With passion and purpose, success has no bounds. Thomas Despin is a 28 year old serial entrepreneur from France who resides on a private island, called Buka Buka, in Indonesia where he founded Reconnect, a sustainable eco-resort that offers an authentic and an immersive island experience, while empowering the local communities.
Buka Buka, meaning “open” in Indonesian, is located at the entrance of the Togean Islands, in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, and is only 2km wide. The resort not only offers a remote island experience of living in glamping tents or bungalows and indulging in activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, drinking coconuts, etc. but also the chance to really be part of it with the locals, and help in sustainably maintaining and improving the island. The purpose behind Reconnect is all about connecting with nature, oneself, and people. The experience is all about sharing and learning from each other.
Thomas envisions this resort to be as close as possible to 100% sustainable, by aiming to bring a solar powered desalination system to the island. Currently, the water resource on the island is scarce; the locals climb up to the center of the island for about an hour to fetch water and carry it in cans from their own hands. A desalination system will improve the existing water situation by supplying an ample amount of water which will not only benefit the visitors but also the locals at the island.
Thomas’ effort of sustainable living does not just end here. Apart from providing a unique experience to the visitors of the Buka Buka Island, Reconnect also hopes to empower local communities through its high-impact social programs, 3 of which will be introduced in the first year.
One idea involves the use of coconuts, a rich and a very useful fruit. The Coconut Journey workshops provide an opportunity for the locals to learn how to creatively build small scale businesses with the remaining husks of Coconut as they are recyclable. The thousands of coconut husks that were previously wasted by the locals could now be used to craft products, souvenirs, and art pieces etc.
Another one of the high-impact programs involve transplanting corals. Indonesia is home to one of the largest coral reefs in the world that have been damaged due to several reasons such as bomb fishing, which is now banned by law. Thomas aims to work with specialized organizations in the Togean Islands to improve the reef around the island and help in its recovery and thereby, in its preservation. With the subsequent involvement of multicultural team work for this project’s completion, there will be more corals resulting in a healthier ecosystem and hence more marine life to explore. The program will generate educational content for locals and visitors alike.
The third project involves offsetting Reconnect’s impact on the environment. Most of its structures are made from wood, which goes against the idea of sustainability. Once the first version of Reconnect is completed, Thomas intends to replant twice the number of trees that were cut in the formation of the resort, in a collaborative effort between the locals and the visitors. The tree plantation program will benefit the environment for decades to come.
Before Thomas embarked on his journey of developing an Indonesian Island, he made a mark in the eCommerce industry through his drop shipping business, which enabled him to make $750,000 worth of sales in a span of 11 months. He closed down the business as he realized he wasn’t passionate about it. Thomas also founded Hustlers Villa, a Co-living and Co-working space for online entrepreneurs, in Ubud, Bali. It primarily hosts a small scale community of online business owners and freelancers that need a place to focus on their work, with all the rest taken care of for them. Hustlers Villa has hosted over 250 entrepreneurs and 60 events in the first 2 years.
Having found passion and purpose, Thomas Despin is dedicated more than ever to manifest his ideas into reality in not only making his business thrive but also improving the life of the island, Buka Buka through a devoted approach to sustainability.
Here’s what Thomas had to say about Reconnect’s sustainable approach: “It’s about doing things 1% better today than we did them yesterday, and sharing what we learn from this process with others, so that they get a chance to also learn from it.”
Reconnect will officially launch in early 2020, but they already welcome pre-bookings and guests who want to contribute to the project.