The tiny atolls of the Maldives draw luxury lovers from all over the world, but these low-lying collections of sand will also be the first to be affected by the rising sea levels and coral bleaching of climate change. It therefore makes sense that many of the region’s luxury resorts are carving out a niche as leaders in sustainable and eco-friendly tourism. These eight resorts are leading the way in preserving the area.
Set on Sirru Fen Fushi (Secret Water Island), a private island in the northern atoll of Shaviyani, the Fairmont Maldives is fringed by a lush mangrove forest and a natural lagoon. The area teems with marine life – from sea turtles to hermit crabs – and the surrounding sea is home to several manta ray cleaning stations. Marine biologist Samuel Dixon lives on-site and is in charge of a worthy coral regrowth program as well as guided tours for guests, while the in-house art gallery – with installations designed to highlight the effect of climate change on the marine ecosystem and the relationship between humans and the sea – encourages guests to interact with the local coral and ocean life.
Using dives to educate travellers on the delicate local eco-system, Eco Dive Club allows its volunteers to explore the undersea utopia that has made the Maldives famous – but also asks them to do a little bit of work along the way. Volunteers can do their part to help collect marine waste via beach and reef clean-up excursions or become underwater gardeners by helping to plant coral – holiday diving never left you feeling this good.
The Marine Discovery Centre at the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Haraa was first established in 2011 and acts as an education and conservation hub. It’s also the headquarters of the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Program; five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles call this idyllic part of the world home, including the endangered hawksbill and green turtles. Guests can get involved in the protection and rehabilitation of the animals, including watching rescued green turtles being raised from tiny hatchlings and then released back into the ocean. There are also 3D movies and 2D presentations on shark and dolphin conservation screened regularly. The group has three lavish – but just as environmentally friendly – properties in the Maldives.
A short plane ride from Malé is Baa Atoll, and you’ll find Reethi Beach Resort on the nearby island of Fonimagoodhoo – a tiny speck in the ocean that is just over half a kilometre in length. Yet, even an island this remote is still not free of the world’s plastic pollution, so the resort is determined not to add to the problem. In order to do its part, Reethi Beach Resort employs an innovative water conservation system: it captures rainwater and bottles its own drinking water in reusable glass bottles, saving an estimated 400 disposable plastic bottles a day.
One of the biggest environmental costs of staying at a remote luxury resort – such as those you’ll find in the Maldives – is the sheer effort and food miles that it takes to bring guests their many fine-dining meals. At the Six Senses Laamu, the Earth Lab aims to alleviate this problem by growing as much produce as it can on the premises, bottling its own water, using natural insecticides to ward off bugs and looking at all forms of sustainability in an effort to eventually achieve their zero-waste goal. Its dive shop, Deep Blue Divers, is also certified by Green Fins, a global initiative to reduce the environmental impact of marine tourism.
Making it easier to recycle on the disparate islands of the Maldives is a key aim of the Parley Ocean School – an offshoot of the global Parley for the Oceans project. One of the organisation’s key aims is to mitigate the amount of plastic entering the oceans, which it does through spreading global awareness, organising ocean clean-ups and creating innovative consumer products out of recycled plastics collected from the ocean. Their clean-up efforts were so successful that Adidas even made a shoe from the recycled plastic waste collected from the Maldives a couple of years back.
A desalination plant is helping to keep the pristine beaches of the Maldives’ Kuramathi Island Resort – a boutique accommodation aimed at the couples market – free of plastic bottles, but the establishment is also a leader in other areas of conservation. Since 1999, the resort’s Eco Centre has been doing coral reef research and taking care of a coral reef nursery, in addition to offering snorkelling safaris with a trained marine biologist. It also has a hydroponic garden that produces vegetables and makes use of solar energy.
Utilising all the unseen roof space at this upscale luxury resort, Lux South Ari Atoll aims to run fully on solar power and eliminate the need for diesel-powered electricity and the pollution that comes with it. The resort – which has bagged Travelife Gold Certification in recognition of its sustainable tourism efforts – estimates that the project saves it from using around 234,000 litres of diesel per year.
This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine