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Island Resorts Protecting The Ocean: Sea turtles, marine mammal and coral preservation; celebrity-led developments and the rehabilitation of ecosystems: some of the world’s most exclusive island resorts excel most for the commitment they show to protecting the oceans and support local communities. Venture to these isolated locations across the planet to see the difference eco resorts like this can make to life beneath the waves.
Which are the leading sustainable island eco resorts in the world?
Luxury Eco Resort in French Polynesia: The Brando
When Marlon Brando first arrived in the Tetiaroa atoll, he was so impressed by its natural beauty and the Polynesian way of life, he decided to find his own pocket of this paradise to call home. Years later, in a bid to make this biodiverse area a centre for environmental research, he began his endeavour in setting up an environmentally conscious luxury island resort.
While this was the beginning of The Brando resort’s creation, it eventually made its debut in 2014. True to its original inspiration, the resort proved its dedication to preserving the environment with sustainably built villas blending into the forest and renewable energy.
Sustainable initiatives in French Polynesia
Along with the construction of the resort, The Brando built and gifted an eco-station to the Tetiatoa Society who run research and education projects focusing on conservation of the atoll. Initiatives here include sustainable fishing and fish replenishment programmes, the preservation, monitoring and restoration of the environment and the protection of species such as turtles.
In part thanks to projects like these, this atoll’s waters thrive with marine life. Around 167 fish species have been identified here, whales pass through on their migration route and dolphins regularly make an appearance.
Unique Experience in The Brando
Don’t miss: Explore the turquoise lagoon by Polynesian outrigger canoe when at this sustainable eco lodge. www.thebrando.com
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Sustainable Tourism in Panama: Islas Secas
Giant mantas, pods of dolphins and migrating humpback whales: these are just some of the marine creatures found in the ocean’s diverse ecosystem off Panama’s Pacific Coast.
The privately owned Islas Secas archipelago lies at the heart of this thriving marine environment, just a short boat ride from UNESCO World Heritage Coiba National Marine Park. The 18-guest eco-resort, which officially reached completion in December 2019, spans Islas Cavada at the heart of these Jurassic Park-like islands.
Casitas with decks and plunge pools peer out from the flourishing vegetation and a dramatic high-ceilinged, open-sided Terraza is the setting for ocean-to-fork dining. A tented spa is launching in March.
Initiatives by Panama’s Sustainable Eco resort
As well as constructing the luxurious resort from certified sustainable wood, Islas Secas planted thousands of native trees to restore the integrity of the island and it now sources all of its energy from solar power. To benefit the surrounding marine environment, the Islas Secas Foundation then set up partnerships with ocean initiatives such as Oceans 5 and Panacetacea who run research and education projects in the area.
You can experience this environment by setting out on a marine safari, exploring by kayak and paddleboard and spotting the migrating marine life.
Unique Experience in Islas Secas
Don’t miss: Dive beneath the water’s surface at Coiba National Marine Park. www.islassecas.com
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White sand beaches in Tanzania: Thanda Island
Marine encounters are an integral part of the Thanda experience. The resort’s location, just off the southern coast of Tanzania, places you in a prime spot for swimming with whale sharks from October to March and you can gain insight into the marine life the whole year-round.
Paying tribute to its position within Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve, Thanda Island shows optimum respect for the ocean, partnering with Tanzanian Marine Parks and leading NGO, Sea Sense, on a number of conservation programmes in the local community. A ban on fishing allows marine life to flourish, regular surveys monitor the health of the coral and nursery structures stimulate reef rehabilitation — you can see what difference these projects make by joining the marine biologist on a snorkelling trip.
Eco Friendly Villas
The resort then reflects its environmental sensitivity in the sustainability of the resort. Solar panels provide power and a desalination system purifies seawater for the rim-flow swimming pool.
The sustainably built villas provide direct access to the private reef just offshore and you’re within easy reach of world-class diving sites off nearby Mafia Island. You might be lucky to see turtles nesting on the shores and a dive could bring you face to face with the endangered dugong.
Unique Experience in Thanda Island
Don’t miss: Sail the protected waters on a traditional Arab dhow when at this eco friendly luxury resort. www.thandaisland.com
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Best Eco Resort in Seychelles: Fregate Island
The Seychelles is a shining example in how to do eco-tourism well. The rehabilitation of entire islands and innovative approach to marine conservation set it head and shoulders above most island nations.
Fregate Island, which lies at the easternmost point of the granitic Inner Islands, is among those eco friendly resorts making a difference. The past few decades have seen Fregate Island return to its most pristine state through the reintroduction of its endemic plants, birdlife and iconic species such as the Giant Aldabra Tortoise.
Unspoiled Nature in Fregate Island
Ecologists take guests out on excursions to understand this environment and encounter the ocean’s marine life. Whales, dolphins and giant mantas pass through the region’s deeper waters and colourful shoals of fish bring life to the shallows.
Two of the island’s seven sandy beaches provide a habitat for nesting turtles, which Fregate’s conservation team safeguard and monitor from October to January each year, ensuring the turtles hatch successfully and safely.
A stay in one of Fregate’s sprawling pool villas gives you your own private sanctuary within this flourishing environment. The resort’s guided explorations and water sports then introduce you to the wildlife-rich surroundings.
Unique Experience in Fregate Island
Don’t miss: Island hop on one of Fregate Island Yacht Club’s four sports boats. www.fregate.com
Read More: Guide To Africa’s Indian Ocean Islands
Luxury Eco Resort In Grenadines: Petit St. Vincent Private Island
When a site bears Jean-Michel Cousteau’s name, you know it’s going to be a beacon of ocean conservation. Petit St. Vincent Private Island is home to one of the world’s few dive centres overseen by the ocean explorer, filmmaker and conservationist.
The son of legendary explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau opened his Caribbean dive centre here following research of the reefs and ocean life in the region. Inspired to help people appreciate the array of marine life here, Cousteau considered this eco-conscious resort the right place to share his message.
This dive centre fits in with the conservation ethos of the resort itself. Desalinating ocean water, recycling and growing produce in the chef’s organic garden all contribute to Petit St. Vincent’s sustainability efforts, which are then complemented by environmental projects such as reef restoration.
You can see the results of this work by snorkelling off the island’s Atlantic pier and perhaps even getting involved in the restoration process. Opt for a cottage tucked into the island’s lush vegetation or stay in a beach villa facing out to sea, then explore the surroundings, above and below the water.
Unique Experience in Petit St. Vincent Private Island
Don’t miss: Dive with eagle rays and sharks at sites such as Punaise Reef. www.petitstvincent.com
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Eco Resorts Coming Soon in Belize: Blackadore Caye
Much of this resort’s development has been kept under wraps. When it was announced Leonardo DiCaprio had embarked on the creation of an island resort here, with news of the project first emerging in 2015, it immediately rose to international prominence.
Partnering with the owner of neighbouring resort CayoEspanto, DiCaprio set about creating a luxury hideaway that could benefit the prosperity of the surrounding environment, both on land and in the ocean. DiCaprio hopes that by developing an eco-resort that benefits the natural environment, he’ll set a model for other eco-tourism projects like these in other parts of the world.
Sustainable Tourism in Belize
The resort will have a collection of energy efficient bungalows and sustainable luxury villas, alongside a main lodge with beach club, racquet club, jetty and education centre. Mangrove has been planted to stop the island’s natural erosion and native species are being reintroduced.
The resort’s grand opening is planned for 2020 but with new information yet to be revealed, we’ll just have to wait to hear more.
Unique Experience in Blackadore Caye
Don’t miss: Once this island resort opens, it will place you within easy reach of world famous scuba diving sites like the Great Blue Hole. www.restorativeislands.com
Eco Resorts Coming Soon in Mozambique: Kisawa Sanctuary
Sustainability and conservation meet inspired architecture and design at this soon-to-open lodge in Mozambique. Planned for a summer 2020 debut, Kisawa Sanctuary will pair a remote Benguerra Island location in the protected Bazaruto Archipelago with never-seen-before sustainable architecture integrating 3D printing and traditional crafts such as carpentry and textiles with local materials from local communities.
Building materials created from the island’s sand and seawater will provide the structure for 12 bungalows set across a private sanctuary of forest, beach and sand dunes. Ocean conservation is to be a major focus here, with founder Nina Flohr simultaneously setting up Kisawa Sanctuary’s sister project, The Bazaruto Centre for Scientific Studies (BCSS). Situated on the other side of Benguerra Island, this centre will be home to the first long-term African Ocean Observatory for monitoring ecosystems and climate change.
The Bazaruto Archipelago as a whole is an extraordinary setting for marine life. Manta rays and dugongs are often seen in these waters, along with humpback whales, whale sharks, turtles and dolphins. More than 145 bird species then inhabit the wild islands and pink flamingos gather on the white sandbars.
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Unique Experience in Kisawa Sanctuary
Don’t miss: Set out on a marine safari from Kisawa Sanctuary’s dive centre. www.kisawasanctuary.com ◼
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© This article was first published in Feb-Mar 2020 edition of World Travel Magazine.