Sustainability expert and travel writer based in London.

No Island is an Island, Suitcase

No Island is an Island, Suitcase

Picture paradise. There you are, swinging from side to side carefree in a hammock, surrounded by white sand and azure waters and daydreaming about parrot sh and eagle rays. You’re in the Maldives, or somewhere similarly idyllic, and it’s everything that you had hoped for.

Except. When you get up to take a dip in the plunge pool you notice a charcoal-grey blip on the horizon. It doesn’t take long before you realise that it’s smoke – it looks as though a whole island is on re. You start to panic and a little farther down the beach you alert one of the waiters. Without even looking at the sea he retorts with a reassuring grin: “Not to worry, that’s just Thilafushi, the landfill island. When the pile of trash gets too high, they burn it.”

Paradise islands are a lot less enticing when accompanied by piles of man-made materials, toxic smoke and bleached coral. Tourists typically produce twice as much rubbish as locals, and islands are ill-equipped to deal with its disposal – they also have nite resources. Experts predict a collapse of global fisheries by 2048, by which point our oceans may contain more plastic than sh.

Nonetheless, when the owners of private islands genuinely commit to conservation, tourism can be a force for good. On Chumbe Island, eight miles southwest of Zanzibar, a zero- impact eco-lodge has been built to fund the creation of a nature reserve, rather than the other way around. Chumbe was the first

property to be certified by conservation gurus at the Long Run, a membership organisation dedicated to driving sustainable business, and its 81-acre coral reef sanctuary is now home to 90 per cent of East Africa’s hard coral and reef species. Local fishermen, originally disgruntled by the impact of the reserve’s no-take area, have been given the opportunity to train as Chumbe Coral Park Rangers, while the Chumbe Environmental Education programme provides free excursions for local children, teachers and community groups.

When it comes to conservation it’s imperative to have this community buy-in. Locals must bene t from tourism and recognise that preserving a pristine environment leads to long-term economic prosperity. A travel company that knows this better than most is andBeyond, which last year linked three exclusive island lodges on the east coast of Africa – Mnemba, Benguerra and Vamizi – to create Oceans Without Borders. Designed to help protect 2,000km of African coastline by focusing on fishing and alternative income sources, the programme acknowledges that long-term conservation within the region will be successful only through e orts to reduce dependence on the ocean, giving communities a stake in its preservation.

In putting nature and community first, these islands provide a better experience for travellers – everywhere you turn, wildlife is thriving, and you can forge an instant and strong connection with the destination as well as its staff. 

Full article in Suitcase Vol 21 The Islands Issue.

&Beyond Ngala Tented Camp, The Telegraph

&Beyond Ngala Tented Camp, The Telegraph