No matter where you come from or how old you are, a bit of self-love and a walk by the beach makes everything alright! There’s no other paradise quite like the Maldives – feeling soft white sand wrapping around your toes, the ever-glowing sunshine, and that blissful sound of gentle waves lapping up on the shore – need we say more? However, like any other destination across the globe, even the Maldives is not untouched by the impacts of global warming, leading to a depletion in the quality of marine life. With responsible tourism in mind, more and more resorts are joining in the sustainability journey to create lasting impacts for generations to come. One such resort, located in Raa Atoll, is Reethi Faru. Committed to the cause, the resort has been continuously engaging in sustainability initiatives – with their latest focus being on nurturing diversity in the underwater cosmos.
Comprised of luxurious villas tucked into exotic island vegetation and stunning over-water villas stretched across the beautiful turquoise lagoon of Filaidhoo Island, Reethi Faru Resort (meaning “Beautiful Reef” in Dhivehi – the Maldivian language) is a one-of-a-kind, tropical island paradise where the glistening, crystal clear ocean meets endless white coral sand and lush foliage. The island also boasts a charming lagoon, with its house reef just thirty to eighty meters from the shore.
Over the past couple of decades, global warming has increased substantially, leading to the warming of our oceans. This warming has drastically affected aquatic life, especially corals. Coral reefs provide an important ecosystem for life underwater and also protect coastal areas. The impacts of global warming on these reefs across the world have been catastrophic.
Keeping in line with their commitment towards sustainability, Reethi Faru Resort has been on an on-going mission to restore its house reef ever since the development phase of the resort. Since the beginning, the design and construction of the resort has been focused on creating a luxurious tropical accommodation experience while ensuring to uphold the epitome of an eco-resort in the Maldives.
In the last three years, Reethi Faru Resort has developed various methods and techniques, in sync with their Marine Biologist, Smrutica Jithendranath, towards coral growth and conservation, and continue to do so. Upon carefully observing the changes in the ecosystem, the resort team has been modifying and using techniques to create artificial reefs and transplant corals to coral nurseries. Coral nurseries and artificial reefs are forms of active reef restoration aimed at increasing coral health, diversity, and abundance.
The artificial reefs were established with the aim of salvaging corals that have been damaged by coral bleaching and natural storms. Accumulated in one area, these artificial reefs form a coral garden that has been given the name ‘Reethi Garden’. The transplantation process includes collecting broken or damaged pieces of live coral and attaching them to coral frames. This gives the corals a chance at survival and aids in the enhancement of existing reef habitats.
Highlighting the focus of the resort’s coral conservation initiative, Director of Sales and Marketing at Reethi Faru, Parag Kathuria, Maldives stated: “Our new goal is to increase and improve the diversity of the coral species in the reef. Resilient coral species that have overcome and survived the bleaching are being identified and categorised as either abundant or non-abundant species. Currently, the focus is on breeding and growing the non-abundant species in our coral nursery that will eventually be replanted in the natural reef. We hope to not only restore the health and life of our reef, but also to restore the diversity and abundance of the corals."
As a result of the resort’s continued efforts, the reef has been showing signs of recovery and regeneration. The resort further aims to have multiple ‘Reethi Gardens’ around the island and to create a sustainable long-term project to help preserve and conserve the island’s coral reefs, which would also compliment engagement in marine conservation further extending to both turtles and manta rays.
Of the seven species of turtles, five can be found in the Maldivian waters. Two of the most commonly seen are the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys Imbricate) and the green sea turtle (Chelonia Mydas). According to a statement by the resort, hawksbill turtles are often spotted around the resort’s house reef. As turtles are known to be quite loyal to the reefs they frequent, the resort initiated their Turtle Identification (ID) programme, in collaboration with the Olive Ridley Project.
Turtles are identified by the scutes on their faces, unique to each individual, similar to the human fingerprint. Identifying individual turtles is imperative for ecological and conservation studies. Upon encountering a turtle, images of the turtle’s face (left and right side) are captured, in addition to an image of the turtle as a whole. The images are then submitted to the Olive Ridley Project team, who will then issue the unidentified turtles with their unique ID number.
In collaboration with Manta Trust, Reethi Faru Resort has also started a Manta ID project. The Maldives is a well-known home to majestic manta rays. The South Asian Monsoon brings in copious amounts of plankton that the mantas seek out and feed on en masse.
Each manta has unique spots on the underside, the ventral side, which is used to identify the individual. By creating a photo identification process, these creatures can be better understood and studied. The images are sent to the Manta Trust, who then provide the resort with information on that particular individual (sex, small scale movement patterns, migratory patterns, etc). The resort’s aim is to contribute to the larger mission of the Manta Trust; to drive global conservation of manta rays and their habitat. Guests taking part in manta snorkelling or dive trips with Reethi Faru Resort’s dive team – Sea Explorer – are encouraged to capture and share their images with the resort’s Marine Biologist.
*All images provided by Reethi Faru Resort
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