Any luxury resort in the Maldives will likely have a whole page dedicated to highlighting its commitment to sustainability and associated “green” credentials if you click on its website.
Terms like waste management, soil erosion, and solar energy generation don’t exactly evoke images of cream-colored beaches lapped by impossibly blue waters, so the lingo isn’t your typical tourism marketing jargon.
However, Maldives isn’t your typical objective. As the world’s most minimal lying nation, it’s close to 100% water, with its 1,000 or more islands spread north of 90,000 square kilometers.
Because the majority of the country’s more than 160 resorts are located on distinct islands, these establishments are obligated to go above and beyond to minimize their impact on the fragile environment of the Maldives.
But are guests actually concerned about a resort’s environmental credentials?
According to marine biologist Samuel Dixon, who has worked at the Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi since it opened more than five years ago, the answer is increasingly “yes.”
He oversees all of the eco-inspired initiatives at the 120-villa property as sustainability manager, from protecting the 9-kilometer-long house reef to implementing cutting-edge energy-saving techniques.
According to what he tells CNN, “We are now seeing a huge rise in the number of eco-conscious travelers, especially in the luxury hospitality market.”
“Some of the work that I’m doing here is getting a lot more attention, whether it’s about coral restoration, turtle conservation, recycling, or our energy and solar use. I’m happy to hear that a lot more guests are getting involved and asking these kinds of questions because it means that there will be a greater demand in the future for a more sustainable hospitality industry.
Dixon was in charge of setting up the Sustainability Lab, a brand-new facility at the resort that gives guests a first-hand look at one of Maldives’ biggest problems, plastic waste.
It was the first of its kind in the country and opened at the beginning of 2022. Set simply moves back from the retreat’s appearance moor inside a structure made of upcycled steel trailers, it’s loaded up with particular hardware that transforms plastic waste into customized trinkets, furniture and supplies for nearby schools.
By braiding them into bracelets and luggage tags, the lab also recycles fishing boat “ghost nets,” which are particularly harmful to sea turtles.
A trip to the lab can be harrowing. The shelves are lined with enormous bins containing tiny pieces of plastic in a variety of colors, ready to be melted down into a variety of shapes and sizes by industrial machines. The dominating tone is blue thanks to an overflow of plastic water bottle tops.
Dixon claims that there are multiple sources of the plastic. The weekly food supplies come in their own packaging. Additionally, they collect plastic waste from nearby hotels and schools.
Naturally, the sea provides an inexhaustible supply of materials.
He refers to the ocean as “that is the gift, unfortunately, which does keep on giving every day.”
“Just this resort, we are removing between three and five kilograms of waste in the morning. Plastic makes up about one to two kilograms of that. Thus we gather it and make outings to other uninhabited islands too.”
In order to get rid of any dirt or residue, the foraged plastic is first washed. After that, it is shredded into tiny pellets that can be used in two different ways. There’s the extruder, which softens it down and changes it into 3D molds to make keepsake turtles, carabiner snares and school rulers.
According to Dixon, there is also a press that can flatten the plastic into sheets that can be used “exactly like wood.” It is used by the resort’s carpentry team to make furniture that guests can order and send home.
Even though there isn’t a lot of plastic used in the grand scheme of things, Dixon says it’s important to tell tourists about the problems Maldives faces and work with the locals to fix them.
He says, “I think what’s fantastic about bringing this into the hospitality industry, and especially in a location like the Maldives, which is a paradise idyllic location, is that it really brings it to the forefront of guests’ minds.” This is one of the benefits of bringing this into the hospitality industry.
“Guests can actually come and see the hotel recycling plastic rather than just hear about it. They are able to see it. They can in fact participate in the process. What’s more, we in all actuality do attempt to make it as fun as possible.”
Because of their endeavors, the Maintainability Lab is one of a handful of the puts on the retreat island where visitors will really see a lot of plastic.
Each guest receives a reusable water bottle that they can fill at one of the water stations scattered throughout the island and take home as a memento. There are no plastic water bottles; only glass bottles are available. The dental kits even include a small paper packet for the toothpaste.
Underwater art installation doubles as artificial reef
Another retreat space that puts a weighty accentuation on preservation is the Coralarium, found two or three dozen meters seaward from the primary ocean side region.
A huge, metal model, it serves as a coral nursery for neighborhood untamed life that visitors can swim into and investigate.
Dixon states, “The Coralarium aims to be a center for education and conservation.” Since it was all made of pH-neutral materials, it is safe for marine life and free of harmful pollutants. The structure was made to look like a coral reef’s hard substrate. Therefore, during coral mass spawning events, the Coralarium basically captures coral polyps and helps coral grow naturally.
He says it’s basically a fake reef, however with live coral developing on it, as well.
“We’ve had about 120 fish species move in, so it has become a miniature habitat for marine life there, which is great for showing guests.”
‘Secret Water Island’
The Fairmont Maldives is conveniently situated on what has been dubbed “Secret Water Island.”
The resort’s 9-kilometer house reef is on the island’s backside and is home to over 400 species of marine life. It is easily accessible with a snorkel set because it is directly offshore. The manta ray season on the reef is from December to April, so visitors should plan their trips accordingly.
However, guests can observe the abundance of aquatic wildlife offshore without even having to enter the water.
Large reef sharks and other colorful fish can be seen cruising through the waters below the resort’s stilted platforms at Kata, the Japanese restaurant. Nightly at Azure, the seafood restaurant at Fairmont, similar events also occur.
For those who prefer to stay on the beach, Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi offers sunrise and sunset villas in a variety of sizes as accommodations. Sunset villas face the Coralarium, while sunrise villas face the house reef.) For those who want to really get close to nature, there are also tented villas.
The large spa offers a variety of treatments and therapies, numerous water sports activities and excursions, and a great kids’ club. By participating in the resort’s new Generation Sea program, which includes visits to the Sustainability Lab and the Coralarium, children can learn more about the resort’s conservation efforts.
For supportability director Dixon, seeing visitors youthful and old check out these once-ignored issues has been inconceivably approving.
He remarks, “It makes me very proud to think about how we’ve really adapted and created a more sustainable environment here, a more sustainable operation within this hotel.”