Interview: PADI Course Director Zoona Naseem

Zoona Naseem is only the second Maldivian to have attained the rank of PADI Course Director, and the country’s first female to do so. She is the owner of Moodhu Bulhaa Dive Centre in Villingili Island, just 10 minutes away from the capital, and is passionate about getting young people diving. Here she shares her PADI journey, discusses what it’s like to be at the top of a male-dominated industry, and advises instructors on the best way to become a CD.

 What inspired you to become a PADI Pro?

I spent the first few years of my life in a small island in Noonu Atoll in the north of the Maldives, so I was always in the ocean as a child. I learnt how to swim at the same time I learnt how to walk. When I did my first dive at 17, honestly, I found it so easy that I thought to myself ‘Why isn’t everyone doing this? And why are there no female instructors?’ I think I knew after that first dive that I was going to become a PADI Pro.

How do you think you’ve changed as you’ve moved up the ranks to become a PADI Course Director?

I did my IDC when I was 18, straight after leaving school, so I’ve been a PADI Pro for my entire adult life. One of my first jobs was at a resort called Sun Island Resort & Spa and the dive centre was one of the busiest in the country at that time. It was like a dive factory! I got to teach every day and I really developed my skills as a teacher. Of course, later I learnt managerial skills as a dive centre manager but it’s my teaching skills that I am continually improving as I move up the ranks.

What will it mean to the Maldives to have its first female Course Director?

In the Maldives, there are still very few women working in the tourism industry, and I feel that this is down to a lot of lingering misconceptions about resorts amongst Maldivians. But in reality, resorts are fantastic places to work for women. You get exposed to so many different cultures, you save everything you earn and there are lots of opportunities for travel and training. So I think that with a female PADI Course Director working in the country, I can show people what a fantastic industry we are a part of, and what you can achieve as a PADI instructor. My greatest hope is that more women will follow my example, and I have set a personal goal to have two female Maldivian instructors working in my dive centre.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in your diving career?

Becoming a Course Director. It was a long journey to get here, and I didn’t really even believe it was possible until recently. Nobody ever told me that this was an option for me! So it definitely feels like a big achievement. And my other greatest achievement, the thing that gives me great happiness, is seeing so many of my students now owning their own dive centres. They are leaders in the Maldivian dive industry, and I’m extremely proud of them.

What does diving give you that nothing else does?

On a personal level, when I’m diving, I get a sense of peace and happiness that I can’t find out of the water. There’s nothing in the world like diving. But as a diver, I also have the chance to be an advocate for our environment, to be a marine ambassador, and that’s a privilege.

Did you have to overcome any fears, challenges or obstacles to get where you are now in your diving career?

When I was working for Banyan Tree International, I was managing five dive centres, plus five water sports centres – so it was a real challenge. And at first, managing all those male employees proved a little tricky. They found it hard to accept a local female as their leader, but I didn’t give up! With a little patience and perseverance, the team soon saw that I knew what I was doing.

Do you believe PADI instructors change others’ lives through diving?

For sure! When you take someone underwater for the first time, they will always remember you. One of my strongest memories was of taking a blind student diving. He simply wanted to experience how it felt to be underwater; to be weightless. We have the chance to create amazing experiences for people, and to educate them about our fragile underwater ecosystems.

Describe in a few sentences how you would convince a non-diver to learn to dive?

Well in the Maldives, it’s pretty easy to convince people, because the best of this country is underwater. There’s not a boring second when you’re diving, and it’s extremely safe. Actually, being underwater is much safer than walking in the busy roads of our capital city!

PADI Course Director Zoona Naseem

What does “Be Best. Be PADI” mean to you?

 It’s simple. PADI is the best diving organisation in the world; there is no comparison. PADI changes lives!

What would you say to other PADI Instructors hoping to become PADI Course Directors?

 I would always encourage instructors to keep moving ahead, and to explore opportunities to increase their training, knowledge and experience. I tell everyone that becoming a PADI Course Director is an option open to them, you just have to work towards it.

What did you enjoy most about completing the PADI Course Director training?

The trainers were without doubt the best part of the course. Their presentations were so entertaining and creative that I honestly never lost focus. And just getting the chance to meet these incredible divers from all over the world and to work on group assignments with them was so enjoyable.

And lastly, what’s your favourite dive site in the Maldives?

Oh, that’s a hard question but I think I’ve got to say Embudu Express, which is a channel that we often visit with our dive centre. There can be dozens of sharks, huge schools of eagle rays, and abundant fish life. But every dive is different, and it depends on how you dive!

 

Things you should know if you are travelling to the Maldives on a budget

This is the last part of this five part blog……

The Republic of Maldives is a Muslim country

The Maldives is a 100% Muslim country and care needs to be taken in relation to the dress code on local islands. Whilst it is acceptable for men to wear T Shirts and shorts or swim shorts; females should avoid causing offence by maintaining a more conservative approach to clothes by wearing T Shirts, loose shorts or sarongs and avoid wearing bikinis and swimwear unless on an uninhabited island, picnic island, sandbank, dive boat or resort island. Whilst the law restricts the wearing of bikinis on local islands, many guesthouses now provide dedicated tourist beaches or private gardens and sunbathing terraces.

Most hotels and guesthouses can arrange visits to nearby resorts where bikinis can be worn freely and alcoholic beverages are available. Note that resorts charge an entrance fee and access is subject to availability.

Don’t be afraid to travel in low season

With a tropical climate, plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 30°C throughout the year, there is never a bad time to visit the Maldives. There are however two distinct seasons; dry season (northeast monsoon) and wet season (southwest monsoon), with the former extending from January to March when rates will be at their highest and the latter from mid-May to November. The rare thunderstorm in the Maldives (especially around the southwest monsoon months) can be a welcome respite from the sun.

There can be heavy rain showers pretty much any time of year, but they tend to be short and cannot be accurately predicted seasonally (in other words – don’t worry too much about them – you will quite possibly experience some rain showers, but the majority of the weather should be great, and you will be unlucky to get several consecutive days of heavy rain).

Diving is good all year-round, although a basic rule is that reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side of any atoll from December to April.

As the Maldives is situated so close to the equator it is possible to burn even on a cloudy day and sun screen should be applied as a matter of course.

For those travelers who are looking for a helping hand to arrange a budget trip to the Maldives, require advice on which island or guesthouse to choose or want to experience more of the cultural elements of the Maldives the Secret Paradise team are just an email or phone call away!

About Secret Paradise

Since 2012 Secret Paradise has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Offering group and private tours or independent travel packages, Secret Paradise holidays are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise generally known as a luxury resort destination.

Responsible Tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life. We partner NGOs such as Save the Beach and marine charity organisations such as Maldives Whaleshark Research Program to provide opportunities for our guests to learn and support local conservation initiatives.

The benefit of travelling with us is that Secret Paradise guarantees you prompt and efficient personal service. We deliver high standards of service and professionalism and you can rely on Secret Paradise to provide expert local knowledge, clear communication and honest advice.

www.secretparadise.mv

Things you should know if you are travelling to the Maldives on a budget

This blog has several parts, next week read about general tourist information……

Tourist Information

Unlike most destinations, don’t expect to find a tourist information centre that will provide answers to all your questions. There is an Information Desk within the arrival area of the airport who are happy to point you in the right direction, assist you if you need to contact your accommodation provider and provide you an information booklet. They are not there, however, to organise accommodation, excursions or transfers. Once you arrive at your hotel, guesthouse or resort they will be able to offer advice on excursions and activities or check out Trip Advisor for local operators providing these services.

 

Transferring from the airport

Unlike other International Airports don’t expect to be able to hail a taxi as there is no taxi rank. If you have booked with a hotel, guesthouse or resort and provided them with your flight arrival details it is usual for them to send a representative to meet with you.

To reach Male independently you can choose to take the Airport Express Speedboat, the charge is MRF30 or US$2 for a one way transfer per person, leaving every 15 minutes. Or the airport public ferry, charge MRF10 or US$1 per person one way, leaving every 10 minutes. Both leave from the jetty opposite the Domestic Terminal. When you arrive in Male, just a 10 minute public ferry ride, you will be able to hail a taxi from the ferry terminal to your destination, guesthouse or hotel. A one stop drop regardless of distance is 25MVR plus an additional 5MVR per item of luggage.

To reach Hulhumale independently you can either enquire as to if a guesthouse vehicle has room on their return journey, the charge would usually be around US$10 one way or take the public bus. The airport bus departs every 30 minutes from the airport and Hulhumale on a 24 hour timetable. On the hour and on the half hour except on Fridays during Friday Prayer when there are no busses between the hours of 11:30 and 13:30. The charge is 20MVR per person one way and it is a journey of 15 minutes. Luggage is accepted and stored in the luggage compartment. At the airport the bus stop is located outside of the International departure area to the left of the food court as you face the ocean.In Hulhumale the bus stop is at the T Junction of Nirolhumagu and Huvandhumaa Higun.

Due to the location of the airport terminal it is not possible to walk to Hulhumale.

If you are transferring on to an island outside of the immediate capital area it is likely that transfer arrangements offered will include speedboat or for islands further afield a domestic flight. These methods will add a minimum of $25 per person one way dependent on distance and if the service is scheduled. Note the Maldives covers a distance of 500KM north to south. If you have done your homework it is possible to take a local ferry to many central atoll islands. These local ferries depart from one of a number of jetties in the capital Male so ensure you have allowed time to cross to the capital and locate the correct jetty.

Business Hours

It is important to know that the Maldives follows a business week from Sunday to Thursday.  Most places are closed on a Friday until after Friday prayer. No public ferries operate on a Friday with the exception of those operating in the capital area between Male, Hulhumale and Villingili. These ferries also stop operation between 11:30 and 13:30 for Friday prayer.

The shops in the Maldives open at different times in the morning but usually before 09:00. Most shops close for prayer times for an interval of 15 minutes. The latest time for the shops to close business is 22:00 and cafes and restaurants 23:00.

About Secret Paradise

Since 2012 Secret Paradise has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Offering group and private tours or independent travel packages, Secret Paradise holidays are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise generally known as a luxury resort destination.

Responsible Tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life. We partner NGOs such as Save the Beach and marine charity organisations such as Maldives Whaleshark Research Program to provide opportunities for our guests to learn and support local conservation initiatives.

The benefit of travelling with us is that Secret Paradise guarantees you prompt and efficient personal service. We deliver high standards of service and professionalism and you can rely on Secret Paradise to provide expert local knowledge, clear communication and honest advice.

www.secretparadise.mv

 

Things you should know if you are travelling to the Maldives on a budget

This blog has several parts, next week read about general tourist information……

Currency Exchange

The Maldives has a non-convertible currency – Maldivian Rufiyaa – this cannot be purchased beforehand. One Rufiyaa is 100 Laari and is available in 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 Rufiyaa notes. The US Dollar is accepted as legal tender throughout the Maldives. Should you arrive with no USD$ then other major international currencies can be exchanged at the Bank of Maldives Foreign Exchange counter located in the arrival hall. This is the only dedicated foreign exchange counter in the Maldives. It is advised not to exchange currency in Male where bank queues are common and waiting time lengthy.

Only major foreign currency will be exchanged for local currency MVR. Hold on to your exchange receipt as you will need to present this upon departure at the exchange counter if you wish to change local currency back to foreign currency.

Paying in USD$

One US Dollar is equivalent to 15.42 Rufiyaa. However, the exchange rate offered on US$1 and US$5 notes by local businesses may be lower.This is because there is a 3% handling charge made by the bank on the deposit of US$ notes of US$5 or less.

The banks in the Maldives are very particular about the condition of bank notes and will refuse deposits of old style US$, even though still an active currency, damaged notes, badly creased, well-worn, or defaced notes will also be rejected. Therefore, if presenting such a note as form of payment you may be requested to change to a note of better condition. Please do not take offence, it is purely that the note will have no worth to the individual to whom you are paying.

Generally, any change given on a purchase made in US$ will be given in local currency MVR.

IMG_3670

ATMs and Credit Cards

Most banks represented in Malé provide ATM services. The Bank of Maldives has several branches in Male as well as other major population hubs such as the Male International Airport, Hulhumale and Gan. Several other regional banks also operate in central Male, including the State Bank of India, Bank of Ceylon, and HSBC. There are no banks on resort islands nor on many local islands. Only local currency MVR will be dispensed from ATMs. There is an ATM at the Male branch of the Bank of Maldives dispensing US$, however, it only dispenses to Bank of Maldives cardholders.

All major credit and debit cards can be used at resorts, hotels and many shops and restaurants in Male as well as on local islands. Note however, that a credit card payment fee may be applied to the total value of your bill. This charge can fluctuate dependent on the credit card payment processing company and may be up to the value of an additional 5%.

Local Tax

All services directly related to guests will incur 10% service charge and 12% T-GST (Tourism Goods and Service Tax). The 10% service charge is applied to the total value and 12% T-GST applied to the total value + service charge.

On local islands GST (Goods and Service Tax) is imposed on the value of goods and services supplied by a registered business such as a local café, local restaurant or local shop.

Environmental ‘Green’ tax will be applied to all stays in accommodation registered as a hotel, resort or liveaboard from 1st November 2015. This adds a further US$6 per person per night and is not subject to T-GST/GST.

From October 2016 $3 will be charged per person per night for guests staying on local islands in guesthouses.

Always check the small print online or ask if it is not clear to ensure that all appropriate local tax is included. What at first appears to be a great deal may not turn out to be.

to be continued…….

About Secret Paradise

Since 2012 Secret Paradise has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Offering group and private tours or independent travel packages, Secret Paradise holidays are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise generally known as a luxury resort destination.

Responsible Tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life. We partner NGOs such as Save the Beach and marine charity organisations such as Maldives Whaleshark Research Program to provide opportunities for our guests to learn and support local conservation initiatives.

The benefit of travelling with us is that Secret Paradise guarantees you prompt and efficient personal service. We deliver high standards of service and professionalism and you can rely on Secret Paradise to provide expert local knowledge, clear communication and honest advice.

www.secretparadise.mv

Winter Options and AWARE Week UK

It is that time of year again and winter is fast approaching, have you lined up your Courses accordingly? With this blog, I am going to list some options to try and help you get through the challenging winter months. There is a great deal of PADI Courses which can be done “dry”. Also, PADI has teamed up with Project AWARE to run #AWAREWeekUK which will take place from 1st to 10th December 2017 there is a lot of marketing support available through the landing page.

#AWAREWeekUK http://dive.padi.com/AWARE-Week-UK/ is being run with perfect timing fitting in with the latest BBC Wildlife documentary series on BBC One – Blue Planet II http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04tjbtx. If you have already started watching it, you will hopefully notice the importance they are placing on the environment. One thing that could help make some difference is your involvement in doing something about it and raising people’s awareness.
What I have learned from running Project AWARE events for both PADI and PADI Dive Centres is just how popular they are. The recent event I ran in Malta had people coming in just for the Dive Against Debris. Register your interest to take part in this joint PADI & Project AWARE event that https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/aware-week-tickets-37876244868

Other “Dry” course ideas for you to look at are:
Equipment specialty
Enriched Air/Nitrox (click on link for a MailChimp template)
Emergency Oxygen Provider
EFR
Gas Blender
Having an arsenal of these courses over the winter months will help keep your customers engaged. We are doing some promotions to help, so give Emily a call in the office use promo code 17UKDP.
Using your CRM system you can drill into who has what course and with EFR when did they last have a refresher. If you would like help with making templates to go with these then just let your Regional Manager know. 

On top of the Dry Courses and #AWAREWeekUK, there is the whole Christmas Gift market to look at. Like me you may have scorned the supermarkets and pubs for marketing Christmas for me what felt like as soon as easter finished, but, one thing that is for sure, venues are booked and people have started stocking up. You need to think ahead and promote, to plant the seeds and let them ideas take route. Acting now will give you the best run in for December sells. 

Revisiting an idea of old was a DSD pack, the success of this was in the presentation. If you are reaching out to Customers to purchase a gift for friends and family (or even themselves)  then you need to make it as easy as possible for them to give it as a present. Running with the Christmas theme your customers fall into 3 categories, Past, Present, and Yet to Come and like the ghosts from the Dickens classic, each has its own wants and needs and goals to achieve. As a Centre, you need to think about how to market to each of these groups.

Ustica is once again the leading actor in scuba diving with Italy Dive Fest by DAN and PADI

Ustica, 9 September 2017 – 320 scuba divers, 4000 dives in the Marine Protected Area, 84 medical visits performed, 36 official partners, 9 diving centers. And then professional workshops, conferences, themed evenings… The impressive numbers of Italy Dive Fest, an event organized by DAN Europe and PADI EMEA in Ustica, the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, from August 28th to September 3rd.

Italy Dive Fest, a new format in the scuba diving industry that is strongly supported by PADI and DAN with the goal of revolutionizing the approach to diving by joining moments of celebration, fun, training and especially diving, is envisaged as an itinerant event that shall be repeated in the coming years around Italy is the comment of Fabio Figurella Regional Manager of PADI EMEA.

Italy Dive Fest has been a unique event and certainly one of the most beautiful and complex organized in recent years. It’s unique because it has allowed us to achieve a great goal: to create a real diving festival that brings together many of the largest companies and manufacturing houses of the diving industry, for the benefit of the participants, who have been able to see and test the latest news on the market. It was a one of a kind event also because of its rich content: in addition to diving and equipment testing, participants could choose from a broad spectrum of workshops, conferences and courses. Last but not least, this was made possible thanks to the support and collaboration shown by all the diving centers of the island. Our researchers, thanks to the collaboration of more than 300 divers, have managed to gather a large number of data and dive profiles that will become part of the database on which our scientific publications are based. States Laura Marroni, vice-president of DAN Europe.

The island quay, the meeting point of all the divers, hosted the Dive Village, where organizers and technical partners showed the 2017 news, interacting with the public and collaborating with diving centers.

Those who dived had the chance to conduct physiological tests performed by DAN Research – 125 monitored dives, with 105 Doppler and 80 echo-cardiographs – actively contributing to important studies on decompression mechanisms. DAN doctors have also conducted numerous free ORL visits, as part of an international campaign to prevent barotrauma.

After diving in the morning, divers could choose between a range of training and leisure activities. These included technical workshops conducted by Beuchat, Coltri, Scubapro, the PADI Business Academy, and even EFR first aid courses and DAN crossover instructors. The events were distributed in various locations, thus involving also the Island locals, while special conventions were signed with local hotels and restaurants.

This year Italy Dive Fest matched the 58th International Diving Expo (whose logo was sponsored by PADI through a scholarship), with its historical charm, exhibitions, guided hikes and, above all, Golden Trident and the International Academy of Underwater Sciences and Techniques Awards. The ceremony was hosted by the social event offered by PADI and DAN, in the striking coastline behind the lighthouse Punta Cavazzi. And here are the awards: Golden Trident to Dr. Danilo Cialoni, recognition of the research carried out on the immune pathophysiology; Academy Awards 2017 to DAN, in its 5 world components (America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Japan and South Africa), for the tireless help provided to scuba divers since 1980; special Academy Award to PADI, for its effective action in promoting safety awareness in diving, diving sustainability and in particular for launching an international program (Scuola d’Amare, ndr) targeted to students of primary and secondary schools, to promote knowledge on the ocean and diving among young people.

However, the best show was enjoyed by the divers who dived in the breathtaking waters of the first Marine Protected Area in Italy: the sun, visibility up to 30 meters, barracudas, amberjacks, salemas, dentex, groopers in waters teeming with life.

Italy Dive Fest has been the climax of an underwater season full of events and initiatives, featuring the Ustica scene, with its history and tradition, and has reasserted the vitality of the Italian diving world.

This is a unique event – commented Massimo Casabianca (DAN Training Manager and PADI Instructor Trainer), a full and articulated one, where a training agency and an organization devoted to diving safety have involved key players of the diving industry. In so many years of experience, I had never seen anything like it.

Thanks to those who wanted and organized the event (PADI team, DAN team), to the numerous technical partners, the flagship of the diving industry (Aqualung, Beuchat, Coltri, FInclip, Mares, Nauticam, Scubapro, Suex, Suunto, Y-40 the Deep Joy), to the institutional partners (Soprintendenza del Mare-Regione Sicilia, Comune di Ustica, AMP Isola di Ustica, WWF, Università di Bologna/Sea Sentinel, Reef Check, Clean Sea, Green Bubbles), to the logistics partners (Gesap/Aeroporto di Palermo, Liberty Lines, PMO Travel), to the diving centers (Altamarea, Blue Diving, La Perla Nera, Lustrica, Mare Nostrum, Mister Jump, Orca, Profondo Blu, Ustica Diving) and to Claudio di Manao, who presented his book “Io sono il Mare”, animating an interesting round table on the protection of the marine environment and its future prospects.

Support Sea grass

We all could do with reducing our carbon footprint and one easy way is to support local and global sea grass conservation initiatives.

Known as the lungs of the ocean, sea grass can produce 10 litres of oxygen per 1m2 everyday! Sea grass meadows are also a fantastic carbon sink as they sequester carbon dioxide from the water and this can slow the effects of ocean acidification created by global warming. This beautiful plant could be the key to stabilising the negative effects of climate change.

Yet despite this, 29% of global sea grass beds have already disappeared with 7% more being lost per year. In an attempt to address this issue, the Marine Biology team at Gili Lankanfushi is conducting a sea grass regrowth experiment. At the resort we have sea grass growing in shallow lagoons around the island and in a 10m2 area on the south east side of the island, we have been collecting data on how fast sea grass regrows after it has been removed.

The experiment has currently been running for six months, so it is too early to be accurate, but results currently show that 10% of the area has signs of regrowth. To date, we are only seeing shoots of a robust species of sea grass called E.acoroides. This is a species found in the tropics in water depth of one to three metres with light wave action.

Aerial view of Lankanfushi Island and sea grass beds

In the beds we find nursery fish, crustaceans, worms and sea cucumbers using the leaves as a nursery and haven against the current. We also often see resident green sea turtles feeding on sea grass as it is their primary diet and they consume 2kg per day!

Marine Biologists are very pro sea grass because sea grass beds stabilise sediment and reduce erosion by creating a network of roots. They also increase the water clarity and quality by soaking up nutrients or chemicals that run into the water. If given the choice, we would regenerate the meadows surrounding the island as with an increased meadow size, the resort would benefit from cleaner and clearer water and an increased population of nursery fish species and green sea turtles. By regenerating the full size of our sea grass meadows we would also offset some of our carbon footprint.

We have been in touch with sea grass specialists from Seagrass Watch and SeagrassSpotter and hope to work with these global conservation projects in the future. We have learnt from their wealth of experience that it takes around 3-4 years to naturally replenish a small sized, single species sea grass meadow and around 10 years to replenish a large sized multi-species meadow. If we helped regrowth by planting sea grass seeds, the areas would be replenished in around 2 years.

This brilliant plant could be the key to stabilising the negative effects of climate change. We hope resorts in the Maldives consider regenerating their sea grass beds to help offset their carbon footprint.

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

I am a marine zoologist from the UK who has worked throughout the tropics researching mega fauna and reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. I have experience monitoring and restoring coral and surveying manta, turtle and dolphin populations. I began my career as a science communicator before moving into research and management roles, this is why I incorporate outreach and education into every project I work on and I hope to continue this at Gili Lankanfushi.

Deep Blue Divers became 100% AWARE partner

Deep Blue Divers at Six Senses Laamu this week partnered with Project AWARE, a global non-profit organization, to join their growing number of 100% AWARE Partners who put ocean protection at the heart of their business. From August, 2017 Deep Blue Divers will make a regular donation to protect the underwater world our dive business relies on.

100% AWARE is a Partner Giving Program. All student divers who complete a course with a 100% AWARE dive center receive a Project AWARE limited edition card. It’s a great way to remind divers that the place where they learned to dive or furthered their diving education made a gift to protect the ocean on their behalf.

Deep Blue Divers at Six Senses Laamu is proud to join dedicated dive centers across the world who act locally and think globally.” says General Manager Marteyne van Well “We take pride in knowing that our donation to Project AWARE for every student diver who completes a diving course with us not only helps educate divers about ocean conservation but also supports Project AWARE’s mission to mobilize the world’s divers into a global force to protect the ocean one dive at a time.”

Deep Blue Divers has shown dedication to ocean conservation through their participation in Project AWARE activities. Their commitment to the 100% AWARE program makes them shine as they not only lead by example but demonstrate to their students the importance of supporting ocean protection. Thank you for leading the way,” says Alex Earl, Executive Director Project AWARE Foundation.

For additional information about Project AWARE’s 100% AWARE Partner program and to join the global movement for ocean protection, visit www.projectaware.org.

Please visit the website of Six Senses for more information

To eat or not to eat

As our understanding of the ocean grows, more people want to know where their food is coming from and how it landed on their plate. 

Global fisheries have been under pressure in recent decades due to the technological advancement of fishing fleets. We are now able to catch more fish at a faster rate and for some fish populations, this has resulted in dire consequences. They are not able to repopulate at a fast enough rate to combat declining numbers.

International research projects allow us to identify which fish species need special attention and which we can eat within reason.  A movement has come about in recent years to help educate consumers and fishermen about which species should not or should be fished or consumed. With this knowledge, families and business are able to make sustainable choices when they buy their fish.  They can chose to only purchase sustainable fish species that have been sustainably caught.

So what are sustainable fish? They are fish that are caught in a way that the vitality of the species and the environment is not being harmed in the long term.

There are two main factors which determine whether a fishery is sustainable: how healthy the population is and the method of catch. Some fishing methods such as bottom trawling, are very destructive as they plough up the ocean floor, others are indiscriminate and catch more than just the fish species they are targeting.

With fishing being the second largest industry in the Maldives after tourism, it is easy to see why overfishing has started to become a problem here. Fishing has always been a part of Maldivian culture, like President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said: “Fishing is the lifeblood of our nation”, the problem only started to become bigger, as export and tourism started growing

The most unsustainable fish on the market in the Maldives today are Bluefin Tuna, Tropical prawns, Marlin, Sharks, Skates, Rays and Eels. To try to reduce the loss of species in the Maldives, certain laws surrounding catch and fishing techniques have been introduced to enable sustainable fishing. One is the pole and line method, which involves individuals catching tuna with a single line. Many young fishermen have taken up this technique as they have seen their stocks diminish and want to take sustainable action.  One of the most over fished species in the Maldives is Yellowfin Tuna, so by catching the tuna one-by-one, with a pole and line, the number of tuna caught is reduced and other marine life is not being harmed in the process.

The International Pole and Line Foundation (IPNLF) supports local communities in the Maldives. Due to the fisheries act of 1987, Maldivian tuna fisheries now follow the pole and line regulations. This fishery is hailed as the most successful MSC certified pole-and-line tuna fishery in the world. At Gili Lankanfushi, we also strive to eat only sustainably caught, sustainable species. We only accept Bonito Tuna, Dogtooth Tuna, White Tuna, Job Fish, Rainbow runner, Jack fish, Trevally, Mackerel, Emperor Fish, Wahoo, Red Snapper and Yellow Snapper from our local fishermen.

So how can you help? You can make a concerted effort to buy sustainable seafood which can be found on the Marine Stewardship Council certified products list, or simply ask for a certificate or proof of the fish you are buying’s origin. You can also spread the word about buying only sustainable fish to as many people as you can.

Just remember:  You have the right to ask your fish supplier or fish monger where your fish came from and how it was caught. If you are not completely satisfied with the answer, do not buy the fish!

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

I am a marine zoologist from the UK who has worked throughout the tropics researching mega fauna and reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. I have experience monitoring and restoring coral and surveying manta, turtle and dolphin populations. I began my career as a science communicator before moving into research and management roles, this is why I incorporate outreach and education into every project I work on and I hope to continue this at Gili Lankanfushi.

Colonies of Hope

Blog written by guest blogger and marine biologist Clare Baranowski

Preserving coral reefs is a growing concern in the Maldives

At Gili Lankanfushi, we are recovering our coral reefs through the Coral lines Project. By growing small fragments of coral on hanging ropes (lines) and then transplanting them to our house reef near One Palm Island, we hope to see regeneration and aim to kick start the health of our house reef.

Our Coral Lines Project started three years ago and currently holds around 7484 coral colonies. We are consistently adding small fragments of coral to the already growing population on 153 lines.

Josie monitoring our 153 coral lines

The vulnerable nature of coral populations mean that they undergo cycles of disturbance and recovery. Our house reef was affected by warmer waters created by the El Nino event in 2016 which bleached much of the corals. Yet against all odds, most fragments in our coral lines nursery survived.  They have also been faced with a Crown of Thorns (coral predators) outbreak this year and have still remained intact.

In some cases, the corals in our lines are no longer present on shallow reefs in the area.

Now, is the perfect time to begin stage two of our coral restoration project by moving coral from our nursery to our house reef.  Transplanting coral is a delicate procedure with a lot of trial and error. We began slowly by creating a test site with a small number of coral colonies to ensure we would not lose healthy coral unnecessarily.

Josie beginning the process

We found a site with conditions not too dissimilar to the nursery. The area had to be flat and solid, with no loose material and space for growth.  It also had to be an area that is easily accessible for monitoring, but nowhere in danger of tampering or accidental damage.  We chose a depth of 8 metres in the middle of house reef drop off where we regularly snorkel. Another major concern was the Crown of Thorns Starfish, so we placed the coral in an area visited regularly by Harvey Edwards, Ocean Paradise Dive Centre manager, who has been removing these starfish from the reef for months.

Clare cutting the coral from the line

The next step was to cut the colonies from the lines in the nursery, and transport them in mesh bags in the water. We decided to use three different Acropora species to begin with as they are fast growing and like a lot of light and a moderate current. Once at the site, we cleaned the area of algae and attached the coral to ensure protection from extreme water movement. We placed them an equal distance apart to allow quick growth and attached the coral using epoxy, which is a clay like cement. We were aware from previous studies that Miliput (epoxy clay) has been seen to kill the part of the coral it is attaching, so we placed small amounts of putty at the base of the coral.

Once a week, for a total of six weeks, we will measure growth and survivorship of the coral.  We hope to replicate the test at different depths and locations to find a suitable site to start a larger restoration project. However, we will hold off on most of the major transplantation until after the monsoon season.

Attaching the colonies using epoxy

Due to the fragility of coral species, our rehabilitation plans are very flexible, and subject to a long monitoring period.  We expect to adapt our approach and long term management to ensure we keep up with the changing environment of the reef. Previous restoration plans have been hindered by external threats, so we are so excited to finally begin this project. We will be producing scientific data along the way which we hope will contribute to current coral reef rehabilitation knowledge.

Although our transplants are working well so far, we will still have many question to answer in the future such as: are the corals on the house reef still reproducing? As these corals survived the last bleaching, will they be more genetically suited to future hostile conditions? The answers to these questions are all just a work in progress and we will have to keep on watching and learning as we replant and monitor these corals over the next few years. As our house reef sustained a lot of mortality and the coral cover is low, we hope that this new project will help to rejuvenate the reef and raise awareness.

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

I am a marine zoologist from the UK who has worked throughout the tropics researching mega fauna and reef ecosystems in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean. I have experience monitoring and restoring coral and surveying manta, turtle and dolphin populations. I began my career as a science communicator before moving into research and management roles, this is why I incorporate outreach and education into every project I work on and I hope to continue this at Gili Lankanfushi.