Words by Richard Jones
Seas and oceans are truly magical places, providing a home to some of the most spectacular and, occasionally, otherworldly lifeforms on the planet. As well as providing the backdrop to many of those dream holiday destinations that we have been fantasising about for the last few months, for humans, oceans provide food, generate oxygen, regulate our climate and much more.
While many of us have used the spare time during lockdown to spruce up our homes, it is worth remembering that the blue part of our wider shared home is also badly in need of attention. TV series Blue Planet has fuelled the discussion about the effects of climate change and plastic pollution. However, it is still widely acknowledged that our oceans will struggle to fully function until we fully turn the tide by changing our disposable global culture and overcoming ecological illiteracy.
Since 1992, World Oceans Day has been held every year on June 8 to encourage us to honour, protect and conserve our oceans. For 2020, the organisers are calling on global leaders to protect 30 per cent of our blue planet by 2030 through a network of highly protected areas.
Fifteen years ago, my wife Rachel and I were fortunate to visit one of the most fascinating, but also fragile, places in the world. We spent two weeks in the Maldives where, as well as relaxing on soft white sands and swimming in turquoise waters, we both developed a new appreciation of the importance of the oceans and the dangers the islands are facing from rising sea levels.
As World Oceans Day approaches, one of the resorts in the Indian Ocean archipelago, Seaside Finolhu, is pressing on with its ground-breaking conservation initiatives. Translated as ‘sandbank’, Finolhu, is located in Baa Atoll, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve famous for its mesmerising diversity of reefs, submerged cliffs and small underwater hills, known as thilas.
The resort has just become the first member of Design Hotels in the Maldives and consists of four islands with long powder-soft beaches, as well as 125 stylish over-water and beach villas. It also features four beach-side dining venues, a spa and wellness facility, and the property’s iconic Beach Bubble. The first of its kind in the Maldives, the bubble is located in a secluded sandbank spot and is available for guests wishing to enjoy a uniquely romantic glamping experience under the stars.
While Seaside Finolhu is popular with honeymooners, the tropical paradise resort also houses a kids’ club and there is a beach cinema for movie lovers. Then, after the sun has set, stilt walkers, acrobats and world-class DJs provide entertainment deep into the night.
Despite all these world-class amenities, Seaside Finolhu is much more than just another luxurious holiday resort. It continues to lead the way in ocean conservation, with its resident marine biologist heading up a team of ocean experts who work on a number of onsite conservation projects.
Guests are invited to explore the ocean and participate in research activities in the hope they will develop a better understanding of the atoll’s complex eco-system.
During their regular clean-up excursions to the local islands of Hithaadhoo, Kudadhoo, Ohlugiri and Hanifaru, staff and guests are, not only, preserving the area for future generations or tourists, but are also educating the local community on the importance of water usage, waste disposal and sustainability. Baa Atoll is a feeding ground for manta rays and whale sharks, and any turtles or other marine animals that are identified as injured or in distress are rescued, treated, studied and released.
Seaside Finolhu is also in the early stages of developing a coral restoration project. Broken fragments are placed on a framework in the shallow waters of the lagoon, and once they have developed and grown larger, are transplanted back to the reefs. The resort has also partnered with Parley for the Oceans to mitigate the effects of pollution, with all plastics going through a segregation process before each piece is eventually shipped to the Adidas factory in Taiwan where they are used to make shoes and clothes.
Finally, visitors embarking on scuba dives from Seaside Finolhu’s Oceanic Center are accompanied by an experienced dive butler who showcases the best of what the water has to offer and teaches guests about marine life.
At the moment, many of us will be dreaming of going on holiday, perhaps sitting on a sun-drenched beach in some far-flung idyllic paradise, while the ocean waves casually roll up onto the soft sand. Thankfully, there will be opportunities to return to dream destinations like Seaside Finolhu soon enough.
However, as World Oceans Day 2020 will remind us, if we don’t act fast, the Maldives could be out of bounds for tourists in the not-too-distant future. More important than that, the health of our seas and the oceans could deteriorate even further, and that will have a devastating effect on us all. It is time for a sea change all around the world, and Seaside Finolhu is leading the way.
Stay seven nights at the five-star Seaside Finolhu resort in the Maldives from £2,815 per person, including return economy flights from London Gatwick to Male with Qatar Airways and speedboat transfers. Price is based on two adults sharing on a bed and breakfast basis, travelling between December 4-11, 2020 with Kuoni.
Address: P.O. Box 2099, Malé, Republic of Maldives
Tel: +960 660 8800