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Our Sustainability; our future.
1: Where to build and what guides us?
Long before we started looking for a site to build this one of a kind resort on the island of Tanna, we identified the core essentials that would guide us:
- What were the attributes we were bringing to the island and what value system would be at the center of our future management of that land?
- We were adamant that we would at all time be in partnership with the natural environment and its inhabitants; and at all times we would listen to, respect and consider both.
We would work to ensure that nature, the people, and the resort benefit mutually.
Our Check list:
- A pristine location where there had been little fishing, lobster harvesting or shell collecting. In other words some evidence that the indigenous people that lived in that location already had some respect for their marine environment.
- A region in Tanna where the most benefits could be brought to local people in the way of employment, agriculture and skill training.
- A location offering not only beautiful but truly memorable views; preferably elevated where buildings could be integrated into the existing environment.
- A safe, sheltered beach for swimming at any age and experience.
- Spacious grounds with conditions conducive to creating a tropical botanical garden.
- Protected from strong winds; sea surges; tsunamis, and maximum shelter from cyclones.
- A “hideaway” location to ensure maximum privacy for our guests.
- The highest degree of good, mild weather throughout the year.
- Proximity to the airport, hospital and the port.
- Safe and practical access thru coral for passenger deep sea fishing.
- 100% spring drinking water.
- The furthest distance from volcano ash fallout.
Extensive research of the islands’ best locations was conducted; three spots were identified to be suitable but one stood out as unique: Ipak Bay and the spirit of its people.
Ipak Bay is a pristine habitat that fulfills all those elements in every way and more as it reveals its many hidden secrets. We are fully committed to ensuring its preservation through sensitive management in full cooperation with its traditional landowners.
We believe that developing quantifiable, environmentally sustainable business practices will not only create a place for everyone’s better health and peace of mind but naturally minimize our carbon footprint.
Hopefully; out of natural competitiveness, our eco initiative will persuade other tourism operators to adopt genuine environmental sustainability practices.
Rockwater Resort will actively encourage employees and guests in the common goal of preserving and protecting the precious Ipak Bay coastline. A primary condition of purchase mutually agreed by landowners and Rockwater Management was an immediate permanent total ban on fishing or shell collecting in Ipak Bay. It was put in place on May the 1st of 2015 and is strictly enforced by all. We hope this will encourage other local businesses to do the same with their precious natural resources.
We will always place sustainable practices that conserve natural resources and reduce environmental impact as our priority. As importantly, sustainable tourism will enhance and protect Tanna Island’s tourism commercial viability for generations to come.
We set ourselves two goals:
1. To question and evaluate everything we do every day, in terms of ecological responsibility with the goal to over time become 100% solar/wind and hydro energy self-efficient.
2. To provide our guests with the most genuine environmental and cultural experience possible; be it in consumables, interaction, and experiences.
What are we doing to achieve these objectives?
Our building and operating principles.
Construction & maintenance
Fortunately Tanna is blessed with a sub-tropical temperate climate with little temperature variation throughout the year and Ipak Bay is one of the most weather protected of all bays on the island so these elements make it easier for us.
The resort accommodation is being thoughtfully hand crafted out of the white coral - black river rock cliffs and expansive forest land. This integration, with sporting and leisure facilities will reach its full potential over the years as we continue to grow with our environment.
The build follows passive design principles by capturing the cooling ocean breezes to draw out all the stored heat energy from thermal mass construction via built-in internal air ducts. Glass doors and tinted windows are positioned to encourage usage of daylight for interior lighting instead of electricity although all lighting in the resort is 12volt and stainless screen mesh to allow air circulation without compromising privacy. Trees planted to provide shade to buildings and people is a priority. The use of earth friendly materials is used in construction wherever available.
- All stones (local coral & river rocks) used in construction is purchased from quarries owned & managed by local landowners.
- 98% timber purchase is from government- registered local landowners with re growth plantation forests.
- All sand used for concrete mixing and landscaping come from local defunct rivers, purchased from and dug by local landowners.
- All glass waste and aluminium cans is crushed and recycled as fill-in (for roads & supplementary aggregate in construction).
- Hot water for all rooms; restaurant, bar, kitchen, laundry and staff quarters is gas heated as no other source is as clean, reliable or cost effective (see Q&A why we do not use Solar for hot water)
- All water for the resort is pure spring water, pumped 18 meters in the coral bed then sent up 40 meters above the resort into sealed tanks to be gravity fed back to the resort below.
- All lighting in the resort is 12 volt (All lightning will eventually be solar powered from solar panels on the flat concrete roofs).
- Public rest rooms, tennis & table tennis court, beach volleyball, and garden paths will have solar lighting operated on motion sensors.
- Rockwater Resort only uses energy-saving LED; resulting in eliminating over 20 tons of CO2 emissions every year.
- Air conditioning if we have to use (such as for office to cool computers) will be hybrid-solar powered. Guests rooms and other areas have been designed with other cooling methods..
- All soap supplied is hand made by local people from Volcanic Earth in Port Vila.
- All baskets are crafted by local people from endemic pandanus, cane, and water reeds.
- All wood crafts in the resort are purchased from local inhabitants utilising forest debris wood…the resort supplies the tools.
- Naturally, Rockwater does not use any single use plastic (except Cling Wrap in the kitchen which is disposed of thoughtfully).
- Linen and towels is changed only upon request. We strongly encourage our guests to use the same bath towels and other linen for as long as possible.
- Our kitchen only uses olive oil blended with Tanna 100% organic coconut oil (visit to Coconut oil plant can be organised).
- All products containing Palm oil are banned from Rockwater.
- Our Chefs will only use fresh 100% organic eggs.
- Kitchen vegetable scraps are given to staff to feed their pigs.
- Absolute minimal use of imported and pre-packaged products.
- We will never cook or buy Coconut Crab; on the contrary we encourage them to breed on resort land under our protection and continue to educate the public on their plight.
- We kill humanely our crustaceans by quick freeze, we never cook them alive.
- Due to Lobster over-fishing in Tanna, Rockwater does not buy lobster on Tanna. We occasionally obtain them from the island of Aniwa as their stocks are well maintained.
- Rockwater does not buy Parrot Fish as it is an essential part of the coral eco system.
Restaurant & Bar:
- The resort will at all times endeavour to make its own Jams, Marmalades, Chutneys, Pickles, and Tomato Sauces from 100% organic local produce.
- Restaurant uses sugar bowls, reusable jars for jams, pitchers for milk and small serving dishes for butter and jellies instead of wasteful and packaged items that would pollute our environment.
- Our Barman makes all drinking straws by hand from bamboo grown on the property.
- The resort dries the natural way: we use indoor clothes drying areas, no electric clothes dryers exist in the resort.
- Wherever possible we make our own detergents, cleaning, and bathroom products; but if forced to buy, we only purchase green biodegradable rated products.
- The resort recycles stained cloths into dish cloths or gives them to staff. All faded staff uniforms are given to staff.
- The resort soaks in natural soap and uses vinegar; never bleach or Domestos as this kills the natural septic bacteria.
- Clean grey water is used for watering of our fruit trees (bananas, pawpaw, custard apple, soursop etc...).
- Wherever possible we produce our own or buy 100% organically-grown vegetables for our restaurant (come see our permaculture gardens).
- Garden clippings & waste is recycled by mulching in our gardens.
- Paper products are recycled into garden mulch.
- We never use chemical pesticides, insecticides or fertilisers on our gardens. We make our very own 100% organic pesticide made from Lantana plant extract.
- The resort has a Crown Of Thorns (COT) starfish eradication program to protect our surrounding coral reefs. Guests are welcome to join in our snorkel hunts.
- Rockwater Resort management has been at the front line of “Save the Coconut Crab” movement in Vanuatu for 19 years.
- Rockwater resort is actively bringing awareness of the illegal harvesting of underage lobsters or female lobsters carrying eggs in Tanna.
- The resort is working very closely with the Vanuatu Department of Fisheries & Wildlife on all matters relating to saving the coral reef of Tanna.
- All printed paper comes from eco-certified paper with the FSC symbol. The FSC Certification (Forest Stewardship Council) guarantees that a product has been produced using timber sourced from sustainably-managed forests.
- All waste is separated into aluminium, glass, paper, and recycled appropriately.
- Recycling of potentially harmful materials such as batteries, florescent lighting tubes, bulbs etc. is crushed and used in concrete foundation work.
- Education of our staff; subcontractors; suppliers; tour operators, and unaware guests to be respectful of the fragile environment of Vanuatu.
Our ocean, coral and beach
Rockwater Resort management has worked very closely with the landowners and villagers in raising awareness of the importance in preserving the natural marine environment.
The total ban on fishing on or near the reef surrounding the resort is a great success due the wonderful bipartisan community support. We also ask all our guests (especially children) to look; but not to walk on or touch coral.
Under no circumstance are any live shells or marine life to be harmed or removed from the reef adjoining the resort. Offenders (to any wildlife in or near the resort) may be asked to leave the resort without refund for unused stay.
For health and hygiene reasons, the only insects we kill are Flies and Mosquitos; the only mammals are rats.
Rockwater Resort strongly encourage the growth of local indigenous business that will stem from the resort’s presence, such as new local bungalows near the resort for budget travellers; Tanna fishing or land food supplies that will set up to supply the resort; trekking and other tour operators that will open to sell to the resort to name a few.
Following 2015 Cyclone Pam’s devastation of the area the resort is planting hundreds of trees and shrubs seedlings. These will complement the natural landscape and encourage birds and animals to come to the resort.
This is not a complete list, it will grow as Rockwater Resort Ecotourism policy is driven by the respect for the dignity of nature and man’s dependency to it.
Our (Investors and Landowners) approach to ecotourism in the accommodation sector is a first in Tanna. Hopefully we can encourage others to place this island’s environmental future at the centre of their tourism businesses.
We will be vigilant in lowering our environmental footprint anywhere we can and will encourage others to follow suit, hence will ask our guests to be energy wise and encourage their input on how we can further improve our energy efficiency or environmental responsibility.
John and Silvana Nicholls
Rockwater Resort on Tanna.