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Botanical blooms

August 21, 2023 - Six Senses has long been a fan of trees, with several thousand planted (and several more hugged), from heritage cycad certification in Vietnam to a sapling nursery and iguanas in Fiji, tree climbing in Portugal, and mangrove walks in Thailand.

A year ago, Six Senses Ninh Van Bay in Vietnam was overjoyed with the discovery of a new plant species, the Six Senses Turmeric. Today, nine ancient cycad trees have been recognized as ‘Vietnamese Heritage Trees’ by the Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VNCNE).

Long live the cycads

Widely known as primeval plants, cycad trees are on the IUCN Red List of Endangered and Rare Forest Plants, facing extinction due to illegal trade and vanishing tropical forests.

Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, located in a secluded cove and surrounded by a 12,320-hectare (30,443-acre) natural forest, has a biologically diverse ecosystem that creates a perfect natural habitat for cycad trees to thrive. The resort’s sustainability team worked with VNCNE for three months to conduct an island-wide survey that identified more than 100 cycad trees in the area, among which nine over 100 years old have been certified as Heritage Trees. The oldest tree is located in the heart of the resort near the Crystal Water Plant and has already celebrated its 200-year birthday!

As ‘living fossils’, cycads trees are incredibly long-lived (up to 1,000 years) due to their slow and steady growth and delicate reproduction. They were prominent during the Jurassic period, the golden age of dinosaurs. They provide valuable eco-services and host nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria sheltered within their specially modified roots. These tiny microbes share nitrogen nutrients with their hosts, contributing to a symbiosis that benefits both organisms and ultimately creating a special microhabitat with nutrient-rich soil.

The birds and the bees (and iguanas)

Cycads are dioecious – meaning that the male and female reproductive systems are on separate trees. Pollination is frequently accomplished by beetles and bees. In February, Bee Residences were added to the Ninh Van Greens complex, providing a sanctuary for 500,000 stingless bees.

Following the same symbiotic philosophy, Six Senses Zil Pasyon is abundant with plants shrubs, and trees indigenous or endemic to Seychelles. The landscaping team has been working for over a decade to eradicate the invasive Coco Plum and reintroduce native species of trees and plants including the Coco de Mer. This protects and preserves the island’s ecology while fostering the recovery of native plants and animal species. A happy outcome would be the celebrated return of endemic birds, including the Seychelles Magpie Robin, Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher (briefly sighted), Seychelles Whiteye, Seychelles Warbler, and Seychelles Fody.

Six Senses Fiji is home to the Fijian Crested Iguana, a critically endangered endemic species, with less than 5,000 individuals remaining in the world. Six Senses Fiji works closely with conservation partners and traditional landowners who are combatting invasive tree species and restoring the native forest. Hosts and guests have joined hands to plant nearly 1,000 trees on Malolo Island and gradually reinstate the dry forest cover essential to endemic species. Nurseries for trees and fruit saplings are located at both the resort and Solevu, one of two traditional landowning villages of Malolo Island.

The resort itself is home to a ‘green belt’, one of the last remaining strips of native forestry on the island and an important habitat for the Fijian Crested Iguanas to breed and survive. Conserving this fragile ecosystem has steadily increased their population, and the iguanas now number at 38, from the initial 17 registered in 2018 when the resort opened.

Mangrove matters

Mangroves provide an essential habitat for thousands of species, prevent land erosion, and filter pollutants. At Six Senses Fiji, 7,881 square meters of habitat were restored by planting native plants, including 600 mangrove samplings in 2022, as part of a project to expand the local mangrove forest. This provides shelter to marine life and protects the shoreline.

If you’d like to discover a mangrove firsthand, then you’re welcome to explore this unique feature of Six Senses Yao Noi, Thailand during a Mangrove Walk. Take a stroll and spot red mangrove trees, cork trees and Nipa palm trees. Observe the mudskipper fish and keep an eye out for our resident giant monitor lizards often seen relaxing in the trees.

Tree climbing or forest bathing?

Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site means all of the region’s stakeholders around Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal have a strict obligation to its 3,500 botanical species. We protect and regenerate a 10-acre (4-hectare) woodland within our property to sustain the environment and beautiful old growth trees. The Forest Restoration Project is a true labor of love, in which the resort takes great pride and pleasure in nursing this parkland back to health and making it a home for soil fertility, fungi, insects, mammals, and birds, and a place that all can enjoy. In 2022, together with Associação Bioliving, Six Senses Douro Valley started an inventory of the existing fauna and flora, which will enable better decisions to preserve this important ecosystem. So far, 363 species have been identified.

Why not relive favorite childhood memories and release your inner child during a safe and guided Tree Climbing experience? Take a moment to breathe in and view the world from a new perspective: the treetops! Studies have shown that immersing in nature has positive effects on your immune system, blood pressure, stress levels, and overall mental wellbeing. Lose the shoes and ‘bathe’ barefoot in the warmth of the forest to increase your awareness of your natural surroundings, listen to the sounds, feel its textures, and smell the aromas.

Branching out

In India, Six Senses Fort Barawara’s rewilding project helps to conserve the natural habit by removing invasive species such Prosopis Juliflora. Planting native and endemic trees is vital for a healthy ecosystem to bring back birds, jackals, and leopards, thereby rebalancing the ecology. As the rewilding takes shape, it will first attract indigenous butterflies and birdlife. The water catchments will encourage larger animals back too. Jackals have already taken up residence, and leopards are beginning to roam the hills again, controlling the food chain and restoring balance.

As biodiversity continues to sprout, flourish, and bloom, we hope to see the world a few shades greener every year.

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