In 2019 Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Banyan Tree group, the 15th anniversary of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru Marine Lab and the 10th anniversary of the Banyan Tree Global Foundation (BTGF). Both properties also achieved EarthCheck Gold certification for their commitment to preserve the cultural heritage and natural surrounds. These milestones were commemorated by continuing to drive the core values of sustainable development.
The properties successfully eliminated over 90% of targeted single-use plastic, since pledging to go Plastic Free on Earth Day 2018. New initiatives, such as the monthly ‘Full Moon Lights Out’, further increase resource conservation efforts and since the event began in September 2019, around 350 kWh’s have been saved; which amounts to over 100 liters of fuel and is enough energy to power an average worldwide household for a whole month.
To raise awareness about the importance of keeping good health and wellbeing, a regular 1km open water swim is organized across the channel between the two properties. Guests and associates are also encouraged to go Meat Free, one day a month, to support better health for both the planet and individuals.
Within the local communities, the properties removed 1.5 tonnes of waste with support from over 2000 community members and partnerships with schools and councils of Thulusdhoo, Himmafushi, Huraa and Male’, the Maldives Girl Guides Association, American Centre Maldives, Tree Maldives, Dhirham, Arabiyya Scouts Association, and Let’s Do It Maldives. As part of the group special 25th Anniversary sustainability efforts, focus was placed on education within communities; Banyan Tree Maldives donated tables and chairs for classrooms that were much needed by Kaafu Atoll Education Centre, as well as conducting educational sessions for a number of schools and youth organizations. Efforts also focused on empowering women and promoting cultural recognition by providing opportunities to emerging artists from the American Center and craftspeople who are building up their careers in traditional artwork such as embroidery.
Environmental conservation, preservation and restoration efforts remain a large emphasis for both Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru. In celebration of Banyan Tree Marine Lab’s 15th Anniversary, the team expanded one of the Lab’s earliest projects, ‘The Necklace’, the world’s first electric reef constructed on Angsana Ihuru in 1998. A pilot experimental assessment is being undertaken, using corals that have been grown on the Lab’s various nurseries.
Natural recovery of coral reefs has been slow in North Male’ Atoll, but it is assisted by our conservation, restoration and research programs. Around 500 corals that have been growing on rope nurseries for the last two years have been transplanted back onto Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru house reefs. Reef and fish communities are being compared to control areas to assess the value of assisted recovery in the Maldives.
This year is the 5th year of a collaborative project with the Ministry of Fisheries assessing the efficacy of the shark ban to understand the impacts on sharks, reefs, fishers and other resource users. Findings from this were published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals in 2019.
Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and Angsana Ihuru are setting the goals even higher, aiming to set best practices and drive core values of sustainable development in the Maldives. This year Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru will celebrate its own 25th anniversary and continue to strive towards 100% single-use plastic elimination. The Marine Lab plans to extend restoration work with the implementation of a mid-water nursery, designed to seed corals that can be transplanted back onto the reef, and the 2020 shark monitoring is underway now.