First Trees Planted At Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw
With a year to go until Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve welcomes its first guests, MSC Cruises marked an important milestone with the planting of the island’s first trees.
MSC is in the process of transforming Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve from a former industrial sand extraction site into a marine reserve and private island destination exclusively for MSC Cruises guests, existing in harmony with the local ecosystem.
After visiting the island to personally plant one of the inaugural trees, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago commented:
“It was a very special moment to be on the island together with the team that has been working non-stop on this incredible project to see how our vision is starting to take shape. Words cannot convey the unbelievable natural beauty of our island, and it is only when you have stood there for yourself, surrounded by nothing but beautiful ocean with nothing else on the horizon, that you can really understand what we are accomplishing here. I can’t wait to welcome in one year’s time our first guests to this truly magical place, a one-of-a-kind island experience that will set new standards for a private island experience in the Caribbean.”
With the landscaping work underway, over 75,000 native shrubs and plants will be planted including more than 60 types of indigenous Caribbean trees, grasses, flowers and shrubs. Work on over 100 environmentally-friendly structures will soon begin, which will include bars and restaurants as well as housing for employees and staff who will live on the island. Work on the lighthouse will also be underway shortly – set to become an iconic landmark of the island and a focal point of the evening’s entertainment for guests.
One of the island’s most distinguishing features will be a pier that allows the ship to dock alongside the island so that guests can simply walk on and off at their leisure throughout the day and evening.
Among all of this, the stunning ocean access will undoubtedly stand out as the highlight of the island experience. MSC Cruises is in the process of recreating the seabed surrounding the island, which will soon be repopulated with a variety of marine life.
A year from now, guests will have the opportunity to discover the ocean and all of its natural beauty through swimming in the warm shallow waters, snorkeling, diving or taking a boat trip to one of the neighbouring deserted cays.
“We are already seeing the return of the marine life that is usually so prevalent in this area,” Vago said. “We are seeing an abundance of lobster, conch, stingrays and other fish, and by the time we finish the work the waters around the island will be again teeming with life and new coral. As a company with such a rich maritime heritage, preserving the oceans is of the highest importance to us and this is a wonderful opportunity to protect a little piece of paradise and allow our guests to experience it.
During the island’s clean-up, over 500 tons of historic industrial waste and scrap metal have been removed, with the final underwater debris clean-up about to begin. To create a solid foundation, over 500,000 tons of sand and soil have been moved and work has been carried out to shape the island itself.
A shallow water lagoon will be created in the centre of the island to provide a fun area for families to relax. The island will feature eight beaches, each with a different character and ambience. The beaches are formed from aragonite sand, which is distinguished not only by its stunning white colour but also by the key role it plays in the growth of coral reefs by maintaining the pH levels of the water. Plans are underway for a marine laboratory to be situated on Ocean Cay, which will research climate change-resistant coral in hopes of providing insights to similar island habitats.
Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve will open November 2019 with four MSC Cruises ships calling at the island on different days. More information about the guest experience will be revealed in the coming months.
Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief
An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.