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LAAMU ATOLL, THE MALDIVES
In the midst of a Mission Blue Hope Spot lies this idyllic palm-fringed paradise. Barefoot luxury with a commitment to conservation, environmental responsibility, and local culture, has always been the philosophy behind Six Senses Laamu. The only luxury resort in the southern Maldives’ Laamu Atoll, it recognises its responsibility towards the local population and ecosystem. Laamu’s sustainability strategy, led by its core value of ‘Local Sensitivity, Global Sensibility’, includes initiatives around energy saving, seagrass conservation, waste reduction, reef protection, and wildlife conservation.
Six Senses Laamu’s Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) team of marine biologists lead the Maldivian tourism industry through meaningful marine conservation efforts based on research, education and community outreach. The team conducts thorough research of the local marine habitats and biodiversity, all of which helped contribute to the designation of six local Marine Protected Areas in 2021. To date, MUI has recorded over 700 individual sea turtles, more than 130 individual manta rays and mapped the 10,000 m2 of seagrass surrounding the resort. Beyond research, the team conducts numerous community based initiatives such as quarterly meetings with the island and atoll councils through the ‘Eku-Eky’ (together) program, which focuses on raising awareness and developing solutions to local environmental issues.
Six Senses Laamu’s 97 villas have been designed in harmony with the island’s natural beauty, using local and sustainably sourced materials. Alongside enjoying culinary delights crafted from produce grown in the island’s very own organic ‘Leaf Garden’, guests support the local community by dining on local fish caught and purchased through the Laamaseelu Masvariya (Exemplary Fisher) program. Additionally, 0.5% of the resort’s total revenue and 50% of drinking water sales are given to a sustainability fund which finances projects outside of the resort, such as safe drinking water, waste management, and children’s education. All experiences, from wine tasting, SCUBA diving, or becoming a Junior Marine Biologist, are embedded with Six Senses ‘responsible and caring’ philosophy.
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.
At Six Senses Laamu, an impressive team of ten marine biologists, representing Six Senses Laamu as well as three partner NGOs — the Manta Trust, Blue Marine Foundation and the Olive Ridley Project — unite to form the Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI). The entire MUI team conducts thorough research of Laamu’s rich biodiversity and gathers data to support their unified long-term goal of supporting the management of the recently designated network of Marine Protected Areas in Laamu Atoll. So far, the team has created the country’s first ever Dolphin Watching Code of Conduct and National Seagrass Monitoring Network Protocols, identified key locations and populations for marine megafauna such as grouper, napoleon wrasse, turtles and manta rays and established a sustainable local fisher’s program.
Six Senses Laamu promotes a sense of environmental awareness through nightly presentations and an underlying sustainability and conservation message behind all guest activities, including turtle hatching, SCUBA diving, snorkelling, reef cleans, culinary and wine tasting experiences.
This awareness is also shared with all hosts through training on topics such as zero waste, environmental responsibility and volunteering for the turtle ‘Nest Watch’ team.
On land, the resort embraces a ‘Waste to Wealth’ philosophy through their EarthLab, where materials such as glass bottles and old towels are repurposed in creative and innovative ways.
Six Senses Laamu is committed to minimising its resource use and environmental footprint. Various initiatives to achieve this include making their own water through reverse osmosis and treated waste water in the organic garden, crushing glass to make bricks, tabletops or flower pots, and converting all food waste into compost.
Six Senses Laamu operates in harmony with the surrounding natural environment and local community. The resort’s Sustainability Fund sets aside 0.5% of the resort’s revenue, as well as guest donations and revenue from water and soft toy sales, for projects related to the sustainable development of Laamu Atoll. These range from conservation, to waste management, and even small business grants within the community.
Six Senses is helping the atoll become single-use plastic free, and to date has donated 97 drinking water filtration systems to local islands to help avoid approximately 6 million unnecessary plastic bottles each year.
The resort holds regular education sessions and workshops for local schools, tourism operators, councils, women development groups and fisher groups to build local capacity and to empower Laamu’s community to take ownership of issues such as waste management, sustainable fishing and marine conservation.
Many community projects and proposals are discussed at the Atolls’ quarterly ‘Eky Eky’ (Together) meetings, facilitated by the resort, the Atoll and Island councils, women’s committee, school representatives and other community members. This group gathers every four months to discuss and propose solutions to issues within Laamu Atoll and plan the annual ‘Laamafaru Festival’ (Laamu Reefs Festival). This festival provides the opportunity for all 13 schools in Laamu Atoll to come together, learn about the threats the Indian Ocean faces, and become empowered to make a difference.
Six Senses Laamu is committed to crafting a responsible and caring community. As a result, the resort is committed to not only protecting the natural environment, but also promoting and conserving Laamu’s cultural heritage. Six Senses Laamu utilises locally-sourced products, such as Cadjan coconut leaf roofing, woven by local women and traditionally used in Maldivian homes, and coconuts, which are turned into coconut oil to be used in the spa, or within the restaurants.
A large source of local income going back many generations is fishing. The resort, in collaboration with Blue Marine Foundation, launched the ‘Laamseelu Masveriya’ (Exemplary Fisher) program which sets a code of conduct local fishermen and the resort to follow to ensure that the entire process, from fishing to purchasing, is done sustainably.
Traditional spicy Maldivian cuisine is offered at the resort’s Longitude restaurant, alongside the local fishers’ catch at Zen, the Japanese fusion restaurant.
Guests also have the opportunity to explore the adjacent islands themselves. With a local guide, guests can visit Laamu’s 300-year-old mosque, mangrove forests and sip a fresh coconut water in the garden of a traditional home. In the evening guests can enjoy a catchy ‘bodu beru’ (big drum) performance.
The total population of Laamu Atoll is about 17,000. Six Senses Laamu employs close to 400 staff; 57% of which are Maldivian and over 150 of which are from Laamu.
Other than employment, Six Senses is also dedicated to improving capacity-building within the community. For example, hosting workshops on how to make reusable bags from old clothes, empowering locals to provide for their community, and eradicating the need for single-use plastic bags.
Six Senses also donates compost generated by food waste at the resort to a nearby agricultural island and vegetable seedlings to community groups, both of which are used to grow produce which is then sold back to the resort, diversifying ways in which Six Senses Laamu supports the community.
Utilising the Sustainability Fund (0.5% of all revenue), Six Senses Laamu has assisted several different construction projects on local islands around Laamu, including sandbags and roofing for a school, cement and timber for a mosque, aggregate for a harbour, and metal for a waste management centre.
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.