Venice is sinking. The Great Barrier Reef is dying. Around the world, beautiful destinations are being altered and even destroyed by climate change.
Perhaps nowhere else is this more relevant than in the Maldives, where an entire nation has become an endangered species. As was once famously predicted by the country’s president, rising sea levels might one day in the not-too-distant future make the low-lying island nation extinct.
The Maldives is a bucket list destination for many… so what if one day the islands are no longer there?
Like anywhere else in the world, promoting sustainable travel in the Maldives is quite the balancing act. People flock to the Maldives precisely because of the islands’ unique natural beauty. Many an Instagram feed is solely dedicated to displaying the islands’ turquoise blue waters, dazzling white sand and palm trees swaying gently in the tropical breeze.
But is tourism hurting the very same ecosystem which provides those amazing views? Besides the threat of rising sea levels, the Maldives is seeing coral bleaching on an alarming scale. The very tourists who travel to the Maldives to snorkel and dive among the vibrant coral can end up making things worse by accidentally or carelessly stepping on the very same coral.
So the question remains: how do you combine tourism with sustainability? And when it comes to the Maldives specifically, just how does the jaw dropping luxury the island’s resorts are known for work with sustainable values and protecting the environment?
One example are the iconic Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani resorts, whose slogan of “barefoot luxury” is far from a quippy one liner – it’s a substantial part of the brand’s DNA. Originally founded by Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malmström Shivdasani in 1995, the two luxury resorts are built and operated by using sustainable materials, with water and waste recycled and conserved meticulously.
Another example of sustainable luxury in the Maldives are the sister resorts of Finolhu and Amilla Fushi which are located in the UNESCO protected Baa Atoll. This means that activities at the resorts are carefully regulated in order to protect the local ecosystem and nature.
Both resorts have resident marine biologists and visiting lecturers who offer insight into the ecosystem as guests enjoy diving, snorkelling and other bucket list activities in the surrounding waters. The objective is that guests get to experience the Maldivian nature first hand – and then leave the islands feeling inspired to help protect it.
And that’s the thing. Though tourism and environmental awareness might seem like an odd fit, the two can go hand in hand in a profound way. Seeing and experiencing the surreal beauty of the Maldives first hand helps you understand the threats the islands are facing on a personal, visceral level.
After diving in the waters and seeing the still-vibrant coral for yourself, the plight of the Maldives is no longer just a statistic or yet another article to scroll past on your news feed. After visiting the islands, you can’t help but feel a personal connection to the ocean, the beach and the coral and as a result, you have a new-found motivation to help preserve their beauty and vitality.
As the old platitude goes, take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints – and some added passion to help protect the environment.