Soneva launches new AquaTerra conservation centre in Maldives
Soneva has launched the new AquaTerra center at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll. The new, state-of-the-art conservation, education and science facility will further strengthen the resort’s focus on sustainability, supporting its ongoing efforts to understand, conserve and regenerate the surrounding natural environment, both at sea and on land.
Serving as the hub for the resort’s conservation efforts, including the Soneva Foundation Coral Restoration Programme, AquaTerra will educate Soneva’s guests about the local ecosystem through inspirational experiences, and host cutting-edge scientific research through partnerships with universities and visiting scientists.
“At Soneva, we will never stop striving to be more sustainable and continue to pioneer initiatives that protect our natural environment and precious resources,” says Sonu Shivdasani, co-founder and CEO of Soneva, who was recently honoured as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to tourism, sustainability and charity. “AquaTerra not only enables us to offer our guests a one-of-a-kind experience and a variety of learning opportunities around terrestrial and marine conservation, but also strengthens our own conservation efforts, enabling us to collaborate with scientists from around the world.”
AquaTerra is the nerve center for the Soneva Foundation Coral Restoration Program, which launched in 2021 and aims to restore the coral reef systems around Soneva Fushi and create a coral hub for the Maldives. Working in partnership with Swiss environmental organisation Coralive, the project uses Mineral Accretion Technology (MAT) to channel low-voltage electricity through submerged coral tables, which speeds up the corals’ growth rate. The new centre also houses a spawning and rearing laboratory, developed with the team from Coral Spawning Lab, to conduct assisted evolution and create heat-resilient super corals, and a 3D-Printing laboratory to produce coral substrate. Later in 2023, Soneva Foundation will also fund the installation of a micro-fragmenting laboratory, created with micro-fragmenting expert Dr David Vaughan, with 28 outdoor tanks that can produce up to 100,000 corals per year, as well as live streaming cameras with fish recognition software at the coral nursery, to combine with live data from a SmartBuoy.
The centre will also support the efforts of Soneva’s Terrestrial Biology team. This includes its ground-breaking work on eliminating mosquitoes at Soneva’s Maldivian island resorts using sustainable and environmentally friendly mosquito management traps, with no harmful chemical fogging. The team is also working on a new project to tackle the hairy caterpillars that live on the islands’ Indian almond trees. Soneva is collaborating with McGill University in Canada and the Canadian National Research Institute on a hyperspectral mapping project, with the aim of creating an algorithm that programs a T30 DJI Agricultural Drone to spray leaves with ultra-low volumes of neem oil, which will be the first of its kind in the world.
AquaTerra will be used as the location for a range of short educational courses for young Sonevians through the Soneva Academy, and will be hosting visiting scientists and Masters and PhD students to conduct part of their research at Soneva Fushi. To see the centre’s conservation efforts first-hand, Soneva Fushi’s guests can combine a behind-the-scenes tour of AquaTerra with a guided snorkel at the house reef or a tour around Soneva Fushi’s gardens and Eco Centro Waste to Wealth Centre. To support the Coral Restoration Program, guests are also able to adopt a coral table to help regenerate the reef over the next decade. Priced from US $1,000 per table, each table is personalized with a carved name tag, and sponsors receive a certificate and an exclusive photo of their coral table.
For more information about Soneva, visit www.soneva.com.