As you are probably aware of, April 22nd is celebrated every year as Earth Day – a day to highlight the many threats facing the future of our planet.
The first Earth Day took place in 1970, when millions of people came together across major US cities to bring awareness to the many environmental issues that Earth is facing. Fast forward to today, and Earth Day is celebrated in more than 190 countries worldwide, and has been used as a platform for major environmental milestones such as the Paris Climate Agreement.
Earth Day is a fantastic celebration, and each year more and more people are joining in and learning of the threats we are facing and how to lesser their impact on the world.
Being based on a small island in Indonesia, we are well aware of a number of threats facing our planet. Since Bunaken Marine Park was granted protected status in 1991, threats such as destructive fishing practises and overfishing have almost disappeared from the area, and both reefs and fish stocks are making a promising recovery. Our main issue is with plastic pollution, which can get very bad in a heavily populated country where the use of single-use plastic is extremely common, and the waste disposal and recycling facilities are rather limited.
That is why our (and a number of other local resorts and communities) environmental efforts take place year round, and not only on Earth Day.
Plastic is probably the number one threat facing the oceans today, with an estimated 26 million tons of the stuff entering the oceans each year. Although most of the plastic we find washing up on our shores is from Indonesia, it is not uncommon to find plastic bottles and candy wrappers that have travelled from countries like Thailand, China, and even the USA.
Beach clean ups are a regular part of life for us and other local resorts. At certain times of year, each high tide will bring a fresh assortment of plastic waste to our shores. Although most of our focus is on the beach in front of the resort, we often send a team to the back side of the island to clean up there too.
We believe that the only way the future will be any different from today is through education. We regularly involve the school children from Siladen with our beach clean-ups, and give presentations to them about the threat of plastic pollution. These efforts are clearly having a positive effect, as walking through the Siladen village today is a very different, much cleaner experience to how it was three years ago.
Our goal is not just to clean up plastic that washes up on our shores, but to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce. Over the past few years, we have completely omitted single use water bottles by installing reusable water coolers in every guest room and public space, stopped using single use plastic straws, asking suppliers to not wrap our orders in plastic, and giving out canvas bags instead of plastic bags at the boutique. We have many other ideas on reducing our plastic usage that are in the process of being implemented, and we are open to any ideas you may have!
The majority of our guests are divers and snorkelers and tend to already by quite environmentally conscious, so most people are more than willing to help our efforts. The best thing you can do to help the situation is to take your own plastic waste with you. It might seem like a nice gesture to give your dive guide or favourite masseuse that half empty bottle of shampoo, but remember, that bottle is likely to end up in landfill or worse. The same applies for batteries. We have very limited options to dispose of used batteries here, so we tend to collect them throughout the year and take them back to Europe or North America where they can be correctly disposed and recycled.
Another of our key focuses at Siladen Resort & Spa is to guard and protect Bunaken Marine Parkâs nesting turtle population, which is much higher than other, similar locations. Our turtle project includes locating and protecting any nests that appear on Siladen, and if necessary, re-locating them to a better area (above high tide marks, away from construction projects and where stray dogs wonât get to them).
Bunaken Marine Park is home to five species of turtle, including the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. We are lucky to have such a healthy turtle population, however it was not always like it is today. Many repeat guests who have been visiting for a number of years often mention the increase in turtle population over the past ten years. This has been down to not only us, but other local companies and communities coming together to help protect these beautiful and long lived creatures.
To date, we have hatched and released thousands of turtle hatchlings, and this week, we were lucky to welcome another 85 hatchlings to the world. From the number of scutes (plates) on their shell, they appear to be olive ridley turtles â a species that are known to live in Bunaken Marine Park, but are rarely encountered underwater.