The Fari Islands are emerging as a hub for all things sustainability from the waters of the Maldives’ North Malé atoll. Leading the way in the archipelago’s drive for eco-tourism are two world-class resorts – and their respective, green initiatives.
After nearly fifty years of tourism and some 170 resorts built across its impossibly paradisal island chains, the Maldives ought to have understood their unique position as a travel destination, and ensured to protect all that gives the country its ultimate getaway status. And to an extent, you could argue, they have: in recent years, hotels have kick-started pioneering campaigns to reduce their environmental footprint, clearly moving away from cookie-cutter initiatives. But as an island nation, the Maldives face challenges arising from the climate crisis that exceed economic concerns. If the country wants to stay ‘afloat’, it has to act quickly – for context, the archipelago’s highest elevation, Mount Villingili, is a mere 5.1m tall.
Cue the Fari Islands. Just a short hop from the capital and international point of entry that is Malé, the micro island chain within the North Malé atoll is a bit like a private members club for hospitality brands looking to ‘give back’. If you don’t protect the environment you’re in, you can’t sit with them. Not that there was any space left, either way: three islands will boast game-changing five-star resorts whilst the fourth is reserved for the ‘Fari Campus’. A home for the hotels’ staff with a focus on community, education, career advancement and quality of life, the centre is a notable development and the first of its kind in the nation.
We’ll be honest with you – sustainability news from the Maldives are always to be taken with a grain of salt, but what’s happening in the Fari Islands is certainly ambitious and it points towards the region becoming the country’s standout hub for conscious travellers. So what exactly are local resorts doing, we hear you ask?
First of all, there’s the Patina. The latest hospitality concept by Capella (who, incidentally, are about to open a hotel under their own brand on the neighbouring island), this 90 villas and 20 studios strong getaway intends to join the illustrious ranks of the world’s most eco-friendly hotels when it opens on 1 May. To its credit, the Patina really is pulling all the strings: offshore solar panels will work towards energy-positive operations, guests will be invited to regular beach clean-ups with plastic waste being turned into Parley ocean plastic material; there’s a coral propagation programme as well as an alliance with the Olive Ridley Project working on sea turtle rehabilitation, and the resort will donate 1% of its gross profit to local women’s and children’s charities – mind you, that’s just an extract of a considerably more exhaustive list, which also mentions more ground-breaking ideas (like the Patina’s solar-powered kids’ club, where its youngest visitors will be invited to turn recycled ocean plastic into models using 3D printing and laser cutting technologies – oh, to be a child again!).
On paper, the brand’s inaugural flagship and its many ways of combatting pollution sure sound fabulous. What struck us as perhaps most notable, however, is how the resort is planning to combine culinary delights with sustainable thinking throughout its gastronomic offerings. At its vegan dining experience Roots, which sources ingredients from an on-island garden guests are invited to forage, a root-to-leaf principle seeks to eliminate waste while curious holidaymakers are invited to reap the many benefits of plant-based eating. When you think about it, this is quite the novelty. Even the most eco-friendly island resorts tend to rely heavily on dishing up seafood, for obvious reasons, often conveniently forgetting the role fishing plays in the depletion of entire species, not to mention the damage done to sea turtles, dolphins and other bycatch. Sure, we’re a little biased, being vegan ourselves. But for a five-star address to go beyond the green nice-to-haves and encourage visitors to try something they might normally dismiss… we think that’s quite the feat.
Renderings and photography courtesy of Patina Hotels
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives
A little further along the Fari Islands chain, the 100-key Ritz-Carlton, set to open on 1 June, has its very own ways of conserving marine life. We hear the legendary brand’s first outlet in the Maldives (yes, we couldn’t believe it, either!) will become the sixth Ritz property to offer the popular ‘Ambassadors of the Environment’ programme in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau – explorer, environmentalist and son of Jacques. Participating guests of all ages can look forward to immersive experiences aimed not only at protecting the Maldives’ fragile ecosystem, but also at developing an awareness of how to incorporate more sustainable practises into one’s own life. In other words, there’ll be educational kayaking, underwater photography, night snorkelling trips and stargazing in the middle of the Indian Ocean: the stuff outdoor dreams and transformative travel are made of.
Richard Murphy, who works with Cousteau’s Ocean Future Society, says the goal of the programme is for visitors to ‘return home with the inspiration and motivation to live more sustainably and to appreciate the importance of protecting nature’. And this, we think, is where the efforts of both the Ritz-Carlton as well as the Patina take sustainability to the next stage. Green practises shouldn’t be something we dip into and leave back at the resort upon departure. They’re vital for the planet’s health and recognising the sensibilities of a new generation of luxury travellers, the hotels springing up in the Fari Islands have reached a communal understanding to plant a seed of interest in each and every visitor, encouraging them to adopt more mindful lifestyles post-vacation, too. If they succeed in wowing guests with their luxurious yet responsible offering, we predict those seeds might very well sprout.
Renderings courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
OutThere believes in boundless travel, but we understand that destinations like this one may prove challenging for some visitors. We advise that you understand local laws and customs before booking your trip or work with a travel advisor to ensure a carefree, enjoyable and well-deserved holiday.
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