitting. It’s sort of a floating solar lilo.

“Gili Lankanfushi is happy to announce its partnership with Swimsol, an Austrian company that specializes in groundbreaking floating solar power solutions. Their idea is to bring green power to parts of the World, like the Maldives, where land space is limited. We are lucky enough to have Swimsol’s largest product so far; a 15 x 15 metre floating solar power platform. The platform itself is an engineering marvel; an innovative floating structure that is designed to survive waves and water turbulence. It consists of glass fibre tubes, aluminum frames and 112 solar panels. Weighing over 5 tonnes, it took nearly one third of Gili Lankanfushi’s hosts to push it into the water. Today after more than two weeks of hard work in the blistering heat of the dry season, the Swimsol team have plugged the largest floating solar platform in the Maldives into Gili Lankanfushi’s power grid. Swimsol’s platform has a nominal capacity of 28 KW and on sunny days it will produce up to 200 kWh, which is enough to power the equivalent of all our pathway and jetty lights, as well as the Front Office lighting for 12 hours! The platform will reduce our carbon footprint by 35 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to the emissions of 30 return flights from Europe to Maldives per person!””

(thanks Paola)

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Garden Plots – Kurumba

Kurumba - bottle garden 1

What better use for a bottle than an S.O.S. message? How about an S.O.S. for the entire planet? Starting with creating a sustainable gardening plot? Kurumba used old beer bottles to build an array of gardening plots on the island giving new eco-friendly meaning to the word “bottling plant”. I guess the “S.O.S.” message in their bottles stands for “Sustainable Old Steins”. Not to mention that they have literally created the infamous song…

A hundred bottles of beer in the wall, a hundred bottles of beer…

Kurumba - bottle garden 2

Best of the Maldives: Recycled Christmas Tree – Anantara Dhigu / Veli

Anantara - coconut Christmas tree

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
Thy candles shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There’s only splendor for the sight.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

One more sleep until Santa pays his visit to the good girls and boys. The girls and boys at Anantara (Dhigu and Veli) have been so good this year, they made their Christmas tree from discarded coconut husks. It shines in the day from the bright whit paint as well as at night with the constellation of fairy lights. One & Only Reethi Rah also has its own coconut Christmas tree (see below), Anantara has not just one, but three trees.

Furthermore, Anantara has gone a step further with another tree made out of old Evian bottles (see below)!

The three coconut trees on Dhigu are 2.5 meters, 3.4 metres and 5.0 metres high, with the tallest one made from 800 coconuts. The other two trees take up around 400 coconuts between them. The bottle tree is 6 meters high and is made from 720 bottles.

O Tannebaum! You’re Green not only in the summertime

Anantara - coconut Christmas tree 2

Anantara - recycled bottle Christmas tree

One and Only Reethi Rah coconut Christmas tree