Maho Bay Resort's pioneering environmental practices have received more press and more praise than any ecotourism destination on the globe. One reason is that Maho Bay Camps was one of the first resorts to provide a place where environment conscious travelers could enjoy a comfortable vacation free from conspicuous consumption and close to nature. This page will help you understand the many ways we put our philosophy into practice.
A Brief History
St. John has been a popular explorer's destination since about 700 B.C. when the Taino Amerindians canoed from South America for the plentiful seafood as evidenced by shell heaps from that period found on the island. The Taino were followed by the Arawaks who apparently also enjoyed seafood and the Taino women and beads. When Columbus arrived in 1493, only the Arawaks remained, but not for long. Between the Spanish, diseases and warfare, the Arawaks were mostly gone when the Danish took control in the 17th century. The Danes built a thriving economy based on sugar, and African slaves that lasted until their emancipation in 1848.
Denmark sold the Virgin Islands to the United States for $25 million in 1917. St. John maintained a subsistence economy for the next 40 years. In the 1950's Laurence Rockefeller began buying land, and in 1956 he donated 5,000 acres of St. John to the US National Park Service. Today the Virgin Islands National Park covers approximately 3/5 of this magnificent jewel in the Caribbean.
Stanley Selengut, Maho Bay's owner, now widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of ecotourism, sought to preserve and even restore St. John's beautiful and fragile ecosystem without sacrificing the enjoyment of his guests. Ecotourism was just being born when Maho Bay Camps opened in 1976. Today, its sister resorts on St. John have consistently received the most prestigious environmental awards for innovation in sustainable resort development.
Mr. Selengut is a member of the US National Park System Advisory Board and has served on the Board of Directors of The International Ecotourism Society. He says; "We have always been fully committed to ecotourism and the belief that environmental sensitivity and human comfort are compatible. Our guests enjoy enhanced vacation experiences by combining pleasure with environmental stewardship. We know that many of our visitors are drawn to our resorts because of their commitment to protecting the natural environment, and we applaud their decision to be responsible tourists. We also have found that some guests choose to stay with us because of our stunning location, and may not even be aware of the philosophy behind our operations."
Intimacy with nature no longer means primitive camping or inconvenience. Maho Bay Camps and its sister resorts are built with site-sensitive techniques that preserve, protect, and even enhance the fragile eco-system of the island.
Elevated walkways prevent soil erosion and protect the beach and fragile coral. Construction methods minimized removal of vegetation and use recycled building materials such as "plastic lumber", recycled glass tiles and tire rugs.
Each building is a showcase of conservation, recycling and site restoration. The sun, using timers and sensors to maximize efficiency, generates much of our electricity. Passive solar design, photovoltaic, rain collection and roof scoops that circulate cooling breezes are used.
On a Caribbean island like St. John, managing resources is a constant effort to research, refine, and reform our methods and materials. Visit our Managing Resources page to find out, in more detail, how we help to sustain a good balance between creature comforts, convenience and respect for nature's role in our lives.