Oil rigs and ecotourism might seem very unlikely bedfellows … but this new project plans to blend the two for visitors to the US state of Louisiana. The RIG – which is fundraising on Kickstarter – is designed to withstand the terrifying power of the hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico.
However, rather than drill for oil, it will instead be half-boutique eco-lodge for travellers to the region and half-research outpost. Elevated 25 feet above the marshy coastal waters of Louisiana, it will offer spectacular views of the gulf and its famous bayous. Robert Obier, the brains behind the plan, told Lonely Planet they were currently looking at five different sites in Terrebonne parish. Terrebonne, which lies directly on the coast and is about a seventy-mile drive from New Orleans, was badly hit during Hurricane Katrina.
The RIG would be an operations base for scientists and teachers looking to study the famous coastal marshes of Louisiana. The marshes are probably the most threatened landscape in the world with a football field-sized area lost every hour, and predictions for 640,000 acres (the size of Rhode Island) to be lost by 2050 if nothing is done to save them. The RIG would also be a destination for adventure travellers and those looking to do some voluntourism, that is combine their love of travel with working for the environment. Robert Obier said: “our aim is to immerse our guest in a truly genuine Louisiana experience, totally authentic, yet completely original.” He said the use of an oil rig design was deliberately provocative because the coastal wetlands of Louisiana cannot be saved without help from the region’s huge oil industry.
A typical holiday at the RIG would see visitors spend a day or two (or more if they wanted) volunteering for marsh conservation or restoration projects. Then, the rest of the time could be given over to things like kayak fishing, swamp trips, airboat tours, birdwatching, the historic sites of Plantation Country and of course the delights of New Orleans.