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LAAMU ATOLL, THE MALDIVES
Barefoot luxury with a commitment to conservation, environmental responsibility, and local culture, has always been the philosophy behind Six Senses Laamu. The only resort in the southern Maldives’ Laamu Atoll, it recognises its responsibility towards the local population and ecosystem. Laamu’s sustainability strategy ‘Local Sensitivity, Global Sensibility’, includes initiatives around energy saving, seagrass conservation, waste reduction, reef protection, and wildlife conservation.
The high density of seagrass in this part of the Maldives, can support up to 80,000 fish and is a vital form of food for sea turtles — to date the resort has recorded 107 Green and 93 Hawksbill turtles. Laamu’s six marine biologists continually update our understanding of this rich biodiversity and work towards the long-term goal of turning the 19,200-acre atoll into a Marine Protected Area. Quarterly meetings with the island and atoll councils, run through the ‘Eku-Eky’ (together) community programme, focus on awareness of environmental issues including waste management and sustainable fishing.
Laamu’s 97 villas have been designed in harmony with the island’s natural beauty, using local and sustainably-sourced materials. Alongside enjoying the organic culinary delights, prepared straight from the local fisheries and island’s kitchen garden, guests can enjoy everything from diving to wine-tasting. Since creating the country’s first ever Dolphin Watching Code of Conduct in 2014, Laamu has taken pride in weaving responsible travel practices into the guest experience.
Six Senses Laamu joined The Long Run in 2017 and committed to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture, and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
To protect the environment, Six Senses Laamu, employs six marine biologists, including two resident marine biologists, and two marine biologists each from two UK-based NGOs, Manta Trust and Blue Marine Foundation. The research of the entire marine team provides further understanding of Laamu’s rich biodiversity and gathers data to support the long-term goal of creating marine reserves. In 2014, the resort created the country’s first ever Dolphin Watching Code of Conduct, which is now nationally accepted, as well as a Turtle Interaction Code of Conduct. Through its Green Fins membership, the resort adheres to a policy of “take nothing and leave nothing” with divers and snorkelers, and is currently translating awareness materials into Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish.
Six Senses Laamu promotes a sense of environmental responsibility in hosts through its trainings in topics such as marine life and zero-waste. Hosts sign a contract promising to protect the natural environment, and specifically that they agree not to catch, kill or eat turtles. Although it sources much of its seafood locally, the resort also enforces a “no-take” policy on the purchase of endangered or vulnerable fish species from local fisherman.
Six Senses Laamu operates in harmony with the surrounding natural environment and local community. They make and bottle their own water through reverse osmosis filtration and treat wastewater so it can be reused for landscaping. The resort embodies a “Waste to Wealth” philosophy by repurposing materials as much as possible into the Earth Lab, where innovative approaches are used to reduce resource footprint. Glass is crushed into sand and used for constructing bricks, light covers and flower pots. Waste wood is burned in a charcoal oven and used for beach barbeques. Coconut husks are composted into fertilizers for use in the organic garden.
By working together with the island councils, community members, and school children, Six Senses wants to present alternatives to common single-use plastic items, such as water bottles and plastic bags, to help it achieve the goal of being plastic-free by 2022. The effort to eliminate plastic water bottles is not possible without ensuring a reliable source of clean water, so the plastic-free initiative goes hand-in-hand with access to drinking water.
A long-term goal of the atoll is also to establish marine reserves in Laamu and raise awareness through education programmes on the importance of these marine reserves, aimed at guests, hosts, school children and community members. This is partially done through quarterly outreach meetings with the island and Atoll councils, also known as the “Eku-Eky” programme, meaning “together” in the local . The 100+ hours of discussions so far have included topics such as waste management, sustainable fishing, and employment opportunities.
Six Senses Laamu wants to be part of a responsible and caring community, this requires not just the conservation of the natural environment, but cooperation with the local community and incorporation of local cultures into their business practices.
Six Senses Laamu does preserves Maldivian culture by sourcing many local products, such as cadjan coconut leaf roofing, woven by local women, to match the style of traditional homes in Maldives. They also purchase fish from local fishermen and the zero-waste tuna factory located right here in Laamu Atoll, as well as local Maldivian coconut oil for the spa. Locals perform traditional “bodu beru” for guests, a traditional drum and dance music, and offer excursions to local islands for a peek into the authentic Maldivian lifestyle.
The total population of Laamu Atoll is about 18,000. Six Senses Laamu employs around 381 staff, 152 of which are from Laamu. Other than employment, Six Senses is also dedicated to improving capacity-building within the community. For example, they teach women to make reusable bags from old clothes, empowering them to provide for their own community and eradicating the need for single-use plastic bags.
0.5% of revenue and any guest donations are allocated to a Sustainability Fund that is spent on sustainable development projects within the community. Six Senses Laamu has now assisted several different construction projects on local islands around Laamu, including sand bags and roofing for a school, cement and timber for a mosque, aggregate for a harbor, lights for an airport, and metal for a waste management center. This fund also supports the conservation partnerships with the two NGOs, Manta Trust, and Blue Marine Foundation. In addition, 50% of water sales in all restaurant outlets goes into a fund specifically for projects providing clean, healthy drinking water to local communities in need.
In 2016, Six Senses Laamu partnered with the local Police service to organize the first ever turtle conservation festival held in Laamu. The event brought together 600 people, including students from 5 of the atoll’s schools, to participate in traditional performances, educational stalls, and art contests. The aims of the festival were to raise awareness of the importance of turtles, and pledge to never harm one. The 2017 festival is now being organized, with the goal of reiterating this message and getting participation from all 11 inhabited islands and all 13 schools in the atoll. These festivals are a source of both education and income for the local communities.