PADI GO PRO Night 30 June 2018 – Giardini Naxos.

by Fabio Figurella – Regional Manager PADI EMEA.
Last June 30th I had the pleasure and the honour to attend like every year at a PADI Go Pro Night organized by Sea Spirit Diving Center in Giardini Naxos, one of the most active Italian Dive Center focused on training of divers especially for the professional levels, managed by the Course Director Carmelo Sgroi, and by Cilla Lentz – Diving Center Manager.
Every year I have always come with great pleasure to these events because there is always a large number of participants, very interested in the PADI Professional Career.
This year the event has been a huge success, organized in collaboration with the association MEGISS Dive Lab has focused on the topic of Naturalistic photography and Environmental awareness related to the world of PADI professionals.
Guests of excellence Francesco Turano, Naturalist photographer who projected photos that created strong emotions in the hall.
Also present was Dr. Laura Marroni Vice-President of DAN Europe Foundation, one of the youngest managers worldwide of the diving industry, who presented the DAN Europe foundation and its activities, telling of her experience during the IDC becoming PADI Instructor.
About 60 PADI Pros have attended the event, interested in their professional career.


I interviewed some of the most representative members of the Sea Spirit Staff:

Carmelo Sgroi – PADI Course Director.
Carmelo Sgroi, owner of Sea Spirit, PADI 5 Star Diving Resort, is also a skipper and PADI Course Director and has made from his passion a profession.
His career began as a PADI Dive Master in Mediterranean waters of the Ionian coast of Taormina. Later, he became a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor in Australia.
Then he developed himself into a PADI IDC Staff Instructor and PADI Master Instructor in Thailand. In 2018, Carmelo Sgroi completed the PADI Course Director Training Course in Malaysia with success and achieved the status of PADI Course Director. In 2015, Sea Spirit Diving Resort became a PADI 5 Star IDC Dive Resort and Carmelo Sgroi and Mark Soworka decide to bring their experience in Europe by organizing the first international PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) in Sicily and founded dive-careers-europe.com.


Cilla Lentz – Diving Center Manager.
Cilla Lentz, general manager, PADI IDC Staff Instructor and main instructor at Sea Spirit Diving Resort, started diving in 2010 during a holiday at diver’s paradise Koh Tao, Thailand. In 2012 she flew back to Koh Tao, Thailand to become a PADI Divemaster. During her internship, she became passionate about diving and decided to take the next step to PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor in Thailand. In 2013, she moved from Koh Tao to Sicily and implement her experience in Sea Spirit Diving Resort. In 2014 she increased her experience in several PADI Specialties and got the PADI MSDT certification (Master Scuba Diver Trainer). After that she gained more experience in training on professional level during Instructor Development Courses and got the PADI IDC Staff Instructor certification. Nowadays she manages Sea Spirit Diving Resort and trains people how to become good or even better divers and trains people who want to take their first step in professional diving.


Amy.
Amy started diving in her homeland, the U.K. and she joined Sea Spirit as a Dive Master Candidate (2016) and grew into the role of main instructor in 2017. By now, Amy guided more than 100 people during PADI Discover Scuba Diving, PADI (Junior) Open Water Diver and PADI (Junior) Advanced Open Water Diver and from this year also PADI Rescue Diver, Divemaster and specialties. At Sea Spirit you will find Amy most of the time on one of our boats, teaching diving with all her enthusiasm and big smile.


Alina.
Alina started her professional dive career at Sea Spirit in 2017 as a Divemaster Candidate. In October 2017, she joined the IDC at Sea Spirit and became an Open Water Scuba Instructor. Now she teaches (Junior) Open Water Diver and (Junior) Advanced Open Water Diver. You will find Alina on one of our boats or in the office, organizing everything with perfection and always ready to take care of everybody with her sunny smile and pro-active attitude.


We then moved on to the presentation of the MAGISS Dive Lab Association, which is a summary of the words of its President Giovanni Laganà:
Joining the Pro Night of Giardini Naxos has taken for MEGISS Dive Lab – the Association of which I am President and Co-founder – an extremely important meaning in line with one of the projects that, together with the other members, we want to pursue: to contribute to educate the professional divers plays a decisive role in supporting the preservation of what is one of the most precious jewels of the Planet Earth: the Mediterranean.
In agreement with Francesco Turano, with whom we are sharing the AWARE DIVERS project, we are convinced that, also through the tool of naturalistic photography, the knowledge of biodiversity and the mechanisms that regulate the life of the Mare Nostrum must become the patrimony of the professional diver who, if properly informed, will be able to guarantee the noble interests of the whole underwater community, being able, at the same time, to support scientifically correct positions.
To do this, guides and instructors need specialized knowledge and accurate information on ecology as well as on the management and sustainability of the Mediterranean Sea. More. They must be able to translate this knowledge into practices that promote low impact diving.
The task now – if the goal is shared – is up to the teaching. We are here and if you want to follow us do it on our social profiles Facebook and Instagram.

Laura Marroni Vice President of DAN Europe closed the event. Here are her words:
Participating to the PADI Go Pro Night in Taormina was a great experience. I had the chance to talk to a group of passionate divers willing to become dive instructors and to tell them about my career in the diving business and how DAN can help and protect them. DAN has always been on the side of every diver, from the beginners to the most experienced. Dive professionals can count on our medical assistance and support in every step of their career, and they can in turn help us making diving safer by joining our research programs. All together we are a big community and we share a very important goal: diving safely, respecting the environment. As dive professionals, we have the privilege to guide people through the marvellous submerged world and the power to change people’s lives. Being diving instructors is much more than a job, it’s a challenging and beautiful mission!


Finally, as PADI EMEA we have given a special recognition to the Naturalist Photographer Francesco Turano “For the exceptional commitment to the dissemination of environmental sustainability through naturalistic photography” Here are his words:
The diver’s awareness is one of the main points people need to focus on. Everything comes from the fact that underwater tourism is no longer in balance with the marine environment, and people often take advantage of it, without knowing and respecting it. Diving centers should change the way they operate and dive management for large groups.
The scuba diving teaching has the task of introducing the use of the underwater world and must be accompanied, today more than ever, by adequate training on marine biology and ecology, through tools like naturalistic observation and photography. Only in this way it’s possible to avoid scuba diving alone just for fun and one becomes aware, through the knowledge of the submerged environments and therefore brought to the respect of life in the sea.
A life in the Mediterranean, studying and photographing in all seasons and in all conditions, allows me today to state that diving must evolve through proper environmental education, only possible with appropriate courses that allow you to learn important points in the practice of diving. I shared my thoughts with MEGISS Dive Lab, an association for the knowledge and protection of marine environments in the Mediterranean, and now I would like to try to share it with PADI, if you understand the importance and validity of the message!

 

Events – Scuba Pride 2018!

 

Continuing from my last post about events that PADI are supporting, I would like to bring your attention to Scuba Pride 2018!

Scuba Pride which is taking place at Vivian Quarry in Parc Padarn, Llanberis on the 21st of July.  (Please click here for more information). Also, there is NUPG Scuba Pride Photo Competition taking place on the 22nd of July.  

Vivian Quarry is in a prime location to venture out to the stunning Snowdonia National Park. Duttons divers is a PADI Five Star Instructor Development Centre and a Project AWARE 100% Partner Centre based in North Wales.  

Speaking with PADI Course Director Clare Dutton (Vivian Quarry and Duttons divers), they have 12 stands in total who are already confirmed. They will also have the face painting, bbq, competitions and will also have a mini ‘fairground’ – coconut shy, other small games around the quarry for fun. 

Throughout the day they will be offering various try dives – discover scuba, discover the Menai (The Menai Strait is a narrow stretch of shallow tidal water about 25 km long, which separates the island of Anglesey from the mainland of Wales), Sidemount diving, Full Face Mask and Twinsets.

Hopefully, manufacturers maybe offering trials of their equipment and will have slots in the training cage we have on site.

Clare has said that they will have some t-shirts that have been designed for the scuba pride event. If you would like to purchase one, please let her know. They are £15 each with profits going to LGBT North Wales.

The team at Vivian Quarry are excited about the event and to be supporting the LGBT community in Scuba diving. There have been lots of emails from various groups including the chairman of both LGBT North Wales and GLUG UK that have been advertising the event.

It is great to be able to support this event and PADI will be there to help make the event memorable.

Creating future ambassadors of the oceans in UAE !

Michela Colella – PADI Course Director and Operations Manager at Divers Down in UAE – tells us about her ‘School Project’:

A

As a PADI Instructor, I know teaching scuba diving is not solely about introducing people to a sport and a lifestyle I love.

Divers love to dive and divers learn to love the environment.

By teaching young people to dive, it is possible to engender in them a passion for the seas and a determination to ensure the reefs and sea-life we treasure survive for generations to come.

Warming oceans, overfishing, and chemical and plastic pollution are placing pressures and challenges on the environment unprecedented in human history.

One estimate suggests by 2050 there will be, by weight, more plastic in the sea than fish.

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Living in the UAE and being part of the team at Divers Down, I have had the great opportunity to introduce young people to scuba diving and also to educate them about the value of conservation.

At Divers Down, I have led a schools’ programme to introduce young people to scuba diving. As part of the programme, we also raised important issues relating to the risks posed by human activity to the environment.

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We have been running weekly Discover Scuba Diving sessions in school swimming pools across Dubai. This great opportunity also gave us the chance to raise awareness of the some of the most pressing environmental challenges to young minds.

 

Me and the team teach children ways to care for oceans and how to reduce human pollution.

We lead children in discussions and then show them evidence – the detritus of modern life that litters the beaches and reefs, not just in the UAE but around the world.

It is hugely rewarding to be with a young student as they take their first breaths underwater. It is equally rewarding to encourage in them the right attitude to create a sustainable world – that is the goal of the schools’ project.

Like all PADI Instructors, we hope to change the direction of our students’ lives for the better.

Introducing children to the natural world can instil in them a lifelong love of the natural world and can help them protect delicate ecosystems for generations to come.

The reaction from the students, and their teachers and parents – awe, respect and wonder — was beyond our expectations.

We know children learn better while having fun. Introducing them to the natural world – exploring delicate aquatic ecosystem – is one of the best ways young people can learn about the threats to the oceans (without them actually realising it).

I am certain that if all children were lucky enough to learn about diving and to fall in love with it and the environment, our world would be a better place.

A big thank you to those Schools who gave me this great opportunity and to an amazing educational system that was open to allowing its students to learn about the fun and adventure of diving, and practical ways to protect our environment.

 

On behalf of PADI, congratulations to the students who enrolled in the project ! 

…. and special thanks Michela and Divers Down’s Team : keep up the good work!

PADI Power!

Are you getting the most from your PADI marketing power?

The PADI logo is the most distinctive and powerful logo in the diving industry. Recognised as a sign of quality diver training and service, divers around the planet proudly state that they have ‘got my PADI’.

As a PADI dive centre, a key benefit of your membership is the right to utilise the power of the PADI brand to bring more custom to your dive centre – here are some suggestions on how to make sure you are doing this effectively:

  1. Use your PADI Dive Centre Marketing kit to its full effect. Every renewed PADI dive centre receives a physical marketing tool kit which includes flags, banner and other marketing collateral completely free of charge. Maldivian dive centres can get their tool kits through MA Services, the official PADI material distributor in the Maldives. If you have not yet received your pack, make sure you contact them directly to arrange collection.
  2. Use your digital resources – make sure your website shows the PADI logo – you can download a range of logos by logging into the PADI Pro Site and clicking the following link: https://www2.padi.com/mypadi/templates/cb-login.aspx?id=2782
  3. Also make sure you are using the latest images and text to boost your website’s impact! All dive centres in the Maldives have been sent an email providing them with a digital marketing tool kit that includes pictures, videos and text for you to use on social media and websites. If you have not accessed this yet, contact matt.wenger@padi.com for more information

If you want more information on how to effectively boost your marketing, and drive more custom to your centre, join us at a PADI Business Academy! Next event is scheduled in September in Male.

 

 

A New Home for PADI in the Maldives!

We are delighted to officially announce that PADI has a new home in Male’!

Last month, MA Services, the official PADI distributor in the Maldives, opened a spacious new retail outlet on Male’ Square, the latest shopping and dining destination in the capital.

As part of the move, the PADI store also relocated and is now open during regular shopping hours, welcoming divers and shoppers until 10pm.

Although we know that many of you have already visited the new store, which is just off Majeedhee Magu, we invite all of you who haven’t popped in yet to drop by and say hello! With our extended opening hours, we hope that many more of you will now have the opportunity to do so.

Alongside all PADI merchandise and services, the store will be home to a wide range of products stocked by MA Services. As the official distributor of PADI, Bauer Kompressoren, Scubapro, UWATEC, Hatz and Analox, the store is a one-stop-shop for all your diving needs and will offer customers a more streamlined approach to placing orders and purchasing new equipment.

The MA Services service centre remains in the same location and will continue to provide all the same facilities as previously.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!

PADI

 

How You Can Help Sustainability and Eco Tourism in the Maldives

Eco tourism and sustainable tourism may be a hot topic in the travel industry at the moment but it has always been an integral part of our philosophy and part of our mission statement.

Secret Paradise tours are designed to allow our guests to experience the best from the paradise we call home, whilst ensuring that there is limited or no negative impact on the community or the environment.

We are committed to informing and demonstrating to our competitors, our team, our partners and ultimately our guests that we are committed to following social and environmental best practices.

At Secret Paradise we see this as an ongoing commitment in the development of sustainable tourism in the Maldives and pride ourselves that we were longlisted for the World Responsible Tourism Awards 2015.

The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part during your holiday but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.

Reusing towels and saving electricity in your guest house

It is seen all over the world in small and large hotels, businesses trying to reduce their carbon foot print and the Maldives is no different. Re-use your towels in your guest bedroom rather than having them refreshed each day. Turn off your air conditioning when you leave your room. Make sure all the lights are switched off. All small actions that will provide long term positive results to the environment for you and future generations.

Plastic in the Ocean

The Maldives, like many countries has experienced a real challenge in recent years with plastic bottles, straws and plastic bags washing up on the beaches. Local Island residents are making huge efforts to work together with many islands organising regular beach clean ups. Education and awareness regarding littering and how to reduce the use of plastic in daily life has also started to be introduced led by NGOs and dive centres in particular. But as a tourist you can also help. Bring a re-useable bottle with you and re-fill your water bottles where possible. Take your own bags with you when you go shopping and refuse plastic bags every time you leave a shop. Remove packaging from newly acquired items before leaving home and consider taking home as much plastic waste as you can.

For more details on local initiatives check out http://www.savethebeachmaldives.org

Buy Local

By staying in local island guest houses you are contributing to the local economy and increasing local employment. Local island guest houses in the Maldives are usually run by local island families where everyone is instrumental in the day to day running of the guest house. As a guest you benefit from meeting these local families and learning about their cultures and traditions; take it from us nothing beats Maldivian hospitality.

Buying local and eating local means that you are contributing to the local economy just like when you stay in the guest houses. Buying locally made souvenirs and eating local produce means that local farmers and small businesses benefit.Don’t be afraid to ask where produce or souvenirs have originated as there unfortunately is still a lot of imported souvenirs on offer.

Leave no traces of your visit behind

Many people say ‘I am just one person how can I make a difference to the environment on my own?’ But all you need to do is take responsibility for yourself and the people you are travelling with. Don’t leave litter on the beaches or around the islands. Don’t throw garbage over board when on the boats travelling around the islands. Lead by example and pick up rubbish and dispose in the nearest waste receptacle. Every small effort like this will have a positive effect on the future of our environment.

Leave the ocean as you found it

As tempting as it is to take a piece of beautiful coral home or chase after the sea turtles, mantas or whale sharks and touch them – you are destroying the oceans natural habitat by doing these things. Maldives turtles and Whale sharks are endangered species and need protection. Feel free to view the beautiful underwater world of the Maldives but leave it where it is. The ocean life is wild and we want it to remain that way. The Maldives is one of the many countries affected by coral bleaching due to rising temperatures in the sea and global warming. Campaigns run by Save the Beach and local island guest houses like Eco Dive Club in Maafushi are working hard to rebuild these areas by planting coral nurseries and researching the effects of global warming.

Respect local culture and dress codes

The Maldives is an Islamic country and tourists should respect cultural differences not try to change them, we are after all only guests in someone’s home. Dress respectably away from beaches, ask permission (and ladies cover your head) if you are visiting religious places. Note local dress codes and follow them. There is so much culture in the Maldives and the local island people love to share their traditions and culture with tourists so ask, learn and enjoy.

Want to help more?

Volunteer/beach clean up

Many local islands are running initiatives like volunteer beach clean ups on a regular basis. Ask your Secret Paradise guide or guesthouse owner if there is one scheduled during your stay, it’s a great way to meet the local community and you are contributing to environmental clean ups.

How about learning more about the local communities and initiatives?

Secret Paradise Maldives and Sun sHADe Volunteers provide opportunities for responsible and meaningful working holidays in one of the most beautiful places in the world. More details about this program can be viewed here: https://secretparadise.mv/product/volunteer-local

Remember together we can make a difference #letusguideyou

You can also view our full Responsible Tourism Policy here

https://secretparadise.mv/responsible-tourism-policy

 

From Doomed Voyager to Victorious Wreckage

The story beneath one of the most famous dive sites in the Maldives

Part Two

The skeletal beauty

“Victory sank on the captain’s second voyage to the Maldives,” said Saeed. “On his first journey, the captain miscalculated the distance to Male and ended up all the way in Vaavu Atoll. Then on his second journey…” he trailed off with a wry laugh.

Though Victory met a watery death on the unfortunate captain’s second trip, the expensive goods she was carrying were not beyond saving. A team was put together which, led by Hassan “Lakudiboa” Manik, began the operation to salvage the wreck’s cargo.

“The cars were the first things we salvaged,” he had said in an interview to veteran diver Adam Ashraf. The recovered goods were later auctioned off.

A diver during an excursion to the wreck of MV Victory. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

Amongst those who got to see the salvage process was Hussain “Sendi” Rasheed, a renowned name in the Maldivian diving industry.

“My first dive was at the Victory wreck,” revealed Sendi, who had regularly visited the site between 1981 and 2003.

Over the course of 20 years, Sendi was able to observe MV Victory’s metamorphosis from lifeless skeleton to a vibrant ecosystem pulsing with life. Lying upright and parallel to Hulhule’s reef, she naturally became a breeding ground for corals; and the multitude of marine life she attracted, along with great visibility due to the currents in that area, established Victory as one of the hottest dive spots in the Maldives.

The wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

“This is one of the most beautiful wrecks, and one of the biggest. It’s around 110 metres in length,” stated Sendi.

However, even 37 metres underwater, Victory did not lie undisturbed for long. Bits and pieces began to disappear. Portholes, doors, the anchor and steering wheel fell prey to scavengers until all that remained by the year 2000 was “a metal skeleton”.

The culprits behind the robberies included local and tourist divers – a foreigner had personally shown Sendi one of Victory’s portholes, wrapped up and ready to be shipped to her home country as a souvenir.

“Everything that could be physically removed was gone … It’s like breaking into a museum,” said Sendi, expressing frustration over the lack of established laws and regulations to ensure the protection of shipwrecks.

Though the rich coral life and abundant fish surrounding MV Victory remained ever picturesque, Sendi noted with remorse that her true beauty remained lost to those viewing her after the new millenium.

Onslaught of damages

Victory, and by extension the diving sector, suffered more blows years later when the site was closed down in March 2016 for the development of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge between Male and Hulhule. The bridge is a mere 500 metres away from Victory’s resting place.

The first setback was the abrupt cessation of revenue. Wreck diving, though a rather obscure activity for most civilians, holds a significant popularity for divers who travel to the Maldives from around the world. As such, MV Victory was responsible for contributing to the attraction of hoards of visitors daily from within the central atoll dive circuit.

According to Sendi, local dive guides typically escorted a minimum of eight dive boats, with around 15 divers on each, to Victory every day.
“That’s an income of at least USD 3  million from Victory alone, every year,” said Sendi.

Illustration depicting the value of Dive Sites around Central Male region. IMAGE_ RAE MUNAVVAR_THE EDITION

The second blow to MV Victory did not take place till later that year when Dive Instructor Adam Ashraf, having extensively researched the wreckage for years, approached the government regarding protecting the wreck during the construction and development of the bridge. He led a team of divers to set up four buoys to mark Victory’s location so that bridge workers would steer clear of the wreck site.

Damages caused to Victory Wreck

However, later it was discovered that Victory had sustained damages of magnitudes that could only be caused by dropping anchors of vessels, which were deployed around the bridge, onto the wreck. With the housing ministry’s permission, a team of divers inspected and documented the damages: two wings of Victory’s wheelhouse had been destroyed, while several cabins on one side, including the captain’s, were crushed.

Subsequently, Ashraf proceeded to meet with the boat captains working around the bridge, intending to expand their awareness on MV Victory’s importance. However, her proximity to the bridge meant other adverse effects continued; the ongoing construction work disrupted the ocean floor, encasing the wreck in the suspended sediments, thus suffocating the corals and chasing marine life away from their homes.

Heaving a sigh, Sendi recalled his last dive to Victory, accompanied by Ashraf: “There’s no more life now.”

“Shipwrecks are underwater museums”

Though Sendi and Ashraf remained optimistic that coral and other marine life would return to Victory once the bridge has been completed, both admitted that all the damages might not be repairable – damages that could have been prevented had there been proper protocols.

“We need to regulate diving, or establish standards and regulations for wreck diving,” said Sendi.

The divers stressed that it was imperative for authorities to protect shipwrecks for the sake of heritage and tourism promotion. Though all sunken vessels become state property under Maldivian law, they claimed that proper steps have not been taken to preserve them.

Inside the wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – ADAM ASHRAF

“[Victory] belongs to the museum. It should be an asset of the museum,” Sendi declared, stating that all shipwrecks in Maldivian waters should fall under the ownership of the National Museum.

Describing them as underwater heritage sites, Sendi said that under the museum’s protection, shipwrecks could be properly maintained and conserved for future generations.

He added that preserved shipwreck sites could possibly generate sustainable revenue towards the maintenance of these sites by providing additional income serving the needs of the hospitality sector.

The wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

“Wreck sites could be sold as facilities for wreck diving training,” said Sendi. “… The museum could also charge fees for divers to visit wrecks.”

It is the divers’ long-enduring wish to see a day when the shipwrecks, scattered across the atolls, would be properly protected and conserved. Listing some of his favourite sites such as the wrecks at Fesdhoo, Halaveli, and Macchafushi, Sendi added, “Every individual wreck has a story” – such as the tanker “British Loyalty”, which was torpedoed by the German navy in 1944 and later scuttled by British forces off the coast of Addu Atoll’s Hithadhoo in 1946; a unique relic of the Second World War that is now another top dive site in the Maldives.

“Underwater archaeology, museums, history – shipwrecks are symbols that represent all of these.”

PADI’s guest blogger  Fathmath Shaahunaz  introduces herself:

Fathmath Shaahunaz is a long-established shinnichi currently writing as senior Journalist at The Edition. A self described ‘english nerd’, she also harbours a deep appreciation for ocean and all things magical.  The Edition brings readers the most comprehensive news coverage throughout the Maldives delivering the latest in breaking news and updates covering defining moments in politics, business, sports, travel, entertainment and lifestyle across the country and the region. 

www.edition.mv

Reef Restoration at Gili Lankanfushi – “Mahuge Veshi”

Home to more than a quarter of all marine species, coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. But these reefs are now under threat.

Of the many problems facing coral reefs, rising sea temperatures due to global warming are perhaps the most serious. In 1998, a complex climate event in the Pacific Ocean known as ‘El Niño’ pushed global temperatures to new highs and killed 16% of coral worldwide; this was declared the first major global coral bleaching event. The El Niño of 2010 triggered the second global event, and in October 2015 The US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a third global bleaching event – so far this has been the longest event recorded, impacting some reefs in successive years.

Here in the Maldives, we witnessed the effects of global warming first hand when the bleaching event caught up with us in 2016 – affecting about 60% of corals.

In view of the environmental and economic value of coral reefs there is considerable interest in preventing further damage as well as rehabilitating and/or restoring coral reefs subjected to damage. A widely adopted method for reef restoration is the construction of Artificial Reefs (AR’s). The main purpose of these structures is to attract fish by providing them with habitats that are as favourable as those that are present in the original environment.

Gili Lankanfushi is surrounded by a beautiful and diverse coral reef, but we weren’t exempt from the bleaching of 2016, and some of the varied habitat once provided by corals has disappeared. To aid the reef we recently constructed a small AR adjacent the damaged coral. In this instance, the term ‘artificial reef’ is somewhat of a misnomer as its purpose is to rehabilitate an already existing reef; so a better way to think of our project is the building of ‘fish homes’. To maintain the natural aesthetic we are accustomed to here at Gili, the AR was constructed using natural rock from around the island. After settling on a location the rocks were assembled in a pyramid shape and care was taken to leave several openings as previous studies found that reef blocks which had a higher number of holes also possessed the greatest fish species richness and abundance. We have named our structure Mahuge Veshi (Pronunciation: ma-hoo-geh veh-she), meaning fish environment.

AR’s tend to develop in fairly predictable stages: When an ocean current encounters a vertical structure it creates a plankton-rich upwelling. This upwelling provides a reliable feeding spot for small fish, which draw in pelagic predators such as trevallies and sharks. Next come creatures seeking protection – hole and crevice dwellers such as grouper, snapper, squirrelfish, eels, and triggerfish. Over months and years the reef structure becomes encrusted with algae, tunicates, hard and soft corals, and sponges which add to the structural integrity of the AR. There is an expectation that ecologically the AR will resemble the local natural environment over the long term as plant and animal assemblages associate with the structure.

We know from previous studies that AR’s can increase the total aggregate of fish and invertebrate species, and in some cases the abundance of corals have exceeded that of adjacent natural reef areas.

The use of AR’s to increase fish populations goes back at least 400 years, but there have been suggestions that they don’t actually increase the total numbers of fish, and act simply as attractors; moving fish from one place to another. However, we know from well documented studies between animals and their environment that when a habitat range is extended their numbers tend go up. Imagine an island populated with birds: their population is at its limit, until one day another island appears within flying distance. What we would expect to see is a sequence of events:

  1. Arrival – Some of the birds would migrate from the old island to the new one.
  2. Population increase – With more nesting space available the populations of each island would increase.
  3. Persistence – Assuming a steady supply of resources (food, nests, etc.) the birds on each island would thrive.

AR’s can be thought of like underwater islands, and for each one built we essentially extend the geographical range of the animals that live within reef structures, and so we would expect to see the same sequence of events mentioned above.

So far Mahuge Veshi has been visited by large schools of surgeonfish, butterflyfish, and on last inspection a large moray eel had made itself at home within the structure. The Mahuge Veshi project is a simple, environmentally friendly and self-sustaining venture. All being well, the structure will help grow the natural area and support help marine life while our corals recover.

PADI guest blogger Jon Fry introduces himself:

After receiving my degree in Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology from Plymouth University I worked in Madagascar where I gained experience in reef restoration and tropical biology. I believe awareness is the most important tool we have in conservation, and I am pleased to be here at Gili Lankanfushi where I can educate the curious about marine life and sustainability.

 

 

From Doomed Voyager to Victorious Wreckage

The story beneath one of the most famous dive sites in the Maldives

Part One

When Mohamed Saeed first stepped aboard MV Victory as the Chief Electrical Officer, little could he have known that it would be his first and final voyage on the doomed cargo ship.

“I was one of the last to be rescued,” he revealed, thirty-seven years after the freighter sank off the coast of airport island Hulhule to become the most famous shipwreck in the Maldives.

A diver during an excursion to the wreck of MV Victory. PHOTO MOHAMED SEENEEN

An error in judgement

It was the night of February 13, 1981, with clear skies under a bright waxing moon. Victory had just returned from Singapore, carrying general cargo from cement and iron to timber and cooking oil. Recalling the events of the fateful night, Saeed said he had not expected Victory to enter the capital’s harbour until the following morning, as it was illegal to enter Gaadhoo Kolu, Male’s main cargo route, after dark.

“What happened was that, on the night we left Male for Singapore, we saw a larger ship entering Gaadhoo Kolu,” narrated Saeed. “So our captain figured he could do it too.”

The wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

Saeed was surprised when the Chief Engineer ordered him, the Second Engineer and Third Engineer to be on standby for docking that night itself. Despite his misgivings, he took up his duty as the Chief Electrician while Victory entered Gaadhoo Kolu, making her way to Male’s commercial port.

“The popular belief is that Victory ran aground Male’s reef, but that’s not true,” said Saeed, explaining that they had seen the shallows clearly in the moonlight and kept their distance from the capital’s shore.

Once the freighter came upon the island of Fonadhoo, which lies between the capital city and Hulhule in the cargo route, she was steered around to enter the channel between Fonadhoo and Hulhule, since the Male-Fonadhoo channel is prohibited for freighters and tankers,

Here the freighter’s fate was sealed: a misjudgement by the helmsman coupled by the vessel’s near-ancient hydraulic steering system failed in swinging her around and, at approximately 10:00 p.m. on a particularly unlucky Friday the February 13th, MV Victory hit Hulhule’s house reef.

A battle in vain

“It wasn’t caused by equipment failure,” said Saeed stoutly. “The Chief Engineer and I checked; it was a steering fault.”

Their first cause of action after the collision was to try and save the ship. She was steered urgently back out of Gaadhoo Kolu while Saeed and the three engineers below deck tried to pump out water from the double-bottomed tank.

It was a futile attempt. The hull was breached a level above the cargo storage and there was no stopping the water flow. The sinking of the freighter was guaranteed.

A diver during an excursion to the wreck of MV Victory. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

With Victory already beginning to keel, it soon dawned on everyone aboard – 30 crew members and seven passengers – that they would be left to the mercy of the waves if she remained in open water. Saeed and a handful of other seamen quickly sought the captain, urging to take Victory back through the cargo route.

“If we’d sunk outside Gaadhoo Kolu, we would’ve been done for. The ocean currents there are very strong.”

Options exhausted, the captain gave the dreaded order: scuttle the ship.

Engines at maximum power and keeling more than 12 degrees to the side, Victory reentered the cargo route where under the captain’s orders, she was deliberately run aground.

The bereft crew

News of the wreckage spread swiftly across the capital despite the late hour. Representatives of authorities gathered at Male’s shore while the military were dispatched to evacuate the people aboard the sinking ship.

Inside the wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

“We were the last to be rescued,” said Saeed, referring to himself and the three engineers. While the passengers and the rest of the crew were on deck and promptly evacuated, the four had remained below, still working fruitlessly to pump out water.

When the four finally emerged, it was to an empty deck. Fortunately, rescue soldiers soon returned for them, while work was underway to tow Victory away from the reef to be floated.

While there were no casualties in the incident, several of the mostly-foreign crew were left bereft afterwards, losing nearly all their worldly possessions on the freighter.

With nothing but the clothes on their backs, the dismayed seafarers had watched MV Victory, with all of her lights still blazing, sink below the waves in the early hours of February 14.

Please visit next week for Part Two of MV Victory’s journey from above to below water

PADI’s guest blogger  Fathmath Shaahunaz  introduces herself:

Fathmath Shaahunaz is a long-established shinnichi currently writing as senior Journalist at The Edition. A self described ‘english nerd’, she also harbours a deep appreciation for ocean and all things magical.  The Edition brings readers the most comprehensive news coverage throughout the Maldives delivering the latest in breaking news and updates covering defining moments in politics, business, sports, travel, entertainment and lifestyle across the country and the region. 

www.edition.mv

 

The Heat Is On: Sea Turtles Are Becoming Mostly Female Due To The Earth’s Warming Climate

Some of the more charismatic inhabitants of the reef here at Gili Lankanfushi are the Turtles, and we do our best to help them thrive.

In fact, our resident Hawksbill Turtle, the aptly named ‘Gili’, was initially found here in critical condition, but was rescued by our marine biology team who sent her straight to the Four Seasons Rehabilitation Centre for recovery. Of all the threats posed to these animals; poaching, entanglement in fishing gear, plastic and other marine debris, and ocean pollution – There is one issue you may not be aware of: Climate change is turning Sea Turtles female.

As reported by Sarah Kaplan for The Washington post, scientists in the 1980s accidently discovered that temperature can determine the sex of Turtles. The team were attempting to aid a population of sea Turtles by rescuing eggs from vulnerable beaches and keeping them warm in incubators until they were ready to hatch. To their surprise almost all the hatchlings were male. What these scientists observed was “Temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD)”, a phenomenon that occurs only in reptiles (and some fish).

At what biologists call the ‘pivot temperature’ (roughly 29oC for Green Turtles), nests will produce equal amounts of males and females. A little warmer and embryos develop as females, but keep the eggs just a few degrees cooler (like the scientists did with their incubators) and they’ll come out mostly male.

Turtles tend to target their breeding periods to times when the sand is slightly warmer than their pivot temperatures, resulting in populations moderately skewed towards female, but a recent study conducted around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef found that the populations are becoming more than moderately skewed. On the warmer nesting sites 99.1% of juvenile Green Turtles were female, as were 86.8% of adults, suggesting that there has been a shift in gender ratios over the last few decades.

Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal
-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Global warming is rapidly emerging as a universal threat to ecological integrity and function, say scientists studying coral reef assemblages. In species with temperature-dependent sex determination the impacts of rising temperature are particularly pertinent. At the key breeding grounds of many Sea Turtle populations the sand has warmed significantly since the 1990’s and researchers say that this almost certainly accounts for the dramatic decrease in the number of males. Since turtles will often return to the same beaches where they were born to lay their own eggs, this cycle will likely continue; and with global temperatures continuing to rise, many Sea Turtle populations are in danger of high egg mortality and female-only offspring production.

“Finding that there are next to no males among young Northern Green Turtles should ring alarm bells, but all is not lost for this important population.”
– WWF Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman

The good news is that management strategies are possible. Options include shading beaches or using artificial rain to cool the beach. Protecting some of the big breeding males from threats such as poaching and entanglement is also going to be of particular importance.

Of the seven species of sea Turtles in the world, five species have been recorded in the Maldives and some species are known to nest here: The Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Olive Ridley Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) and Leatherback Turtle (Dermachelys coriacea). The Maldivian archipelago clearly serves as an important habitat for Sea Turtles, and here at Gili Lankanfushi we strive to help maintain that habitat by educating our guests about the negative effects of global warming; reducing the amount of harmful marine debris entering the ocean and growing our seagrass beds that act as a carbon sink and produce food for our sea turtle population.

So, what can you do to help mitigate climate change? Start by finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint; embrace a minimalist lifestyle, walk instead of drive, [a comprehensive list of ways to reduce your carbon footprint can be found here and here] and support only the large companies that are reducing theirs too.

Acknowledgements:

Guarino, Ben. 2018. Climate change is turning 99 percent of these baby sea turtles female’. Washington Post.

Hogge, Katie. 2018. Not Cool: Climate Change Turning 99% of These Sea Turtles Female. Ocean Conservancy.

Jensen, M.P., Allen, C.D., Eguchi, T., Bell, I.P., LaCasella, E.L., Hilton, W.A., Hof, C.A. and Dutton, P.H., 2018. Environmental warming and feminization of one of the largest sea turtle populations in the world. Current Biology, 28(1), pp.154-159.

Kaplan, Sarah. 2016. Some like it hot: Scientists figure out why female turtles are born at higher temperatures. Washington Post.

WWF. 2018. How climate change is turning Green Turtle populations female in the Northern Great Barrier Reef. WorldWildLife.org.

PADI guest blogger Jon Fry introduces himself:

After receiving my degree in Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology from Plymouth University I worked in Madagascar where I gained experience in reef restoration and tropical biology. I believe awareness is the most important tool we have in conservation, and I am pleased to be here at Gili Lankanfushi where I can educate the curious about marine life and sustainability.