Ivory Coast's 'Floating Island' points to greener tourism

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This file photo taken on August 6, 2019 shows a view of the resort on an artificial island made with around 700,000 recycled pieces of plastic waste collected in the surrounding area, on the Ebrie Lagoon in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. -AFP

ABIDJAN - The seaside resort offers visitors a cool drink or tasty meal, a dip in a pool, a karaoke session or an overnight stay, all with a view.

Nothing much new there, you may say -- creature comforts like this are pretty much standard in tropical hotels.

The big difference, though, is that this mini resort is also a moveable island that floats on plastic bottles.

Riding on the laguna in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's economic hub, the unusual complex floats on a platform made from 700,000 discarded bottles and other buoyant debris.

Its inventor, Frenchman Eric Becker, says his creation can help greener, more mobile tourism -- something less harmful to seas and coastlines than traditional fixed, concrete resorts.

His "Ile Flottante" -- French for "Floating Island" -- comprises two thatched bungalows and a restaurant with a bar, two small pools, trees and shrubs and a circular walkway, spread out over 1,000 square meters.

Visitors are brought to the moored island by a boat. Water is provided by a pipe from the shore. Electricity is supplied by solar panels, backed by a generator.

The island is bigger than a moored boat and handier than a jetty as it can also be taken to other locations, Becker told AFP.

"It really is an artificial island that floats -- you can move it."

Becker, a former computer entrepreneur, first toyed with the idea of building a catamaran.

But it was when he came to Abidjan and saw the lagoon that the vision of a floating, moveable island came into his mind -- and he sold everything he owned to achieve it.

The first step was to forage for everything floatable -- "plastic bottles, bits of polystyrene, even beach sandals."

Bemused locals gave him the nickname of "Eric Bidon" -- a word that has a subtle dual meaning of jerrycan and phony.

"We bought disused bottles off people, we foraged for them in the lagoon. After a while, we learned to follow the wind and find the places where floating rubbish accumulates," he said.

After living on his island for a number of years, Becker turned it into a hotel last year.

He has around 100 customers a week, mostly curious Ivorians or ecologically-friendly tourists.

Others want a relaxing break from the bustling city and to use its swimming pools -- taking a dip in the lagoon, fouled by industrial pollution and sewage outflows is an act for the foolhardy.

"When you're competing with major hotels, you need an original idea like a floating island. It's become a tourist attraction," said Mathurin Yao Saky, a friend who has been advising Becker on the scheme.

Charles Moliere, a 28-year-old Frenchman who works in Ivory Coast for a large corporation, read about the resort in a guidebook.

"It's very original, it's a very untypical place -- I've seen nothing like it elsewhere," he said.

"I think it's a neat idea to give a second life to plastic like this and to make a kind of small technical breakthrough. I like this place a lot." -AFP


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