Ensemble Vacations - Winter 2020

Page 30

ECOTOURISM

T rave lli ng w it h pu rp o s e in t h e

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC By Renée S. Suen

With a growing number of resorts embracing green initiatives, supporting ecotourism and enhancing the well-being of the community through ground-breaking sustainable initiatives, travelling with purpose across the Dominican Republic is becoming easier. For environment-conscious visitors, it is something they can feel good about.

ENDANGERED MARINE SPECIES OF CORAL REEFS

“Many people think coral are plants, but they’re members of the jellyfish family,” Macarena Blanco Pimentel tells our group as she points to the pottery-like fragments in an aquarium at Punta Cana’s new Coral Lab in Coral Level Iberostar Selection Bávaro. Operating under strict scientific standards, the temperature-controlled tanks help the scientific coordinator study the effect of rising temperatures on tissues harvested from nearby waters. Home to a quarter of all marine species, coral reefs are complex ecosystems that serve as a source of food and livelihood for coastal communities. However, their existence is being threatened by climate change and disease. Pimentel and her colleagues hope their research will help with the preservation and restoration of marine life in the Caribbean. 30 • Vacations ® • Winter 2020-2021

Besides managing the Spanish hotel chain’s in-water coral nurseries, identifying genotypically-unique species to store in a coral genetic bank, the team’s findings have also repopulated at-risk coral beds with heat-stress resistant coral. Nestled in Playa Bávaro’s powdery white sand and lapped by the turquoise waters of the Atlantic, the research laboratory is an amenity open to hotel guests curious about the conservation work being done at their vacation destination. The convergence of science and eco-conscious travel is an example of how hotels are responding to a preference among travellers for brands, products and services that adopt sustainable practices. No longer a fringe social cause, many companies are finding value in going green in new ways.