Travel and wellness writer Eva Ramirez discovers five holiday destinations around the world where you can also help to support vital marine conservation work.
Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, which in turn makes it one of the largest polluters. Globally, our increasing appetite for travel contributes around 5% of greenhouse gas emissions and the majority of this is due to the actual getting around, be it planes, trains or cars. To offset this, perhaps your next adventure could involve conservation of some kind?
Coastal areas are home to some of the richest and most fragile ecosystems on earth, but they are also the most visited by tourists. To commemorate World Oceans Day, here are 5 trips that will have a positive impact on you and the local environment which you visit. Whether you’re an ecologically-minded traveller or not, these are unforgettable, eye-opening experiences which you’ll no doubt enjoy and learn from.
What: Protected Hawksbill Turtles
Where: Jamaica Inn, Jamaica
When: August to October
There’s no doubt that the threats posed to our oceans span the entire globe. In Jamaica, the Caribbean reefs are in decline and surrounding marine species are in need of protection. Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios has its very own resident turtle expert, Mel Tennant, who has spent many years working on The Oracabessa Turtle Bay Project and Sanctuary and is always on hand to answer any questions and share his vast knowledge of this endangered species. He works tirelessly to ensure there is a protected fish sanctuary off the waters of Jamaica Inn and that the rich ecosystem here have the best chance of survival. From August to October turtle season is in full swing and guests can participate in turtle hatching sessions, helping a nest of baby turtles make their way safely out to sea. More than 100 nests and 16,000 recorded hatchlings per year can now be seen along the shores where Jamaica Inn is located. The hotel has also partnered with the White River Fish Sanctuary, a grassroots effort which transplants a fast-growing coral called staghorn along a fringe reef near the hotel. Guests can embark on glass-bottomed boat tours to observe the fresh growth as well as all of the colourful fish which reside here in their newly restored homes.
Rooms from £187 per night. jamaicainn.com
What: Coral restoration
When: April, May, October and November
If castaway vibes and total seclusion is your idea of a dream holiday, then Six Senses Zil Pasyon on the Seychellois private island of Félicité should be your next adventure. Sustainability and conservation have been intrinsic to the conception, actualisation and day-to-day running of this resort. They’ve been recognised for their efforts too, having recently been acknowledged as the second most sustainable destination in Africa by Green Destinations, a foundation for sustainable tourism. Coral restoration is one of the key initiatives here, where climate change, fishing, coastal development and natural predation have all played a part in its decline. Since the programme began in October 2017 corals have grown by over 200% yearly. Guests can take part in the coral restoration programme to repair the marine ecosystems surrounding the island, harvesting coral fragments and replanting them in a nursery, which helps them to regrow. They will also learn why corals are so vital for a healthy underwater environment.
Rates from £1,249 based on two sharing a Hideaway Pool Villa on a B&B basis. sixsenses.com
What: Learning about Posidonia Meadows
Where: MarBella Corfu Hotel
In the south-east corner of Corfu, the MarBella Corfu sits surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Ionian Sea. Here, Posidonia meadows can be found on the seabed right in front of the hotel. Found only in parts of the Mediterranean and south coast of Australia, Posidonia Meadows have a multitude of benefits and contribute to the preservation of the climate. They form a biogenic reef that acts as a wave breaker which protects the ecosystem and the shore and produce vast amounts of oxygen which has earned them the nickname ‘the lungs of the planet’. Guests of all ages can learn about the workings of a Posidonia Meadow and fully appreciate the beauty and environmental benefits of these fascinating ecosystems through a recently-launched exhibition at MarBella Corfu. They can then delve underwater, snorkelling in a meadow to marvel first-hand at the rich sea life that lies beneath the waters. Posidonia Meadows are home to sea grass, algae, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and fish of all sizes.
From £117 per double room per night. marbella.gr
What: Watch and learn from marine biologists
When: December to April for dry weather and June to November for spotting Manta Rays
Four Seasons’ have two resorts in the Maldives; Landaa Giraavaru and Kuda Huraa, both of which house Marine Discovery Centres. Led by a team of marine biologists from environmental consultancy Seamarc Pvt. Ltd., these interactive research and education centres are a base for pioneering research on manta rays and coral reefscaping. They introduce guests and local school children to the role we can all play in conserving the local and global marine ecosystem. Seeing first-hand what can be done to help preserve many of the species which are made vulnerable by coral decline, visitors at Landaa Giraavaru can participate in their renewal alongside reefscapers. Back in 1998 when 90% of Maldivian shallow water corals were bleached and killed by unusually warm waters, Four Seasons enlisted the help of Seamarc Pvt. Ltd to help these ailing reefs. The resulting project has grown to become one of the most successful of its kind in the world and they now have over 6,000 coral frames around both Maldivian islands. Guests can see the reefs and participate in their renewal through the activities offered by the resort. There’s even a dedicated children’s programme where little ones can help marine biologists transplant coral frames and learn to snorkel in the Coral Garden amongst the work of the Reefscapers.
Expanding their sustainability efforts, the Landaa Giraavaru resort recently became home to one of the Maldives’ largest resort-based solar installations, housing 3,105 panels and in turn saving 300,000 litres of diesel and 8,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Rooms at Kuda Huraa from £692 per night, at Landaa Giraavaru from £778 per night. fourseasons.com
What: Visit a private island and adopt an endangered Hawksbill turtle
Where: Jumby Bay Island, Caribbean
When: June to November
Jumby Bay is a private island in the Caribbean, just two miles off mainland Antigua. Surrounded by coral reefs and reachable only by boat, you won’t find any cars here, just three white-powdered beaches and a few cycle lanes. The island is leading the way in sea turtle conservation for the Caribbean with the longest-running, privately funded turtle safeguarding initiative. The Jumby Bay Hawksbill project, which focuses on the scientific study of the critically endangered hawksbill turtles works to ensure the species’ survival and recovery. Visitors can join a team of experts in monitoring, recording and tagging turtles within the nesting colony on nearby Long Island, Antigua. There is also an ‘Adopt-a-Turtle’ programme, where donors can name their turtle and follow its adventures throughout the Caribbean using satellite tracking. Donors are even notified when their adoptee returns to the island to nest, and when her hatchlings emerge from the sand…Tech for good!
All-inclusive rates from £956 + 22.5% service. oetkercollection.com