Dive site topography in Lhaviyani Atoll – Part 1

The underwater topography of the Maldives is dramatic, varied and perfect for exploring. Scuba divers visiting the Lhaviyani Atoll in particular have a huge variety of reef formations awaiting them on the dive sites – the first glimpses of which can even be spotted from the seaplane window. In this, the first of a three part series, the underwater islands of giris and thilas are explored.

What is a giri?

Giris are shallow underwater islands with a top reefs lying at around 5 meters and appearing as blueish-green spots when viewed from the seaplane window. Typically found inside the atoll, they are perfect for beginner divers and macro lovers.

One of Hurawalhi’s favourite giris is Maa Giri. It means Flower Island and it is usually described as ‘fish soup’. On the front of the giri are thousands of lunar fusiliers catching food in the gentle currents that flow around the dive site. Once the divers descend a little deeper they can explore small overhangs and crevices where nurse sharks are sleeping or moray eels are getting cleaned. All around the giri are schools of yellow snappers, humpback snappers, and sweetlips. Occasionally, at the right time of the year, there is a glittering swarm of glass fish that divers can swim into the middle of – this is an enchanting experience that will be remembered for a very long time. Along the walls there are macro creatures like the mantis shrimp, whip coral shrimp and nudibranchs.

Picture by Ray van Eeden

On Tinga Giri, close to Hurawalhi, there is currently a large red frogfish that can often be seen fishing with the lure, which comes out from the top of its head.

What is a thila?

A thila is a deeper underwater island usually starting around 12-14 meters. Two of the Hurawalhi team’s favourite and most fascinating thilas are Anemone Thila and Fushivaru Thila.

Picture by Ray van Eeden

Anemone Thila gets its name from the incredible amount of anemones that have made themselves at home there. It is a very small thila and can be dived all they way round its circumference 2-3 times in one dive. This site is great for underwater photography and experimenting with macro photography. The most spectacular part of the dive is towards the end when divers arrive at the shallowest part of the thila and see the clownfish swimming above all the anemones along with bright blue and pink damselfish. For a good part of the year this site is also completely covered in ‘baitfish’ – so many that visibility can be reduced to 1-2 m with the fish parting to make way for the passing divers.

Picture by Ray van Eeden

Fushivaru Thila is a manta cleaning station and from November to January divers can witness the spectacular sight of the majestic mantas as they cruise in and hover over the station as small cleaner wrasse come and cleanse them of parasites. When the mantas are elsewhere, Fushivaru Thila is just as beautiful with huge schools of snappers and hunting grey reef sharks, nurse sharks sleeping under coral blocks, and large stingrays on the sand.

Picture by Ray van Eeden

There are many underwater island dive sites in Lhaviyani Atoll waiting to be explored. In Part 2 of the Dive Site Topography series all will be revealed about the differences between East and West sides of the Atoll.

 

 

Paddle against Plastic

On Global Recycling Day, Sunday 18th March 2018, a team of our best watermen and women from Gili Lankanfushi completed a 14km Stand Up Paddle to raise awareness about the overuse of single-use plastic. During the endurance event, the team collected all floating litter they encountered along the three-hour paddle. The majority of the haul was plastic, so our message is clear: If we can SUP 14km around our island; you can give up using single-use plastic in 2018.

At Gili Lankanfushi, we encounter a large amount of ocean plastic arriving with the tide every day. Some arrives with the current from distant countries, but a lot appears from neighboring islands and the capital Male. Despite Gili’s No Plastic Policy and the plastic recycling program we have in place with Parley, we still face a tidal wave of plastic over the year. Our team wanted to tackle this problem head on.

The event began at day break as we hit the water at 7:15am stocked up with high energy food, water and cameras. The conditions were extremely favourable with low wind, little swell and high cloud cover. The first quarter of our paddle took us against the current, so it was slow going but this allowed us to collect as much floating plastic as possible. We found the majority of marine litter in the corners of Himmafushi Harbour so we set about collecting as much as we could carry. Those working at the harbor watched us approach and a few men jumped into action and helped us collect plastic from the water. They gave us a few extra bags when we ran low. These positive reactions made our hard work feel extremely valuable.

As we turned the corner behind Himmafushi Island, we had the wind and current with us, so we completed almost six kilometres in just over an hour. Being out on the open ocean and looking down to see the fish and coral beneath our feet was a real highlight. The final paddle back to Gili was the hardest, but we were met with the smiling faces of the rest of our team.


The entire experience was a great example of perseverance and team work. It was a great success and we were able to recycle a lot of litter, yet the overwhelming feeling was that we need to do even more next time. In just three hours we collected 200 items which included 90 plastic bottles, 20 bottle tops and 5 plastic bags and this was just the plastic we happened to paddle close to; a lot has been waterlogged or broken down and is found just below the surface or on the ocean floor.
The seven-man paddling crew was made up of Beau, Tropicsurf Manager and SUP surf champion; Naseef, Ocean Paradise Dive Instructor and marine mammal magnet; Emma, Assistant Marine Biologist and official team photographer; Tula, Head of Security and pretty much the toughest guy I know; Ibrahim, Ocean Paradise Boat Captain and life saver; Clare, Marine Biologist and event organiser and Jinah, Hotelier journalist and newly inspired sustainability supporter.

Despite the obvious challenges of reducing ocean plastic, we have seen such positive reactions to our war on plastic at Gili Lankanfushi. After visiting in November 2017, the inspirational Merle Campbell kindly shared:

“For many years now, I have daily walked the beach and never picked up any litter. Since visiting Gili Lankanfushi Maldives and listening about the importance of keeping plastics out of the waterways, I now walk the beach solely for the purpose of collecting rubbish to contribute to saving our sea life.”
We hope our Paddle against Plastic will inspire others to reduce their plastic dependence by taking small steps to reduce plastic use at home or at work. If we all participate, there will be a huge reduction in the amount of plastic that enters our oceans. Well done to Gili’s Paddle Against Plastic Team and Happy Global Recycling Day to Everyone.


A special thank you to everyone who assisted us in the Paddle Against Plastic! Thanks to Ocean Paradise for the boat, equipment and crew, the culinary department for the amazing food, the Sales and Marketing department for sharing our work and getting up early to see us off, the gardening team for recycling our plastic, Shifzan for the awesome photos, and the Gili Lankanfushi Management team for their amazing support!

 

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

Earth Hour

Earth Hour is an annual worldwide movement to encourage individuals, communities, and businesses to conserve our resources. Celebrating it is a symbol of our commitment to our planet.

At Gili we celebrated Earth Hour on March 24th with the rest of the world, we hosted a Coral Conservation themed day with multiple events leading into each other. For each event, all guests and hosts were invited to attend and take part.

Our first event was a coral workshop hosted for Marine Biologists and enthusiasts. In attendance were three participants from our local island Himmafushi who have a keen interest in protecting their reef and inspiring locals. Additionally, Marine Biologists from Four Seasons Resort, Bandos Resort, Atoll Marine Centre and Hurawalhi Resort attended. Jinah, a journalist from Hotelier Maldives covered our event celebrations.

Our coral lines project launched in 2014 and currently has 190+ lines, each containing around 50 coral fragments. The aim of the project is to rehabilitate our degraded house reef through direct transplantation of mature corals and through indirect coral spawning from the nursery. The project was the first low-tech and high efficiency coral recovery project that involves rope in the Maldives.
Due to the optimal location and care that goes into the project we had 68% survival after the El Nino event and the crown of thorn starfish outbreak. Due to the success of our project, many Marine Biologists are interested in learning more as they want to launch their own projects or further their current projects in other locations. This is why we invited them to join us in celebration of Earth Hour.

 

We felt that hosting a coral conservation themed day would create a platform for a discussion on possible project improvements and new project ideas. Overtime the coral line nursery will contain heat tolerant coral species, fragmenting these species and planting lines could lead to natural spawning of more heat tolerant species which will increase survival rate in future warming events. This will lead to the creation of more healthy reefs decreasing the pressure of predation, providing a healthier habitat, refuge and nurseries for marine organisms like turtles, juvenile fish and other fish species as well as conserving a key ecological ecosystem.
On the day the visiting Marine Biologists arrived at 14:00pm and a land based presentation was carried out, topics included an in depth overview of the project, project creation, management, challenges and future plans. This was followed by a practical demonstration of making a coral line, monitoring the lines and general maintenance including cleaning and removal of invasive species. To view the coral line made by the Marine Biologists click here. To conclude there was a group discussion on possible project improvements and a question and answer session.

 

Following the success of the coral workshop together with guests, Marine Biologists and hosts we designed and created a coral shape in the sand on Library Beach. In celebration of the official Earth Hour which is between 20:30 – 21:30 we turned off none essential lights and filled the coral shape with sustainably sourced candles – coconuts and used cooking oil. During the official event our coral shape was beautifully illuminated by flickering candle lights and guests, Marine Biologists and hosts were able to enjoy this display whilst attending our Earth Hour cocktail evening.

 

To conclude our Earth Hour celebrations we hosted the documentary Chasing Coral in our Jungle cinema and Host Village. Chasing coral is a fantastic documentary about a group of divers, photographers and scientists who set out on an ocean adventure to discover why the reefs are disappearing and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world. They found that coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate and documented their discoveries and explained them in a way that is accessible to everyone.
Overall the event was a huge success with all participants learning something new and being inspired to help conserve our resources. We hope that you will join us in celebrating Earth Hour next year!

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

Green Sea Turtles hatchlings on Kuredu

Guests at Kuredu Resort recently had a very cute surprise in the sand: a green sea turtle nest hatched! Late in the evening, while walking back to their villa, the guests spotted the tiny turtles making their way quickly across the beach into the ocean. A few hatchlings wandered astray and were collected by resort staff, soon to be released under the supervision of resident Sea Turtle Biologist, Stephanie, along with volunteers from the Prodivers Team.

According to previous reports, it takes green turtle nests 49 to 62 days to hatch here in the Maldives, but the baby turtles on Kuredu were a little slower – it took them 64 days to make their way out of the nest.

To evaluate the hatching success of the nest, Stephanie and a volunteer digging team from Prodivers went to exhume the nest 48 hours after the hatching event. After quite some digging, they successfully discovered the nest and out of 105 eggs laid, only three had failed to develop – that’s 102 more baby green turtles in the ocean! Such a successful nest is great news for the sea turtle population and we hope to see some of the hatchlings back on Kuredu to nest in about 10 to 15 years’ time.

Snorkelling or scuba diving at Kuredu Island Resort Maldives gives a very good chance of seeing turtles – the island is blessed with a large community of green sea turtles that can be seen at Caves, either on a Prodivers snorkelling excursion or dive trip. Turtles can also be spotted grazing in the lagoon.

Want to learn more about turtles? Visit Stephanie at Kuredu’s Marine Center and join her snorkelling on the reef for a turtle tour while she collects valuable data for the Olive Ridley Project.

Common crabs encountered in the Maldives: Part 2

Crabs are an underappreciated species. Whilst living in a harsh and arid environment they dedicate their lives to keeping the beach pristine.

Swift-Footed rock crab Laura Pola

Swift-Footed Rock Crab

The swift-footed rock crab can easily go unnoticed due to its elusive behaviour. It inhabits rocky shores at mid to high tide level and so can be found around beach rocks, boat ramps, rock walls and jetties. These crabs are fast moving and are generally only seen at night, unless disturbed. Then you may observe them jumping from rock to rock trying to find a new refuge.

Their colouration can be mesmerising with a multitude of blue, green, purple, orange, white and black. The crabs encountered on Gili are more blue, green and purple with white stripes. The shell (carapace) can be up to eight centimeters wide and is flattened, compared to other crabs which have shells that are more rounded.

Swift-Footed Rock Crab. Picture by Laura Pola

The crab feeds on algae, detritus, small vertebrates, barnacles, limpets and snails. They use their claws to break into the shells of other animals and to tear off pieces of their prey to be transferred into their mouth. This species is predated upon by a variety of animals including birds, octopus and fish, so it isn’t safe for them in the ocean or out of it!

Fiddler Crab. Picture by Carly Brooke

Fiddler crabs

Fiddler crabs are a small and short lived species of crab (up to two years) and are closely related to ghost crabs. They are found in mangroves, brackish water, mud flats, lagoons and swamps. The colouration of the crabs change in correlation with circadian rhythm – during the day they are dark and at night they are light.

Fiddler crabs are well known for their sexual dimorphism – the male’s major claw is much larger than the females. If the large claw has been lost the male will develop a new large claw on the opposite side, which will appear after molting. The female’s claws are the same size. The crabs use their claws in communication, courtship and combat. The male claw is used in waving displays which signals to the female that they are ready to mate. A more vigorous waving display indicates a healthier male and a larger claw indicates a wider burrow which will provide better temperatures for egg incubation. Females chose their partners based on claw size and the quality of waving. Once a female has been attracted she will reside in the male’s burrow whilst the eggs are being laid. The female will carry her eggs on the underside of her body for a two week gestation period. After this period the female will venture out of the burrow and release the larvae into a receding tide.

During feeding the crabs move their smaller claw from the ground to their mouth. This movement looks like the crab is playing the smaller claw like a fiddle – hence the name, fiddler crab. The smaller claw is used to pick up the sediment which is then sifted through in the crab’s mouth. Algae, microbes and fungus are the preferred diet of the crab. After the nutrients are extracted the sediment is placed back onto the ground in a ball. The feeding habits may play a vital role in preserving the ecosystem as they aerate the soil. The fiddler crab can be seen when visiting local islands, especially in the mangrove area at low tide

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

PADI Member Forum 2018

PADI, its global network of divers, professional members and dive centers have a responsibility to be a force for good in a constantly changing world.  To this end, PADI Member Forum 2018 promises to be truly inspiring as we share with you PADI’s vision for the future and your role in our mission to be best in and for the world.

We will look back at 2017 and then forward to a year that promises to be exciting and innovative for you and your divers.  Member Forum Topics* include:

  • 2017 Year in Review
  • New for 2018
  • PADI Standards and New Programs
  • Risk Management
  • Course Pricing
  • NEW My PADI Club
  • Project AWARE

Register Now

Attendance will count as one seminar credit. Registration is free but pre-registration is recommended.

Dates and locations are subject to change and are continuously being added, please check back frequently.

We look forward to 2018 and another year of striving to be best in and for the world.

*Topics subject to change

PADI Business Academy Returns in 2018!

PADI Business Academy

We are pleased to announce that the PADI Business Academy seminars will return in 2018. This series of two day seminars will kick off in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in March.

The PADI Business Academy is a combination of presentations and hands-on workshops. You’ll explore digital marketing strategies for your website and social media channels. As well as ideas and strategies for your business relating to sales and customer service to assist in supercharging your dive operation in 2018 and beyond.

Presentation Topics

Over the course of a PADI Business Academy, attendees have previously learned about and honed their knowledge on websites, social media and sales and pricing strategy. These core subjects are key to the success of a dive center as consumer journeys increasingly begin online. In addition to these core subjects, attendees will develop their awareness of in-store design, consumer behaviour and Customer Relationship Management systems.

PADI Business Academy Schedule 2018*

 

Day Month Location Language
4-5 May Stone Town, Zanzibar English
18-19 May Madrid, Spain Spanish
26-27 May Barcelona, Spain Spanish
TBD May Lisbon, Portugal Portugal
22-23 August Dubai, UAE Arabic/English
TBD October Maldives English
TBD November Dublin, Ireland English

*Dates and venues subject to change

Prices

PADI Five Star Dive Center: £225 / €275

PADI Dive Center: £279 / €350

PADI Course Director: £279 / €350

Individual PADI Member: £425 / €515

Additional Delegate Discount: 50%

Click here to download registration form

To ensure a custom-tailored learning environment, the number of attendees are limited, so don’t delay. If you haven’t attended a Business Academy before, we strongly encourage you to not miss out and sign up today.

Attendance at a PADI Business Academy will result in PADI Member Seminar credit for:

  • PADI Master Instructor applications.
  • PADI Course Director Training Course application.

PADI Business Academy includes:

  • PADI Business Academy polo shirt
  • Lunch and snacks/beverages in breaks
  • USB filled with materials and resources
  • Cocktail reception

*Price does not include airfare, hotel or transportation costs. All other expenses incurred will be the responsibility of the participant. Dates and locations are subject to change, please regularly refer back to this page for updated information.

Contact your PADI Regional Manager or email pba.emea@padi.com for more information.

To register, simply click here to download and complete the form and return it to David Protheroe in the Marketing department.

 

Five Tips for Managing Your Online Presence

When it comes to consumer decisions online, credibility is everything. Multiple surveys show that most people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This makes it more important than ever to manage your online presence and ensure your good reputation stays intact.

Here are five tips to guide you in managing your business’s reputation online.

  1. Create your own positive presence. Customers are going to look you up online, so make sure they find what you want them to know.
  • Promote your business via your website, blog and social media sites, and put effort into creating relevant and informational content about what you offer.
  • Write short bios about yourself, your company story, what your business does, and include great photos or video.
  • Claim free business listings on appropriate online directories and social media networks. There is no cost and you control the company description and general information to present your business in the best light.
  • Pro-actively ask customers for positive reviews. This is an essential part of any online reputation management strategy. Often, people won’t think to post a review, but will be more than happy to when asked. Having positive reviews on your website is a great way to generate quality content.
  • Positive and optimized content can show up higher than the negative comments on search engine results pages. If you have a dominant number of positive reviews, your chances of losing a potential customer from the few critical comments is much less.

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  1. Be active on social media. If you have social media profiles, you need to update content regularly.
  • Because your profiles are a reflection of your business, you want to ensure they are current and energized.
  • Always remember that social media is a public forum. Never post images or comments you don’t want the whole world to see.
  1. Listen to what others are saying. People are going to talk, so you need to stay on top of what is being said about your business.
  • Reviews or comments don’t go away. You need to take control of what is being said, whether it’s good or bad.
  • View your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ pages and accounts “as public” or “as Page Visitor” so you can see what they look like when someone stumbles upon them.
  • Set up a Google Alert on your business name, or use another online reputation management tool. This allows you to track any mention of your business and see overall reactions to your brand online.
  • Add a feedback form to your website or send customer satisfaction surveys to your customers to hear their thoughts and sentiments directly.
  1. Be proactive, not reactive. Negative comments can be addressed in a way that shows potential customers that you care about your consumers.
  • Some public relations professionals advise not to respond publicly in some cases, because your response has the risk of fueling more negative comments. On the flip-side, there are also strong advocates of replying and using the situation to create a positive outcome. Carefully consider the potential upsides and downsides of responding to a negative post before deciding.
  • Definitely don’t respond if you’re going to be aggressive, and never accuse a reviewer of being fake. Take time to calm down before responding.
  • A good guide is to address concerns in a timely manner and actively try to remedy the situation.

PADI Pros should stay up to date on their linkedin profiles

  1. Respond professionally. Responding to negative comments in a professional and positive manner can actually result in an overall positive experience and outcome.
  • Even if you don’t change the negative reviewer’s perspective, a well-crafted response shows others that you care and you want to create positive experiences.
  • If you do choose to respond to negative or critical comments follow these guidelines:

– Acknowledge the issue or complaint by thanking the person for sharing the concern.

– Empathize with the person and explain that you understand the concern.

– Ask what you can do to fix the problem.

– Explain the steps that your business takes to provide the best customer experience possible.

– Share the steps you are going to take to follow up or look into the matter.

– Offer some incentive for giving your business a second chance.

Businesses are more vulnerable to online attacks on their reputation than ever before. Taking proactive actions to optimize positive reviews and manage negative ones will help you minimize this vulnerability.

For more information about best business practices, marketing and customer service, plan to attend a 2018 PADI Business Academy in your area.

Introducing the All-New PADI Travel™

The ultimate travel partner to support and grow your dive business. 

The PADI® organization is committed to growing the scuba and freediving market, both by attracting new people to the sport and by motivating existing divers to dive more often. As you well know, travel has always been intrinsically linked to diving.  PADI now introduces the all-new global PADI Travel™ to further grow and support your business.

The all-new global PADI Travel features an online travel platform and full-service team dedicated to providing top-notch travel services – inspiring divers to explore more of the underwater world and take care of our oceans.

There are many ways that PADI Members can benefit from PADI Travel, including:

  • Liveaboards and PADI Resorts can tap into new customer sources, increase bookings and reduce administration.
  • PADI Dive Centers can get assistance organizing and marketing group trips, earn travel agent commissions on trips booked for their customers with PADI Travel or earn affiliate commissions for divers referred to PADI Travel. Dive centers can look forward to direct online bookings for day trips and PADI courses in the future.
  • PADI Professionals can earn valuable incentives for divers referred to PADI Travel.

With each PADI Member’s unique business model in mind, PADI Travel is available to augment, support or enhance a PADI Dive Center’s current travel program. Catering to groups and individual travelers alike, PADI Travel combines the best of online booking with concierge-level travel consultancy, offering:

  • The highest customer satisfaction with expert customer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • One of the largest online selections of liveaboards and dive destinations in the market.
  • Dedicated dive travel experts with in-depth dive knowledge and experience to provide personalized advice; the team averages 2,500 dives per customer service representative, with dive experience spanning a total of 80 countries around the world.
  • Eco-friendly trip options to help people dive with a purpose.

PADI Travel launches as a leading online travel provider for divers, offering a user-friendly experience to research, compare and book dive vacations anywhere in the world. In today’s digital world, travelers have high expectations with respect to their ability to find information and book online.  PADI Travel is designed to energize and grow the overall diving community. It offers hundreds of dive destinations around the world, and will continue to expand even further with more dive resort offerings.

Explore travel.padi.com to discover all that PADI Travel offers to the dive community.

To learn more about joining the PADI Travel affiliate program, visit travel.padi.com/affiliates.

If you’re interested in listing your dive resort on PADI Travel, please contact sales.travel@padi.com.

To get support in organizing group trips contact travel@padi.com.

PT-FAQ

Bioluminescence at Gili Lankanfushi

The sea never sleeps. Even at night it is bursting with a wonder that seems almost magical – flashes seeming to appear out of nowhere when the ocean is otherwise shrouded in darkness

When the lights go out nature doesn’t stop communicating. Similar to our adaptations to cope with the dark, by making light, many organisms have developed the ability to produce light. This is called bioluminescence and is created by a chemical reaction within the organism. It is not the same as fluorescence which results from the organism absorbing light at one wavelength and then re-emitting it at another wavelength. Bioluminescence is therefore an active form of communication, whereas fluorescence is passive communication. Whilst visual light is required to observe fluorescence, bioluminescence can be witnessed in pitch black environments. It is generally blue/green in color and this is due to the shorter blue/green light waves travelling further under water.

Bioluminescence can be found throughout the ocean
It can be found in many different groups such as jellyfish, sharks, fish, algae and worms to name a few. In each group the chemical reaction that produces the light varies, which is evidence that bioluminescence has evolved multiple times. Generally, bioluminescent animals contain the chemicals required to produce light, but occasionally an animal can take in bacteria or a different bioluminescent organism that has the ability to produce bioluminescence. For example, the Hawaiian bobtail squid takes in bioluminescent bacteria which are stored in a special light organ and at night they then work together to produce light. This light acts as a cloaking device preventing the squid from casting a shadow and hence camouflaging the squid from predators.

For light to be produced organisms must contain the molecule luciferin which when combined with oxygen produces light. Different organisms will contain different types of luciferin. Some organisms can contain a catalyst called luciferase which can speed up the chemical reaction. Additionally, luciferin and oxygen can be bundled together to make a photoprotein which can be activated instantaneously when a certain ion becomes present. The intensity and colour displayed can also vary and this is very important for communication.

 
Bioluminescent animals can be found on land and in the water column, from the surface to the deepest part of the ocean at challenger deep (10,994m), and in coastal and oceanic environments. In coastal environments around 2.5% of organisms are bioluminescent whereas in pelagic environments the number is significantly higher. Studies estimate that around 70% of fish and 97% of cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, anemones and hydroids) are bioluminescent. Due to the vastness of this form of communication it could be said that bioluminescence may be the most abundant form of communication on earth. Humans see only a small portion of bioluminescence – we generally observe bioluminescence resulting from physical turbulences of the surface water due to waves or boat hulls. The aggravation of the water triggers a bioluminescent response in surface dwelling bioluminescent organisms. One of the most common bioluminescent displays observed by humans is from planktonic surface dwellers. When blooming they form a dense surface layer, which by daylight is reddish-brown in colour but at night transforms into a light display. We can see bioluminescence at Gili Lankanfushi – turn your torch off on a night snorkel and wave your hands around to disturb the water. Bioluminescence is unpredictable but the best times to observe it are when the moon is waning. 
 
Animals can light up for a variety of reasons:
to defend themselves, to procure mates and to camouflage or hunt. The dark is an unforgiving place and finding food can be life or death. Some animals concentrate their bioluminescence in a lure and dangle it around their mouths. The deep-sea angler fish has this adaptation – its lure is lit by bioluminescent bacteria. Prey are attracted to the light and can be engulfed before they realise it. The Stauroteuthis octopus which lives below 700m has replaced some of its suckers with bioluminescent cells that direct their planktonic prey into their mouth. The production of light by the cookie-cutter shark tricks whales and squid into venturing closer and once close enough the shark takes a bite out of the animal before it escapes.

Long wavelengths like red light are absorbed quickly in the surface waters and it is due to this that many deep sea animals are red – they become invisible. Additionally many organisms have lost the ability to see red light. However, the dragonfish has evolved to emit and see red light. This allows it to see red coloured prey and also they can light up the surrounding water to hunt or look for a mate.

 
Finding a mate in the dark can be a major hardship.
Flashing bioluminescent displays can be used as a signal between males and females of the same species to signify the desire to reproduce. For example, a type of male Caribbean crustacean (ostracod) lights up its upper lips to attract females. 
 
Even though bioluminescence lights up the darkness it can be used for protection and camouflage. Many animals will produce a strong flash of light to confuse predators and swim off whilst the predator is blinded. Some squid can produce bioluminescent ink – upon ejection it can stick to the predator and light it up. This can lead to the predator becoming a meal for something even larger. If a predator manages to take a bite out of a bioluminescent organism the stomach of that predator will glow making it an easy target and giving the prey time to escape
Bioluminescence can also be used for counter illumination. This is where the animal can manipulate light to prevent itself producing a shadow and making it almost invisible. They can use bioluminescence to match the light coming from the surface. This makes it almost impossible for predators below to see their prey. The lantern shark is an example of this – it can make itself look invisible by producing blue/green light to blend in with the background.
It’s surprising how any organisms create light, even in an aquarium you may notice it.
Next time you are at Gili Lankanfushi try and see the bioluminescence yourself. You never know when the next flash of light will catch you by surprise!

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.