The holiday season is now upon us, and while nothing makes us happier than receiving plenty of presents, the selfless act of giving might be the best thing of all. Supporting noble causes is something we try to do year-round, but being able to contribute during the holiday season, no matter how big or how small, helps give a different meaning to this time of year. In the spirit of generosity and collaboration, here are three ways you can give back this Christmas, inspired by each of the destinations we operate in.
Adopt a Manta- Supporting global conservation
For any friend or family member who loves nature and is particularly fascinated by marine life and the rare creatures living in our vast oceans, an adopted manta ray will be one of the most special presents you can give them this Christmas. UK-based organization Manta Trust offers a selection of adoption packs filled with fun items about manta rays for kids and adults to play and learn while contributing to the research and protection of this gentle plankton-eating species. You can choose between seven reef mantas including the manta with the greatest Christmas spirit of all, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Ray — regularly sighted in the Maldives.
While not the usual choice for an adopted ‘pet’, the manta ray is known for its high level of intelligence – with the largest brain of all fish – and social bonding. Long thought of as solitary predators, studies have shown that they are creative and curious creatures, capable of feeding and mating in groups, as well as performing collective behaviors such as foraging and playing. They may even recognize themselves in the mirror, an ability indicative of high cognitive function, also shown by dolphins, primates, and elephants. Classified as vulnerable on the IUCN list, mantas are overfished and are highly coveted for their gill plates, used in Chinese medicine. However, they are worth more alive than dead, with tourism due to swimming with mantas generating local revenue of up to one million dollars in its lifetime.
Click here to adopt a manta this holiday season.
With Aqua Expeditions’ global expansion into East Indonesia, one of the world’s most biodiverse coastal ecosystems in the world, marine conservation has become the heart of our sustainable efforts in this region. From the beginning of our operations, we partnered with Manta Trust to support the conservation of manta rays and their habitats. Calvin Beale, the leader of Manta Trust’s Raja Ampat project, personally trained our guides about this enigmatic species so they can then help raise awareness among our guests while onboard Aqua Blu. During our expeditions, the knowledgeable guides educate guests about the unique characteristics of these creatures and their current threats, how to differentiate between species, and how to interact with mantas while diving or snorkeling to ensure it is carried out responsibly, without them being disturbed.
Gift Penh Lenh Handcrafted Jewelry – Empowering young women in Cambodia
Penh Lenh sells unique, ethically-sourced jewelry, from 14K gold-filled necklaces with semi-precious gemstones to glass bead bracelets, and tassel earrings made with Cambodian thread. Most importantly when buying a piece from Penh Lenh, you are supporting marginalized young women in Cambodia build a better future. For its founders Rachel Dodson and Srey Mao, this is achieved through dignified employment, skill training and educational opportunities – the foundations on which they founded Penh Lenh in 2013.
Penh Lenh is the Khmer word for “whole” — discover the meaning behind its powerful name:
Co-founder Rachel Dodson is a former modelling agent from New York City, who felt the calling to help vulnerable young women in developing countries. She leveraged her skills in business and fashion to create a social enterprise in Cambodia that would empower women to live a sustainable life. In addition to employing female artisans, and providing fair wages, and an inclusive, safe, and joyful working environment, Penh Lenh offers a comprehensive program tailored to the needs of these women, encouraging them to thrive and recognize their value. This ranges from teaching them life skills to budgeting, as well as English classes.
We are proud to feature their beautiful designs in our boutique at Aqua Mekong, as we sail across Vietnam and Cambodia. You can also find them at their retail store in Phnom Penh or online at www.penhlenh.com.
Support the Manatee Rescue Center – Helping endangered species in the Amazon
On the last day of our Peruvian Amazon itineraries, we make a very special final stop at the Manatee Rescue Center, located on the Iquitos-Nauta road. Founded in 2008 as a united effort between The Dallas World Aquarium, Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana and Acobia-DWAzoo, the Manatee Rescue Center (CREA) rescues and rehabilitates orphaned or injured manatees and other threatened species for their safe release back into the wild. To date, the center has rescued 50 manatees and released 25 of them deep into the Amazon.
The Amazon Manatees (Trichechus inunguis) are endemic to the Amazon basin and occur in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, including the Pacaya Samiria National reserve. Although their current population is uncertain, years of hunting and reduced sightings by locals indicate its trend is in decline — the species is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Sadly, humans are its biggest predator due to illegal hunting for meat consumption and entanglement in fishing nets, as well as being kept illegally as pets.
In addition to the center’s admirable work with the animals, they consider raising awareness amongst local communities and environmental education to be key in their conservation efforts and protection of manatees. Children in particular have become their biggest allies for conservation. By giving them the opportunity to be in direct contact with nature, learn about the manatee and the importance of wildlife protection, they develop a positive connection with nature, learning to love, respect, and take action to protect it.
Watch the exciting moment when manatees are released back into their natural habitat in the Peruvian Amazon, filmed by the BBC’s documentary series “Earth from Space”.
CREA’s main sources of funding come from The Dallas World Aquarium and visitors to the center near Iquitos. Relying heavily on tourism, the lack of visitors due to Covid-19 has deeply affected them as they require resources such as food and medicine to continue helping these debilitated animals.
To learn more about the Amazon Rescue Center and how you can donate to support their work protecting endangered species in the Amazon click here.
Read about Aqua Expeditions’ commitment to responsible travel and the projects we take part of in support of wildlife conservation and community engagement in the countries in which we operate.