Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi is a true deep dive into conscientious sustainable travel. When you think of “eco friendly” hotels, you probably don’t think of the world’s oldest, most historic brands. But iconic luxury leader Fairmont is out to change that, and we visited the Sustainability Lab at their Maldives resort to see how far they’ll go to clean the waters and help their neighbors.
NESTLED IN THE IRIDESCENT Shaviyani Atoll, Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi (“The Secret Water Island”) is a paradise that should not only be recognized for its stunning nine-kilometer coral reef, idyllic water villas or even 600-hectare lagoon. It’s not the place but the preservation of place that is most impressive here. Fairmont Maldives acts as a guardian of the abundant marine ecosystem surrounding it, and since its inception in 2018, the hotel has been committed to finding ways to raise awareness not only among guests but also on neighboring islands and their inhabitants.
From the moment I step foot on the island, I can already feel a sense of eco-consciousness that is surrounded by the unspoilt beauty of Maldivian mother nature. After a stellar welcome by what felt like 20 staff members playing drums and dancing, I am whisked away for a glimpse of the property before heading to my overwater villa. Fairmont is home of The Sustainability Lab, the first of its kind in all the archipelago, and this is the first thing here that strikes me as totally out of the ordinary: it’s made from upcycled shipping containers, a far cry from the beach villas and restaurants scattered on this and most luxury islands in the Maldives.
The Fairmont Sirru Fen Fushi team, led by new general manager Steven Stefaniuk and a driven sustainability team, goes above and beyond to ensure that its operations are in harmony with the environment. Its goal: to become the first zero-waste generating resort in the country, and the first carbon-neutral resort in the region. They certainly one of the most eco-friendly resorts you’ll find in the Maldives, and they are teaching and helping children, nurturing turtles, creating art and a sense of collective purpose.
I spend my next day at the Fairmont Maldives Sustainability Lab with the charismatic sustainability manager, David Estellés, who is fresh to the team but already making waves with his greener ideas and new projects. Estellés tells me the lab is a center for education and action not only for guests, but also for local schools around the atoll. The first floor is full of specialized machinery that turns all types of plastic into customized souvenirs, furniture and collectable memories. “We work in conjunction with Precious Plastic, a company that works on providing interesting solutions to the plastic waste problem, which is one of the biggest issues in the Maldives,” Estellés says.
After thorough cleansing, the refuse – which comes from everyday packaging of items shipped to the island as well as, importantly, neighboring islands who use Fairmont as a one-stop recycling center – is thrown into a special shredder that cuts the plastic into small shards that then can be melted into anything from the Jackson Pollock-inspired furniture you’ll find across the resort to artwork to souvenirs like turtle-shaped keychains and luggage tags.
The team also creates school supplies for 11 local schools, whose students are invited to visit the Lab to further their education in sustainable living, marine biodiversity, recycling and upcycling – such as turning ghost nets, a huge threat to turtles in particular, into jewelry.
Speaking of turtles, Fairmont has also partnered with the Maldives-based Olive Ridley Project, an NGO that takes a holistic approach to protecting sea turtles through education and research. Fairmont’s self-named Turtle Ranger program is led by specialist Neus Segura and the marine biologist team, who guide guests on various workshops and snorkeling trips around the property. If you’re really lucky, you might get to assist in turtle hatchlings, which happen quite often on the island.
It’s no surprise the Fairmont Maldives became a Green Globe certified organization in 2021, the world’s leading certification for sustainable operations and management of travel and tourism and continues to hold onto it three years later for its responsible tourism practices.
Read more about Fairmont’s latest initiatives in sustainability, as well as wellness, food and tech, at their hotels around the world here.
During my stay, I am transfixed by the immense beauty of the azure waters, lulled by the calmness of my sunset villa overlooking the crystal clear lagoon, and enamored with Japanese-inspired bites from the Kata restaurant, but what I really take notice of are all the little things. My reusable water bottle, for instance, that is given to each guest upon arrival and can be refilled throughout the property. There is no plastic in sight.
And what really piques my curiosity is finding out that most of the fruit and vegetables served at the hotel are coming in locally. This is huge in the Maldives considering that most of the ingredients are imported from other countries. “We are also in the works of growing our own herbs and a few vegetables for the chefs to have direct access to ingredients instead of having them transported each time,” explains the director of marketing and communications, Ryatt Lucero.
I spend my last day learning a bit more of what has made Fairmont Sirru Fen Fushi stand apart from all other hotels in the Maldives. The Coralarium, the world’s first semi-submerged art gallery, sits just a stone’s throw from the beach bar and can be seen on the lagoon side of the hotel. Created by renowned environmentalist and artist Jason deCaires Taylor, the massive installation is made from PH-neutral materials so that it’s non-toxic and super ideal for its other mission: being the first coral regeneration sculpture in the country.
It’s a sunny, clear day when I visit the easily accessible sculpture, and I notice laser-cut starfish – which I learn are meant to encourage fish and other sea life to seek refuge and create their own habitat. I am surrounded by schools of fish, vibrant corals, and multitudes of sea creatures. Adding that to my snorkeling experience throughout the nine-kilometer house reef where I encountered my first turtle and porcupine fish who, I swear, was deviously smiling at me, Fairmont Sirru Fen Fushi — which I’m now convinced is one of the most eco- friendly resorts in the Maldives — provided perhaps the best marine experience I’ve had to date. The reef and surrounding area are home to nearly 400 species of marine life, a beautiful sign of life and regeneration.
Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi in Shaviyani Atoll is a 55-minute seaplane flight from Male international airport; from USD 580 per night in a beach sunrise villa with private pool and personal villa host.
Images courtesy of Fairmont Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi.