What exactly is eco diving or snorkelling? To qualify as an 'eco dive resort' the guiding issue is that the hotel should have a minimal impact on the environment. And so it is the same with divers and snorkellers who can tend to treat the sea and the coral reefs as an endlessly renewable resource seeing as how there appears to be just so much of it.
However, as everyone should be aware, our oceans are under threat from warming, acidification and pollution and so we need to do our bit to impact as little as possible while benefiting from all it has to offer.
In this piece we look at some simple rules divers and snorkellers can follow to minimize their impact on the marine environment, as well as sharing a few picks for places they can stay that are not only stylish (we are called Dive in Style after all) but are also making a real effort to improve their eco credentials.
These are not 'eco dive resorts' per se, and there are many hotels and boats out there that may be further ahead in their 'eco qualifications', but these are hotels that we have visited and feature in Dive in Style that we would applaud for their efforts,
So, let's start with how people can dive responsibly. The reality is that you don't need to do very much! All you need to do is follow a few simple rules and you will be well on your way:
- Don't walk or stand on the coral - it is a living organism and if someone millions of times heavier than you was to stand on you, you would not care for it!
- Don't touch the coral and don't wear gloves unless for a specific purpose (such as cold water diving) as this can tempt you to touch things that you should not.
- Don't bang the coral with your tank and be spatially aware - practice perfecting your buoyancy as it makes your diving more enjoyable and also you use less air.
- Don't chase sea life, you will never get closer to it. Imagine how you would react when chased by something the relative size of an Elephant?
- Don't pick up shells-beautiful though they are, quite often they are hosting either a crab or the original mollusc and even if they are conclusively empty, they will provide either a home or safety from attack for a myriad of creatures.
- Don't leave anything behind. Finish a dive with everything you started with, and if you can, pick up any rubbish, plastic bags, fishing line etc. you find and put in your BCD.
Do all this and you will be a responsible diver.
Eco Dive Resorts
The next question is where you can stay that will also make a difference; somewhere that has a minimal impact on its environment and indeed where its very existence gives back to the local community. And one where you can also Dive in Style. Here are my picks for eco dive resorts.
Soneva Fushi, Maldives
Of all the resorts I have visited, this is probably the very best example. This amazingly stylish resort on a private island in Baa Atoll is eco through to its roots. The whole concept is based around SLOW LIFE (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wholesome, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences). This idea of 'Intelligent Luxury' proves you really can have your cake and eat it. Organically.
With just 65 rooms this resort captures the very essence of castaway fantasy and were Robinson Crusoe a hotel developer, this would be his dream. Amazingly, this utterly luxurious hotel which offers accommodation for nearly every pocket, aims to become carbon neutral by 2011, helped on its way by the recent installation of the country's first solar farm. And as for the diving...
Frégate Island Private, Seychelles
At first glance, this island hideaway seems to be the most unlikely eco resort you could imagine. Set on a truly stunning speck of an island with one of the world's most beautiful beaches, there are just 16 vast and luxuriously appointed suites, each with their own infinity edge pool.
From its solar powered golf buggies to its photo voltaic solar panels Frégate Island Private is fast becoming a leading example of how to establish a balanced coexistence between man and nature yet when you look at it, this is hard to believe.
Truly in the middle of nowhere, hanging like an earring off the southern tip of Sulawesi in the Banda Sea in Indonesia, you would have expected the reefs here to have been perfect when this small resort was established in 1995. This was not the case as even then they were starting to show the stress of man's influence.
The Collaborative Reef Conservation Program was developed in consultation with local leaders and village elders and was designed to motivate the people living within the Wakatobi region to realize the intrinsic value of the reefs and to inspire the villages to take an active role in protecting the marine ecosystem. Cooperation between local fishermen and visiting divers is promoted by generating an income from tourism that is channelled directly back into the community. Starting with just 6 kilometers, the success of the project has been such that the 'park' has now been extended to over 20kms.
And as for the reefs, simply stunning and truly some of the best in the world whether you snorkel or dive. Indeed the 'house reef' does claim to be the best in the world and I have yet to find better.
To have an Aman resort feature in this list seems extraordinary as the mind naturally conjures up soaring pavilions, vast spas and a host of unecological elements. Amanwana, however, is different, very different.
Offering just 20 'tents' that will redefine your understanding of the word, this low impact resort is carved out of wilderness forest, and is both a nature and marine reserve 15 kilometres off the coast of Sumbawa, east of Bali. Surrounded by the turquoise waters and untouched reefs of the Flores Sea, and close by the incomparable diving and dragons of Komodo, this is eco luxury at it's best as you lie in your tent and hear Monkeys playing on your roof.
A few days here and then a trip on the Amanikan (the Aman boat) to the marine, nature and World Heritage site of Komodo is a holiday of a lifetime and as for the diving and snorkelling, truly some of the very best in the world.