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Earth Day Update: Environmental Dive Travel Tips

Tomorrow is EARTH DAY. To help remind all divers about protecting the underwater world, Angelika Lukacsy of Utopia Village in the Bay Islands has written a short piece that every diver should review.

Utopia Village strives for responsible, natural and cultural based eco-tourism. This small dive resort located on the tiny island of Utila, in the Western Caribbean, has vowed to make Earth Day everyday. Utopia’s owners realized that building in this small ecosystem would make a huge impact. Some may think that “eco” means giving it all up to live in a grass hut.

Utopia Village proves that you do not have to lose luxury and comfort to be kind to the Earth. The resort was designed using local woods and stone indigenous to the area. Hotel furnishings and fixtures were built by local craftsmen providing a rustic Caribbean charm.

Utopia is the only resort on Utila that has qualified for eco status through the Honduran Ministry of Environment that acknowledges the hotel and site were developed with strict guidelines to respect and commune with the natural marsh, jungle and reef surrounding their complex. The South shore of Utila is diverse in terrain from reef to swamp. It is teeming with life such as birds, land crabs, hermit crabs, iguanas, lizards, bats, wild rabbits, hawks, wild orchids and many species of trees. The world class reef just off Utopia’s shore and the surrounding Utila waters host 99% of the variety of marine life found in the entire Caribbean.

During construction of Utopia Village, great care was taken to save as many trees as possible on the property. Trees are critical in minimizing erosion, nourishing the soil and helping filter the ocean. Located throughout the Utopia property are many “Gumba Limbas” or “Naked Indian” trees that are endangered in Honduras and monitored closely by environmental groups. The distinct characteristic of the Gumba Limba is red peeling bark that reveals olive tones underneath. Much of the inspiration for the resorts interiors came from this beautiful tree. Also, as a tribute, one of the hotel buildings was named after this magnificent specimen.

As a leading dive resort in The Bay Islands, Utopia understands the importance of preserving the environment and indigenous communities. Utopia Village is committed to protecting the ecosystems and their biodiversity by taking continual steps to be more environmentally friendly and aware. Policies such as “reduce, reuse and recycle” actively encourage all employees and visitors to participate in these endeavors. Utopia Village accomplishes much of its conservation techniques through a few simple tasks:

  • Save and plant trees, they are the oceans best filters.
  • Vegetable and fruit scraps are composted providing nutrients for the gardens.
  • Utopia’s kitchen buys and prepares fish from sustainable sources.
  • Seeds from papayas are collected and replanted throughout the gardens.
  • Beaches are always kept clean and all trash is disposed of properly.
  • Encourage water conservation; Utopia remains self-sustained using three wells, a rainwater collection system and several cisterns.
  • Linens are laundered once per week, unless otherwise requested.
  • Refillable shampoo, hand soap and lotion bottles are used in lieu of disposable mini plastic bottles.
  • Operable windows, screened in areas and ceiling fans minimize the use of air conditioners.
  • Large windows flood the rooms with natural light reducing energy usage.
  • Jars and containers are reused; old towels are used as cleaning rags.
  • Cans and plastics are recycled and reduce trips to the landfill.
  • Plastic plates and cups are rarely used and deposit bottles for beers and sodas are the norm in lieu of plastic.

Utopia’s Director of Wellness and Sustainability, Roxane Wagner, stated firmly, “We believe that as a tourism and travel related establishment in a lesser developed country, it is our duty to both teach and empower local communities. Many of Utopia’s staff are local residents from the surrounding cays and Utila town. We began by teaching recycling techniques as we started the project. We then taught basic electrical and plumbing during construction. Prior to opening we trained several ladies in spa treatments and our four star chef shared his culinary techniques with his staff. Utopia has trained our longtime employees in areas they may not have otherwise been exposed, thus providing a rich professional foundation and steady income for their families.”

Utopia aims to educate and entertain while supporting regular underwater clean up dives and events such as beach and reef days sponsored by PADI’s Project Aware. They participate in the Whale Shark research and photo id programs and donate part of the reef fund to UCME (The Utila Centre for Marine Ecology). UCME is a registered NGO that focuses on saving the reef systems in the Bay Islands. Volunteering for UCME’s newest conch program can be combined with a Utopia dive vacation. Just ask about it when making your booking.

Guests of Utopia Village can enjoy and appreciate nature in a pristine and natural condition. Many people ask, “What can I do to contribute?” Below are a few tips, whether on vacation or at home, that can make a real difference.

  • Turn off lights, water and air conditioners when you leave your room
  • Minimize water use. Turn off taps when shaving or brushing teeth
  • Refill your water bottle for excursions to cut down on waste
  • Reuse your towels to help reduce water and chemical use
  • Have respect for local cultures and customs. Don’t judge, listen and learn
  • Dispose of all trash responsibly
  • When diving and snorkeling, never touch plant and animal life. Minimize fin movement, which stirs sand that can choke the reef.
  • Never chase an animal – while hiking, diving or snorkeling
  • Stay on trails
  • Do not take souvenirs from nature or archeological sites
  • Contribute to the local community by donating time, talent or treasureJoin environmental groups and support environmental causes
  • Learn more and teach others about ways to reduce negative impacts on the environment!

If a small dive resort in the Caribbean can make an impact on their tiny slice of paradise, we can all pitch in and strive to affect our surroundings with the lightest of footprints. Join Utopia Village in making everyday Earth Day!

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