Happy Earth Day!
Today we celebrate the great diversity and richness of the planet we call home, from the soaring peaks of snow-dusted mountain tops to vast desert plains and verdant jungle. We also acknowledge the fragility of the biome and the importance of preserving it for future generations. Here at BIRD HQ, we’re proud to work with some inspiring people and organisations that work tirelessly to protect our unique planet – here are some of their stories…
When Rory and Melita Hunter first arrived in Cambodia’s remote Koh Rong archipelago in 2005, they found the island paradise in a sorry state of affairs. The white sand beaches were covered in litter, fishing boats were rotting in the harbour and the use of blast fishing had decimated the once rich marine life. In the years since, the Song Saa Marine Foundation has established Cambodia’s first marine reserve, which has seen fish stocks booming and colour returning to the damaged coral ecosystems. Education on the subject of sustainability, coupled with extensive clean-up efforts, has returned the archipelago to its pristine best. The local community today is engaged in looking after their unique home environment and determined to safeguard it for the future.
The Galapagos Islands are renowned for their unparalleled ecological riches, fearless wildlife and spectacular encounters. It could have been a very different tale, however. Metropolitan Touring was the first company to recognise the tourism potential of the remote archipelago – and the need to protect it – back in the 1960’s. Rampant tourism has permanently damaged countless unique ecosystems, but the Galapagos Islands are a case study in how to responsibly manage tourism in a delicate environment. Today, Metropolitan Touring operate three yachts – La Pinta, Isabela and Santa Cruz II – and the Finch Bay Eco Hotel within the archipelago, all deeply rooted in the desire to preserve the islands for generations to come.
Since first opening its doors in 1976, the Finch Bay Eco Hotel has set the benchmark for sustainable hotels in the archipelago, and has been awarded multiple times for its pioneering approach to responsible tourism. Among its many initiatives, the hotel currently houses the first Chakrita Lab project in the country: a revolutionary pilot programme which allows a huge variety of fresh fruit and vegetables to be grown and harvested in small spaces, in areas where crops won’t flourish on their own. It is also the only property in the Galápagos Islands with a biological sewage treatment plant and uses organic waste for composting to enrich its organic vegetable, fruit and herb garden. Solar panels, energy saving lightbulbs and movement sensors throughout the property also contribute to creating a sustainable environment.
Back on the Ecuadorian mainland, Mashpi Lodge is a monument to conservation. Located in the heart of the hugely diverse cloud forest, the 1,300 hectare Mashpi Reserve was created by founder Roque Sevilla to protect it from logging. The towering glass-and-steel structure of Mashpi Lodge was almost entirely engineered off-site before being dropped into place, in order to minimise disturbance to the delicate cloud forest ecosystem. Today, highly trained naturalist guides educate guests about this incredible ecosystem in the on-site Life Centre and through guided night walks, whilst the resident biologists regularly discover new species hidden within the dense forest. The focus is very much on enabling guests to experience nature in its rawest, wildest form, whilst avoiding any damage and making a positive contribution to ongoing conservation efforts.
Taking responsibility for an entire island is never going to be a simple task. The team behind Obonjan knew this when they made the decision to work with members of the original creative team behind the pioneering Eden Project in Cornwall to create a unique island destination which effortlessly blends sustainability with wellness, music and much more. In its debut year, the team are hard at work to ensure that they have only a positive impact upon the island environment. All aspects have been considered, from grey water use and encouraging guests to recycle everything, to composting all organic waste in order to create a rudimentary soil for the rocky island landscape, which will in turn encourage on-site food production for the coming years, thereby reducing food miles. Every potential impact of guests upon the island environment has been carefully considered to mitigate any negative impacts and protect the unique island biome.