Waldorf Astoria Maldives launches coral reef regeneration project

coral reef maldivesThe Maldives coral reefs comprise the eighth largest reef system in the world. But active tourism and fishing industries, as well as global phenomena like climate change and El Nino, are taking its toll. And because the islands of the Maldives are low-lying, the coral reefs are even more important as a barrier against sea-level rise and storms.

To do its part, the Waldorf Astoria Maldives is now allowing guests to help restore its surrounding coral reef ecosystem through a partnership with Seamarc, a marine consultancy that has developed an innovative new coral propagation technique for “replanting” parts of the reef.

For $150, guests can select and transplant a small portion of coral reef in the area surrounding the resort. The whole process takes one hour, and involves selecting a plot of living but damaged or threatened coral that has been harvested by Seamarc, attaching the plot to a lightweight frame structure, and transplanting it in the resort’s lagoon. Guests can then monitor the growth and progress of their coral reef plot through a dedicated website.

The program may not completely offset the environmental impact of the Waldorf Astoria and other luxury resorts on the Maldives coral reefs, but it’s a start.

Venezuelan church back from watery grave

Potosi, Venezuela hasn’t been on anyone’s travel radar much since 1985. That was the year when the town was deliberately flooded by the Venezuelan government to build a hydroelectric dam. That left most of the worthwhile souvenirs from Potosi rather soggy. However, severe droughts in the region have resulted in an odd miracle, of sorts. The water levels in the man-made reservoir are so low that the town’s previously submerged church is now completely above water and resting on dry land.

National Geographic has some haunting photographs of the 82-foot-tall church that hasn’t been seen in its entirety in 25 years. The good news is that visitors can now witness this beautiful church and marvel at the effects of El Niño. The bad news is 68% of Venezuela’s power is hydroelectric. That means that the country is now experiencing an officially-declared energy emergency.

One could assume that the drought will eventually end and the reservoir will once again drown the town of Potosi. Until then, the church stands in the center of a ghost town that is seeing visitors for the first time in over two decades.

Photo by Flickr user JunCTionS.

Cypress Mountain has snow delivered in time for Olympic Games

With just one week to go until the opening ceremonies, the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver are struggling to find enough snow for some of the planned events. In particular, Cypress Mountain, which will host snowboarding and freestyle competitions beginning February 13, has been scrambling to complete their halfpipe, as well as the ski and snowboard cross courses. The resort has so little snow in fact, that they’ve resorted to using over 1000 bales of straw to construct the needed infrastructure, and have had more than 300 truckloads of snow delivered from elsewhere around the area.

It has been an unusual winter so far in Vancouver, with average temperatures at their highest point in more than 70 years. Experts are placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the El Niño weather pattern, which has been warming the Pacific Ocean for several months. The result has been little to no snowfall across the region in January, which means no new, fresh powder for the athletes, who began arriving yesterday in preparation for the games. The forecast for February doesn’t look much better, as more unseasonably high temperatures, and rain, not snow, are expected in the days ahead.

International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper told the Canadian press that he isn’t worried, as just 10 cm of snow is needed to cover the straw and make it ready for the athletes. Other event organizers say that while the lack of snow has been an issue across all the venues, Cypress Mountain is the only one that has caused significant concerns. They also promise that everything will be ready when the games officially open next Friday.

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