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Blending tradition with innovation in the Maldives to serve up sustainable tourism

Nestled in the pristine beauty of the Baa Atoll archipelago, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas stands as a testament to the resort’s unwavering commitment to environmental preservation. From the very beginning of its construction, the resort embraced a unique approach: not a single tree was cut, and the villas were meticulously designed and built around them. Today, Anantara Kihavah continues to reinforce its dedication to environmental, social, and cultural conservation, striving to create an environmentally sustainable tourist destination while drawing inspiration from the island’s rich heritage and traditions.

The island’s history traces back to Arab traders and local fishermen seeking refuge. The resourcefulness of early fishermen is showcased through the traditional method of drawing fresh water from the ground, exemplified by the well discovered during the resort’s construction. Today, water management plays a crucial role in maintaining environmental sustainability. Through desalination and reverse osmosis, sea water is converted into potable water, while a sewage treatment plant processes wastewater into usable effluent for irrigation. Guests are encouraged to participate in water conservation by reusing their towels, thereby reducing unnecessary water consumption.

The resort’s commitment to the surrounding waters and marine life is reflected in its location within a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve. Anantara Kihavah implements various measures and programmes to fulfil its environmental obligations. Guests can join reef cleaning efforts and participate in the Coral Adoption Programme, where they can plant coral in the resort’s reef nursery and follow its growth through photo updates. The resort also promotes the use of “reef-safe” sunscreen and provides educational signage on responsible behaviour in the water.

Anantara Kihavah also engages children in sustainable and responsible tourism through its Kids Marine Biology Programmes. These programmes introduce children from eight upwards to diving and snorkelling, teaching them about the reef ecosystem and biodiversity. In addition to Kids Marine Biology Programmes, the resort’s marine biologist conducts weekly presentations for kids and adults and takes young visitors to the underwater SEA restaurant to observe fish in their natural habitat.

The “Dollars for Deeds” initiative allows guests to contribute to the resort’s reef and CSR programmes. Guests can donate one dollar for each night of their stay or contribute through the purchase of Bon Aqua water, with the resort matching the donations. These funds support marine and coastal environment protection, environmental education, and community welfare.


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On land, guests can engage in island cleaning activities and educational nature tours. The resort’s organic garden and orchid garden tours showcase sustainable practices, with the latter offering an opportunity to indulge in afternoon tea amidst the exquisite beauty of blooming orchids. Waste management is addressed through recycling programmes, with organic waste turned into compost and non-biodegradable waste carefully segregated and reused or provided to the local community.

Anantara Kihavah has also embraced a zero-plastic initiative, replacing single-use plastics with biodegradable alternatives. Refillable dispenser bottles are used for toiletries, and glass bottles are provided for water consumption. The resort generates its own distilled water and employs energy-efficient practices, such as invertor-type air-conditioning units, EcoGen boilers utilising waste heat, and motion sensor lighting. A solar energy system further reduces the reliance on diesel consumption.

It’s clear from the number of initiatives implemented that Anantara Kihavah Maldives takes its environmental obligations seriously. The resort has gone to great lengths in blending traditional wisdom with innovative ideas to create a resort that is fully committed to preserving its natural beauty and delivering sustainable tourism.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. The events of this summer with both air and sea temperatures soaring show how much we desperately more sustainable initiatives. There are some really encouraging policies here.

  2. I would happily contribute to the Dollars for Deeds cause. It works 2 ways. Firstly you are helping preserve the reef and secondly anything that raises awareness of the reef is for the best. Little things like this add up to make a big difference.

  3. Being able to help with the reef cleaning programme would be a great use of your vacation time. Hands-on stuff like that is gold dust. You make lifelong memories with that sort of projects.

    1. There’s so much in the media every day about the huge problems of global warning that I’m even becoming nervous about starting my car let alone travelling to the other side of the world.

      Now that this resort have put in so many measures to preserve the environment I wouldn’t feel as guilty about heading for the Maldives.

      Let’s hope that the example that they are setting is followed by other resorts too.

  4. Carrying on talking about sustainable tourism there’s a revolutionary piece in The Times today written about an interview with Levison Wood.

    He argues that the best thing that you can do for the planet is to get on a plane. Wood puts the case that Greta Thunberg is wrong to argue against flying as consumer flights are only a small drop in the ocean compared to the damage done by exporting goods vast distances.

    Another key plank of his case is that by visiting poor Third World environments we show people that they can make a living from tourism rather than from deforestation and exploiting wildlife.

    It makes for a very interesting read, very thought provoking.

    1. There are some very interesting ideas here. My gut feeling is that we’ve got more chance of stopping people from buying avocados from Mexico than we have of stopping them from flying to Mexico for a holiday. And surely if they’re spending money in Mexico for two weeks that will do a lot more for the local economy than exporting avocados?

  5. The Maldives are already one of the world’s favourite holiday destinations. If resorts can make themselves appealingly sustainable they are going to take some beating.

  6. I fear for the future of the Maldives.

    When the UN Secretary General started talking about the world boiling rather than global warming it started to hammer home that we are heading for a crisis.

    If the polar ice-caps start melting faster than forecast and sea levels start rising, for how much longer will we have the low lying Maldives Islands?

  7. Like many people, I feel guilty about the world we are handing onto our children and grandchildren.

    The Kidd Marine Education project is a great idea, tomorrow’s generation have to be taught how to value the natural world and how to preserve it.

    I think part of my generation’s problem was that we were unaware of the damage that we were doing to the environment.

  8. Yet another reminder that I still haven’t had a holiday in the Maldives. We talked about it for our honeymoon and worked it out that a trip would have pushed the honeymoon budget. Now that we’re empty nesters it’s looking more of a possibility.

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