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Eco-minded escape: Inside groundbreaking sustainability initiatives at Velaa Private Island Maldives

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When Radka & Jiří Šmejc first dreamed up Velaa Private Island Maldives, they envisioned an ultra-luxury playground that was in harmony with its environment. Situated in the untouched Noonu Atoll, a 45-minute seaplane ride from Male, this tropical hideaway is grounded in a deep respect for the planet, from the eco-minded architecture and design, to housing one of the largest coral restoration programmes in the Maldives. Discover why Velaa Private Island is flying the flag for sustainable, high-end stays in the Maldives.

Restoring the reef

As custodians of this precious patch of Planet Earth, Radka & Jiří are passionate about giving back to the environment. A key contribution is the development of one of the largest coral restoration programmes in the Maldives. Overseen by a team of dedicated marine biologists, the Velaa Coral Project is revitalising the underwater world surrounding the resort, resulting in steady growth over the past three years. By fitting the reefs with the latest Biorock technology, along with increasing stress resistance in the corals, Velaa expects to further restore 10 per cent of its house reef in the coming year.

Visitors to the island can take a guided snorkel or scuba diving tour of the coral gardens with the resident coral biologist to learn more about the work being done and the role coral plays in supporting a healthy marine ecosystem. Guests can also adopt an individual coral line to add to Velaa’s intrinsic rainforest of corals, receiving a coral adoption certificate and biannual updates on their coral’s development. You can learn more about this inspiring programme on the Velaa Coral Project’s Instagram channel, instagram.com/velaacoralproject.

Giving back to the local community

Velaa Private Island isn’t just giving back to the local environment – they’re supporting their Noonu Atoll community, too. Launched in 2021, the Fehikuramaa initiative helps local Maldivian communities improve their environmental practices. Last year’s focus was on improving waste management practices via awareness, training, and support. This year, Fehikuramaa has its sights on ocean pollution and the importance of maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem. The initiative has installed 30 water purification and cooling systems in local public schools, giving communities easier access to clean water. Volunteers have also carried out accredited swimming instructor courses, teaching 113 students how to swim.

In announcing the initiative, Wayne Milgate, General Manager of Velaa Private Island, said: “Fehikuramaa in Dhivehi language broadly means ‘Let’s make the environment greener’, and that’s precisely what we hope to achieve. One of the biggest takeaways from the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference is the consensus that all nations need to do much more if we want to move towards a greener planet.”

“We believe that we all need to be part of the solution and know that the Fehikuramaa project will help local communities to adopt the best waste disposal and management practices, and improve the health of our ocean. We are grateful to live and work in this beautiful part of the world and are driven to bring about change and help preserve the beauty of the Maldivian islands.”

In harmony with nature

Designed by award-winning Czech architect Petr Kolar of ADR, Velaa Private Island is “an elegant fusion of Maldivian culture with contemporary luxury, intimate with Maldivian nuances”, that has been thoughtfully constructed to celebrate and protect the surrounding environment. Natural and traditional materials have been tastefully incorporated into the villas and communal spaces, including the use of local palm leaves for the thatched roof coverings. Spanning the size of 25 football fields, the island has been extensively planted with local flora to create a lush, flourishing environment that is itself a microcosm of the Maldives.

For more information, please visit: velaaprivateisland.com

Lifestyle

Exploring Addu’s rich biodiversity with Canareef Resort

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In a momentous achievement for environmental conservation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) declared Addu Atoll and Fuvahmulah as biosphere reserves in 2021. This historic recognition places these regions alongside Baa Atoll, which was designated in 2011, as vital areas promoting sustainable development and biodiversity preservation in the Maldives.

Previously, Baa Atoll stood as the sole biosphere reserve in the Maldives, celebrated for its rich marine life, including the congregation of Manta Rays. With the addition of Addu and Fuvahmulah, the Maldives now proudly boasts three UNESCO biosphere reserves. These new additions are described as “learning places for sustainable development,” where the conservation of biodiversity is harmonised with its sustainable use.

The Maldivian government nominated these regions in September 2019 to ensure the protection of their unique marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Protected status was granted to key eco-rich sites, such as ‘Kudakandu’ in Addu’s lagoon and several wetlands in Hithadhoo and Hulhudhoo, reinforcing the commitment to environmental stewardship.

Canareef Resort Maldives: A Haven of Biodiversity

Canareef Resort Maldives, nestled within the captivating landscape of Addu Atoll, takes great pride in its role in this momentous achievement. As part of the resort’s remarkable features, Canareef boasts five freshwater and saltwater lakes, among them the expansive Canareef Eco Park. This serene sanctuary offers a nature trail and picturesque spots where guests can immerse themselves in birdwatching, fish observation, and the breathtaking beauty of nature. Additionally, the Kids Club is situated within the Eco Park, providing young explorers with the opportunity to engage with nature firsthand while learning about the intricate ecosystems that surround them.

Experience the Natural Wonders

Addu Atoll, situated at the southernmost tip of the Maldives, is renowned for its stunning ecosystems. The Eedhigali Kilhi, one of the largest wetlands in the country, attracts hundreds of migratory birds annually, including the Dhondheeni, or white tern bird, which is found mostly in the Addu region.

Nature Parks offer locals and tourists alike the opportunity to immerse themselves in these natural landscapes through boardwalks, canoeing points, walk trails, and snorkelling spots. These parks are designed to provide access while ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of the resources.

Biosphere reserves encompass terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems, divided into core areas, buffer zones, and transitional zones. These zones allow humans to coexist with nature, fostering learning, protection, and sustainability.

As the resort commemorates International Day for Biological Diversity with the theme “Be part of the Plan,” Canareef Resort Maldives invites you to explore and appreciate the rich biodiversity of Addu Atoll. The resort is committed to preserving this natural heritage and promoting eco-friendly tourism practices.

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Lifestyle

Ultimate guide to eco-friendly travel in Maldives

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Dreaming of an idyllic vacation that leaves behind not only beautiful memories, but also positive impacts? Then, look no further than the breathtaking OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort, an eco-friendly, paradise awaits your exploration.

With a commitment to sustainability, a revolutionary conservation initiative and the Sangeli Muraka Project, this resort offers travellers an unforgettable experience, all while preserving the pristine beauty of the Maldives.

Nestled in the heart of the Maldives, OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort beckons travellers seeking luxury and adventure in equal measures. These travel tips serve as a beacon for conscious travellers, providing insights into sustainable practices that not only protect the environment, but also enhance their overall travel experience.

Reef-Friendly Sunscreen: A Must-Have Companion

As guests prepare to bask in the Maldivian sunshine, the importance of choosing reef-friendly sunscreen cannot be overstated. Traditional sunscreens containing harmful chemicals like Oxybenzone and Octinoxate can devastate coral reefs, leading to bleaching and long-term damage. OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort offers a solution with its exclusive collection of Rash Guards. Crafted from recycled plastic bottles gathered from ocean waste, these Rash Guards provide UPF50 sun protection while ensuring the health of the marine ecosystem.

Education for Preservation

Embracing the principles of ecotourism, OBLU SELECT Sangeli encourages travellers to educate themselves about the natural wonders of the Maldives before setting foot on its shores. Understanding the fragility of seashells as potential homes for hermit crabs and the vitality of coral reefs as living organisms fosters a deeper connection with the environment. OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort emphasises the mantra “Collect Anything But Memories,” encouraging guests to leave no trace and cherish the untouched beauty of the islands.

Sangeli Muraka Project: Crafting Change

In response to the alarming decline of coral reefs worldwide due to various environmental threats, OBLU SELECT Sangeli initiated the Sangeli Muraka Project in January 2019. This visionary project includes coral restoration, wildlife identification, community outreach, reef clean-ups and ghost net upcycling.

Adopt-a-Turtle and Embrace Sustainable Fashion

Through the Sangeli Muraka Project, guests can participate in impactful conservation efforts. Handmade crocheted sea turtle and manta ray soft toys, crafted by local artisans, serve as memorable souvenirs and symbolize support for reef preservation. Upon purchase of the toy, guests can choose the individual turtle to adopt and will receive a certificate of adoption as well as regular updates every time the turtle is resighted.

Furthermore, the resort’s collaboration with OceanЯ brings forth a line of eco-apparel made from 100% recycled polyester, equivalent to removing 1kg of plastic from the ocean. Additionally, colourful bracelets and sea turtle keychains, repurposed from discarded ghost nets, showcase the resort’s dedication to marine conservation.

Sustainability at OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort

Committed to sustainability, OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort proudly boasts its Green Globe certification. With a strong focus on responsible island ecosystem management, the resort leads by example in sustainable drinking water solutions and support for local communities. Each stay at the resort contributes to the preservation of the Maldives’ natural wonders.

Coral Conservation: A Triumph Over Adversity

Under the expert care of in-house Marine Biologists, the coral nursery at the resort’s main lagoon has flourished. Over 150 metal frames housing more than 7,000 fragments have been meticulously placed, nurturing the growth of a lush coral cover. Visitors can now witness the resurgence of marine life, including parrotfish, snappers, eagle rays, sharks and various other fish species and invertebrates.

Green Operations for a Greener Stay

OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort’s commitment to sustainable operations encompasses biodegradable cleaning agents, saltwater desalination for potable water and efficient waste management practices. The resort’s twin-chamber incinerators and state-of-the-art compactors significantly reduce environmental impact. Furthermore, treated wastewater finds new life in irrigation and gardening, ensuring responsible water consumption.

For more information about OBLU SELECT Sangeli Resort’s eco-friendly travel tips and commitment to sustainability, please visit https://www.coloursofoblu.com/oblu-select-sangeli/sustainability

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Lifestyle

JOALI crafts next generation of luxury, ethical tourism in Maldives 

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Nestled in the pristine waters of the Maldives, JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING are two ultra-luxury resorts that have made sustainability their top priority. With a strong focus on preserving the environment, empowering communities, nurturing well-being, and conserving resources, these resorts are setting new standards in eco-conscious luxury travel.

Joy of preserving

At the heart of JOALI’s sustainability efforts is the JOALI Reef Restoration Programme (JRRP), which aims to restore the vibrant coral reefs surrounding the resorts. “Coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean, and their preservation is crucial for the health of our marine ecosystems,” says Ibrahim Nawaf, Cluster CSR & Sustainability Manager at JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING. The JRRP assists in the natural recovery of the reefs, which have suffered losses due to coral bleaching and climate change. Guests are also encouraged to participate in regular coral planting activities, a vital component of ecological restoration in the Maldives.

To combat ocean waste, the JOALI team conducts frequent dives to remove plastic and other types of waste from the waters around the island. The resorts also organise clean-ups of uninhabited islands nearby and facilitate the removal of ghost gear with the Olive Ridley Project.

Ibrahim Nawaf, Cluster CSR & Sustainability Manager at JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING, explains, “We take pride and joy in managing our own impact on the environment and promoting ecological resilience. We have partnered with local and global conservation organisations to help protect our oceans and the environment. We believe that it is our responsibility to preserve the natural beauty of the Maldives for future generations.

The Marine Biologist programme at JOALI educates young visitors about life underwater and the importance of conservation. “Through interactive games and activities, we teach children about our oceans, marine life, and how they can make a difference through simple actions,” explains Nawaf.

Tree planting activities are also held regularly at both properties and local islands nearby, as trees play a crucial role in protecting soil from erosion and limiting the impact of climate change.

Joy of Empowering

JOALI is passionate about empowering women and creating platforms for their economic and creative aspirations. Inspired by the vision of JOALI’s founder and owner, Esin Gural Argat, the resorts support female education, vocational training, and social entrepreneurship.

JOALI Art Week is a tribute to feminine creativity, featuring live art sessions, interactive workshops, and immersive exhibits by local women artists. “We believe in nurturing local talent and providing opportunities for female artists to showcase their work,” says Nawaf. The exclusive Art House at JOALI BEING also supports local artisans and art-lovers through imaginative events and workshops.

Monthly art dinners at JOALI combine gastronomy, art, and sustainability, featuring all-natural paints made with herbs and flowers from the Chef’s Garden. These inspiring experiences are led by women artists from around the world.

The resorts are committed to gender equality and the development of talented women at all levels of the organisation. “JOALI’s Leadership and Gender Diversity Programme is aligned with our commitment to the UN Women’s gender equality campaign,” states Nawaf.

In recent years, JOALI has donated significant funds to local Women’s Development Committees and other organisations, supporting projects such as waste disposal area renovations, community space development, and fabric waste recycling initiatives.

Joy of Nurturing

Promoting wellness and well-being is a key focus for JOALI. The resorts are dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to take control of their own health and well-being through education, resources, and partnerships.

Global Wellness Day activities, Reading Parks, Brain Gyms, and Special Educational Needs (SEN) Classrooms are just a few examples of JOALI’s commitment to nurturing well-being. “We believe in creating spaces that promote learning, growth, and a healthy lifestyle. We have more exciting community projects in the pipeline with significant investments that will make a huge difference in the communities that we operate in,” says Nawaf.

Joy of Conserving

Everyday practices at JOALI align with their overall vision of sustainability. The resorts have implemented an eco-conscious approach across both islands, with the goal of minimising consumption of key resources and reducing their carbon footprint.

“Our culinary team loves to craft specialties with locally caught fish and seafood, along with organic produce from our Herb Garden,” shares Nawaf. The resorts also use eco-friendly stewarding and laundry chemicals, house their own glass water bottling plants and wastewater treatment systems, and practise rainwater harvesting.

Energy conservation is another priority for JOALI, with efficient LED lights, smart controls in the villas, and a pilot project to increase the use of solar energy. Guests booking directly with the resorts also have the option to off-set their carbon emissions during the reservation process.

JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING are also committed to supporting local communities and promoting cultural tourism. By engaging with local artisans, musicians, and storytellers, the resorts aim to create authentic experiences for their guests while preserving the rich cultural heritage of the Maldives.

One example of this commitment is the Culinary Arts Exhibition held during the Raa Tourism Expo 2022. The event showcased the incredible talents of JOALI’s hosts and inspired students and young people from across Raa Atoll. “We believe in promoting healthy eating and an active lifestyle for a full and happy life,” says Ibrahim Nawaf, Cluster CSR & Sustainability Manager at JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING.

The Earth-to-Table initiative at JOALI focuses on ingredient traceability and offering fresh, locally harvested, and sustainably sourced foods that support small farms. “Our slow food mantra promotes local foods, traditional cooking, and clean production methods,” explains Nawaf. The gardens at JOALI are 100 percent organic, growing vegetables, fruits, and culinary and medicinal herbs using sustainable techniques. The team draws on both traditional knowledge and modern science to produce the best ingredients while simultaneously protecting the environment.

As JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING continue to lead the way in sustainable luxury travel, they remain dedicated to fostering strong relationships with local communities and promoting cultural tourism. By collaborating with local artisans, musicians, and storytellers, the resorts create authentic experiences for their guests while preserving the rich cultural heritage of the Maldives.

One of the ways JOALI supports local communities is through their commitment to fair trade principles. By ethically sourcing tea, coffee, and wood products, the resorts ensure that their suppliers are treated fairly and that their practices are environmentally responsible. Additionally, JOALI strives to use local produce and buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste, further minimising their environmental impact.

As more travellers seek eco-conscious destinations, JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING stand out as prime examples of how luxury and sustainability can coexist harmoniously. By focusing on preserving the environment, empowering communities, nurturing well-being, and conserving resources, the resorts demonstrate that it is possible to offer an unforgettable guest experience while also making a positive impact on the world. As the hospitality industry evolves, JOALI Maldives and JOALI BEING will undoubtedly continue to set new benchmarks for sustainability and responsible luxury. As Nawaf says, “We believe that sustainability is not just a buzzword; it is a way of life. It makes a business case as well, as without preserving our environment we cannot have a tourism industry in a few decades. We are committed to making a positive impact on the environment and the communities we serve.”

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