Investing in our planet: Earth Day 2023

This year’s Earth Day theme centres around investing in our planet, and BIRD is exceptionally proud of all the work our clients are doing to invest in environmental protection, whilst ensuring that giving back to their surrounding local communities is an upmost priority.

New species for science and community engagement at Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador

 A centre for conservation in the heart of the Ecuadorian cloud forest,  Mashpi Lodge continues to break bounds in biodiversity research with 12 new species for science discovered since the eco-lodge opened as a pioneer of rainforest conservation 10 years ago. This comes as Latin America experiences a mass extinction of wildlife populations, with a 94% decline in the past 48 years. Working together with Mashpi’s full-time team of local naturalist guides, biologists and leading scientists from leading universities, Mashpi Lodge is committed to ensuring regeneration of the 2,882HA Mashpi Reserve which is home to over 500 species of plants, 400 species of birds (36 of which are endemic), 300 species of moths and butterflies, as well as monkeys, ocelots and pumas.

Bought in 2006 to prevent the nature reserve falling subject to deforestation, Mashpi Lodge has held collaboration with the neighbouring communities as the upmost priority. Through re-education of those that had been contracted to deforest the region, Mashpi Lodge has set about increasing community engagement through an innovative programme in which they, and those employed directly by Mashpi, become shareholders in the enterprise. As a direct result, 85% of employees are local to the area and the subsequent relationship between community and Mashpi Lodge has been truly transformative; those that used to profit from exploiting the forest, through mining, logging and hunting, are now employed as naturalist guides, lodge staff and para-biologists, and understand that protecting the rainforest is instrumental to sustainable future livelihoods for generations to come. Guests at Mashpi Lodge are invited to participate in the process of biodiversity research, joining Mashpi’s team of conservationists in the lab when analysing sounds from the Forest Guardians, an initiative using eco-acoustic monitoring devices in partnership with Rainforest Connection, and heading out on scientist walks or birdwatching excursions to spot the species they’ve helped identify. 

Giving back to the community with Resplendent Ceylon, Sri Lanka

Created by the Fernando family – Sri Lanka’s most prominent tea producers and founders of Dilmah Tea – Resplendent Ceylon was formed in 2005 to create a collection of small, unique luxury resorts that form a “trail” across the island, promising high quality and excellent service for the upscale traveller in Sri Lanka. Since its conception, the brand has been dedicated to the preservation of Sri Lanka – it’s wildlife, environment, and people. As such, 15% of its profits are channelled into the Fernando family’s two charitable foundations. After a turbulent year politically and economically, the island is slowly but surely coming back to life with philanthropical initiatives such as this more important than ever in conserving and supporting the land and its people.  

The first is the MJF Foundation, which has changed the lives of over 100,000 underprivileged Sri Lankans. The Foundation has awarded over 250 educational scholarships to members of the tea making families, provided livelihood assistance to 1,008 families, supported over 220 individuals through the Small Entrepreneur Programme and provided holistic development programmes for children across the island. To date, over 150 differently abled children have been provided with special education, therapy, and training through the Foundation’s work. The second is Dilmah Conservation, which focuses on biodiversity conservation, environmental education, as well as research and development in the areas of sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation and heritage conservation. Within Dilmah Conservation is the Centre for Climate Change Research and Adaptation is the first private sector facility of its kind in the world. Its purpose is to research and identify practical solutions to help tea, rice and other farmers understand and adapt to the reality of climate change by bringing climate scientists, entrepreneurs, and farmers to bridge the divide that exists in understanding the threat that a changing climate poses, while discussing solutions and opportunities in climate-smart agriculture and innovation.

Meanwhile, the One Earth Urban Arboretum on the outskirts of Colombo is a living demonstration of nature’s life-sustaining function, with over 500 species of plants. Dilmah Conservation has also finalised plans to open a non-profit Leopard Research Centre at Wild Coast Tented Lodge in Yala National Park. The centre will house five full-time researchers and a Tourist Visitor Centre which will focus on providing funding, facilities and logistical support for them and their projects focussing on the conservation of the Sri Lankan Leopard.

Operating with a conscience on one of the Caribbean’s most exclusive islands, Pine Cay, Turks & Caicos

Situated in an 800-acre barefoot luxury private island in Turks & Caicos, just a 20-minute boat ride from the mainland is Pine Cay, an elegant 13-room hotel and small collection of private homes located on two miles of pristine white-sand beach (exclusive to hotel guests and homeowners for the utmost seclusion and tranquillity). Overlooking the beautiful blues of the ocean and shimmering freshwater lagoons, you are invited to enjoy Pine Cay’s original rustic charm, barefoot ethos and true pared-back luxury.

Sustainability and biodiversity preservation are at the core of Pine Cay: cars are not permitted on the island, but rather transportation exists in the form of electric golf carts and bicycles; single use plastics are nowhere to be seen; and boats are equipped with fuel-efficient four-stroke engines. All buildings have rain-water catchment and storage systems with grey water used for irrigation, whilst compact Dark Sky lighting is installed throughout the hotel, including new eco-friendly beach lighting to give the island an added glow by night. Pine Cay is a key partner in the Caicos Pine Recovery Project, working to protect the country’s native tree, the Caicos pine (Pinus caribaea) and its habitat for the future, currently under threat from the invasive pine tortoisescale. Days at Pine Cay are spent snorkelling over the kaleidoscopic coral reef and reef balls, which double as a nursery for turtles and all manner of juvenile marine life. Dazzling diving can be arranged with a trusted local dive partner, as can kitesurfing.  Paddle boards and entirely transparent kayaks are ready and waiting to be borrowed, and the cerulean waters are ripe for fishing adventures, including deep-sea fishing and unrivalled world-class bone-fishing. Back on dry land, there’s birdwatching, biking, tennis, swimming in the freshwater pool, under-the-stars screenings at the Sand Dollar Cinema or day trips to nearby islands. 

The Soneva Foundation

The Soneva Foundation was launched with a mission to address the direct and indirect environmental impacts of Soneva’s resorts. A 2% environmental levy is added to every guests’ stay, which the Soneva Foundation invests in a host of global projects that have a positive environmental, social and economic impact reaching far beyond the shores of each Soneva resort.

Soneva has officially launched the new AquaTerra centre at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives’ Baa Atoll. Following a grand opening ceremony, which took place early this month, the new, state-of-the-art conservation, education, and science facility will further strengthen the resort’s focus on sustainability, supporting its ongoing efforts to understand, conserve and regenerate the surrounding natural environment, both at sea and on land.

With a name inspired by Soneva Fushi’s exceptional natural setting, AquaTerra brings together sustainability, science, and rare experiences. It will become a hub for the resort’s conservation efforts, including the ambitious Soneva Foundation Coral Restoration Programme, will educate Soneva’s guests about the local ecosystem through inspirational experiences, and will host cutting-edge scientific research through partnerships with universities and visiting scientists.

AquaTerra is the nerve centre for the Soneva Foundation Coral Restoration Programme, which launched in 2021 and aims to restore the coral reef systems around Soneva Fushi and create a coral hub for the Maldives. Working in partnership with Swiss environmental organisation Coralive, the project uses Mineral Accretion Technology (MAT) to channel low voltage electricity through submerged coral tables, which speeds up the corals’ growth rate. The new centre also houses a spawning and rearing laboratory, developed with the team from Coral Spawning Lab, to conduct assisted evolution and create heat resilient super corals, and a 3D-Printing laboratory to produce coral substrate. Later in 2023, Soneva Foundation will also fund the installation of a micro-fragmenting laboratory, created with micro-fragmenting expert Dr David Vaughan, with 28 outdoor tanks that can produce up to 100,000 corals per year, as well as live streaming cameras with fish recognition software at the coral nursery, to combine with live data from a SmartBuoy.

The Soneva Hornbill Project is working with the Hornbill Research Foundation, the Department of National Parks and the Zoological Parks Organization to reintroduce the Oriental Pied Hornbill to Koh Kood, Thailand. The species had been wiped out on the island due to over-hunting and loss of habitat over 40 years ago. Permissions for the reintroduction project were acquired in 2021, and the first pair of hornbills arrived on the island in December last year. The Hornbill is an important species for the island as it helps spread the seeds of bigger trees, which improves the biodiversity of the forest.  On May 17, 2022, Soneva opened the enclosure to allow the first oriental pied hornbill pair to enjoy nature in the wild. Since then, two further pairs of hornbills have been brought to Koh Kood for reintroduction.

Soneva Forest Restoration Mozambique is a partnership between the Soneva Foundation and Eden Reforestation Project to plant 3.7 million trees and mitigate 2.4 million tons of CO2 over the next four years from January 2022. To date, 365,389 trees have already been planted.  Deforestation is responsible for around 11% of global carbon emissions. Forests sequester or store carbon mainly in trees and soil, making them a sink. Restoring forests is an important solution to reverse climate change and improve biodiversity. The Soneva Foundation supports projects that restore the natural forest by planting a variety of native species.

Community and connection in Sumba with soon-to-launch Cap Karoso – summer 2023 

Fully opening in summer 2023 on Sumba Island, Cap Karoso is a 47-room and 20-villa eco-conscious haven complete with organic farm, that is shaped by three core pillars: sustainability, culture, and community.  

Founded by two young ethically minded French adventurers, Fabrice and Evguenia Ivara, who were captivated by Sumba’s magnetic allure and unique Marapu culture when they first holidayed there in 2017, Cap Karoso will offer complete immersion in Sumba’s magic and culture. Passionately committed to working in harmony with the indigenous community, Fabrice and Evguenia sought local advice and involvement from the start. Along with the village heads, the couple hosted a ceremony for 600 locals to request ancestral approval for the project (luckily for future visitors, this permission was granted). 

Cap Karoso’s architecture comes courtesy of multi-award-winning architect, Gary Fell, and his lauded practice, GFAB Architects. Designed to blend harmoniously into the surrounding landscape, behind every element of the build is an unwavering commitment to sustainability and minimising environmental impact, including operating on 50% solar panel energy with an aim to reach 80% by 2025. 

Every detail of Cap Karoso has been meticulously considered to minimise its environmental footprint and to maximise its positive impact on the local community. At the property, plastic packaging is banned; 80% of staff will be hired locally; and waste waters will be purified with a sophisticated water treatment system. The on-site farm supplies much of the produce for the restaurant and bar, while the development’s landscape design cleverly uses vegetation to reduce the need for air-conditioning. Plans for a coral conservation programme and eco-minded community initiatives are in the works. 

Keen on Green: Plant based living at LUX* Resorts & Hotels & Salt Resorts

Building on their commitment to sustainable lifestyle practices, The Lux Collective have incorporated a group-wide Keen on Green, plant-based offering into their menus.  Featuring an array of dishes which are plant-based, vegetarian, vegan, raw and locally sourced, guests staying at LUX* Resorts & Hotels and SALT are treated to a multitude of mouth-watering-meat-free menu options.

This launch has been devised to perfectly compliment the group’s wider holistic lifestyle approach from nature-based wellness practices at each resort spa and plant-based treatments. Flagship property LUX* Grand Baie has paired cutting-edge technology with clean beauty to create a spa ecosystem that gives guests the power to be and feel their best. Wellness programs have been designed with conscious-living front of mind with sensory, emotional, dietary and lifestyle choices all accounted for. Plant-based products and treatments include plant-based essential oils, bath, body oils and wet amenities by Shirley Page Organic Oils and cruelty free beauty by Mii Australia.

Devoted to the wonders of all things local and sustainable, at SALT of Palmar the Keen on Green menu is complimented by the brand ethos to take guests to people – not just to places.  Local producers, or SALT Shakers as they are affectionately known, are on hand to immerse guests into the heart of the Mauritian way of life.  The Skill Swap programme offers guests the opportunity to connect directly with locals like Soobiraj, the palm heart grower whose plantation can be visited upon request or Selva whose pesticide-free aromatic herbs and vanilla are cultivated at his home in St. Julien a short 20-minute drive from the resort.  As one of Mauritius’ only vanilla producers, Selva provides an exclusive and immersive experience, introducing guests to his traditional methods of farming which requires untold patience and vigilance.

Sustainable living at São Lourenço do Barrocal, Portugal

A recently restored 19th century farmhouse hotel, winery and spa, São Lourenço do Barrocal draws inspiration from the local farm villages, with traditional terracotta brick floors and whitewash walls, complemented by soaring vaulted ceilings and beautifully crafted wooden furnishings.

Committed to supporting local suppliers and producers, and reducing food miles where possible, Barrocal’s two farm-to-table restaurants reflect the bounty of the estate and the rhythm of the changing seasons. Fruit, vegetables and herbs are sourced from the estate’s own organic garden, as well as wine and olive oil from the estate, whilst other items like meat, cheese and dairy all come from nearby farmers. Deeply rooted in the local community, with 80% of staff residing in the five neighbouring municipalities, cultural heritage conservation and preserving local traditions is at the heart of Barrocal. You can visit a local pottery or textile factory to try their hand at the craft, while learning about its importance to the Alentejo region; experience a private stargazing session at the estate with a local astronomer; join resident ornithologist Nuno Gueges for a birdwatching excursion or ethnobotanical hike; or spend time with the award-winning winemaker Susana Esteban, to learn how the Estate has long been integral to the region’s history of winemaking.