Whale sharks of the Maldives

‘What is it? A shark? A whale? Whatever it is it’s massive!’

The whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean, and therefore is also the biggest shark. It is one of three species of filter feeding shark; also including the basking shark and the mega mouth shark. On the 7th January we were lucky enough to spot Pedro who is a juvenile male at six metres. It was a truly breath taking moment! The best time to look for a whale shark is three to five hours before high tide and a few days before the full moon. However, finding a whale shark cannot be a guaranteed experience.

For many, seeing a whale shark is a once in a lifetime experience, with a place at the top of numerous bucket lists. These enigmatic and gentle creatures can be seen year round in South Ari Atoll, only a short seaplane ride from Gili Lankanfushi. The whale sharks are attracted to South Ari Atoll due to the vicinity of the Chagos-Laccadive Plateau, which provides very deep and highly nutrient rich water. Whale sharks are a pelagic species, able to travel around 100 miles per day and dive to at least 1600m – probably deeper, but this cannot be officially recorded due to tracking tags breaking under the phenomenal pressure at great depth.

Whale sharks are fascinating animals that predate the dinosaurs by 220 million years. All sharks, including the whale shark are cartilaginous fish, which means that their skeletons are made from cartilage, not bone. As with all sharks the whale shark’s skin is covered by dermal denticles, a substance more like teeth than fish scales. The dermal denticles are a couple of millimetres thick and protect the shark’s skin from damage and parasites. They also provide better hydrodynamics. Under this layer of protective armour is a fatty layer, around 10 to 15 cm thick that is most likely used as an energy store and protection from injuries, together with insulation during deeper dives. Whale sharks have over 300 rows of tiny replaceable teeth which are made from a stronger version of dermal denticles. Scientists are still debating the use of these teeth as whale sharks are filter feeders so their teeth are not required for feeding. Another anatomical feature which perplexes scientists is that the whale shark has spiracles. These are a breathing aid for stationary sharks, but the whale shark is classified as a highly mobile shark so what is the use? It could be that the whale shark is very closely related to bottom dwelling sharks, and it is a feature that will eventually disappear through evolution, or it could be used on the rare occasions that the shark is stationary and not feeding.

Whale sharks are known to make seasonal feeding aggregations in 20 countries, including Australia, Gulf of Mexico, Belize, Gulf of California, Seychelles and Maldives. Whale sharks feed on microscopic plankton and small fish that they suck into their one and half metre wide mouths. Their throats are much smaller in comparison; around the size of a drain pipe. They have two known methods for feeding, ram filtration and suction feeding. Suction feeding allows whale sharks to feed on more mobile prey such as small fishes, which they actively suck into their mouths, together with volumes of water that are then expelled through their gills. By comparison ram feeding is passive; the shark swims through the water with their mouth open and plankton filters in. It has been suggested that whale sharks are more suited to suction filter feeding because the gaps between their five to seven gills are small. This small gap is more effective at filtering out plankton when the shark is suction feeding. Whale sharks have very weak eyesight, they can probably only see three meters away, and so rely on their nostrils to find prey. Their nostrils are very sensitive due to their well-developed olfactory capsules; they can detect chemicals in the water produced by their planktonic prey.

Plankton tend to shelter at depths between 100 – 200m. This is the oxygen minimum zone and is not a suitable habitat for many organisms which would prey on them. Whale sharks however are able to feed at these depths and will spend the majority of their time between 50 – 250m. They do venture to deeper depths where the temperature drops to 3 degrees Celsius but scientists believe that due to the infrequency of these dives this is related to parasite removal, not feeding. Whale sharks cannot internally control their body temperature and so return to the surface to warm up and reload oxygen. This is why they can be found in the shallow waters around South Ari Atoll. During this warming and reloading period the sharks can be impaired cognitively and physically which explains their sluggish and relaxed behaviour.

Due to the sluggish behaviour of whale sharks and the shallow depths they travel in they are under threats from boats. It is estimated that 67% of whale sharks have injuries ranging from scratches to amputations. The effects of pollution, poor waste management and increased sedimentation on the whale shark population have not yet been suitably evaluated. Another issue is disturbances to their habitat resulting from tourism – if the guidelines for whale shark encounters are not followed the sharks can negatively be affected. For example, if a large group of tourists are crowding a shark it can cause the shark to dive before it has properly warmed up and reloaded oxygen. Adult whale sharks can also be targeted by great white sharks and orcas, whilst babies have been found in the stomachs of blue sharks and swordfish. In some parts of the world whale sharks are hunted for their meat and fins. In 2010 the Maldives implemented a ban on all forms of shark fishing. However, due to the longevity of whale sharks it will take many years for the population to return to optimal levels.

It is estimated that whale sharks can live between 70 – 100 years, reaching sexual maturity after 25 years at a size of eight to nine metres. Although some people report sightings of whale sharks up to 18 metres in length the largest confirmed has been 12.65m. It is easy to identify a male whale shark because when it has reached sexual maturity their sexual organs have a ragged appearance called claspers which extend past their pelvic fin. The whale shark is classified as ovoviviparous which means that they produce eggs which hatch inside the body. A female whale shark can store sperm for many months and can have babies at different stages of development. For example a female was found with 300 embryos at numerous stages of development. Due to whale sharks storing sperm and having babies at different stages of development the gestation period is unknown. Upon birth the pups are around half a metre in size and weight one kilo.

Whilst whale sharks are regularly sighted, 98% of these sightings are juvenile males with a length of six metres. At any one point it is estimated that there are 200 whale sharks in the waters of the Maldives. The most common behaviour observed of these sharks is cruising, only 12% of encounters are feeding.

We can’t wait to show you these gentle giants next time you are at Gili Lankanfushi. Please ask your Mr/Ms Friday and we can book a trip for you.  When you see one be sure to snap a photo of the checkerboard pattern on their side by their pectoral fins. This can help us with identification and research.

For more information and to upload your whale shark encounters please visit: https://maldiveswhalesharkresearch.org/

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.

Help Your Divers Keep Their New Year’s Resolution to Dive More Often

Written by Megan Denny

On average, 80% of people abandon their new year’s resolution by mid-February. But your customers are above-average, right? Help divers achieve their goal to dive more in the new year with these four helpful tips.

Schedule Recurring Activities

Regularly-scheduled activities make it easy for divers to fit scuba into their busy schedules. Whether you have a Saturday morning fun dive, or a club meeting the last Wednesday of every month, make an activity schedule and stick to it.

  • At the end of every class, dive club meeting, etc. talk about upcoming events and encourage divers to take out their phones and add plans to their calendars.
  • Post your events and activities to Facebook or other social media sites.
  • Include a list of upcoming events in your eNewsletter.

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Offer an Incentive

Each month, raffle off an enticing prize and invite customers to earn raffle entries by:

  • Attending dive club meetings
  • Getting airfills
  • Participating in Dive Against Debris® surveys
  • Bringing their gear in for service
  • Taking PADI® courses

Promote your giveaway online and in-store. Put a fishbowl next to your register with a small sign, “enter to win XYZ prize.” Each month, post a picture of the winner on social media and in your eNewsletter with a description of the current prize and how customers can win.

Important – your raffle must include an option for customers to enter the drawing without making a purchase or having an obligation. If a purchase or obligation is required to enter, that can be considered a lottery and is illegal in many areas.

Try a Disincentive

Encourage divers to show their commitment to diving more with a fun or philanthropic disincentive. Ask divers to choose a goal like logging 20 dives before 31 December, or earning their Master Scuba DiverTM rating. Then, help them choose a penalty for not meeting their goal.

Research has shown a disincentive can be more effective than an incentive to help people achieve their goals. The disincentive might be having to wash the dive center van, posting an embarrassing picture to social media, or something philanthropic like making a donation to Project AWARE®.

To keep things light, throw a year-end party for everyone who signed a commitment to dive more in the new year. Invite all participants whether they achieved their goal or not.

Use the Buddy System

Encourage dive buddies to set a team goal such as earning their PADI Rescue Diver certification. Create a #scubagoals social media post and ask your followers to share their goal and tag a buddy to help them achieve it. You can find a variety of images on the PADI Pros’ Site under Toolbox, Image/Video. Quickly and easily add your logo and custom text with Canva (a free online program)  See examples below:

Use the ideas above to help your customers feel a sense of accomplishment in the new year, while having fun and supporting their local dive shop.

Carpe Diem Maldives Introduces Coral Reef Awareness Campaign in Celebration of IYOR 2018

January 2018: Carpe Diem Maldives Pvt. Ltd. begins a 12-month social media campaign to celebrate International Year of Coral Reefs 2018.

Crystal clear waters teeming with colour and marine life surround The Maldives, making it one of the most appealing and diverse coral reef destinations in the world. The new digital campaign led by Carpe Diem Maldives promotes awareness towards the status of the destination’s coral reefs. Recreational and professional divers are invited to share their underwater images through Instagram and Facebook channels using hashtags #maldivesreefawareness #carpediemmaldives and #IYOR2018 stating information to three related Ds – dive, date and depth – on each image.

2018 was announced International Year of the Reef (IYOR – www.iyor2018.org) for the third time since 1997 by International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), an informal partnership between the Nations and organisations that strive to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems around the world. IYOR is a global effort to increase awareness and understanding on the values and threats to coral reefs, as well as to support related conservation, research and management efforts.

Francis Staub, International Coordinator for the Year of the Reef for ICRI states, “We welcome this initiative embracing modern media and recognising public awareness as an essential element of coral reef conservation. Campaigns such as this ensure that the general public understands the value of, and the threats to coral reefs. Furthermore, the ongoing stream of images through #maldivesreefawareness on social media channels provides marine scientists and other stakeholders around the world access to real time data on coral reefs in The Maldives.”

Regularly visited dive sites across the Maldivian atolls will be captured to show the real time reef status amidst the effects of global warming, while also recording the ongoing recovery and conservation efforts being carried out by organisations such as Coral Reef CPR. At the same time, the digital campaign encourages public engagement and general awareness to the importance of coral reefs globally.

Haris Mohamed, Acting Managing Director for Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation says, “Recently awarded World’s Leading Dive Destination at the 24th annual World Travel Awards, the Maldives attracts divers from around the world to experience the beauty of our underwater marine life and reefs. This initiative by Carpe Diem Maldives highlights the conservation efforts various organisations are carrying out to ensure our reefs remain resilient and healthy for generations to come. We strongly encourage all divers to the Maldives to share their images on social media with the hashtag #maldivesreefawareness.” 

Likewise, PADI Regional Manager for The Maldives, Matt Wenger, explains “Coral reefs are among the most beautiful ecosystems on the planet and PADI works with local communities around the world to ensure that residents understand the value of their local treasure. With close to 1.2 million tourist arrivals a year to The Maldives, initiatives like Carpe Diem’s #maldivesreefawareness are so important to get the message across about the beauty of the underwater world and why we need to do everything we can to protect it. We wholeheartedly encourage all divers to participate in this simple yet effective image sharing campaign.”

The digital campaign, which will run exclusively in The Maldives until December 31st, 2018, will be promoted to guests on Carpe Diem’s liveaboard dive cruises and at the upcoming resort in Raa Atoll. Carpe Diem Cruises welcome up to 60 divers weekly across all three of their luxury liveaboard cruises. Towards the end of 2018, campaign images posted throughout the year can be submitted to a panel of professional photographers, conservationists and IYOR officials, with a chance of winning a 4-night stay in 2019 at the new resort Carpe Diem Beach Resort & Spa.

 

For more information on Carpe Diem Maldives Pvt. Ltd., please visit www.carpediemmaldives.com

How Scuba Diving Can Help Customers Beat Holiday Stress

Written by Megan Denny

For many people, the holidays are equal parts fun and stressful. In one survey, Harvard University reports 62 percent of respondents felt “very stressed” or “somewhat stressed” during the holidays; only 10 percent reported no stress. Financial demands, interpersonal family issues and maintaining an exercise regimen were the top three causes of holiday worries.

Diving is a great way for people to relax with friends and stay active any time of year, but here are a few ways your dive business can help customers have fun and feel less stressed during the holidays.

Make Your Dive Center a Refuge from Holiday Insanity

Crowds, family, politics, family talking about politics – there are countless reasons your customers need a break from the holiday grind. Here are a few ways to make that happen:

  • Schedule a weekend fun dive followed by a potluck or picnic.
  • Host a pool event – photos with scuba Santa or underwater tree decorating.
  • Throw a customer appreciation party with awards for most-improved diver, best photographer, fish-whisperer, etc.
  • An evening PADI Seal Team® event can offer parents a welcome break. While your staff conducts AquaMissions, the grownups can browse your store or just enjoy a night off.
  • Offer a PADI Seal Team day camp to take advantage of school holidays.

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Invite Customers to Participate in a Good Cause

Some people find it hard to say “no” to holiday obligations, but might welcome the chance to excuse themselves to go have a little fun if it’s for a good cause. Why not turn your weekend fun dive into a food or toy drive? Or, at a customer appreciation party, host a raffle with proceeds benefiting Project AWARE or a local charity.

Help Divers with Their Holiday Shopping

Some customers may not think of their local dive center as a go-to destination for holiday shopping, but with the right mix of products and promotion, you can help divers complete a significant chunk of their holiday shopping. Stay top of mind by promoting your favorite gift ideas for men, women, kids and nondivers frequently on social media and in your eNewsletters.

Fun fact: Roughly half of holiday shoppers buy something for themselves. The New York Post reports “self-gifting” is at a 20-year high, and a 2015 study found Millennials are 40 percent more likely than Gen Xers or Boomers to self-gift.

Appeal to your customer’s desire to reward themselves:

  • Offer a voucher toward a future purchase (i.e. spend $500 US in 2017, get a $50 US gift card for 2018).
  • Use buy-one get-one deals (BOGO) such as “Buy an Open Water Diver or Advanced Open Water Diver course, get 50 percent off any specialty diver course.”
  • Invite them to book a relaxing dive holiday in 2018.

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Help Lapsed Divers Prepare for Their Next Adventures

PADI ReActivate® enables divers to conveniently refresh their diving knowledge and skills. Promote ReActivate on your website, social media and/or use targeted Google Search ads to attract lapsed divers who may be nervous about an upcoming dive trip.

When Life Gives You Fruitcake – Use It as Ballast

The holidays are also the season of eating, so it’s no surprise one-third of people worldwide make a new year’s resolution to lose weight. Invite customers to burn holiday calories by going for a dive or starting a continuing education course. In cooler climates PADI Rescue Diver, Digital Underwater Photographer and Dry Suit Diver can all be started in the pool and completed when open water conditions allow. As a reminder, even Open Water Divers can join in on Rescue Diver pool sessions.

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Scuba diving and hanging out with other divers is a great way to escape from the pressures of everyday life. Invite divers to add some weightlessness and underwater Zen into their holiday schedule at a shop-sponsored fun dive, pool event or get-together. They’ll feel more relaxed, and your business will benefit.

Maldives plastic recycling on a local islands

Gili Lankanfushi conserves our limited resources and cleans up our islands to help preserve our future.

Following the success of plastic recycling on Gili Lankanfushi we took the leap and expanded our project. On November 2nd Gili Lankanfushi visited Himmafushi, a local island and a big producer of plastic waste due to their plastic water bottle factory. With the assistance of the local NGO Parley, who are spearheading plastic recycling in the Maldives our aim was to implement a plastic recycling project at the school and expand this throughout the island. Together with Parley, the teachers and local council members in attendance Gili Lankanfushi conducted a 30 minute presentation including two activities which all the children participated in. The presentation was well received and the council were positive regarding expanding recycling to all areas of the island. After the school visit 50 staff from Gili Lankanfushi conducted an island plastic clean to demonstrate how easy it is to recycle plastic and what types of plastic can be recycled. A huge amount of plastic was collected and on seeing this the Himmafushi local community has also become inspired to recycle their plastic waste. Gili Lankanfushi will remain in close contact with Himmafushi and offer support and guidance when needed.

Launching plastic recycling on the local island Himmafushi

Launching plastic recycling on the local island Himmafushi

 

Giving presentation on plastic recycling to local school children and the council

Giving presentation on plastic recycling to local school children and the council

 Throughout August 2017 on Gili Lankanfushi 280 hosts attended the sustainability training. Host mentally regarding plastic pollution, water, electricity and food waste has now changed for the better. In addition to Gili Lankanfushi’s plastic presentation Maai Rasheed from Parley visited and conducted a presentation about plastic recycling. Hosts can now be seen regularly recycling their plastic and helping with island cleans – for example the recent Himmafushi clean.

The results of Himmafushi plastic clean up

The results of Himmafushi plastic clean up

 Following the training activities aimed at increasing host water and electricity use awareness, hosts now know how to reduce wasting these resources through enhanced understanding of water and electricity requirements of common activities. They were given top energy and water saving tips, for example using the fan over the AC, turning off electrical appliances, washing full loads in the washing machine at a low temperature – 20°C, air drying clothing, turning off lights, having shorter showers, only using a small amount of water when cleaning, turning the tap off when brushing teeth, shaving and soaping up. You can make these changes too!

Raising awareness about excessive water waste

Raising awareness about excessive water waste

 Over the coming months plastic recycling, food waste, electricity and water use will be monitored. In the near future we will host a no bin day in the canteen which will teach hosts about portion and waste control. We have already observed a decrease in water use – before training the average host would use 200L of water per day – this is now reduced to 160L. We are confident that hosts will continue to reduce the waste of resources and participate in plastic recycling.

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

 

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

Tourist Information

Unlike most destinations, don’t expect to find a tourist information center 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 organize 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 800KM 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

Coral fluorescence at Gili Lankanfushi

Are corals a shining beacon at night? Corals are not just a wonder to observe during the day, at night they glow. This isn’t just for our viewing benefit; it plays a vital role in the long term survival of coral.

Fluorescence of Porites cylindrica

Fluorescence of Porites cylindrica

Due to the richness of life they create, corals are often described as the rainforests of the ocean. Their structural complexity supports one of the world’s most productive ecosystems providing ecological diversity and outstanding beauty. The coral animal (polyp) co-habitats its calcium carbonate skeleton with photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae. These algae harness energy from solar radiation and provide the polyp with 95% of its food. Coral is therefore limited to the habitat range of the algae, which in turn is limited by the penetration of the suns ray into the ocean; both the intensity and spectral diversity of light dramatically decreases with increasing depth. Although the blue/green portion of sunlight reaches depths of around 200m the algae requires the higher light levels found in the upper 30m of the ocean. Corals are therefore limited to the upper portion of the ocean; aptly named the sunlight ocean. 

Spectral diversity of white light (sunlight) and the depth that the light waves penetrate. Image credit tohttpksuweb.kennesaw.edu

 

The corals exposure to high light levels is crucial for its survival, but this is not without consequence. The high light intensity that corals are subjected to everyday can damage coral and zooxanthellae – similar to our skin and sunburn. Shallow water corals have a solution to this: fluorescence. The coral contains special pigments (green fluorescent pigments (GFP) and non-fluorescent chromoproteins (CP) which act as sunblock. The fluorescent pigments are in particularly high concentrations and contribute to the beautiful rainbows of colours which can be observed on the reef. When the coral is subjected to high sun exposure the pigment concentration increases, hence limiting the damage experienced by the algae when under stress from sunlight. The pigments are also involved in growth related activities, including repair. Injured coral will produce colourful patches concentrating these pigments around their injury site which prevents further cell damage. Some corals have been found to distribute fluorescent pigments around their tentacles and mouth to attract prey.

 

We are able to observe the fluorescent pigments when corals are illuminated at specific wavelengths (generally blue light). In high pigment concentrations corals can become shining beacons at night. Light is absorbed by the pigments and then re-emitted. During this process some energy is lost resulting in a different colour being observed – generally green. During our blue light night snorkel it is possible to see corals glowing on the house reef at Gili Lankanfushi.

Fluorescence of Porites cylindrica

 

It is now widely accepted that fluorescent pigments aid in sun protection, so why do corals below 30m still have these pigments? In shallow reefs generally only green fluorescence is observed, whereas in the mesophotic zone (between 30 – 100m) corals shine green, orange, yellow and red. Fluorescent pigments are energetically costly to create, therefore the pigments must have a biological purpose, or else they would not exist at this depth. A study carried out by the University of Southampton found that deeper corals produce fluorescence without light exposure, which suggests that these corals are not producing pigments for sun protection. It is suspected that the corals are producing pigments to transform short light wavelengths received into longer wavelengths to enhance algae photosynthesis, thus producing more food for the polyp. It has also been suggested that it may link to behavior of reef fish, although more studies are required. Next time you are night diving take a look. Harnessing these fluorescent pigments could pose significant advances for medical, commercial and ecological purposes.

Many Acropora species also have fluorescent pigments. Credits to: Reef Works

 

Marine biologists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at San Diego have suggested that monitoring fluorescence could be an easy and less invasive way to monitor reef health. Scientists measured the fluorescence levels after corals were exposed to cold and heat stress. The levels were reduced when exposed to both stresses, although coral subjected to cold stress adapted and fluorescence levels returned to normal. Corals subjected to heat stress lost their algae and starved. Therefore, if high fluorescence levels are observed it suggests that the reef has a healthy coral population. Additionally there are many medical benefits that can be gained through the understanding and utilization of coral fluorescence. 

 

There are promising applications for biomedical imaging, for example pigments can be used to tag certain cells e.g. cancer cells which can then be easily viewed under the microscope. The fluorescent pigments also have the potential to be used in sun screen. Fish feeding on coral benefit from the fluorescent pigments which suggests that the pigments move up the tropic levels (food chain). Senior lecturer from King’s College London and project leader of coral sunscreen research, Paul Long and his team have suggested that if the transportation pathway up the food chain is identified it may be possible to use this to protect our skin against UV rays in the form of a tablet. This could a break-through in terms of reef safe sun screen.

 

Next time you are night snorkelling shine a blue light on the corals and view this natural wonder yourself! 

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.

 

7 reasons Fulidhoo Island in the Maldives is a dream diving destination

A Maldivian island that’s within easy access from the international airport, but feels remote? It seems almost impossible to find these days. But Fulidhoo Island in Vaavu Atoll is quickly garnering a reputation for being convenient yet secluded. The island is a fantastic base to explore an atoll offering some of the country’s best channel dives and the chance to dive with up to 100 nurse sharks at night. And with rooms starting at 40 US dollars, there’s really no reason not to go. But if you still need convincing, here’s seven reasons why it should be your next diving destination.

Fulidhoo Island Maldives

1. It costs 3.5 US dollars to get there from Male

No, that’s not a typo – you did read that correctly; it costs less than the price of a Starbucks coffee to get to Fulidhoo from the capital. Thanks to the government-subsidised public ferry that departs from Male three times a week, tourists can get to Fulidhoo for virtually nothing. The journey takes three and a half hours, but it’s scenic and comfortable, and there are snacks on board. It even has a sundeck for dolphin watching! Oh, and for those who prefer their transfers a little quicker, there are daily speedboats to the island for around 50 dollars per person that take an hour.

2. Vaavu Atoll is channel diving, sharky heaven

Throughout the Maldives, the passes that cut through the atolls’ barrier reefs are where the real pelagic action is found. Reef sharks, schools of trevallies and barracudas congregate here to hunt. And if the Maldives is known for its channels, then Vaavu Atoll, where Fulidhoo is located, is the country’s channel diving capital. There are dozens of channels in the atoll promising high adrenaline diving.

Shark diving with Fulidhoo Dive Maldives

3. Accommodation on the island is seriously affordable

Whereas resort islands in the Maldives charge eye-watering prices for just one night, because Fulidhoo is a local, inhabited island, divers can find accommodation in one of its small guesthouses for around 50 dollars a night for two people, including breakfast, even during high season. You can expect comfortable, clean, air-conditioned rooms, often with a sea view. And because Fulidhoo is so small, even the furthest guesthouse is only a 5-minute walk to the jetty.

Best local island dive centre

4. The island is famous for its beautiful lagoon and strong cultural traditions

Even among Maldivians, Fulidhoo has a reputation for being extremely beautiful. Vaavu is affectionately known as ‘Wow Atoll’ by locals. There’s no harbour, only a small wooden pier, so the beach is uninterrupted. The shallow lagoon stretches out far from the island and is a great place for kids to play, or to kayak. In fact, the island was recently voted Top Island 2017 at the annual Maldives Guesthouses Conference. And in the evening, divers can enjoy watching the locals play bodu beru (‘big drums’) and performing cultural dances – they’re famous for keeping local traditions alive.

5. You can dive with up to 100 nurse sharks at night

Vaavu Atoll’s most famous dive site is Alimatha House Reef, where divers can get extremely close to the resident nurse sharks and stingrays. As divers kneel on the sandy bottom, it’s not uncommon to see these harmless sharks squeeze between their legs or flop down beside them – it’s truly a bucket list experience!

6. You’ll often be the only divers on the dive site

Unlike South Male Atoll and Ari Atoll, Vaavu is home to only two resorts and only a handful of local islands, which means that the dive sites are far, far quieter. Similarly, liveaboards often head straight to Alimatha for a night dive and are in Ari Atoll by the following morning. All this means that for the most part, the northern part of Vaavu Atoll feels remote and unexplored, despite being extremely accessible.

Fulidhoo Dive Centre Maldives

7. From Fulidhoo, you can dive both the eastern and western sides of the atoll

There are two seasons in the Maldives. The Iruvai season, which runs from November to April, is when the wind generally blows from the North East and brings a hot, dry climate and the best conditions for diving. The Hulhangu season, from May to October, is generally seen as the low-season for diving, with chances of rain, wind and reduced visibility. However, during this season you can still get very good viz on the western edge of the atolls, which is when the location of Fulidhoo comes into play. Because the island is located on the northern tip of the atoll, depending on the wind, divers can enjoy dives with good visibility and good, incoming current throughout the year.

About the author: Adele Verdier-Ali is the co-owner of Fulidhoo Dive, alongside Maldivian PADI Staff Instructor Ali Miuraj. Fulidhoo Dive is a 5-Star PADI Dive Centre, and the only dive centre in Fulidhoo. For more information, visit www.fulidhoodive.com or drop them a line at hello@fulidhoodive.com.

 

 

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

This blog has several parts, next week read about money and taxes……

With the advent of local island guesthouses and low cost flight carriers there has never been a more affordable time to travel to the Maldives. At Male International airport it is becoming a far more common sight to see guests arriving with backpacks and not matching Louis Vuitton luggage. These travellers are here to experience a destination previously perceived to be only for those seeking luxury. So maybe it’s time you considered putting the Maldives on your travel map!

Whilst budget travel in the Maldives is a growing sector of the tourism industry there still remains limited information available for would be travelers and backpackers. So the team at Secret Paradise put our heads together to provide what we feel are the Top 10 tips every budget traveler should be aware of.

Clearing Immigration and security

To enter the Maldives no pre-arrival visa is required, a thirty day free visa is issued on arrival to all nationalities, provided the following conditions are met:

Be holding a valid passport (requires to be valid for 6 months from date of arrival) and have a valid ticket to continue your journey out of the Maldives

Confirmation of a reservation in a tourist resort or a hotel either in the form of a hotel voucher or online reservation and have enough funds to cover the expenses for the duration of your stay (US$100 + $50 dollars per day)

The right to refuse entry lies at the discretion of the Immigration official, so make it easier for yourself and organise your accommodation prior to your arrival. Online sites such as Booking.Com, Airbnb and Trip Advisor are a great place to start or if you are looking for more of an experience and not just accommodation contact Secret Paradise.

Once you have cleared immigration, collect your luggage and enter the arrivals hall where a representative of the guesthouse or resort should be waiting for you. Importing goods such as alcohol, pork items, pornography, idols of worship and narcotics into the Maldives is strictly forbidden. To make life easier declare the Buddha that you have purchased in Sri Lanka and the bottle of vodka picked up in duty free, the authorities will hold any items declared or undeclared for you to collect as you depart at the end of your stay.

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.