With new Marine Biology Shack, Gili Lankanfushi takes sustainability to new heights

Gili Lankanfushi has opened its new Marine Biology Shack, Gili Veshi, taking its already strong sustainability efforts to new heights.

Gili Veshi, which translated from the local Dhivehi language means Gili’s Environment, opened its doors on World Oceans Day, which was celebrated on June 8. The Shack has become the island’s primary marine research facility and the central hub for all sustainability and conservation issues, as well as offering a host of new guest experiences.

Nature lovers will have the opportunity to get involved through participating in monthly reef clean efforts to remove oceanic litter, coral watch dives to check on new specimens and Crown of Thorns eradication dives to remove the invasive starfish species. Guests can also opt to sponsor the team’s research and conservation efforts, or offset their carbon footprint by planting carbon-sinking seagrass.

The island’s young guests can enjoy a wide variety of exciting new experiences and activities tailor-made for children. New educational treasure hunts throughout the island, both on dry land and beneath the waves, will see children seeking out clues about the island’s environment, accompanied by the marine biology team. Fascinating marine movies and interactive iPad games will educate children about sustainability and the marine environment, whilst a roster of rainy day activities will keep children happy when the clouds — however rare — roll in.

The Gili Veshi team will monitor all aspects of the island’s reef biodiversity, including sea surface temperature and coral growth, to protect the fragile coral reef environment. They will also roll out a number of conservation initiatives, including planting seagrass to create new feeding grounds for endangered turtle species.

The new marine biology shack will also include a large wet lab to support the team’s ongoing research efforts, and will host visiting researchers and academics from across the globe. Guests will be invited to visit the lab to learn more about the local marine and terrestrial environment, with high tech new microscopes available to allow guests to study local coral specimens through a lens.

Working with the Maldivian government and NGOs including the Manta Trust, the Olive Ridley Turtle Project and Shark Watch, the Gili Veshi team will continually monitor the marine ecosystem and threats to biodiversity including coral bleaching and the onslaught of invasive Crown of Thorn starfish.

Opening of Gili Veshi furthers the resort’s commitment to sustainable tourism.

In a statement, Gili Lankanfushi said Gili Veshi is an educational centre open to hosts, guests, local communities and local schools so they can learn more about their environment and how to better protect it. One area of focus within the shack is the Sustainability Shelf which guides viewers along the processes used to keep its food and waste systems sustainable, it added.

“It features one member of our Green Team who has made it his mission to turn our kitchen and garden into a centre for sustainability,” the statement read.

The featured member is the resort’s Executive Chef John Bakker, who has been working on developing and expanding its Organic Garden since his arrival on the island in 2012.

According to the resort, from humble beginnings as a cluttered ornamental herb garden, the chef has built a team of traditional method farmers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to help bring historical practices and authenticity to the production. Through the hard work of the first two years the garden has grown to its present size with 105 individual beds growing a consistent supply of the island’s lettuces and soft herbs for guests and staff alike, it said.

Garden plots. PHOTO/ GILI LANKANFUSHI

Chef John comes from generations of Dutch Canadian farmers who lived within a larger community of agriculturists. He was influenced by the farming and market garden lifestyle of Southwestern Ontario in the 80’s being encouraged to respect those that work with and live off the land. As he rose through the ranks at international culinary destinations he continued to incorporate the freshest ingredients into his work, often from the classical kitchen gardens of Europe.

“Today, Chef John is the leading edge of the Gili Lankanfushi home grown, sustainable and organic culinary concept, environment and waste management,” the statement read.

To ensure steady growth of the garden, the team initially began using a time tested method of composting organic waste by burying plies of garden waste under the normal garden topsoil to return some of the captured carbon and nutrition to the beds. Although this was an effective method, it was time consuming and inefficient and only allowed then to utilise a small portion of the total waste available.

In an effort to find a more efficient and sustainable solution, Chef John happened upon a contact with British waste management company Tidy Planet. Through a consultation with them and following an extensive waste audit, Gili Lankanfushi decided to purchase the Maldives’ first and only Mechanical Biological Composter aka The Rocket. Basically a large self-contained composting chamber, The Rocket allows Gili Lankanfushi to process and compost 100 percent of the organic waste produced in all the kitchens and return it to the garden a fertile organic compost.

“Since The Rocket has been in service for a year, Chef John has also started a barrel composting system for jungle/island waste as well as a very exciting new project called Vermiculture or worm composting,” the statement read.

The Rocket Composter. PHOTO/ GILI LANKANFUSHI

Gili Lankanfushi said that its waste management system starts in the kitchens by aggressively separating all kitchen waste into specific bins for wet and dry waste. The collected food waste is processed through a dewatering machine which reduces the total volume of waste by chopping it into small pieces and extracting any excess moisture, water or juice — the food that powers The Rocket and what eventually becomes the compost.

To create compost, the dried food waste is mixed together with some chopped jungle waste (mulch) and added to The Rocket composter, which revolves eight times every two hours slowly developing the heat and bacterial activity required for decomposition. After 18 days of mechanical processing the active material falls from the hopper and is collected by the gardeners. This active compost is placed into a holding bed to mature for a minimum one month by which time it is ready to be used throughout the garden as organic fertiliser.

According to Gili Lankanfushi, the development and production of the organic garden has allowed it to tailor its food offering throughout the resort and given an opportunity to choose the freshest as well as the most sustainable options when developing the menus. This concept is not more readily apparent then within the lunch salad bar concept in the overwater bar, which utilises 15 different types of organically grown salads and herbs daily, it said.

Lunch Leaves. PHOTO/ GILI LANKANFUSHI

“Gili Lankanfushi is committed to continuing the sustainable ecological philosophy throughout the resort.  We are so proud of our new Marine Biology Shack that will continue to teach others about the developing suitability process coming out of Chef Johns Kitchen and Garden,” the statement read.

Set on the private island of Lankanfushi in the North Male Atoll, Gili Lankanfushi Maldives is an intimate coral island in a sparkling lagoon, with jetties threading across the water out to spacious villa accommodations, where ultimate privacy can be found. This luxury resort is just a 20-minute speedboat ride from the main Velana International Airport.

At Gili Lankanfushi, an idyllic personal hideaway is one of 45 spacious, rustic overwater villas crafted from natural wood and glass. A palette of sparkling blues paints the horizon, the ocean stretching to infinity wherever on the island. The open design, with indoor and outdoor living space, allows guests the freedom to be themselves, the sound of the sea and warm breeze soothing all senses.

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