Our House of Coco team recently attended a preview of ‘Ocean Encounters’, a series of underwater photographs by award-winning National Geographic photographer Greg Lecoeur in support of the Shangri-La Group’s SANCTUARY conservation project. Visitors to Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard, London can view these stunning images until 15 November 2019.

Indian Ocean Luxury in Mauritius

Waking up in Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius on any day is a remarkable experience all by itself. This five-star deluxe property, located at Trou d’Eau Douce on the island’s eastern coast is a tranquil oasis with the vibrant turquoise colours of the Indian Ocean and talcum-white sandy beaches serving as a picture-perfect backdrop.

Mauritius’s beautiful coastline includes an extensive reef system – all 150km long – nearly surrounding the entire island. The reef forms shallow lagoons which, at low tides, make this an excellent destination for snorkelling and experiencing some of the wildlife closer to shore including sea urchins, sea cucumbers and colourful tropical fish to name just a few.

However, visitors willing to venture further out into the deep may be rewarded with some incredible ocean encounters. Depending on the time of year you visit Mauritius, you may see vibrant corals, pods of dolphins, sperm whales, sea turtles, hammerhead sharks and majestic manta rays.

It is these remarkable ocean encounters that the 2016 National Geographic “Nature Photographer of the Year” winner Greg Lecoeur, captures so vividly in his series of images currently being displayed at Shangri-La properties in London and Paris.

“The waters surrounding the resorts in the Maldives and Mauritius are teeming with life, creating incredible opportunities to encounter marine animals; a true underwater paradise for divers,” said Lecoeur, while presenting his work at The Shard, London.

Shangri-La’s SANCTUARY Project

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts commissioned Greg Lecoeur to capture marine life around the Group’s iconic Maldives and Mauritius resorts for a specific reason.

The ‘Ocean Encounters’ photo exhibition is part of the Group’s efforts to raise awareness through SANCTUARY, Shangri-La’s Care for Nature project which supports the regeneration of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean.

Like many other parts of the world, once rich coral reefs in Mauritius, which are critical for supporting marine biodiversity, are at risk of being destroyed by human and natural activity.

According to Mauritius Reef Conservation, a non-profit association supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), stress factors affecting the coral reef around the island include uncontrolled coastal and industrial development with the associated pollution from such activities. Negative forms of fishing such as the use of dynamite are also a cause for concern.

Tourism unfortunately also contributes to the stress on the coral reefs around Mauritius. The impact from unlicensed and untrained snorkelling and diving activity results in the break up of the coral, disrupting its natural growth.

This is one reason why projects such as Shangri-La’s SANCTUARY (launched in 2010) are a critical part of long-term, multi-layered and strategic efforts aimed at biodiversity conservation and habitat protection.

“Through sharing my photography of this underwater world, I am proud to contribute to Shangri-La’s SANCTUARY project to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity protection,” said Lecoeur.

To support the objectives of SANCTUARY, guests at the Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London can purchase prints of Greg Leceour’s photos. Full proceeds from the sales will go towards this conservation effort.

Visitors to Shangri-La properties in London and Paris can also enjoy ocean-inspired cocktails created by each hotel’s talented bar teams or experience a 60-minute spa treatment inspired by the Indian Ocean and created by CHI, The Spa. A percentage of the proceeds from the cocktails and spa treatments will also benefit the SANCTUARY fund.

Experience Marine Biodiversity in Mauritius

Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius is one of 13 hotels and resorts in the Group which have Eco Centres where colleagues, guests and local communities can engage to promote conservation efforts through interactive learning experiences and other activities.

Located on the most secluded bay in Mauritius and boasting its own private island, Ilôt Mangénie, the resort offers multiple opportunities to discover nature and experience underwater life and biodiversity.

Almost completely encircled by a barrier coral reef, travellers to Mauritius can explore hundreds of diving sites and shipwrecks. Underwater excursions can be arranged through the resort and led by experienced guides.

Speaking with Greg at the private viewing of his work in London recently, he recounted some of his experiences of diving in Mauritius including sighting and photographing sperm whales.

“I truly love sperm whales!” he said. “They are such gentle giants. I am fascinated by the lifelong family bonds they keep. In Mauritius, I enjoyed observing their affectionate interactions with each other and their curiosity towards humans. We can learn a lot from them.”

As we exchanged travel stories about Mauritius and his home city of Nice, France, Greg shared his passion for ocean conservation. He hopes to see more concerted efforts by governments and organisations across the world to protect our oceans and rich natural life within them.

“Awareness is the first step in this mission,” he explained.

As the ‘Ocean Encounters’ photo exhibition moves from London and Paris to Shangri-La properties in Mauritius and the Maldives after 15 November 2019, Greg hopes that visitors to those properties will be inspired to appreciate our oceans and to contribute in their own way towards conservation efforts for future generations.

Travel Information

Fly directly to Mauritius from London Heathrow with Air Mauritius (12 hours). For more information about Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok Resort & Spa, Mauritius, visit Shangri-la.com/en/mauritius/shangrila.

Rates for a 5-night stay in a Junior Suite Frangipani Beach Access room start from £920 per night for half-board (includes breakfast and dinner, golf club access and water sports). Costs are based on 2 adults visiting in November 2019.

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