The Blue Economy: Bringing New Life to the Red Sea

Red Sea Global protects and regenerates a coastline and a marine ecosystem of diversity and beauty

When people think of Saudi Arabia, the epic rolling sand dunes of Rub’al-Khali are often the first images that come to mind. The desert, however, is far from complete. Indeed, the Kingdom contains over 1,000 miles of coastline, with some of the most diverse, beautiful and unspoiled coral systems on the planet.

The Red Sea has been used by traders and travelers for thousands of years, acting as a vital artery between Africa and Asia. Red Sea Global – a key player in realizing Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, by diversifying the Kingdom’s economy – builds on this lineage, sculpting an infrastructure of research and activities that celebrates, protects and regenerates. its coast and its waters.

Red Sea Global is currently transforming two sites along the west coast of Saudi Arabia, the Red Sea and Amaala. These projects represent two of the largest hotel and tourism companies on the planet, bringing vast new opportunities to the Red Sea while creating space for world-class conservation and environmental research programs. The diversification and growth of the “blue economy” is a central tenet of this vision.

The Red Sea encompasses one of the last great intact natural ecosystems. This project spans over 120 miles of undeveloped coastline and over 90 virgin islands. Red Sea Global intends to transform this landscape into a unique tourist adventure, with regeneration at its heart, attracting visitors from around the world eager to see the beauty of the Red Sea and the conservation work being done to protect it.

ocean coral reef
In total, Red Sea Global has undertaken over 300 studies of coral reefs and fish in the Red Sea / ©Red Sea Global

It all starts with an investigation

Red Sea Global intends to not only conserve but also have a 30% net positive impact on this ecosystem. This goal will be achieved through an extensive program of conservation efforts across the Red Sea, including the use of 100% renewable energy and the development of only 1% of the total project area of ​​11,000 square miles.

Dr Ivor Williams, Director of Fish Monitoring, Protected and Mobile Species at Red Sea Global, led the team that conducted the baseline environmental survey on which these targets are formed – the largest environmental survey ever undertaken by a development company.

[See also: John Pagano Sets Out Vision for Red Sea Global]

“It’s important to first understand that the area we’re dealing with is huge, extremely diverse, and before we started, much of it had never been studied before,” Williams says. The purpose of the baseline environmental survey was to comprehensively analyze species and habitats along 120 miles of the Red Sea coast.

“In total, we have undertaken over 300 separate coral reef and fish surveys in the Red Sea region and around 80 for Amaala, which is a smaller site. This represents a lot of information and allows us to make very good management decisions. We also surveyed each of the 90 islands in the project area, usually multiple times, carrying out different types of surveys, such as looking specifically at seabird breeding colonies or turtle nesting activity. We also studied marine mammals, including dolphins and dugongs which are commonly found in some of our habitats.

Protection and conservation

One of the ways Red Sea Global approaches the conservation process is by dividing the operating areas into different use areas. Much of the highest conservation value habitat will be in very large areas that are highly protected to allow ecosystems to recover to extremely intact “wild states”, however, some will be mixed-use or dedicated to sustainable fishing for the local population.

The baseline survey revealed that many islands in the Red Sea are vital breeding grounds for seabirds. “These populations are doing well but we can improve them,” Williams says. “We are now starting a project to explore the eradication of pest species that feed on eggs and hatchlings from key breeding islands, which should improve breeding success and strengthen populations.”

[See also: John Pagano on Making The Red Sea Project a Reality]

One of the biggest stars of the Red Sea is its incredible coral reefs. “You can look at a field of corals and each one is hundreds of years old,” Williams says. “We encountered some surprisingly healthy areas, we found a particular coral colony that was over eight meters (26 feet) high and several hundred years old.”

Visitors to the Red Sea will be able to view some of these incredible reefs, but visitor numbers and activities will be carefully monitored to ensure the area is protected. “We want people to be able to experience these amazing places,” adds Williams. “If managed properly, tourism and conservation can co-exist,”

A variety of research and investment programs have been conducted or are currently underway, attracting leading marine biologists from around the world. They include studies on carbon sequestration; the wilding of laboratory-grown coral; a contest around the elimination of brine; and lead work on coral spawning patterns. The results of this cutting-edge work promise to have an impact far beyond Saudi Arabia, but they are also being used to engage and educate site visitors.

The entrance to the Marine Life Institute / ©Red Sea Global
The entrance to the Marine Life Institute / ©Red Sea Global

marine life institute

Warren Baverstock first visited the Red Sea in 2003 as part of a film crew capturing the Arabian life cycle. “I spent three weeks diving offshore in Saudi Arabia, where I was able to explore some amazing reefs,” says Red Sea Global’s Senior Director of Marine Life Development. “I came back in 2019 to do this incredible work, helping to realize Vision 2030 with world-class tourism businesses that have a strong connection to the sea.”

Baverstock spent 25 years in the commercial aquatics industry, previously serving as Director of Aquarium Operations at the Burj al Arab in Dubai. One of the main projects he is working on as part of Red Sea Global is the development of a marine life institute in Triple Bay – a key part of the Amaala project. Much of his role revolves around how best to make this maritime agenda a key part of the customer experience.

[See also: The Red Sea Project Aims for Regenerative Societal Impact]

“With the marine life institute, we wanted to create something unlike anything else in the world,” says Baverstock.

Unlike a typical aquarium experience, the marine life institute gives the science and research that takes place on-site a prominent place over sightseeing opportunities.

“It’s the back-of-house experience that everyone is desperate to see when they visit an aquarium,” adds Baverstock. “This will give visitors unique access to scientists and ongoing research.”

The marine life institute will be filled with researchers who visit the field regularly, with visitors even able to accompany them into the Red Sea on their conservation efforts. “This is absolutely a world first, it fits perfectly with Vision 2030’s goal of creating a collection of incredible world-class tourist attractions,” says Baverstock.

A world-class marine tourism destination

The scale and beauty of ecological diversity has created the opportunity for a wide range of tourist attractions. “There will be diving experiences, coral farming, tracking and tracing with a marine biologist, trips to see dolphins and turtle nesting areas; the potential of the Saudi Red Sea is incredible,” says Baverstock.

Few attractions in the world allow visitors to be so close to the action, however, Red Sea Global intends to go even further. A submarine voyage is a possibility, fulfilling both a scientific and touristic role. Sometimes it will take up to six guests under the waves, other times it will be used to go much deeper (up to 3,200 feet) with searchers on board. The discoveries made during these expeditions will be presented to visitors in the theater of the marine life institute.

[See also: The Red Sea Project Calls for Partners Committed to Change]

In addition to his role in the establishment and delivery of the marine life institute at Amaala, Warren Baverstock was also responsible for the delivery of all diving businesses across Red Sea Global – an area of ​​utmost importance. in the context of destination activities for the group.

“The experience we deliver will be one where everything is taken care of,” says Baverstock. “From your arrival until the end of your trip, you will be taken care of to ensure you have the safest and most qualitative experience possible.”

The diving opportunities currently developed by Baverstock and his team are designed to suit all levels of experience. “We’re going to tick everyone’s boxes,” Baverstock says. “Our first location alone is 12 miles of unexplored barrier reef, we are so proud to offer such an amazing experience.”

Both above and below sea level, efforts to develop and showcase Saudi Arabia’s unique coastline promise an experience like no other.

To learn more, visit redseaglobal.com

[Visit the Red Sea Global Hub Page Here]

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