Sandals guests hail Over Water suites as boost to marine life

Staff reporter

Monday, February 18, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Guests spending their vacation at the Sandals Royal Caribbean Hotel are upbeat over the new injection of marine life since the construction of the over water suites nearly three years ago.

According to one of the guests, Melissa Charlton, who, along with her husband, Bill, are multitime returning guests to Sandals, especially Sandals Royal Caribbean, she loves to snorkel at the shores of the private island.

The couple were “so excited” during their last visit seeing such an increase in marine life around the over water suites.

Prior to the establishment of the five villas and 12 over water bungalows at the Sandals Royal Caribbean Over Water Village, marine life was significantly depleted, due mainly to overfishing in the area.

“I have been snorkelling since 2009 at Sandals Royal Caribbean. It was not so good back then when I started, a lot of fishermen and not a lot to see. Since the end of the fishing in this area things are much better. I was also worried when they did the over the water suites, but things have changed to the positive. There are creatures I have never seen before since all this went into effect. It is so beautiful here and I enjoy the beautiful nature,” Charlton said.

“(Now) Everyday when I snorkel I find marine life that is new to me. Also, at different times of day you see different fish and animals. Around 7:00 am, you see stingrays, all types of upside down jellyfish; around 11:am, you see crabs of all types; around 3:pm, you see brittle stars, and of course I feed them. I enjoy watching the octopus and just enjoy seeing so much variety of fish, there are schools of fish and it is fun watching them. My only hope is that next year will be more exciting.”

General manager at Sandals Royal Caribbean, Gerald Christ, concurred: “We have had so many positive feedbacks from the guests, they are the ones who have come back and praised us for it. They have been coming here year after year and snorkel. They have never seen fish before and all of a sudden they're seeing them now,”said Christ, who has been general manager at Sandals Royal Caribbean for the last five and a half years.

“I have been here through the entire construction of the over waters and opening it and experiencing it now.When you walk those boardwalks in the morning outside you see pelicans feasting from the schools of fish you see. Fishes of all sizes that you have never seen before appear in this area,” Christ stated.

“I get the comments again and again. People just love watching the pelicans feeding and diving into the water to make their catch and we have not seen that before.”

Like Christ, Nicholas Feanny, regional project manager for Sandals Resorts International, who oversaw the Sandals Royal Caribbean Over Water Village project, is particularly overjoyed with the positive environmental outcome which the building of the over water suites is inadvertently creating among the guests, especially after the initial jitters which it created in some quarters after construction was first announced.

“Environmentally it looks like a positive thing. The sea life that wasn't there before has now appeared and birds ... you name it. Coral start to grow again and I think it is because of the whole protection that the resort has done — kind of officially adopting the bay has kind of helped,” Feanny said.

“It is one of my's so dear to me. Whitehouse (Sandals South Coast) is special too. All of a sudden they (Sandals South Coast) are getting tarps. It's incredible. If you go around their bungalows you will see schools of tarps, incredible! Same kind of results. When you look around the columns you see the coral life coming back.

Feanny attributed the growth in marine life in the area to the creation of an “unofficial sanctuary by Sandals”.

“Most of it is just really stopping people from coming there and spear fishing and damaging the place...that's the environmental downfall we have; not building something like this with positive feedback,” Feanny told the Sunday Observer.

“The same guests that were coming and going out there to snorkel there now see a lively fish life, sea life and they are very excited and we are very excited. We were unsure too, we all were unsure, it's a new project to Jamaica and the Caribbean and we were unsure what kind of impact it would have and we are just very, very excited we see a positive impact, we see a positive new life in the water and so we want to brag about it.”

Christ also ascribed the positive turnaround in marine life to the protection of the area by the hotel.

“It's a small sanctuary. There is no fishing happening there, we stopped all the fish pots and the fishing so I think it's just been a positive step forward environmentally,” Christ said.

“We get a lot of commendations from our guests in terms of the sea life they have seen since the over waters are here so it's like its own small sanctuary with these suites being there over the water there is no fishing taking place out there there is no pot fishing no spear fishing no net fishing so you can really see how quickly nature takes care of itself to replenish.”

Meanwhile, Feanny disclosed that seagrass, which were uprooted to facilitate the project have since being replanted and are now growing well.

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