Best of the Maldives: Solar Powered – Soneva Fushi

Solar Panels
In honour of 
Soneva Fushi’s hosted Eco Conference taking place this week (if you go to their micro-site, you can find a number of press releases about some of the content), I thought that I would call out yet another distinctive for Soneva on the same eco theme.

Maldives have long been the poster child for environmental awareness and initiatives. The latest tactic in battling global warming that has gotten a big profile is solar with the President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed donned hard hat and tools and personally helped installed solar panels for his official residence.

But no one in the Maldives is going bigger on solar than Soneva

“Soneva Fushi, Six Senses’ flagship resort, has installed a 70kW solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant system that has achieved eight months of successful operation. It is the largest renewable energy plant currently operating in the Maldives, a country that has brought international attention to the issue of global warming and rising sea levels.”

Best of the Maldives: Eco Conference – Soneva Fushi

Mohamed Nasheed    Jeremy Leggett    Mark Lynas

While the focus of the Hay Festival Maldives event being sponsored by Soneva Fushi features a range of ecological issues, Soneva Fushi has gone one further by hosting an Eco Symposium ‘climate change debate’ featuring a range of premier environmental keynote speakers. One of the speakers is none other than the high profile Maldive President Mohamed Nasheed. It also includes Solar Century Founder Jeremy Leggett (with whom I shared the speaking stage a few years ago at the 2007 Tech Track Awards), and Mark Lynas author of ‘Six Degrees: Our Future on A Hotter Planet’ (which coincidentally I just read last week…scary stuff). Quite a first class line-up.

  • “The Six Senses Eco Symposium at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives from 7-10 October 2010 will have an exciting line up of guest speakers including leading consultants, environmentalists, international policy makers and visionaries…The Symposium’s opening speakers will be President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed and his advisor on climate change, Mark Lynas. President Nasheed has made worldwide headlines with his country’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2020. Mark Lynas’ bestselling book “Six Degrees: Our future on a hotter planet” won the prestigious Royal Society Prize for Science Books in 2007 and was turned into a documentary by National Geographic.Practical examples of eco technology will be showcased at the Symposium to inspire the travel and tourism leaders attending. Clean energy specialists such as Lounette Dyer of Soledo Energy, Jeremy Leggett of Solarcentury, Eric Scotto of Akuo Energy Group and Dr. Anthony Michaels of Proteus Environmental Technologies will explain how existing technology can both reduce the carbon footprint of hotels and resorts and increase profitability, the holy grail for the industry.”

Best of the Maldives: Voluntouring – Soneva Fushi / Soneva Gili

Six Senses Voluntourism

If you fancy contributing more than an afternoon helping the Maldives through a activity like reefscaping, and more than a day doing something like Earth Hour, then the Six Senses resorts Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili are offering a special ‘Voluntourism’ rate between 1st July and 12th October 2010.

“Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili by Six Senses are offering the opportunity to give something back. For the next six months, guests are invited to stay at either resort for five nights, without charge and to spend five hours of each day working on local community projects, such as marine conservation, teaching children, planting trees and learning how to turn waste into wealth. This unique Eco Season voluntourism package includes 5 nights paid, 5 nights free in exchange for 5 hours per day of valuable and motivating work for the first 5 days of a luxurious 10 day stay.

“Guests can choose from the following areas of work:

  1. Marine Conservation
  2. Waste Management
  3. Carbon Mitigation
  4. Youth Education
  5. Boost Local Island Income”

Here are links to the documents with full offer details as well as the work breakdowns.

Best of the Maldives: Eco Event – Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu

60 Earth Hour       Coco Palm Dhuni Kholu group

With such direct and high profile self-interest, the Maldives have not only been leading the calls for environmental action, but have been leading the way with their own actions. I have covered many of these pioneering initiatives recently (Eco-Friendly Villas, Nature Conservation, Eco-Friendly Resort, Reefscaping, Marine Protected Reserve). Yesterday, 27th March, marked ’60 Earth Hour’ – “global event organized by WWF (World Wildlife Fund), inviting individuals, businesses, governments and communities to turn off their non-essential lighting and power for one hour, to show their support for action on climate change.”

Not only did Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu mark the hour by switching off all lights, but they actually switched off all the islands generators and power. They further celebrated the occasion with tree planting that brought together the resort staff and the guests.

Coco Palm Dhuni Kholu tree planting

Best of the Maldives: Largest Marine Protected Reserve – LUX Maldives

BBC Fast Track

With great bounty comes great responsibility and as the location of the most prevalent whale shark populations in the Maldives, Diva resort has undertaken the most ambitious effort for underwater preservation. They are supporting the development and maintenance of ‘FenMaaDhiguRan’ (English translation – Water Flower Long Sun), the Maldive’s largest marine protected reserve.

Scuba Diva Maldives recently wrote

“Luxury resort Diva Maldives has become a flagship supporter of the recently designated FenMaaDhiguRan (English translation – Water Flower Long Sun), the Maldives’ first fully regulated, and largest, Marine Protected Area (MPA) – home to a globally significant population of whale sharks, not to mention some of the world’s finest dive sites. The first resort located within the MPA to commit to backing the pioneering conservation project with fundraising initiatives, Diva Maldives has introduced a voluntary gratuity charge scheme enabling guests to actively contribute to the conservation of the whale sharks and their habitat.”

The BBC also recently featured some of Diva’s effort to protect the majestic whale sharks including a video webcast of the work.

Best of the Maldives: Reefscaping – Kandooma

Kandooma reefscaping 1  Kandooma reefscaping 2

With all of the discussion in the past few posts of what the Maldives and resorts are doing for conversation and the environment, it turns out that ecologically-minded guests visiting Kandooma can turn their activism into a holiday activity.

Always wanted resorts to put up a board where people could plot their snorkelling sittings of the day and week. Kandooma has something heading in that direction with a ‘Marine Biologist Update’ which at least shares the latest aquatic goings on literally (or should I say ‘litorally’) ‘around’ the island (sorry – bad pun day).

The highlight of this update for me is their ‘Reefscaping’ project which allows guests to sponsor a ‘Reefscaping’ structure.

“The Reefscapers initiative is a synergy between the tourism industry, reef science and the local community around coral propagation projects. Coral propagation is a promising research field in the present global warming context, even though heavily debated as a possible solution, when compared to the surface of the coral reef threatened by climate change. With this in mind, Reefscapers developed in the Maldives, a new versatile technique, using light weight modules, to mitigate the adverse direct impacts to corals during tourism development. The success encountered when mitigating adverse impacts from infrastructure development has led to the continuation and development of the project using second and third generation fragments, with eventually 2000 m2 of reef created. So far, applications are mostly targeted towards aesthetic and recreation, but the technique also seems promising for erosion control and island protection. Recognizing the potential of the technique, the Maldivian government has decided to encourage the initiative by providing an island in order to carry out larger scale experiments.”

At the it says, Reefscaping has now extended to other resorts (Landaa Giravaru, Kuda Hura), but Kandooma was the first and is the most extensive.

(Pictures above from Crystal’s blog of her experience)

Best of the Maldives: Nature Conservation – Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru

EC3 Seed Award

I’ve been running a series of posts of the range of eco-friendly approaches various Maldive resorts are taking as the Maldives asserts itself as the most carbon progression nation on the planet. It’s not just about using the planet’s resources wisely, which many carbon reduction and intelligent design approaches have concentrated on, but it can also be about restoring, renewing and replenishing the environment.

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru received the EC3 Global annual ‘Seed Award’ for its efforts to restore the reefs around the island during and after the construction. The EC3 site includes a great video on the various efforts undertaken.

“Banyan Tree’s in-house Marine Lab at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru celebrated its fifth anniversary in January 2009, making it the longest running resort-based marine research facility in the Maldives. In the past five years, the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab has been involved in major projects such as tsunami recovery efforts, working with endangered and threatened marine species, planting coral gardens, mentoring at-risk children, and sharing sustainable livelihood methods with local communities. The successes of the Banyan Tree Maldives Marine Lab have shown that private resorts can enable stewardship and understanding of their own reefs, as well as that of the whole Maldives archipelago, protecting against phenomena such as beach erosion and coral bleaching due to climate change.”

Best of the Maldives: Eco-Friendly – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi Infrastructure

As I talked about in my last post, the drive from carbon reduction is no where more intense than in the Maldives. One of the better pieces that I’ve read about the issue was the Sunday Times article ‘Trouble in Paradise’.

While Alila Villas Hadahaa has set the bar for the villas that make up the resort, carbon footprint obviously extends to the whole infrastructure. Right now, one of the leaders in driving reductions is Soneva Fushi which has set its plan to become the first ‘carbon free’ resort. The blog on ‘Maldive Resort Workers’ reports

“The resort is already bragging about the achievements so far and points out to the cooling system for their guest rooms which uses chilled sea water drawn out from deep sea below 300m. The deep water cooling system (a 1st in Maldives) is expected once finished to replace all electrical Air conditioning units and reduce 20% of the total power demand of the island. They also claim this type of air conditioning on the island alone would save $200,000 and stop a 700k tons of carbon emission.”

The Soneva Fushi website outlines their Social and Environmental approach and initiatives in full detail.

Best of the Maldives: Eco-friendly Villas – Alila Villas Hadahaa

alila villa hadahaa design

With the country of the Maldives pledged to become the first carbon neutral sovereign state in the world, all of the resorts are ramping up their green credentials. Mind you, being a collection of tiny, remote islands has always meant that the country has had to be pretty careful about managing its limited and expensive resources.

There are lots of ways to cut the resort carbon footprint across the infrastructure and operations, but one prominent ways is the villas themselves. One of the earliest and most advanced in this area is Alila Villas Hadahaa

“Alila Villas Hadahaa is the first property in the Maldives to achieve the prestigious Green Globe ‘Building, Planning and Design’ benchmark and was designed to best adapt to the tropical climate and natural environment of the island. This includes rainwater harvesting, waste treatment, high roofed areas and open ceilings. To confirm their local social responsibility, the resort has just launched a “Gift-to-Share” programme.”

The eco-friendliness extended to the spa villa as Alila Villas Hadahaa also was called out for the top Eco-Spa’ in the Maldives in the 2009 Asia Spa Awards.