Turn the clock back to the start of 2020 and the beaches of the Maldives’ idyllic atolls buzzed with peak-season holidaymakers. Honeymooners lounged idly under cabanas, families set sail for immersive snorkelling trips and kids splashed in the turquoise waters.Since COVID-19 reared its ugly head however, most of the world has retreated into hibernation and those same shorelines have fallen silent, devoid of visitors — or at least, that is, human ones. In late March, team members from the recently-opened SAii Lagoon Maldives spotted some unfamiliar footprints along the resort’s main beach. After a quick search, a pregnant Olive Ridley sea turtle was found nesting in on the shore — the first recorded sighting of this species nesting in the Maldives.
“We were very surprised to find this species on our beach. It just goes to show how quickly the marine environment adapts and thrives under the right circumstances,” commented Aladin Pakbara, the project leader for resort’s sustainable development.
The sustainability team at SAii Lagoon Maldives will now work with the local authorities and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to see how they can support nesting Olive Ridley sea turtles in future. Team members are being trained by the marine experts at the in-house Marine Discovery Centre to identify these turtles and other new and rare species, and what to do in case of another sighting.
The decline of tourist arrivals has also led to an increase in sightings of other native marine species in and around S Hotels & Resorts’ CROSSROADS Maldives community, which includes SAii Lagoon Maldives, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives and The Marina @ CROSSROADS, a ‘one-stop, non-stop’ lifestyle destination with diversified leisure offerings. These include hawksbill sea turtles, eagle rays and stingrays. Indeed, stories about the recovery of wildlife during the recent lockdown have emerged around the world.
A video released by park rangers on Thailand’s famous Phi Phi Island shows a school of blacktip sharks in the shallow waters of Maya Bay, made famous in the movie “The Beach”. As part of SHR’s global sustainability projects, the Marine Discovery Centre team at Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort is working with the national park on numerous conservation initiatives, including coral propagation, mangrove replanting and a rescue project for bamboo sharks. These are driven by Kullawit “Um” Limchularat, the highly-respected international expert who heads up SHR’s corporate sustainable development projects.
“SHR’s commitment to sustainability is woven into the fabric of our company. In line with the ethos of our parent group, Singha Estate PCL, we understand that we are the custodians of our destinations and have a duty to protect and preserve them for future generations. We operate all our resorts in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially with regard to SDG14, ‘Life Below Water’, and we strive to conserve our marine and coastal ecosystems. The presence of Olive Ridley turtles at SAii Lagoon Maldives is another wonderful example of how we are enabling nature to thrive,” said Dirk De Cuyper, Chief Executive Officer, S Hotels & Resorts.
SHR’s Marine Discovery Centres are free-to-enter facilities that feature a wide range of interactive exhibits and educational displays explaining the lifecycles and habits of the unique marine species endemic to each region. The first centre opened at Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort in 2018, and the second was launched in 2019 at CROSSROADS Maldives. A third Marine Discovery Centre has been planned at Santiburi, the carbon-neutral resort in Koh Samui.