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World Oceans Day: 5 boutique hotels making waves in marine conservation

Never again will we take swimming in the ocean for granted. A treasured experience on any seaside holiday, the waters around our hotels are often what makes their setting so special. From reef restoration to plant-your-own coral projects, these eco-friendly resorts are going beneath the surface of sustainability to protect the planet’s most precious natural resource. Here, every day is World Oceans Day…

Milaidhoo Island, Baa Atoll – Maldives

From overwater villas with individual infinity pools that blend seamlessly into a mirror flat sea, to a gourmet restaurant set in three Dhoni sailing boats, Milaidhoo Island celebrates every drop of its UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve setting. With the world-famous Hanifaru Bay on its doorstep, the private island has implemented a coral regeneration programme where guests can ‘adopt’ a reef of their own, planting it and watching it grow over the years. There are also specialist wildlife sessions on offer with the island’s resident marine biologist, for nature lovers to discover what makes whale sharks tick, why manta rays dance, what makes dolphins smile and help with identification and conservation practices.

Harbour Village Beach Club, Bonaire – Caribbean

On the coveted west coast with a picturesque marina and roomy Dutch-Caribbean style villas, this unspoiled escape is in one the Caribbean’s top scuba diving destinations. As the only resort in the world advancing coral preservation through Electrified Reef and traditional transplantation techniques, Harbour Village Beach Club uses an underwater reef cam to monitor and track coral growth while assessing each method’s effectiveness. Guests who dive can learn how to hang and maintain corals in the underwater nursery, how to transplant corals from the nursery to the house reef and become PADI certified in coral restoration.

Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay, Ibiza – Spain

Guests at Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay can book a one-to-one diving expedition with National Geographic presenter, marine biologist and underwater photographer Manu San Felix to learn about protecting the island’s precious Neptune grass. These ancient meadows of seagrass play a crucial in oxygenating and keeping the water around the beautiful Balearic island clean, which is why this White Isle icon has launched an exclusive swimwear collection with the Ibiza Preservation Foundation and British summer lifestyle line, Love Brand & Co. The printed swim shorts are playfully named Sea Weave and Posidonia y el Mar, inspired by the rustic woven interior textures of the hotel, the deep blue colour of the Mediterranean Sea and the local seagrass, Posidonia.

Pictured right: ‘Sea Weave’ Staniel Swim Short by Love Brand & Co.

Working together with the IPF and Love Brand & Co, a portion of the proceeds from the swimwear will go towards helping map the Posidonia around the island to guide boat anchoring, informing sustainable decision making and creating engaging educational children’s programmes, so the next generation can enjoy the natural beauty of Ibiza.

Gaya Island Resort, Kota Kinabalu – Malaysia

Set within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a group of five islands located off Kota Kinabalu, each with fringing coral reefs, Gaya Island Resort is proactively protecting and preserving the beauty of its natural environment through several eco-friendly initiatives. Nestled on Tavajun Bay, Gaya Island Resort Marine Centre is home to four coral reef display tanks for educational purposes as well as producing coral fragments that will be returned to the sea. The marine centre’s coral nursery provides an on-land opportunity for guests to become engaged with coral reef conservation, providing a controlled environment for freshly planted corals to recover. This initiative is carried out in collaboration with Reef Check Malaysia, a non-profit organisation. Activities include the collection of broken or non-viable coral fragments, their attachment to coral blocks or artificial reef structures, placement in the nursery for observation and their return to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park to rehabilitate damaged areas.

The resort also sees to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sea turtles that the resort receives from the Sabah Wildlife Department and other conservation agencies through its turtle rescue programme. Operating a Turtle Hotline, the marine centre is notified whenever there are injured or sick sea turtles in need and provide them with a safe environment in which to recover. To date, the centre has released four turtles – Bobby, Ninja, Carmen and Nick Jr. all of whom have undergone rehabilitation and research in the turtle rescue centre’s 14,000-litre recovery tank.

Petit St. Vincent, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines – Caribbean

Balancing barefoot luxury with sustainable living, Petit St. Vincent goes out of its way to be ecologically conscious and conserve the natural beauty of the 115-acre island. Reef regeneration is a crucial step towards creating a designated marine protected area around Petit St. Vincent. As part of the private island’s coral restoration project, in partnership with the Philip Stephenson Foundation and CLEAR Caribbean, a coral nursery has been constructed using fragments of Elkhorn coral collected from around the island. Once grown, the outcrops of juvenile coral will be used to repopulate nearby reefs on the Atlantic side of the island.

Petit St. Vincent is also home to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Dive Centre. Founded by the son of the legendary explorer and conservationist, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the state-of-the-art PADI 5-star centre offers diving courses, certifications, and guided trips to some of the area’s best dive sites. The team are passionate about protecting the planet’s oceans, and enabling guests to safely discover the dazzling displays of coral, colourful collections of fish, and majestic sea creatures that call the surrounding waters their home.