Anyone else craving a long, healthy dose of guilt-free beach therapy and vitamin ‘sea’? A tropical island holiday is good for the soul. Fact. Imagine that remote, sun-drenched barefoot beach paradise, with its endless stretches of silky soft and impossibly white sand, inviting crystal clear aquamarine water, gently swaying hammocks that swallow you (and your book) whole for hours at a time, extended happy hours laden with fruity cocktails, dramatic sunsets, fresh feasts shared under the stars with the sand between your toes, and the soothing sound of the waves lulling you to sleep.
It’s paradise, right? A blissfully carefree and unapologetically hedonistic paradise that no one ever wants to see the flip side of. No one wants their idyllic island oasis to be interrupted by the sobering reality that our oceans are indeed in a state of peril. Out of sight, out of mind. When we flock to the islands and coastlines for some R&R, we don’t to be faced with the stark reality: turtles and seabirds fatally tangled in trash; a constant wave of plastic debris washing up on and littering those pristine beaches; the bleaching of once vibrant coral reefs; and larger-than-life fishing nets that catch and kill everything in their wake.
The factors affecting the health of our planet’s marine resources continue to increase exponentially and experts are now predicting the collapse of global fisheries by as soon as 2048. Bear in mind that the world’s oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface; that 94% of life on Earth is aquatic; and that between 70 and 80% of the world’s oxygen is created by marine plants. These facts alone support the dire importance of marine conservation and the shared responsibility we all have to protect our oceans and their inhabitants.
Our Oceans Without Borders initiative, in partnership with Africa Foundation, expands our longstanding dedication to land and wildlife conservation to include the much-needed protection and preservation of our oceans. Thanks to the success of our 3Cs impact model of caring for the land, wildlife and people through the delivery of extraordinary guest experiences, which has enabled us to directly influence 9 million acres of wildlife land, we are now able to influence an additional 3 000 km of African coastline through our marine activities at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and the three islands within our growing portfolio.
Protecting critical marine conservation areas
Our oceans and fragile marine ecosystems are facing devastating and unprecedented threats, from global climate change, incessant pollution and the scourge of plastic waste, to continuous over-fishing and increasing pressure from the ever-expanding human populations around the world.
According to our CEO, Joss Kent, “Oceans are the next battleground for global cooperation because they truly have no borders. Our vision at &Beyond has always been to leave the world a better place than we found it. We are very aware that, if we don’t act now, we may face a world without coral reefs and the variety of species that they support in our lifetime. Our three island properties are in places that play a critical role in restocking coral reefs and fish populations, and are thus crucial to protect right now.”
Creating and conserving protected areas … on land and water
Similar to our nearly three decades’ worth of successful land-based projects, the ultimate aim of Oceans Without Borders is to establish a likeminded conservation model that can be easily exported to other marine environments facing similar threats. We have committed to these main objectives:
- Providing logistical support for the expansion of current marine protected areas (MPAs)
- Upgrading the status of current MPAs to marine reserves, which warrant a higher level of protection
- Driving sustainable community benefits throughout tourism to marine conservation areas and developing alternative revenue sources for island or coastal communities
- Supporting current conservation and research initiatives and establishing new ones
- Using flagship projects to showcase the challenges facing marine ecosystems around the world
With community development a key cornerstone of this approach, we will continue to work hand in hand with our social development partner, Africa Foundation, which has already made a significant and long-lasting impact on the communities surrounding our island properties.
Monitoring and measuring tools
For the remainder of the year, Oceans Without Borders will focus on the first phase of the project, which, according to Operations Manager Dr Tessa Hempson, will involve “gaining a better understanding of the social and ecological context on each of our three islands, as well as developing a sustainable monitoring tool for analysis and assessment.”
This process will begin with the collation of current knowledge and research. As with all of our conservation projects, we firmly believe that it is crucial to identify and meet personally with all stakeholders, from governments to local fishermen. Community needs will be assessed through a process of consultation and programmes will be developed to support the creation of sustainable livelihoods. In addition, current monitoring protocols for species such as turtles, whales, sharks and others will be reviewed. Finally, the three island environments will be studied to measure and set baselines against which to measure change.
Each of the three islands has also identified its own individual priorities for conservation and research. At &Beyond Mnemba Island this involves the upgrading of the marine conservation area, while at &Beyond Benguerra Island the initial focus is on community projects. &Beyond Vamizi Island has run an ambitious programme to assess the populations of predator species and will be focussing on the tagging of grey reef sharks and other species. We also aim to support the process of having the community sanctuary that surrounds Vamizi Island declared a nationally gazetted MPA.
While the broad scope of Oceans Without Borders focuses on larger research and development projects, we will also endeavour to inform our guests of their ability to help influence the health of the world’s oceans through their daily lifestyle choices and routines.
Influencing through education
Oceans Without Borders aims to protect vital marine ecosystems through our extensive research, marine conservation initiatives, collaboration with local communities and governments, and of course ongoing education about the plight of our oceans.
Marine enthusiasts interested in delving more deeply into the issues surrounding marine conservation can now join our Oceans Without Borders Small Group Journey. This insightful small group set departure incorporates a hands-on experience of the various marine projects underway at &Beyond Vamizi Island.
This one-of-a-kind experience will be hosted by Dr Tessa Hempson, Oceans Without Borders Operations Manager. Tessa boasts a wealth of marine conservation credentials, having worked as a conservation manager for the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), volunteered as a researcher on the Aldabra Atoll World Heritage Site in Seychelles and managed diving and marine logistics on Vamizi Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago of Mozambique. She also holds a PhD in Marine Biology from James Cook University in Australia and has published a number of articles and presented at numerous scientific conferences.
All profits from the Oceans Without Borders Small Group Journey will go back into marine conservation through the project.
Are you ready to make oceans a priority?
In order to drive awareness for marine conservation, we have created a pledge that we encourage guests at our marine properties to take. It calls on them to be mindful of their behaviour towards the earth and the oceans by monitoring their daily use of plastics, buying less and recycling wherever possible.
We invite those who share in our values and ethos to take our Oceans Without Borders pledge. Together, we need to adopt a shared responsibility for our future, as well as those of our children, our oceans and indeed our planet.