During my visit to The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to delve into its ‘Support the Sustainability of Sea Cucumbers’ initiative and experience it firsthand. What I consider was a profound visit, I learned how impactful this initiative is for the future, all thanks to the Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy global program.
Before that, you may want to read my experiences learning about the initiative program at The St. Regis Langkawi and The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa supporting the mangrove preservation and linen upcycling.
Langkawi Island, nestled in the Andaman Sea, stands as a beautiful jewel in the northwest of Malaysia. This captivating island boasts legendary stories woven through time, lush rainforests, majestic mountains, breathtaking waterfalls, and a warm and welcoming community.
Among its natural wonders, Langkawi is home to an abundant population of sea cucumbers, locally known as “gamat“, a species integral to both the cultural and commercial identity of this island.
However, overfishing and unsustainable practices have threatened the sea cucumber population, leading to adverse effects on the local marine ecology, such as coral bleaching.
Feeding and excretion by sea cucumbers increase seawater alkalinity that contributes to local buffering of ocean acidification. Overexploitation of sea cucumbers is likely to decrease sediment health, reduce nutrient recycling and potential benefits of deposit-feeding to seawater chemistry, diminish the biodiversity of associated symbionts, and reduce the transfer of organic matter from detritus to higher trophic levels. (Steven W. Purcell, Chantal Conand, Sven Uthicke, Maria Byrne. Ecological roles of exploited sea cucumbers. Oceanography and marine biology, 2016, 54, pp.367–386)
According to a report published by Choo Poh-Sze, the processing industry has depleted the resources of Stichopus hermanni, one of the sea cucumbers species exploited for medicinal properties, which is now an endangered if not an extinct species in the vicinity of the Langkawi Islands. These sea cucumbers also disappeared in early 1990s due to overfishing for the traditional medicine industry. (Choo Poh-Sze, WorldFish Center, Penang, Malaysia. Fisheries, trade and utilisation of sea cucumbers in Malaysia, 2004, pg 1/11, pg 3/11)
In response to this ecological challenge, The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi launched ‘Support the Sustainability of Sea Cucumbers’, an initiative as part of the Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy programme. This initiative aims to protect and conserve the sea cucumber species and their natural habitat while fostering awareness and sustainable practices among guests and the local community.
As a travel writer and advocate for sustainability, I always strive to promote responsible travel and tourism during my trips.
I believe that travellers can make an impact by giving back to the local community – to improve, preserve and conserve – subsequently putting sustainability as a priority in all our actions, just like how I always say: enjoy but don’t destroy!
The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s Sustainable Initiative
The ‘Support the Sustainability of Sea Cucumbers’ programme initiated by The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi is a crucial step towards preserving the endangered sea cucumber species and protecting the island’s biodiversity.
This comprehensive conservation program consists of two parts: an educational programme under Ritz Kids and a hands-on sea cucumber reproduction activity. Through these initiatives, guests gain insight into the significance of sea cucumbers and actively participate in their conservation.
With Mr Fadzli Luqman, The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s marine biologist, we visited the resort’s sea cucumber nursery. Here, we learned about these fascinating benthic creatures that have a lifespan of up to ten years and reproduce through binary fission, a unique asexual reproduction process.
Fadzli passionately shared the resort’s commitment to propagating sea cucumbers found in shallow waters among the rocks along the stretch of beach near The Beach Grill Restaurant.
By supporting their reproduction, the resort aims to bolster their population and safeguard them from extinction.
Since the program’s inception, The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi has conducted over 100 educational talks, fostering awareness among guests and staff alike. He recounted numerous successes in sea cucumber repopulation, with over 30 sea cucumbers reintroduced into the sea, thanks to the involvement of guests in the hands-on experience.
The sea cucumber reproduction methodology involves using cable ties to facilitate the asexual reproduction of sea cucumbers, splitting one individual into two over six months’ period.
This practice aligns with The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s ethos of responsible travel and sustainability. Guests who participate may also take the opportunity to join kayak activities to collect and release sea cucumbers, fostering a sense of connection to the marine environment.
Fadzli emphasised the significance of this project, given the limited research on sea cucumbers. The initiative not only contributes to the conservation of vital marine species but also serves as a model for sustainable tourism practices.
The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s commitment to preserving the island’s biodiversity is evident through such efforts to protect these marine wonders.
The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi: A Sustainable Haven
My stay at The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi allowed me to witness the resort’s dedication to sustainability and responsible tourism. Nestled within a 10-million-year-old rainforest, the resort effortlessly blends contemporary luxury with authentic experiences.
I couldn’t help but marvel at the resort’s fusion of luxury and sustainability. The resort’s tropical rainforest setting provides a backdrop to a plethora of authentic experiences. One of them was the chance for me to enjoy the sights of the long-tailed macaque fooling and playing over the trees surrounding the room where I stayed.
Besides primates, guests can also marvel at the sights of kingfishers, eagles, hornbills and more throughout the property. However, bear in mind that these are wild animals and it is best not to interrupt or feed them. As I iterated earlier: enjoy but don’t destroy!
Throughout my stay, I was delighted to also take a peek at each of The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s food and beverage outlets, including The Beach Grill, Langkawi Kitchen, Horizon, and Hai Yan. All of these outlets crafted menus from locally sourced ingredients. Some are even harvested from the resort’s own Nibong Garden.
Langkawi Kitchen, with its vibrant and contemporary ambience, showcases the rich tapestry of Malaysian cuisine, combining traditional Malay, Thai, Indian, and Chinese flavours. The Beach Grill, on the other hand, serves up fusion cuisine with a delightful local twist, freshly sourced from the local fishermen, offering an unforgettable dining experience.
Exploring the Rainforest with Ritz Venture
On the morning before I left, I had the opportunity to embark on a jungle trek with Langkawi’s local resident, Mr Wafiq Othman, The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s recreation executive and certified naturalist.
The 45-minute trek took us through the lush rainforest to a private beach, hidden from public access, and can be enjoyed only through this eye-opening experience.
Along the way, Wafiq imparted a wealth of knowledge about the diverse flora and fauna of the rainforest, from the trees that shed their barks and identifying Tongkat Ali plants to spotting birds like hornbills, eagles, and kingfishers.
He even showed us various insects, including spiders, ants, and termites. This captivating trek highlighted The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s commitment to showcasing the island’s natural beauty while promoting ecotourism and environmental education.
I for one feel grateful that The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi preserve this part of the property from any development and let this million-year-old rainforest with its natural inhabitants flourish.
A Profound Stay
My experience with The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi’s ‘Support the Sustainability of Sea Cucumbers’ programme was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Witnessing the dedication of the resort’s team to conserving the sea cucumber species and preserving Langkawi’s biodiversity left a profound impact on me.
The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi stands as a beacon of sustainability, not only through its marine conservation efforts but also in its commitment to local sourcing, ecotourism, and environmental education.
As travellers, it is our responsibility to support and participate in sustainable initiatives like these, ensuring the preservation of our planet’s precious treasures for generations to come. Through conscious travel and responsible tourism, we can make a positive impact on the environment, the local communities, and the cultural heritage of the destinations we explore.
By promoting programmes like ‘Support the Sustainability of Sea Cucumbers,’ we honour the beauty and significance of Langkawi’s natural wonders while contributing to a future where sustainable travel becomes the norm, ensuring that our journeys enrich not only our lives but also the world.
Last but not least, remember: enjoy, but do not destroy.