Sun, Sand, and Sustainability: 7 Beach Resorts With Amazing Ocean Conservation Activities For Guests
Restore Coral in Mexico, Fairmont Mayakoba
The issue: Coral reefs might only cover a small fraction of the planet, yet they harbor more biodiversity than any other ecosystem. Unfortunately, these valuable assets are under serious threat from things like rising sea temperatures, pollution, and coral bleaching. Some scientists believe if trends continue, we might lose up to 90 percent of our reefs by 2050.
The experience: At the luxurious Fairmont Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, a coral nursery has been established just offshore in partnership with nonprofit Oceanus A.C. The nursery is helping to restore the reefs in the Mesoamerican System—the second largest in the world—by planting Elkhorn coral fragments in a safe environment that allows them to flourish before being transplanted back to devastated areas of coral reef. Guests who sign up for the Coral Reef Restoration Package can take a VIP snorkel tour of the nursery, where they’ll see established and newly planted Elkhorn coral sprouting out from cement bases used to fix the fragments to the sea floor. Guests who take the tour are supporting the reef restoration efforts, with 25 percent of the proceeds going toward Oceanus A.C. And, as a bonus, you’ll also leave your own sustainable mark on the nursery by signing a cement base to support a coral fragment later on.
Repopulate Giant Clams in Fiji, Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort
The issue: A jewel of the South Pacific, giant clams are the largest of all mollusks, weighing in at up to 500 pounds. But the slow-growing species is also slowly disappearing due to poaching and overharvesting for meat.
The experience: Leave it to a Cousteau to make giving back to the sea a fun, engaging vacation experience. At the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji, guests can work side by side with a marine biologist to oversee the property’s surrounding giant clam reserve, where scientists are raising a series of juvenile giant clam brood stocks in an effort to repopulate the local waters. During the experience, guests will learn about the importance of the endangered species as well as methods of culturing pearls in a sustainable way.
Save Sea Turtle Hatchlings in Mexico, Velas Vallarta
The issue: Sea turtles might be some of the oldest creatures on the planet, but they’re also one of the most threatened, with all six sea turtle species currently endangered in the U.S. As hatchlings, they’re particularly vulnerable, facing threats from natural predators like crabs and foxes during their journey from sand to sea.
The experience: Want to help these soon-to-be gentle giants make it to safety? At Velas Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, guests can sign up for a sea turtle experience that allows them to participate in nesting control and egg collection. As part of the Sea Turtle Team, volunteers can tag along with marine biologists at night to observe nesting females as well as participate in a sunset hatchling release.
Restore a Wild Caribbean Island, Secret Bay, Dominica
The issue: Nicknamed Nature Island, the Caribbean island of Dominica is revered as a global leader in sustainability, with some of the boldest policies for combatting issues such as climate change and plastic pollution. Still, the recent barrage of Caribbean storms took a toll on this little slice of paradise, leaving parts of the landscape in need of restoration.
The experience: At this boutique six-villa resort, guests can set aside two half days to explore the wild island by land and sea. Along with naturalists, scientists, and fishermen, tourists can take part in “sapling care” to encourage new rainforest growth, survey the coast, and clean up the island’s beaches. In exchange for the “voluntourism,” Secret Bay will add a complimentary night to all participants’ stays.
Tag Sharks in the Bahamas, Grand Isle Resort
The issue: While sharks are often feared for their predatorial instincts, it’s this role that makes them a vital part of the marine ecosystem. These beautiful hunters, however, are also being dangerously hunted (often for their fins), making nearly one-third of all species at risk for extinction.
The experience: In partnership with nonprofit Beneath the Waves, which researches sharks to better inform conservation efforts, the Grand Isle Resort on Great Exuma Island is offering guests a rare opportunity to join marine biologists on a shark tagging adventure. (Yup, just like your favorite Shark Wranglers.) During the excursion, participants can be “as hands on as [they] want,” assisting in both marking the sharks with tracking devices and collecting data and specimens from the animals.
Survey a Reef in Hawaii, Ritz Carlton Kapalua
The issue: Healthy reefs are typically teeming with life, from coral and algae to thousands of species of fish. Keeping them, or restoring them, to a high state of well-being requires regular evaluations, or surveys, of the number of fish and coral species, as well as signs of erosion—much of which is crowd-sourced to organizations and even private citizens around the world.
The experience: Learn how to become an educated reef surveyor in Hawaii through the Ritz Carlton Kapalua’s Ambassadors of the Environment program. Along with naturalists from the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Futures Society, guests will snorkel through Kapalua Bay identifying different species of fish and sea turtles and monitoring coral health to ultimately better inform reef conservation efforts.
Hunt for Lionfish in Belize, Turneffe Island Resort
The issue: Since their accidental introduction to the Caribbean in the ’80, this non-native and quick-breeding species of fish has exploded in population. With few predators and a voracious appetite for juvenile fish and invertebrates, the lionfish has been a destructive force that biologists and fishermen have struggled to control.
The experience: Adventurers looking to have a hand in halting the spread of this invasive species can learn to snag them—via snorkels and spears—at this luxurious private island resort. Guests who participate must first take an intro course in spearfishing before heading out in the open water on dive or snorkel trips. Fresh catch, of course, can be enjoyed for dinner later on.