As ecotourism, conservationism, and sustainable initiatives rise to the
forefront of travelers’ global priorities, Atlantis has long led
the environmental movement with blue tourism.
At the mere mention of Atlantis, Paradise Island, many elements come to mind. Pristine beaches. Luxury cabanas. Swanky suites. Wildlife… conservation? There’s a quiet truth at the Bahamian resort that extends a seemingly endless array of invigorating opportunities for a relaxing holiday. Vacationers have long been doing more than they realize to protect the earth at Atlantis, and it’s time this secret be uncovered.
More than ever before, travelers, in particular couples planning a destination wedding or honeymoon, are seeking more than just an experience gained with their tourism dollars; they’re looking for impact that contributes to global enrichment. Blend the two, and suddenly a trip to remember holds greater meaning. Gone are the days of the ignorant tourist. Jetsetters want to feel informed, get involved, and put their money where their mouth is. Why that is so, is a rather simple concept: because it feels good.
Originally founded as the Kerzner Marine Foundation, the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation has been dedicated to saving sea species and their extraordinary habitats throughout the Bahamas and surrounding Caribbean seas since 2006. This isn’t a blasé way of saying a miniscule portion of the Atlantis resort profits are allocated to other guys that will do the heavy lifting. Most know about the on-site Dolphin Cay experiences to be had, but this is not a controversial theme park, where concerns over animal welfare are eclipsed by human entertainment. In fact, while the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that receives its funding from the generosity of Atlantis guests, actively sets out to develop and implement programs benefitting their mission, the impact is visible right from the patron perspective.
Atlantis, Paradise Island is home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world, encompassing 14 lagoons, eight million gallons of ocean water, and more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species. While over 165 marine biologists, aquarists, lab technicians, and other full-time members of the Atlantis team care for marine species 24/7/365, the resort’s imprint easily flies under the radar for its entertainment value to guests. Uncommonly known to the average vacationer is that Atlantis is in fact the only full-service resort with the medical, laboratory, research, and holding capacity of an independent marine life facility dedicated to conservation, rehabilitation, and education. Recently, on-staff veterinarians and marine specialists returned a manatee and rare spotted dolphin back to the wild, after a rehabilitation and recovery period at the resort. Additionally, the highly skilled marine crew was the first, and currently the only, team in the world to have reproductive success of the critically endangered smalltooth sawfish. On-site, Paradise Island has three “fish kitchens” that serve more than 2,100 pounds of fresh seafood every day to over 50,000 fish and marine animals. When Fish by José Andrés opened in late 2018 at The Cove, the luxury beachside resort at Atlantis, the menu was designed to highlight sustainable Bahamian fishing practices, committed to the protection of the region’s coral reef, one of the largest in the world. Its signature dish of fried local lionfish in particular, a species that while delicious, has been severely damaging to the coral reef, does its part with every dish it serves, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to the Blue Project Foundation in support of local marine wildlife.
The foundation that organizes beach and reef cleanups to remove pollutants, and educates the local community about ocean conservationism, does more than develop and implement habitat protection and restoration strategies. At Atlantis, there is a little known fact that guests are integral partners in the blue initiative, with several experiential encounters that further the cause. Among them is the turtle hatchling release. Each year, female green sea turtles lay eggs on the resort’s Hibiscus Lagoon nesting beaches, and once they hatch, guests are able to sign up and help the Aquarists team to guide the hatchlings to sea. Guests who participate in setting the baby turtles free gain a behind-the-scenes look at how the marine team cares for its marine life. There is also a Sea Turtle Adoption Program, offering an opportunity for guests to adopt a juvenile sea turtle and aid in its release. Guests choose a name for the sea turtle, and join members of the Atlantis Marine Team on one of its private boats for the opportunity to snorkel alongside turtles at the release site. At the end of the program, an official certificate of adoption and photos from the day’s special events are issued. At the Ruins Lagoon, one may swim beside sleek sharks, spotted rays, and colorful tropical fish as part of the “Snorkel the Ruins” program.
“We celebrate the ocean every day at Atlantis,” says Michelle Liu, Senior Vice President of Marine & Waterpark Operations at Atlantis, Paradise Island. “It is such a rewarding feeling knowing that we are able to continue to make a difference within our country and local community by offering programs that supports both our marine education mission and the protection of our natural resources.”
If Atlantis, Paradise Island has ever given the impression that it is too luxury to care about its beautiful habitat, then a grave miscarriage of justice has taken effect. At the Bahamian isle, blue tourism isn’t a trend; it’s a way of life. Whether one comes to paradise for leisure or to plan a wedding, there’s a worthwhile cause that is being nourished, and that’s something to feel really, really good about.
"Blue Impact" is written by Samantha Sendor and appears in the 2020 Edition of Sophisticated Weddings. For more information about conservation efforts, weddings, and honeymoons in the Bahamas, visit Atlantis Paradise Island.