Six Senses Laamu proudly announces the opening of the Sea Hub for Environmental Learning in Laamu (SHELL) on March 1, 2023. The SHELL sits on the resort’s sunset beach, covering a total area of 5,952 square feet (553 square meters), with its cornerstone placed on May 6, 2022.
It will house the Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI), a marine conservation collaborative consisting of Six Senses Laamu marine biologists and partner NGOs, The Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation, and the Olive Ridley Project, along with a gallery exhibition space, offices, marine laboratory, cinema room, and kids’ zone. Virtual and augmented reality technologies and conservation art will further enhance the space.
Marteyne van Well, Regional General Manager, says, “Healing the ocean requires understanding first. The environmentalist Baba Dioum once said, ‘In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.’ So, let us teach; let us educate the new generation on the importance of nature conservation. This is the vision behind the Sea Hub for Environmental Learning in Laamu; to engage the hearts and minds of our guests, our local communities, and our hosts. Our wish is for us and our owners, HPL Hotels & Resorts, to leave a legacy in the Laamu Atoll, where science and leisure come together with one goal: to discover more and be inspired to protect our oceans.”
The SHELL is a multi-use space designed for guest education and for offering curated and immersive marine conservation experiences. The 2,336 square-foot (217 square-meter) central exhibition space invites guests to explore the colorful and vibrant local marine life during out-of-the-ordinary encounters. The MUI team will be offering hands-on guest activities and presentations parallel to their research, conservation efforts, and initiatives. The SHELL will also feature designated facilities for hosting world-class researchers to further expand MUI’s ambitious goal to see sustainable resource management in Laamu.
Stephen Lau, Chairman of HPL Hotels & Resorts, says, “The SHELL is the beginning of a new chapter in the history of Six Senses Laamu and the resort’s long record in marine conservation and community outreach. Our wish to make Laamu atoll a better place for generations to come has been our common vision of HPL, and that common vision has been the driving force behind what made this project come to life today. We hope aspiring marine biologists and budding conservationists will be inspired by the stories and research the SHELL is carrying out and that travelers and partners alike will wish to be part of the conservation journey. The SHELL helps us all give a voice to the atoll’s incredible marine ecosystems and our combined responsibility to protect it, now more than ever.”
With the goal of bringing an immersive experience to the guests at the SHELL, the central gallery, also called the Tank, boasts a high-resolution LED display floor and five educational viewing booths for kids and adults. It features diverse underwater scenes of the Laamu atoll to give insights into selected micro-topics on marine life. This immersive gallery, designed by Illuminate Productions in Singapore, is unique in the Maldives and seeks to showcase and educate guests on the exciting marine life around Six Senses Laamu. Inspired by a glass-bottom boat, the content will be periodically updated to reflect new footage captured by the resort’s dive team and diver hosts, bringing about an ever-changing canvas for guests to enjoy during different visits to the resort.
“The opening of the SHELL at Six Senses Laamu is a milestone moment for the resort and the company overall, as it truly represents the passion for the ocean environment and biology, a key agenda item for Marteyne and her team. We are equally delighted and excited at how Six Senses, through the SHELL, is bringing to life our company values in the beautiful and fragile Maldives ecosystem,” states Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs.
The Kids’ Zone is designed for young (or young at heart) and aspiring marine biologists to discover the secrets of Laamu and the underwater world. Highlights include an augmented reality sandbox which allows the users to change and redesign habitats and topography using projection mapping technology, and the ‘Draw Alive’, where children will be able to color-in their favorite marine creatures and watch them come alive on a large screen with the help of advanced animation technology to watch them swim and move throughout a virtual world.
Lawrence Menz, Project Manager of the SHELL shared, “Just like the hermit crab that moves into a larger shell when it outgrows the previous one, The Maldives Underwater Initiative by Six Senses Laamu also needs a larger space to call home, as the team is growing in size and ambitions. The SHELL will showcase the stunning marine environment that surrounds us, with breathtaking visuals and immersive and hands-on interactive experiences. We will be conducting innovative research in our new laboratory facilities that we hope will help us find the answers to, at least, some of Laamu’s questions.”
The SHELL features a 506 square-foot (47 square-meter) amphitheater displaying stunning visuals of the underwater world as a backdrop for the team to tell their stories of the land and waters of Laamu and present their research and findings to guests and scientific peers.
Quoting Philippa Roe, Head Marine Biologist, “Over the years, the MUI team has been working to establish Laamu as a hub for marine research and become an example for sustainable marine resource management in the Maldives. Having presented 12 research papers at the 2022 Maldives Marine Science Symposium focused on research on Laamu, the center’s facilities will allow us to make even greater strides toward understanding and helping the marine environment and reaching our goal. It is this information that has contributed to the establishment of six Marine Protected Areas in the atoll, and Laamu being designated a Mission Blue Hope Spot in 2021.”
The team understands that conservation doesn’t happen overnight, and that to be truly successful, a combination of scientific research, community support, and international understanding is needed. The SHELL aims to bring together all these elements in an innovative and exciting way to safeguard the environment and people of Laamu.