Sun screen: A new threat to a vulnerable reef

Is it our health for theirs? Gili Lankanfushi begins an eco-sunscreen revolution.

Sun screen is a holiday essential – from children covered in a thick layer, to the bald spot on Dad’s head. We think sun screens are safe, but is this the reality? A key ingredient in more than 3,500 sun protection products is oxybenzone. This chemical is absorbed into our bloodstream, can cause allergic reactions and very worryingly was last tested as far back as the 1970’s. It is also possible that oxybenzone may act similarly to a related chemical, benzophenone which attacks DNA when illuminated, and can lead to cancer. Studies are currently being carried out. Annually four to six thousand tonnes of these chemicals enter our ocean through wastewater effluent, and by swimmers slathered up with sunscreen. Acting like an oil slick, the chemicals settle on marine life and the reefs become suffocated.

Reef safe sun screen with no oxybenzone

Corals are animals called polyps that share their home with algae called zooxanthellae. They work together in a symbiotic relationship which means both parties benefit. The coral animal produces a skeleton to shelter the algae whilst building the reef and the algae through photosynthesis provide the coral animal with 95% of its food. In the Maldives, the reefs are under severe external pressure. Sun screen is an added significant hazard which threatens the resiliency of the coral to climate change.

Healthy coral with blue-green chromis population

Bleaching is the term used when coral loses its symbiotic algae; this can happen for a variety of reasons. A study by R. Danovaro and a team of scientists showed that oxybenzone promotes latent viral growth in the symbiotic algae. In the study, fragments of coral were taken throughout the tropics and incubated with seawater containing small quantities of sunscreen (10 microlitres). Bleaching occurred within four days, whereas in the control group which had no sunscreen there was no bleaching. Water samples taken 18 – 48 hours after sunscreen exposure showed that the symbiotic algae, instead of being a healthy brown colour were pale/transparent and full of holes. Additionally viral particles were abundant; 15 times more viral particles where found in water samples exposed to sunscreen than in the control group. This suggests that the coral animal or algae contain a latent virus activated by chemicals in sunscreen. This latent infection is found globally. Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant, which means that its negative effects are accelerated by light – something which the Maldives does not lack. In other studies, oxybenzone has been found to alter the larval stage of the coral from a healthy swimming state to a deformed motionless condition. It has also been found to cause DNA lesions and endocrine disruption, resulting in coral larvae encasing themselves in their skeletons and dying. The severity of this is proportional to chemical concentration.

Bleaching experiment by R. Danovaro and his team. They tested the effects of 100-μL sunscreens on Acropora divaricata nubbins after 24-hr incubation at various temperatures. (A) control; (B) nubbins incubated at 28°C; and (C) nubbins incubated (photo credit to R. Danovaro and his team)

In some parts of the world oxybenzone found on the surface has reached concentrations that indicate the potential for bioaccumulation of this chemical within reef organisms. Since oxybenzone mimics oestrogen it is causing male fish to change into females. This has been particularly noticed in turbot and sole feeding near sewage outlets. Since a healthy fish population is vital for reef survival this feminisation of fish will have a devastating long term impact.

As the effects of sunscreen are becoming more apparent positive action is being taken. In Mexico, several marine reserves have banned the use of none marine safe sun protection products after high mortality was noted in reef organisms and currently Hawaii is trying to ban the sale of harmful sunscreen. In addition, the development of eco-friendly sunscreens is now booming.

We at Gili Lankanfushi want to become part of this movement and understand that we need to protect our delicate marine environment, which is why the boutique is now selling a range of marine safe products, so next time you are here please help us protect our reef!

Reef safe sun screen with no oxybenzone

Please refer to this link for reef safe sunscreen: http://scubadiverlife.com/top-four-reef-safe-sunscreens/

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.

Support Sea grass

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

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

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

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

Aerial view of Lankanfushi Island and sea grass beds

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

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

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

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

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

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

Crown of Thorns Eradication

As the corals of the Maldives are already vulnerable our understanding and removal efforts of the crown of thorns starfish is paramount to the health of our reef.

Everyday Gili Lankanfushi has sightings of the voracious crown-of-thorns starfish (COT) Acanthaster planci. Native to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region and the largest species of starfish (Asteroidea), they are generally seen at depths of up to 30 metres. However, they have also been known to travel between Atolls at great depths of around 200m. There are four species of COT, but it is A. planci which is responsible for coral mortality in the Northern Indian Ocean and the coral triangle. COTS are corallivores and during optimal conditions can grow to over half a meter in diameter and have more than 30 arms.

Crown of Thorns

Generally COTS can be considered a keystone species because they can maintain healthy coral reef diversity by primarily feeding on fast growing corals, such as staghorn and plate (Acropora sp.) and enable the slower massive corals to establish and develop. When coral coverage is low, often resulting from COT outbreaks, COTS will eat PoritesMontipora, sponges, algae and encrusting organisms. One COT can consume all the coral in a 6 to 10m square radius annually, so the impact on an already vulnerable reef is catastrophic. The feeding behaviour is dependent on population density, water motion and species composition. COTS are covered in venomous spines coated with saponin which causes irritation and pain at a puncture wound. The spines are long, sharp and lowered to avoid drag.

Fossil evidence suggests that COTS developed millions of years ago. However, COT outbreaks have only occurred in the last 60 to 70 years and with increasing frequency and intensity. The first recorded outbreak occurred in the 1950s in the Ryukyu Islands off Japan. Combined with anthropogenic threats and other stresses outbreaks are greatly detrimental to coral reef survival and the fish associated with the reef.

Crown of Thorns destruction: 1 – healthy coral, 2 – freshly killed coral, 3 – recently killed portion colonised by algae and bacteria, 4 – long dead coral

COT outbreaks in the Maldives are relatively recent; the first recorded outbreak was in the 1970’s, the second in the 1990’s. Currently we are experiencing an outbreak which started in 2013. It began in North Male Atoll and has spread through to Ari Atoll, Baa Atoll, Lhaviyani Atoll, South Male Atoll and large densities have recently been documented in Shaviyani Atoll.

Outbreaks result for a variety of reasons. Firstly, when there is an excess of nutrients entering the water as a consequence of runoff from sewage, fertiliser and other island practices. The resulting eutrophication leads to increased plankton for the COT larvae and decreased juvenile mortality. Secondly, loss of COT predators; napoleon wrasse, lined worm, harlequin shrimp, starry puffer fish, titan and yellow margin triggerfish and triton’s trumpet (red and spangled emperor and parrotfish have been known to feed off young COTS before they have spines).

COT being predated upon by Triton’s Trumpet.

Loss of predators occurs due to overfishing for the souvenir trade, bycatch and habitat destruction. This leads to a drop in already low predation pressure and results in a COT population surge. Finally, COTS have excellent adaptations as they are resilient organisms with an selected life history (high growth rate, typically exploit less crowded ecological niches and produce many off spring). COT females can produce 65 million eggs annually between October to February. The eggs are released into the water column and are fertilized by clouds of sperm from nearby males. After fertilisation larvae are in their planktonic form and remain that way for weeks. After settling on the sea floor and developing into their adult form they develop their spines and start feeding off coral. This process can take around a year. COTS are most vulnerable before their spines are developed. Additionally, they can survive between 6 to 9 months without food, and body parts lost due to stress or predation can regenerate within 6 months.

Short and long term methods are being established around the world to minimise the effects of current outbreaks and to help prevent future outbreaks. The marine biology team at Gili Lankanfushi is focused on the removal of COTS. Our primary aim is removing these creatures from the overwater villas and jetty’s. Guests and hosts report sightings of COTS, and our team of marine biologists will remove them by injecting them with vinegar. This method is labour intensive and is carried out as regularly as possible by both the Marine Biology team and the Dive Centre.

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.

 

To eat or not to eat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

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

Colonies of Hope

Blog written by guest blogger and marine biologist Clare Baranowski

Preserving coral reefs is a growing concern in the Maldives

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

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

Josie monitoring our 153 coral lines

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

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

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

Josie beginning the process

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

Clare cutting the coral from the line

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

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

Attaching the colonies using epoxy

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

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

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

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

MALDIVES DIVING HOLIDAYS

Life beneath the surface in the Maldives is an underwater Disneyland, perfect for dive enthusiasts. The Maldives is renowned as one of the very best diving locations in the world. There’s not only an abundance of reef life here but also spectacular coloured coral and crystal clear water.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Nigel Wade

WHY CHOOSE THE MALDIVES FOR YOUR DIVING HOLIDAY?

The Maldives ticks all of the boxes when it comes to diving holidays. This tropical location boasts visibility levels of up to 40 meters, making it a great destination for advanced divers. However diving in the Maldives is not just for the experienced. The shallow lagoons and channels make it the perfect location to try diving for the very first time. Plus what better destination in the world is there to gain your scuba-diving certifications?

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

The Maldives is also home to protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The presence of currents in this island nation means that open water channels are perfect for drift diving and it’s also possible to swim with gentle ocean giants like manta rays and whale sharks. Don’t forget the Maldives has year round water temperatures of 26 – 29 degrees Celsius!

THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR DIVING IN THE MALDIVES

Fortunately, the diving season in the Maldives is open all year round with the calmest conditions from December through to June. As the Maldives is located in the tropics, it is susceptible to both wet and dry seasons. June to November is the south-west monsoon season, bringing with it with overcast and wet conditions, especially in June and July. During these months expect slightly less visibility and different currents, although there is still plenty of marine life on offer, as well as sunny spells. Generally reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side from December to April. Reef sharks, hammerheads and whale sharks are found in the Maldives year round, along with manta rays and sea turtles, you just need to know where to head at the time of year you plan to dive!

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

DIVING OPTIONS

There are a number of diving options when it comes to Maldives. For example at Secret Paradise, value for money diving holidays and tours will be offered that you will remember for a lifetime. Enjoy an all-inclusive guesthouse stay and be transferred by boat to incredible nearby dive sites, the same sites that you would dive from a resort but at half the cost! Our diving holidays are an affordable alternative to a resort stay and also allow you the flexibility of island hopping or if your budget is larger, atoll hopping to benefit from the best dive locations during your time of travel.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

Liveaboards are a popular dive holiday option, allowing you to scour the waters for the ultimate dive spot each day. These days most Liveaboards operate a year round schedule offering 7 night, 10 night and 14 night cruises not only in the central atolls but to the deep south and deep north offering opportunities to discover less dived sites and pristine coral.

SECRET PARADISE DIVING HOLIDAYS

 Secret Paradise, offers six diverse one island based diving packages, all in different atolls allowing you access to what are some of the best dive sites in the world. Our packages include Dharavandhoo, perfect if you want to encounter 100s of manta rays in Baa Atoll, Hulhumale if you need to stay close to the capital, Maafushi, South Male Atoll, Dhigurah home of the whale shark in Ari Atoll, Rasdhoo, the ideal location to spot a hammerhead and Gan in Laamu atoll.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Boutique Beach

Our island hopping itineraries in Male Atoll and Ari Atoll allow you to discover a range of dive sites and marine life whilst at the same time experiencing Maldives local life, tradition and culture, with or without a private dive guide.

DIVE TEAMS

All partners of secret Paradise are PADI affiliated dive centers and are operated by both local and European dive professionals. A personal interest is taken in promoting scuba diving in the Maldives, through education and awareness about the underwater environment here. Their objective is to encourage underwater conservation and safe diving practices

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Nigel Wade

Dives are generally conducted from the beach within an island’s inner reef for beginners or from a local dive boat, a dhoni, for certified divers. Dive sites are chosen daily based on both the weather and current conditions as well as diver ability.

The teams will take you to the best dive spots and willingly introduce you to the characteristics of the underwater world of the Maldives. All offer boat dives, NITROX, night dives and a full range of PADI courses and will always ensure you get the best out of your dive. If you are learning to dive, you can do anything from completing a try dive or just the open water dive section of your PADI Open Water certification to completing the full PADI Open Water certification. Whatever you choose to do you can be assured of fun and safe diving with us and our partners.

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin

Photo credit – Nigel Wade

Secret Paradise Co-Founder, Ruth Franklin a diver herself with over 1500 dives in the Maldives is always happy to share her own diving experiences and is on hand for honest dive advice.

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

Kuredu, Sea Turtles Heaven

Since 4th November 2016, 74 sea turtles have been registered around Kuredu (Kuredu House Reef/Laoon, Kuredu Express, Kuredu Caves and Kuredu Coral Garden). 58 of those individuals are Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas).

The reef around Kuredu houses almost one third of all registered Green sea turtles in the Maldives. Incredible! The island is an important feeding and nesting ground for Green sea turtles.

The Stars:

Audrey (GR459) is a regular in Kuredu Lagoon and often observed enjoying her sea grass meals. This Green turtle is easily identified by its missing left rear flipper. Despite being handicapped, Audrey is in good shape (and has a big appetite)!

Pia (456) is a juvenile Green sea turtle with a shell length of about 40cm. With 20 registered sightings, Pia is the most sighted individual at Kuredu Caves!

Bjoern (GR38) is one of the first identified sea turtles in the Maldives. Also, he is the only male at Kuredu Caves! His impressive size of 70cm in shell length and the long tail gives him away as a male. The length of a sea turtle’s tail tells the sex.

Every sea turtle has a unique scale pattern on the left and right side of its head. This pattern allows for individual identification and population assessments. As part of the “Hurawalhi sea turtle ID project”, every sea turtle sighting is registered. Supporting the project will be rewarded! If you submit right and left side pictures of a newly identified sea turtle, you can name it! Become a sea turtle’s namesake for a kind donation of $50 to the Olive Ridley Project. You will receive a naming certificate and updates whenever your sea turtle gets relighted.

FUN FACT: Green Sea Turtles can hold their breath for over 4 hours.

 

Prodivers is one of the leading dive and watersport operators in the Maldives with currently five 5* PADI dive centres. If you are fancy visiting them please check out their website www.prodivers.com

Kuredu Express – One dive site, endless experiences

A favourite dive site of many guests, Kuredu Express is full of surprises – the varied topography coupled with the ever-changing current conditions mean it’s never the same dive twice. This well-known site is dived by Prodivers Kuredu 3-4 times a week, and during the last 10 years we’ve dived it a whopping 2337 times!

What makes Kuredu Express so alluring?

Currents

The ‘Express’ part of the site’s name comes from the currents that flow here – sometimes fast and furious, sometimes mild and mellow but often quickly changing. The outreef current and channel currents each play their part in how the site is dived, adding to the variety of diving on offer here. Due to the rapid changes in currents, divers can encounter a vast variety of marine life which makes diving on Kuredu Express a special and unique experience. With the right conditions this site can be accessible to most qualified divers.

Topography

It’s a dramatic site with three distinct areas – the sandy channel, the corner with large terraces and the huge overhangs or bays at the start of the outreef.

Sharks!

Famous as having one of the largest shark populations in the Lhaviyani Atoll, with the right conditions the shark action here can be mind blowing, but there’s more to the life on Kuredu Express than just sharks… there’s an enormous quantity of schooling fish, eagle rays, sting rays, napoleon, tuna and, on rare occasions, even hammerhead sharks. Turtles, moray eels, and even leaf fish have been found here too. If it’s the sharks that interest you, learn about them prior to a dive with them during our Maldivian Shark and Ray Diver course, a PADI Distinctive Specialty.

Great photographic opportunities

With a small current divers can take their time exploring the overhangs and getting great shots with blue water background and, when the current is pumping, simply hang on and enjoy the show unfold at the corner as the pelagic photobomb your every shot!

Location

Just 5 minutes from Kuredu jetty – it doesn’t get much more convenient than this.

On 12th April 2017, Laurie Miller, 40 time repeater guest on Kuredu, dived Kuredu Express for the 150th time. He is a passionate diver and his knowledge of marine life is impressive. We asked Laurie to share his views about our beloved Kuredu Express:

What is it about Kuredu Express that fascinates you?

“It’s like doing 3 dives in one. First you have the deep channel with nice overhangs where strong currents present the opportunity to see some of the bigger fish, then you have the outreef where we usually see the big Napoleons and lastly the bays where the fish life is booming.”

What are your most memorable moments on Kuredu Express?

“When the sharks are swimming between the divers. First time I’ve ever seen a Blacktip reef shark was on Express. One of the few places where you will find the Palette Surgeonfish, a.k.a. Blue Tang, a.k.a. Dory. I’ve seen the peacock flounder there as well.”

How would you sum up Kuredu Express?

“It’s a different experience with new challenges every time you do it because of the different currents.”

We left Laurie to enjoy the rest of his 40th stay on Kuredu, in fact he’s still here, enjoying diving free of charge as a special perk for visiting 40 times. Check out our generous Repeater Discount Program and you could follow in Laurie’s footsteps

Sharks, Rays and Turtles – Your PADI Speciality with Prodivers Kuredu

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

Photo by Ray van Eeden

You got to love sharks, rays and turtles! In fact, at Kuredu Prodivers we love our residents so much that we’ve compiled everything we know about them and created two specialty courses that you should put on your must-do list: Maldivian Shark & Ray Distinctive Specialty Course, and Sea Turtle Diver Course. These two courses provide the best way for you to learn more about these incredible animals – and of course see them in their natural environment, at reefs around Kuredu.

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

During the Maldivian Shark and Ray course you will find out more about the incredible sensory system that sharks and rays possess, learn how to identify the different species, determine their gender and understand the mating behaviour, as well as the need for us to preserve and protect the current populations of sharks and rays. The narrow channels, where the currents flow in and out of the atoll and the deep out reefs around Kuredu are the ideal habitat to get encounters with sharks and rays.

Photo by Marek Machinia

Photo by Marek Machinia

For those of you prefer the sleepy headed sea turtles, the Sea Turtle Course will surely be of interest to you, especially since Kuredu is home to the largest known population of Green Sea Turtles in the Maldives. With over 63 identified individuals resident around the island, this makes it the perfect place to enrol in the course. It offers the chance to learn more about how turtles have adapted and evolved through their fight for survival, and you will also learn how to identify the different species and to distinguish whether they are male and female, and how they reproduce. Are you familiar with the famous Kuredu Caves, a.k.a. Turtle Airport? The course is also available to snorkelers.

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

Photo by Stefanie Wagner

The PADI Maldivian Shark & Ray Distinctive Specialty Course was developed by Prodivers to help increase the awareness about these magnificent creatures. Get in touch with us to find out more about diver qualification requirements for the courses.

Visit www.prodivers.com or drop us an email via info@prodivers.com

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PADI Pioneers: Generating Ocean Warriors in the Maldives

In a quiet corner of a luxury resort in the Maldives you’ll find an PADI Five Star IDC centre quite unlike any other.

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Teaching Maldivians to scuba dive might seem to some like selling coals to Newcastle. Wherever you stand in the Maldives, you’re always barely a stone’s throw from the ocean, and many Maldivians can swim before they can walk. Diving is in the country’s DNA.

It could come as a surprise to some then, that until the mid-2000s, there were only a handful of places offering PADI Instructor Development Courses in the country, with many aspiring instructors actually having to travel to Thailand to complete their certifications.

Founding an Institution

Luckily, this didn’t go unnoticed by Hussain ‘Sendi’ Rasheed, the Maldives’ first and only PADI Course Director and in 2006, he decided to do something about it. Working at the time as the operations manager of Holiday Island Resort & Spa, part of the Villa conglomerate, Sendi approached the company chairman – the Hon. Qasim Ibrahim – and shared his concerns about the lack of educational opportunities for local dive and water sport professionals.

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The conversation would not only change his own life, but would ultimately change the face of diving education in the Maldives. Convinced by the lack of Maldivian educational facilities for divers, Mr Ibrahim asked Sendi to oversee the development of an institution that would change all that. Like Sendi, he wanted to provide a space for Maldivians to become qualified leaders in the diving field. And with that, The Villa Institute of Water Sports and Hospitality was born the same year.

A Place in the Sun

Purpose-built in a quiet corner of Sun Island Resort & Spa (another Villa Hotel), the institute quickly became a hub for young dive and water sports enthusiasts hoping to make a career in the industry. With spacious student and teacher accommodation and modern classrooms overlooking a lagoon that welcomes whale sharks and manta rays to its outer reef, the establishment is enough to make any Course Director drool.

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But what makes the institute really special is what it aims to achieve. Its objective? To equip a new generation of certified PADI Dive Masters and Instructors with the skills needed to become not only leaders in the field of recreational diving tourism but also trailblazers in ecological advocacy.

Expansion and Diversification

Lofty goals to say the least, but within a few short years it has managed to do just that. After a restructuring to become the founding faculty of Villa College, (now the Maldives’ leading private education provider offering courses in everything from marketing to law) and an expansion to include facilities in the capital, the reigns were handed over to Dr. Sham’aa ‘Anna’ Hameed. Under her leadership and the close involvement of Sendi, the institute is well on track to realise its vision.

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Not only does the faculty run multiple PADI Instructor Development Courses throughout the year, it now offers Certificate Three, foundation and even degree courses in marine studies that offer PADI electives as course credit.

Ocean Warriors

These courses provide students with the tools to become innovators in the field of marine studies. As a result, graduating students go on to enter the Maldivian workforce in a number of roles: as dive and water sports instructors of course, but also as researchers, marine biologists, wildlife rangers, even government environmental officials and legislators.

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What started as an initiative of affirmative action to provide quality education and training for locals has now developed into an educational model that is forward thinking on an international level. As such, they are arming a legion of self-titled ‘Ocean Warriors’ with the skills to be the next generation of environmental guardians and leaders in the Maldivian diving industry.

 

About the author: Adele Verdier-Ali is a freelance travel writer and content marketer who has been living in the Maldives for over six years. She’s a certified PADI rescue diver and when she’s not underwater, she writes about Maldivian culture and tourism. You can read more of her thoughts over on www.littlebirdjournal.com

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