Airbnb and the Bahamas National Trust, a local NGO that protects 32 national parks in the country, are offering five participants the life-changing opportunity to take time away from the everyday grind to live in an ecological oasis with the Bahamas Sabbatical.
While living across the nation comprised of more than 700 islands and 2,400 cays that boast some of the clearest water on the planet, the participants will experience The Bahamas in a new way as they work alongside Bahamians to bolster once vibrant industries and preserve natural resources to help transform a country that depends on visitors’ spending. These industries, which face issues impacted by a changing ecosystem and population decline, play a pivotal role in establishing autonomy and self-sufficiency for the country’s “family islands,” a moniker used by locals to describe how the hundreds of islands connect and belong to each other.
In recent years, several Bahamians have stepped up to pave the way toward a more sustainable future for The Bahamas, bringing back traditional practices rooted in agriculture, ethical fishing, and coral reef revitalization. Through the Bahamas Sabbatical, these ongoing local efforts are complemented by The Bahamas National Trust’s mission as they team up with the participants tasked to support these growing industries, protect several national parks, and empower the community leaders shepherding these sustainability efforts.
“The Bahamas is open for business and while we work to restore parts of the archipelago devastated by Hurricane Dorian, the vast majority is ready for visitors,” said Eric Carey, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust. “Partnering with Airbnb is an incredible opportunity to help further preserve our culture and resources and share our diverse country and the Bahamian way of life with the world.”
Over April and May, participants will embed themselves into three beautiful island destinations – Andros, Exuma, and Eleuthera are among those that weren’t impacted by the storm as they dive into local cultures and complete various projects in important natural areas.
In Andros, where the third largest reef system in the world is located, participants will work alongside underwater and travel photographer, Katie Storr, to create a coral reef restoration program in North Marine Park, constructing and installing a brand new nursery, where coral reef fragments will be grown and later transplanted to affected areas across the destination. Participants will also explore blue holes, harvest sponges, and more.
Home to the country’s first-ever national park, Exuma is celebrated for its crystal clear waters teeming with fish and other marine life. Freediver, Andre Musgrove, will work closely with participants to replicate The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park ecosystem in other waters around the destination that have been overtaken by invasive species, namely the red lionfish. By carefully curbing the Red Lionfish population, the team paves the way for other reef-friendly species to enter and thrive. Plus participants will participate in conch conservation, traditional boatbuilding, and sailing.
A long thin island with pink sand beaches, Eleuthera has many natural features like the Leon Levy Native Plant Reserve, which doubles as a research center for traditional bush medicine. Together with Omar McKlewhite, a master gardener, participants will learn propagation techniques for the native trees and establish a bush tea farm. While in Eleuthera, they will also research native species, practice traditional pineapple farming, and harvest sea salt.
At the end of the two months, each participant will have collaborated hand-in-hand with community leaders to create lasting programs to help sustain these practices with the hope of generating economic impact for generations to come as well as new experiences that visitors to these islands can book that will directly benefit the local community while supporting efforts toward a sustainable future.
“As The Bahamas rebuilds, it’s a privilege to work together with the Bahamas National Trust to support and shine a spotlight on a nation whose economies are benefited by tourism,” said Chris Lehane, Senior Vice President of Global Policy and Communications of Airbnb. “To continue these efforts, we’re also pleased to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Tourism to promote tourism to the country through Airbnb even beyond the Bahamas Sabbatical. This is a special place and anyone who has spent time on any of the islands that make up the nation is moved by the air, the sun, the beaches, the food, the communities and most of all the people.”
To apply, visit airbnb.com/sabbatical and complete the application form. Before applying, carefully read the selection rules available on the website. Candidates must be over 18, available to be in The Bahamas for two months from April to May 2020 to volunteer for the NGO Bahamas National Trust, and be able to speak good conversational English. Applicants will also need to demonstrate their commitment to contribute to island life.
The Bahamas Sabbatical is a project promoted by the Bahamas National Trust, endorsed by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, and sponsored by Airbnb. The final selection of five participants will be announced on March 25, 2020. The sabbatical is open to residents, aged 18 or over, from the following countries and regions: Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, mainland China, Denmark, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, and US.