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



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,

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.

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JOALI crafts next generation of luxury, ethical tourism in Maldives 



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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Astronaut Tim Peake lands at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas Resort for stellar week of space talk and astronomy



One of the UK’s most famous astronauts, Tim Peake, is visiting Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas Resort, this November to host a special evening of conversation with guests and a separate talk about space dedicated to teens.

Situated in the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Anantara Kihavah is home to the first overwater observatory in the Maldives and the most powerful telescope in the region. The private island resort’s location just above the equator means that both hemisphere’s stars are visible from the resort. Coupled with minimal light pollution and open skies, it is possible to see sights such as the pale-yellow rings of Saturn and the counter-rotating zones and belts of Jupiter and the Omega Centauri in the Milky Way making Anantara Kihavah the perfect partner for Tim’s talks and the ideal resort for astronomy and space enthusiasts.

A relaxed and intimate talk on Tim’s ‘Journey Beyond Earth” will take place early evening on Thursday, 2 November 2023 on Anantara Kihavah’s Sky Deck, an overwater observatory combined with a luxury cocktail bar. Accompanied by champagne and cosmic-inspired cocktails, Tim will act as a personal guide through life in space, offering a fascinating insight into what it’s really like to be an astronaut; from training to launch, spacewalk to re-entry and the wonders of how and why humans journey into space. With a maximum of 20 guests joining, it will be possible to ask Tim questions delving deep into life as an astronaut.

Tim’s talk will be complemented by a 60-minute stargazing session at Sky with Anantara Kihavah’s resident Sky Guru, Hammadh, at a time that suits guests during their holiday. A native Maldivian, Hammadh will take guests on a journey across both hemisphere’s stars and planets, clarifying what can be seen both with the naked eye and using the resort’s powerful research-grade 16” Meade LX200 telescope mounted on a super-giant field tripod within the custom-built Ash-dome observatory which has a viewing capacity of 30 million light years away.

As his stay falls over the half term period, he will also host a talk on exploring space, for teens aged between 10 and 18 years-old on Friday, 3 November 2023. A bestselling author, Tim also has a popular series of books for young teens including the ‘Swarm Rising’ books and ‘The Cosmic Diary of our Incredible Universe’. Accompanied by cosmic inspired mocktails and space inspired snacks and deserts, Tim will chat about his books and life as an astronaut, including becoming the first British astronaut to both visit the International Space Station and conduct a space-walk during his six-month mission, and also running the London marathon from space. He may even give a few tips to anyone hoping to following in his footsteps. This will be followed by a 60-minute stargazing session with Hammadh, tailored to younger guests.

Fitting in with the astrology theme, Anantara Kihavah’s Kid’s Club will have an intergalactic takeover from 1 to 5 November, with little guests taking part in space-inspired activities such as recycled rocket craft, space cookie making, planet puppet making and space painting using coffee.

‘Journey Beyond Earth: An Inspiring Conversation with Tim Peake’ will take place from 5.30 – 6.30pm on 2 November. Tickets cost 165 USD (approx £130) per person, for up to 20 people accompanied by champagne, cosmic-inspired cocktails and canapes, and includes a 60-minute stargazing session with Sky Guru Hammadh. For younger guests, tickets for ‘Exploring Space with Tim Peake’ cost 125 USD (approx £98) per person, for up to 10 guests with cosmic-inspired mocktails and snacks and including a stargazing session with Hammadh.

Villas at Anantara Kihavah start from £1,200 per night with breakfast and dinner. There are six restaurants and bars, each offering a distinctive setting, menu and ambiance, including SEA, the resort’s signature underwater restaurant and wine cellar.

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Environment Day, Oceans Day, Wellness Day celebrations at Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Dhawa Ihuru, Angsana Velavaru



As a trailblazer in sustainable tourism focusing on the purpose-driven mission of stewardship and wellbeing, and a founding signatory of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) in Singapore, the Banyan Tree Group inspires by example through an array of impactful and proactive initiatives to promote and support wellness and sustainability while offering exceptional design-led guest experiences to “embrace the environment and empower people”.

Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Dhawa Ihuru and Angsana Velavaru, the three EarthCheck Gold certified properties under the umbrella of the Banyan Tree Group in the Maldives celebrated three important observances in June, namely World Environment Day, World Oceans Day and Global Wellness Day, with simultaneous programme line-up as a testament of their commitment to environmental protection and community development. 

#BeatPlasticPollution on World Environment Day

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day, marked on 5 June is “#BeatPlasticPollution”.  Today, the world is being inundated by plastics, and this campaign shines a spotlight on living without throwaway plastic goods – conveying a message to everyone that it is time to put a stop to plastic pollution. 

In the Maldives, tons of plastic end up in the ocean, threatening marine life, and ruining its famous pristine beaches.  With this, the Maldives government has banned the production of single-use plastics nationwide effective 1 June last year.

To help in preserving the beauty of this island nation, the three properties carried out local island clean-up, in a bid to raise public awareness about environmental conservation.  The associates of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Dhawa Ihuru visited Himmafushi Island in North Malé Atoll.  Together with the local community members, the team collected 156 kilograms of rubbish – mostly plastics.  Meanwhile, Angsana Velavaru’s associates went to Rinbudhoo, also known as the “jewellers island” in South Nilandhe Atoll, and hand in hand with its residents, they collected almost 371 kilograms of rubbish, composed mainly of plastics.

In 2022, the Banyan Tree Group composed of 63 hotels and resorts in 23 countries successfully reduced the utilisation of single-use plastic by 32% versus 2017 baseline, after pledging to go plastic-free on Earth Day in 2018.

Reef Relief on World Oceans Day

Since 1996, conservation efforts have started at Dhawa Ihuru, formerly known as Angsana Ihuru.  Home to the signature dive spot, Rannamaari Wreck, which lies 26-metre deep a few metres off the house reef endowed with abundant marine life, it is dubbed as one of the best house reefs in the Maldives.

In 2004, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru’s Marine Lab officially opened, the first resort-based facility in the Maldives to provide basic facilities and equipment for field work, and to share the importance of marine conservation and sustainable livelihoods with local communities.  Shortly afterwards, in 2007, Angsana Velavaru opened the second one with the same objective.

At the Marine Conservation Lab, dedicated conservation efforts to create awareness and protect the endangered marine species are in place, such as coral planting, a process that facilitates reef recovery, providing an opportunity for naturally broken coral pieces to grow in colony and creating a coral nursery. Coral reefs host around 25% of all species within the marine environment, and the restoration efforts done by the three properties aid in the conservation and propagation of the marine ecosystem.

Commemorated on 8 June, this year’s World Oceans Day theme is “Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing”, which “aims to raise awareness about the result of human activities on the oceans and to motivate people to use the ocean’s resources sustainably”.

Showing support to this cause, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Dhawa Ihuru and Angsana Velavaru conducted marine talks, coral planting and reef clean-up, engaging both associates and guests. 

‘Self-Others-Nature” Approach to Wellness

While every guest’s journey to wellbeing varies, the Banyan Tree Group offers a series of learning and practices, as well as the magical touch of traditional Asian healing philosophies.  Each journey is designed according to the Banyan Tree Group’s 8 pillars of wellbeing, wherein the holistic approach is focused on the significance of restoring, as well as maintaining the delicate and the right kind of balance between nature and humanity.

The award-winning Banyan Tree and Angsana Spas, alongside the new 8lements Spa deliver authentic treatments and impactful therapies, coupled with the best practices and impeccable service designed to cultivate care for one’s self, others and nature. 

In celebration of Global Wellness Day on 10 June, Angsana Velavaru hosted a Sunrise Power Walk for its associates and guests.  To encourage guests to relax amidst the swaying palm trees and indulge in a well-deserved tune up, Angsana Spa’s Essence of Angsana is available with good value savings for the whole month.

Meanwhile, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru conducted a Sunset Healthy Breathing Exercise for the guests.  For those who would like to feel good and look good even better, Facial Retreat and Spa Series with special offers are available at the Banyan Tree Spa during the entire month.

Finally, Dhawa Ihuru held Morning Healthy Breathing Exercise for the guests. Similarly, 8lements Spa offers special Facial Retreat and Spa Series to those who would like to embark on a rejuvenating journey until the end of June. Furthermore, this recently rebranded island retreat invites travellers to live the beachfront life in relaxed and private comforts. Take advantage of the Summer to Remember package that includes daily Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, 20% savings on Destination Dining, complimentary return speedboat transfers, and complimentary select resort activities. 

To book the Summer to Remember, visit or email

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