At Aqua Expeditions, we are committed to setting a standard in responsible travel in the destinations in which we operate. We do so from the ground up, beginning with the design and operation of our vessels and our community engagement, but also via sustainable operations, lowering our energy emissions, rethinking our supply chains, and crafting our itineraries so that we may leave as light a footprint and as big an impact as possible. It also means we choose who we work with, in order to strengthen our environmental and socio-economic influence. Here are some of the ways we do so aboard Aqua Blu.
Manta Trust – Conservation through Research, Education & Collaboration
Manta rays are some of the most enigmatic creatures found in the underwater habitats of Indonesia. Curious, social, and incredibly intelligent, encounters with these animals are a dream come true for divers and snorkelers. Raja Ampat is a unique location to spot these animals as it is the epicenter of marine biodiversity, and one of the few places on earth where you can find both species of manta: the giant oceanic manta and the reef manta.
Swimming with both species at the same time is one of those life-changing moments only a lucky few can enjoy. For Calvin Beale, founder of the Raja Ampat Manta Project, this encounter was a major turning point in his life that triggered his attention to the greater protection these species required.
The biggest threat to mantas are humans. Populations of mantas are victim of both targeted fisheries that catch them for their gill plates (increasingly demanded for their use in Asian medicine) and as by catch, meaning they are caught unintentionally by fisheries targeting other species.
The Raja Ampat Manta Project has been doing an outstanding job in protecting these creatures within the Raja Ampat and Bird’s Head Seascape region in East Indonesia since 2011 by evolving from a small venture focused on monitoring manta rays to pushing forward legislation against manta fishing.
Research plays a fundamental role in raising awareness and educating local communities and governments on the behavior of these populations and the threats against them. By working with citizen scientists, the Raja Ampat Manta Project has been able to collect photo identification and record a database of over 700 oceanic mantas rays.
The data gathered from this database, as well as the pioneering use of acoustic and satellite telemetry to monitor movement patterns of individuals over time, was crucial in achieving a nationwide fishing ban in Indonesia in 2014 — a key achievement for the safeguarding of these magnificent animals. The world’s largest manta ray sanctuary was also created in Indonesia in 2014 after studies demonstrated the great value manta rays have on the tourism industry, representing up to 1.9 million US dollars for a single manta over a 40-year lifespan.
One of the most effective ways to support the research of mantas is to submit an image of your manta sighting to Manta Trust’s ID The Manta database. Aqua Blu guides have been trained by Calvin Beale to educate guests onboard about these wonderful creatures, how to differentiate between species and the ongoing threats they face. They also present guests guidelines on how to snorkel and interact with mantas, ensuring sustainable tourism of mantas.
Other options to support Manta Trust include Adopting a Manta or shopping for Manta Trust merchandise, which guests will also find available at the Aqua Blu boutique.
For more information and to adopt a Manta visit https://www.mantatrust.org/ramp
ecoSPIRITS – The World’s First Low Carbon, Low Waste Spirits Distribution Technology
Did you know that in 2020, it is estimated the world will produce 40 billion glass spirit bottles, generating 22 million tons of carbon emissions? Unfortunately, the vast majority of these bottles will end up in landfills as single-use glass waste.
With the objective of ending single-use glass thus reducing the carbon footprint throughout the premium spirits supply chain, Singapore-based spirits distributor and cocktail curator Proof & Company launched ecoSPIRITS. With each bottle eliminated, ecoSPIRITS saves at least 550 grams of carbon emissions, which represents savings of around 30 grams of emissions for every cocktail or spirits pour.
Defined as an innovative closed-loop distribution system, not only does it eliminate 95% of packaging and shipping waste generated by the traditional distribution method but also significantly reduces packaging and transport costs. A cost-effective and eco-friendly solution the entire industry, from spirits producers to distributors and hospitality operators, can benefit from.
The protagonist in this fight against single-use glass is the ecoTOTE, a sustainable solution for transporting, protecting and presenting some of the world’s finest spirits. With a capacity of 4.5L of spirit, this reusable, ergonomic and shock-proof vessel is refilled at specialized facilities called ecoPLANTS, from where they are distributed to local retailers. These facilities also act as a collection point for used empty ecoTOTES, where they are cleaned and sanitized for the next use.
Proof & Company has been a long-standing partner of Aqua Expeditions since the launch of our first vessel in South East Asia, Aqua Mekong. The talented team at P&C designed Aqua Mekong’s innovative bar menu, showcasing the rich flavors, colors and cultures of the Mekong River Basin. They also crafted Aqua Blu’s drink menu, this time celebrating the diverse culture and cuisines of the East Indonesian Archipelago.
In line with Aqua Expeditions’ commitment to sustainable operations, Aqua Blu has now become the first yacht to adopt the ecoSPIRITS technology. As explained by Adrian Broadhead, Aqua Blu Food & Beverage Manager:
“Perfectly suited to our needs, we warmly embraced the EcoSpirits system to significantly reduce wastage, breakages, and our carbon footprint; not to mention how cost-effective the EcoTOTES are for our bottom line.”
The latest addition to the ecoSPIRITS system, its Forest Program, will help partners to further mitigate the carbon impact of their beverage operations by planting one tree on their behalf for each cycle of an ecoTOTE. This program will initially focus on the endangered Kalimantan rainforest in Borneo, Indonesia, and be managed by a cooperative of four villages.
Learn more about ecoSPIRITS at https://ecospirits.global/
Atlas Pearls – Global Leader in Eco-pearling
One of the most alluring experiences onboard an Aqua Blu itinerary is a visit to Aljui Pearl Farm, the most remote of Atlas Pearls’ six farms in Indonesia. Located on West Waigeo island in the Raja Ampat regency, guests are presented with the unique insight into the complex and fascinating South Sea pearling process, learn about the main characteristics of a pearl that influences their value and desirability, and meet the people behind the operation.
Atlas Pearls is a global leader in eco-pearling – a non-extractive and sustainable agri-business. In the last 20 years, the company has increased its production from 50,000 to over half a million pearls, currently employing 900 employees. Its commitment to continued research and development around hatchery technology, which consists of breeding their own oysters, has been crucial to ensure its continuity as a sustainable business despite its growth.
Atlas Pearls considers the close and positive relationships they have fostered with local villages and the support they receive from them to be a key factor to their success. By identifying local requirements and opportunities, the company engages in diverse initiatives with the objective of improving the quality of life and environment surrounding each farm. Their programs include areas in education and scholarships, employment opportunities, medical assistance, and environmental rehabilitation.
Some latest actions include the replanting of mangrove trees to their Penyabangan farm in Indonesia, and involvement in a children’s book called “Plastic in Paradise”, created to raise awareness and teach children about protecting and caring for the oceans and environment, with part of the proceeds going to maintaining sustainable waste projects in Raja Ampat. Other initiatives have also included beach clean-ups and distributing bamboo toothbrushes to the students at Selpele Village in an effort to drive change and protect the oceans, as non-biodegradable toothbrushes are some of the most common items found on the beaches surrounding their farms.
Discover Atlas Pearls and its farms at https://www.atlaspearls.com.au/