American anthropologist Loren Eiseley once said, "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water." If that's true, then our Caribbean Sea is the crystal ball through which we witness that magic.
World Oceans Day, commemorated on June 8th, is quickly approaching, and here at Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts, it's more than a holiday. It's a reminder of a promise we made to build our conservation efforts over 10 years, to engage 100,000 people in educational efforts and plant 30,000 coral fragments in the sea.
We thrive when our foundation is strong, and for us, the foundation is not only under us but all around us. We don't take a blanketed approach to sustainability. Instead, the Sandals Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Sandals Resorts International established in 2009, has developed a plan of action to address the specific needs of the Caribbean environment we have called home for nearly 40 years- and the best part of that plan? It includes YOU!
From mangrove restoration to sustainable waste management, we've played our part. We've developed partnerships with Jamaica Conservation Development Trust and Forestry Divisions of Jamaica to increase forest coverage through tree planting. We've joined forces with nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries to safeguard the plants and animals that shape indigenous culture, biodiversity, and the Caribbean economy. We've worked with local schools and community groups to promote environmental awareness, helping to finance exchange programs and summer camps for Caribbean youth. We've trained 55,471 people on marine awareness, collected 62,757 pounds of garbage, and safely hatched 113,827 turtles.
That's what the Sandals Foundation has done since 2009. So this year, what can we do together?
The sight of a fresh turtle hatchling cracking through its protective shell and inching its way towards the sea is a once in a lifetime experience. Unfortunately, not all wild hatchlings complete a successful journey into the horizon. Vulnerable to birds and other predators, hatchlings face treacherous conditions in the minutes that follow their entry into the world. It is estimated that only 1 in every 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood — not on our watch.
For a few months each year, our sands become home base for endangered sea turtles, entrusting our beaches with the safety of their eggs. Your stay at Sandals or Beaches Resorts can go beyond luxury relaxation; you can play a pivotal role in the preservation of Caribbean wildlife.
While in Ocho Rios, book a Voluntourism Tour with Island Routes' Turtle Watching Experience, where you will work with local turtle conservation authorities and help monitor thousands of fresh hatchlings as they journey into the sea. Last year, Sandals assisted in the release of 18,940 hatchlings. This year, we anticipate seeing anywhere from 16,000 to 23,000 hatchlings venture into the Caribbean Sea, and you can be there with us.
Across the world's oceans, our reefs are calling out for help. If we don’t step up today, our reefs will crumble tomorrow. The coral reef structure is essential to maintaining biodiversity in our oceans, standing as a protective barrier between our coasts and waves, storms, and floods. Beyond that, coral reef ecosystems are lauded as a source of food and new medicines, jobs for local communities, and a piece of cultural importance for indigenous people around the world.
Coral outplanting, the act of securing coral to reefs, is one of the most valuable preservation methods. Still, as a practice, it is labor-intensive and requires major manpower. To help combat this problem, you can become trained in the art of coral outplanting during your stay. While vacationing at any Sandals Resort in St. Lucia, PADI certified guests can join an introductory course in coral outplanting and learn the science of nurseries. There, you'll familiarize yourself with the basic skills and knowledge required to successfully propagate corals in underwater nurseries. Then, take your new learnings into the sea along a specialized dive where you will rebuild coral reefs with your own two hands.
Coral fragment planting by Sandals team members and guests in Jamaica and St. Lucia has already contributed to three new nurseries in the Caribbean, each of which will grow up to 2,000 corals per year to be replanted into dying reefs.
The lionfish population, while strikingly beautiful, is invasive and highly destructive to the biodiversity of Caribbean waters. With no natural predators and the ability to consume marine life twice its size, lionfish destroy coral reefs and prey on more than 100 species of fish. The Sandals Foundation’s Marine Wardens and Sandals Resorts International’s Watersports Team, an authorized and highly educated task force, consistently removes invasive species from marine sanctuaries for conservation purposes.
During your stay at Sandals Resorts or Beaches Resorts, join a special lionfish hunting dive, where you will see firsthand what it takes to save our oceans from invasive species. Hey, you may even catch dinner. Bookable through the resorts aquatic center, you can earn a PADI certification in lionfish removal through an Invasive Species Tracker specialty certification course. Then, back on land, follow up your dive with specially prepared lionfish cuisine- guilt-free.
According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, contributing to more than 236,000 losses of life per year. To love the ocean is to be aware of its power, and ultimately its dangers. As a result, swim training has risen to the top of our priority list, and we've made serious strides towards sharing life-saving water skills with the local communities where we operate. Through our Foundation’s Ocean Connect Program, Caribbean children are connected to the wonders of marine life through swim lessons and biodiversity education. We are committed to teaching 1,000 children how to swim. You can support those efforts by sponsoring a child's swim training or donating to the Ocean Connect Program.
Additionally, with our long-time partners, Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), we have implemented an annual PADI scholarship program to further promote water safety, rewarding 20 locals across the Caribbean the opportunity to become open water certified. As the largest dive operator in the western hemisphere, falling behind is not our style. To stay ahead, we will also be rewarding 6 Sandals Resorts or Beaches Resorts team members diving instructor certifications, giving them ability to certify other divers, lead dive trips, and become an expert at their underwater craft. Giving them a step forward in their aquatic careers and overall livelihoods.
Out of the water, we continue to promote appreciation for the environment by helping finance symposiums, summer camps, training seminars, exchange programs, and field trips for Caribbean youth. You can get in on the action through an environmental donation to the not-for-profit Sandals Foundation, 100% of which will go directly to the development of conservation programs across the Caribbean.
As a valued Sandals Resort and Beaches Resort guest, we welcome you to join our commitment to protect and preserve the ocean. Together, we can create a new balance and develop a deeper understanding of the harmony between humanity and the sea. Part of that balance is fostering a genuine appreciation for the life around us. For that, we recommend stripping it all down and heading out for an immersive underwater experience at any of our 510 dive sites. You'll join over 100,000 divers who have been PADI certified at a Sandals Resort or Beaches Resort.
As we move into World Oceans Day 2021 and World Environment Day on June 5th, we invite you to save the ocean with us, on land or in the deep sea. Are you coming?