The importance of a good dive buddy

From the very beginning of a divers training, the importance of being and having a good buddy is emphasised, it is one of the key aspects of recreational scuba diving. As well as helping reduce risk, a buddy should enhance your dive from start to finish – a shared experience is always the best!

Benefits of buddy diving:

  1. They are an extra pair of hands when donning the scuba gear and taking it off again at the end of a dive – why struggle alone when a buddy can help?
  2. In the water, they can offer reminders about planned/actual depth and to check how much air is left – on a really exciting dive where sharks and rays are swimming all around, divers can be easily distracted and forget these basic checks – a good buddy means another chance to remember
  3. Should a diver need a little help such as with a cramp in their leg a buddy can help to alleviate the problem quickly and effectively – the divers can then get back to enjoying the dive
  4. In absolute emergency situations such as running out of air, a panic situation or entanglement, a buddy is an immediate source of life-saving help, without which the consequences could be life-threatening
  5. Navigational help – two brains are often better than one in navigational challenges!
  6. Someone to share amazing sightings with and most importantly, a witness to the countless sharks, super rare critters and giant manta rays seen – without a buddy the story just wouldn’t be believable!
  7. A second pair of eyes on the reef and in the blue – diving with a buddy presents double the chance of spotting something really amazing.
  8. Safety stops can be a time of quiet contemplation of the dive just completed and they can also be a time of funny faces and silly signals…and a lot of laughing bubbles drifting up to the surface – a buddy can be an excellent source of entertainment, diving is meant to be fun after all.


Divers usually find themselves travelling without a dive buddy in tow but this is not a problem at all – especially when diving with Prodivers Maldives. Buddy teams are agreed on the boats and the instructor guiding the dive is always very happy to accompany anyone who isn’t paired up. It’s beneficial for the buddy teams to stay with the guide anyway as they know the reefs like the back of their hand and can point out all the really cool stuff.

As divers get more experienced they may be tempted to go and dive on their own, they may think that they can handle anything and become quite blasé about the risks involved. The fact is that scuba diving is a high-risk adventure sport IF embarked upon alone, but when the correct procedures are followed and the buddy diving system is adhered to, the sport enjoys an excellent safety record. No matter how experienced a diver is a good buddy is as essential as the tank on their back!

Marine Science Workshop at Hurawalhi: The First of its Kind in Lhaviyani Atoll

Hurawalhi Maldives is proud to announce that the resort’s Marine Biology Center, a Manta Trust research facility, is set to host a Marine Science Workshop, the first of its kind in Lhaviyani Atoll.

The workshop, which will take place on Saturday, 14th July 2018, invites marine biologists, dive instructors, snorkel guides and tour operators in the region (Lhaviyani Atoll) to come and meet their fellow ocean advocates and to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to provide their guests with the most up-to-date information; what’s more, the workshop will look to further instill sustainable tourism values and practices in the atoll’s community, and facilitate better research collection and collaboration in the atoll.

The workshop will be led by Manta Trust’s Project Manager and Hurawalhi’s Resident Marine Biologist, Kirsty Ballard, who will educate attendees about Manta Trust’s Maldivian Manta Ray Project‘s most recent finding. Kirsty will be joined by representatives from Atoll Marine Centre and Olive Ridley Project who will discuss their current turtle and clownfish research projects.

Event update and photo gallery

Marine Science Workshop Hurawalhi Maldives

The Workshop was a huge success! Participants from Hurawalhi, Kuredu, Komandoo, Kanuhura, Cocoon and Atoll Marine Centre had a fact-filled day. Hungry for knowledge, they were all ears during introductions from Kirsty Ballard who organised the event and Mohamed Solah, Director of Operations at Hurawalhi, and subsequent presentations: Kirsty further expanded on the Manta Trust research and findings, Dr. Stephanie Köhnk (Olive Ridley Project team member and Turtle Biologist and Educator at Kuredu) provided insights into sea turtle research, Atoll Marine Centre team shared knowledge on turtles, clownfish breeding programme and coral propagation, and CorAlive spoke about coral accretion methods.

Hurawalhi was pleased to have had the pleasure to host the Marine Science Workshop. We are certain that the resort’s Marine Biology Center will play an important role in educating marine users and providing tools to ensure tourism activities are conducted in a sustainable manner also in the future.

This was the first marine science workshop of its kind in Lhaviyani Atoll and both Hurawalhi and Manta Trust are confident in saying that it provided an excellent starting point for an even more increased and integrated research collaboration within the atoll.

Underwater Symbiotic Relationships – Part 1

Symbiotic relationships occur when two different organisms live together. We can divide these relationships in 3 types:

Mutualism: when both individuals benefit from the relationship;

Commensalism: when only one benefits from it, while the other species is not affected;

Parasitism: when not only just one specie benefits from it but also causes harm to the other one.

We, as divers, are lucky to observe many of these underwater living arrangements. Here are just two examples:

Anemone and Clownfish

Here is a classic example of mutualism. The clownfish, also known as Nemo or anemonefish, seeks shelter in the midst of the stinging tentacles of the anemone. The anemone’s poison can paralyze other fishes but the clownfish has a thick layer of mucus and is immune to it. The anemone offers protection and a safe place for the clownfish to lay its eggs. Moreover, the clownfish also gets a little bit of food, as it eats the anemone’s dead tentacles and leftovers.

But the clownfish also has a lot to offer. It helps to scare away some predators and gets rid of parasites. Scientists say that it might even help to oxygenate the anemone as it swims through it. The fish’s excrement are full of nitrogen, which contributes to the anemone’s growth.

The anemone can also host crabs and shrimps, offering protection without getting anything in return (commensalism).

Goby and Pistol shrimp

That is a very interesting mutualistic relationship. The shrimp is almost blind, making it very hard for it to spot predators in time. In the other hand, it is a very good digger and a specialist when it comes to burrows. By contrast, the goby has an excellent eye-sight but is quite defenseless when it comes to predators. So, what a better way to survive than to combine their strengths to minimize their weaknesses?

During the day, the goby stays at the entrance of the burrow, keeping an eye out for any predators. Meanwhile, the shrimp is busy digging and improving their house. The long antenna of the shrimp is always in contact with goby’s fins. If any danger comes to sight, the goby flicks his tail in a certain way and the shrimp quickly goes back inside. If the predator gets any closer, the goby also retreats to the safety of his burrow.

When night comes, the pair goes back inside their shelter. The shrimp closes the entrance with pebbles to guarantee a good night’s sleep.

Do you want to find out more about other symbiotic relationships? Read blog part two, next week.

 

Guest Blogger at Ocean Dimensions

Diving and snorkelling in the Maldives is like no other place on Earth. Located at the incredible Kihaa Maldives Resort, Ocean Dimensions offers a range of courses and activities to allow novice and seasoned pros the chance to experience the wonders of the Indian Ocean.

With over 20 years in the Maldives, the Ocean Dimensions team not only offers its experience, but also its passion to those who would like to share and enjoy the waters around Kihaa and the world famous Baa Atoll, a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve.

Kihaa is the closest resort in the Maldives to Hanifaru Bay, a unique protected area that offers the chance to swim with manta rays and whalesharks as they come to the area to feed.

Underwater Symbiotic Relationships – Part 2

There are so many interesting symbiotic relationships happening underwater that we thought we should come back with more on the subject. If you missed our first article, you can read it here. There we explained the different types of symbiosis and introduced you to two interesting pairs. This month, we decided to talk about two other symbiotic relationships. One between a giant and a tiny fish, and the other invisible to our human eyes.

Cleaner wrasses and manta rays

Being manta season, we couldn’t leave this one out. Here is another example of mutualism, where these little fishes get food while ridding the mantas of dead skin and parasites.
The cleaner wrasses usually set up “shop” in a coral block, so the mantas can visit them. They swim around it with the mouth wide open and let the cleaners do their job. It is just like a spa or even a medical center, as the wrasses also keep the manta’s wounds clean, helping them to heal much faster.
Fun fact, the female mantas seem to spend much more time in the cleaning stations than the male ones. Does it remind you of another animal species?

Zooxanthellae and coral

Zoo…what??? We know, we know, that’s a difficult one to pronounce, but let us explain. Zooxanthellae is a brown-yellowish alga and we can definitely say it plays an essential part in the existence of coral reefs. These little algae find shelter in the coral polyp and start an interesting symbiotic relationship. The algae produce nutrients through photosynthesis, benefiting the host, which in turn expel a waste in the form of ammonium, a nutrient for the algae. Keeping this chain of food supply within, the coral has access to more food, therefore growing faster.

Global warming and coral bleaching

Coral bleaching has been a hot topic for many years now, but do you actually know what it is? The phenomenon is correlated to the symbiotic relationship above.
When the ocean gets too warm, the corals get stressed and expel the zooxanthellae, exposing its white skeleton. If the temperature quickly goes back to normal, the algae might come back, and the coral will slowly recover. A prolonged exposure to high temperature, might lead the coral to starvation, causing its death.

Guest Blogger at Ocean Dimensions

Diving and snorkelling in the Maldives is like no other place on Earth. Located at the incredible Kihaa Maldives Resort, Ocean Dimensions offers a range of courses and activities to allow novice and seasoned pros the chance to experience the wonders of the Indian Ocean.

With over 20 years in the Maldives, the Ocean Dimensions team not only offers its experience, but also its passion to those who would like to share and enjoy the waters around Kihaa and the world famous Baa Atoll, a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve.

Kihaa is the closest resort in the Maldives to Hanifaru Bay, a unique protected area that offers the chance to swim with manta rays and whalesharks as they come to the area to feed.

Ribbon Eels – the stars of Nakolhu Giri

Scuba diving in the Maldives brings with it the chance to see many ‘must-see’ creatures such as manta rays, sharks and turtles as well as huge shoals of tropical fish congregating on the reefs. All of these things are hard to miss and there is a whole lot more to see when you start diving very slowly and really looking at the reef, the critters that can be found can be just as mesmerising and special as the big stuff…

One such critter is the ribbon eel, also known as a ghost moray, Rhinomuraena quaesita, it is widespread in Indo-Pacific but not so common in the Maldives so finding one is a real treat. Divers in the Lhaviyani Atoll are in the fortunate position of being able to have a go a finding them on Nakolhu Giri where sightings have been occurring for many years.

Known to inhabit the same spot, once found the ribbon eels are easily found again – as long as they are not hiding in their hole at the moment the diver passes by. It pays to be patient and keep very still,just watching the area until it eventually pokes its head and neck out again. Patient observers will be rewarded with the distinctive flattened ribbon eel with its flared, extended nostrils. They reach a length of up to one meter but typically only the head and neck are seen. Their colour is very distinctive and eye-catching; males/juveniles have a black body with a bright yellow dorsal fin. As the ribbon eel matures it slowly turns to the more commonly sighted bright blue colour, also with the yellow dorsal fin and accents around the mouth. It’s not only the colour that changes as the ribbon eel matures, upon reaching a certain size, the body of the male starts to turn yellow and develop female parts until it can eventually lay eggs, making them sequential hermaphrodites. These completely yellow females are the rarest ribbon eels to spot.

For a chance to see these fascinating creatures come and dive with Prodivers and visit the beautiful underwater island reef of Nakolhu Giri.

Are Our Efforts in the Maldives to Reduce Plastic Waste Really Worth It?

We are overwhelmed with the fantastic response from businesses and like minded travellers looking at ways to improve sustainability through sustainable initiatives like banning single use plastic straws in the Maldives and around the world. Everyone is discussing what we will lose if we don’t take action now, but what will we gain? Is there really any benefit to this massive international surge of environmental awareness and initiatives? We discuss here some exciting things we will gain from all our efforts:

Creating Employment

Once people get into the habit of bringing reusable bags when they are shopping people will seek more durable bags so they last longer, thus creating new job opportunities for manufacturing durable sustainable shopping bags, thus creating employment! In Male Maldives Authentic Crafts Cooperative Society (MACCS) an advocate for alternatives to single use plastic bags in the Maldives are producing bags for life and working with corner stores, supermarkets and households to reduce the usage of single use plastic bags.

Saving Energy with a More Efficient Production Process

To produce nine plastic bags it takes the equivalent energy of driving a car 1km. Considering the typical life span of a plastic bag is about 12 minutes of use, this is a very inefficient use of time, energy and products. Creating sustainable, reusable bags makes more sense and uses far less energy.

Happy Marine Life!

There is an estimated 46,000 to 1,000,000 plastic fragments floating within every square mile of the world’s ocean. Often they are mistaken for food by animals, birds, and marine life like fish and sea turtles. The consumed plastic then congests the digestive tracts of these animals, and can lead to health issues such as infections and even death by suffocation. By us all working together to reduce this waste, marine life, birds and other animals won’t have to suffer these terrible infections or slow painful deaths from excessive plastic waste. Meaning they will have a safer, happier environment to live in and both guests as well as those who live in the Maldives can continue to enjoy our marine life bio diversity.

Healthy Humans

Plastic fragments in the ocean can absorb pollutants like PCBs and PAHs, which are known to be hormone-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals can be consumed and make their way through the ocean’s food chain which then pass into humans who eat fish and other marine organisms.Given that tuna forms part of the staple diet of Maldivians and that the fishing industry is also a key exporter of fish products, less pollutant means healthier humans!

Money Saved on Clean Up Can Be Used For Other Things

A lot of time, money and selfless effort from individuals and groups are contributed to the efforts of ocean and beach clean ups. Image what this money could be spent on if we were no longer fighting the plastic battle. Not to mention the extra time we would all have on our hands! A week doesn’t go by where there is not a beach clean-up organised on at least one island in the Maldives. Let’s estimate that there is 50 people cleaning for 4 hours once a week;our conservative estimate is over 10,500 hours a year being donated for free time by locals and tourists. Together with the expense of rubbish collection bags, gloves and travel.

Saving Money on the Weekly Shopping

Plastic bags cost about 3-5 cents each to produce, and that cost is either incorporated into prices of the items sold at stores or you as the shopper have to pay for the bag, either way you as the consumer are absorbing all the costs of these plastic bags. It is said that the average American shopper will use 500 bags per year, 80% of these are plastic. Image the money you will be saving if stores didn’t need to apply these additional costs into your shopping. More money to save for your vacations to the Maldives!

Some Top Tip on Staying Plastic Free on Your Holiday to the Maldives

Reusable Containers

The popular traditional afternoon snack hedhikaa is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. However take outs are often presented in the blue plastic bags. So by bringing your own reusable container you are refusing a single use plastic bag.

Refuse Plastic Straws

Let’s face it most of us don’t need to use a straw and those that do can use alternatives. So the next time you order a drink or enjoy a local coconut, refuse the plastic straw and tag us online #strawwarMV

Re-useable Water Bottles

So many more places are offering fresh, clean drinking water to re-fill your water bottle. So instead of drinking small bottles of water and throwing them out, re-fill your own water bottle.

Join a Beach Clean Up

We know you are on your holidays when you visit the Maldives but as you will be visiting the local islands why no find out if there is a beach cleanup organised during your stay. We work closely with Save the Beach and The Cleaning Quest, if you let us know before you arrive we can incorporate it into your tour package.

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.

Women’s Dive Day Maldives

50 local female divers ‘splash down’ with Moodhu Goyye for PADI Women’s Dive Day

 

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

The Maldives participated in the fourth annual PADI Women’s Dive Day on Saturday, with over 50 local female divers who enthusiastically dove into the event.

This marks the third time for the archipelago to take part in this special dive organised by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), which brings together the female dive community from around the world to bond and share their love for the ocean and marine life.

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

 

The Maldives participated in the fourth annual PADI Women’s Dive Day on Saturday, with over 50 local female divers who enthusiastically dove into the event.

This marks the third time for the archipelago to take part in this special dive organised by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), which brings together the female dive community from around the world to bond and share their love for the ocean and marine life.

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

Participating from Maldives are the members of “Moodhu Goyye”, an unofficial community of local women with a shared passion for water sports.

“This year we have 50 certified female divers taking part in the PADI Women’s Dive Day, in addition to five local instructors and four dive masters – all female,” PADI Course Director Zoona Naseem and Dive Instructor Shaziya Saeed told The Edition.

A giant moray eel photographed during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

The event began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m., with two dives scheduled. The first dive, according to Shaziya, was at ‘Lankan’ near Paradise Island Resort, while the second was at ‘Furana North’, a dive site off the coast of Furanafushi in capital Male Atoll.

Noting that Moodhu Goyye continues to attract more women towards the field of water sports, Shaziya expressed hopes that participating in the PADI Women’s Dive Day event would bring more women of all ages on board Scuba Diving.

Local women divers pictured during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU BULHAA

“Since all the dive guides at this event are women, we’re hoping to not only engage more ladies in recreational diving, but show that there are great opportunities for them in this field,” she said, further highlighting that two out of the three PADI-certified local course directors in Maldives are women.

“The field of diving is a very positive one here,” agreed Zoona. “There is a lot of support for female divers.”

A turtle photographed during the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

Thanking various sponsors and dive centres that supplied the equipment and boats for the Women’s Dive Day, Zoona and Shaziya declared that they were looking to reach new heights with the local female dive community in the future.

“One of our future plans is to break the world record for most women Scuba Diving together, here in Maldives,” revealed Zoona. “We want to make the record by a substantial margin.”

Local women divers pictured before the PADI Women’s Dive Day on July 21, 2018. PHOTO/MOODHU GOYYE

PADI introduced the Women’s Dive Day in 2015, and it has continued to gain momentum as both new and experienced divers geared up for the events, which range from beginner to advanced dives as well as underwater clean-ups.

PADI Pros America reported that female certifications are noticeably increasing every year, noting that over 880 events were hosted in 85 countries just last year for the Women’s Dive Day.

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

 

Mobula Ray madness at Gili Lankanfushi

What’s that…? A bird? A dolphin? No it’s a ray! A mobula ray can be seen leaping over one metre out of the water and making an impressive splash for reasons only known to itself.

Even with its large size the mobula ray is an elusive animal with the largest brain to body ratio of any fish. It has a complicated classification record and life history, making it not only a mystery to divers and snorkelers, but also researchers. It is from the family called Mobulidae, which also includes oceanic and reef manta rays. They can be found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters. Different species prefer different oceans; for example the giant mobula ray can be found relatively commonly in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic, whereas the short-fin pygmy mobula ray can be found in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific. Large aggregations can be encountered in Hawaii, Republic of Maldives and Mexico, but recently due to population decline these aggregations are getting smaller and less frequent.

Mobula rays are often referred to as devil rays, due to their horned appearance which results from their cephalic fins (fins on either side of their mouth) being rolled up. Despite their name devil rays are considered harmless and shy. Originally there were thought to be 12 distinct mobula ray species, but due to advances in molecular biology and genetic studies it has been concluded that there are only nine species and that manta rays are included in the mobula ray family. Currently two separate species of manta rays are recognised, but there could be a third: the black morph manta ray (Manta birostris sensu). This species is currently undergoing DNA examination by Dr. Andrea Marshall of the Marine Megafauna Foundation.

The current classifcation of mobula rays. Picture: Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society.

From fossil records it has been concluded that mobula rays first appeared 25 million years ago with other species evolving over time. For example, the manta ray species appeared in fossil records five million years ago. Mobula rays originally evolved from stingrays, which is why some still possess the stinging spine at the base of their tail. Unlike their predecessor who have spiracles to aid their breathing mobula rays must constantly stay mobile to oxygenate their blood.

Mobula rays are the only species of vertebrate that have three working limbs (pectoral, pelvic and cephalic fins). The smallest species of mobula ray is around one metre in wingspan whereas the largest, the oceanic manta ray has an impressive eight metre wingspan. Mobula rays are known to perform amazing aerial displays, including high jumps, twists and belly flops. There is debate over the reasons behind this; theories include communication, courtship displays, escaping predation threats and removing parasites.

Mobula rays are ovoviviparous. This means that females produce eggs which are hatched internally so that they give birth to live young. Normally a single pup is delivered, but occasionally two can be born. Mobula rays have long gestation periods; for example the giant devil ray has a pregnancy period of two years. All species of pups are born relatively large; for example manta ray pups are around one metre in wingspan at birth. This is because there is no maternal bond between mother and pup, and so after birth the pup is left to fend for itself, usually its only defense against predation is its size. Some species, however do have the additional defense of a stinger.

It is estimated that mobula rays live between 40 – 50 years, with females reaching sexual maturity between eight to ten years and males at six years. There is a period of two – five years between each birth and females can have offspring for around 30 years. The mating seasons for these rays depends on the species and location. In Japan oceanic manta rays have been seen to mate in summer, whereas in the Maldives higher sexual encounters are seen in October, November, March and April. Mating occurs in warm water and generally around cleaning stations. Males will venture to cleaning stations in search of a receptive female. These females illustrate their reproductive readiness by releasing mating hormones into the water.

Courtship displays are long (sometimes lasting weeks) and very expressive. Up to 30 males surround the receptive female and compete to mate. They form mating trains whereby they follow the female, who performs elaborate acrobatics that the males must follow. The most impressive male will be selected and have mating rights. The male will then bite the left pectoral fin of the female to hold her in place. They will then go belly to belly and the male will insert one of his claspers into the female for fertilisation. This process takes place in a couple of seconds after which the male disappears. Mating brings together large numbers of rays as does feeding.

Mobula rays can be found individually, although they generally form large schools when food is in high concentration. They are considered planktivores, although they can feed on small fish and zooplankton. They consume food by using their cephalic fins to funnel the plankton into their wide mouth. Different feeding methods are used depending on food availability; for example benthic feeding can be seen in low food concentrations, whereas surface feeding using barrel rolls and feeding trains can be seen when concentrations of plankton are higher. Cyclone feeding is the rarest type of feeding and can only be seen when the plankton concentration is 80% or higher. Hanifaru bay in Baa Atoll (Maldives) is a world renowned manta feeding site and one of the few places on Earth where cyclone feeding can be seen. In manta season (June – November) sightings of 200 manta rays and a couple of whalesharks are common.

It has also been found that devil rays can dive to depths of two kilometers for over an hour to find plankton, making them some of the deepest diving animals in the world. As the temperature at this depth is low the rays must come up and bask in the sun to rewarm and oxygenate their blood. Some rays have a dark band between their eyes which helps warm their brains faster. The oceanic manta ray also has a counter-current heat exchange system which allows them more control over their body temperature than other fish, making them effectively warm-blooded and enabling their deep dives.

Mobula ray populations are declining because they are vulnerable to overfishing, boat traffic, habitat decline, pollution, by-catch and entanglement. They also have limited reproductive capacity, limited habitat range and are slow growing. The biggest threat to mobula rays are targeted fisheries. They are hunted for their gill rakers which are used in ‘medicine’. There is NO evidence to suggest that gill rakers help with any ailments, in fact it is suggested that gill raker ‘medicines’ may actually pose a significant health risk to those taking it, especially pregnant mothers. In a study mobula ray gill raker samples were chemically analysed and arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead were detected in all samples. Arsenic levels where found to be 20 times higher than permissible levels and cadmium triple permissible levels. A study found a 163% increase in profitability in gill raker markets in China over a three year period, highlighting that this trade is getting worse. A mobula ray population reduction of 50% has been observed in some areas.

In the Maldives all mobula ray species are protected. More countries are also now protecting their mobula rays due to the tourism potential. For example, in 2011 in the Maldives mobula rays were worth eight million dollars to the dive tourism industry – rays are certainly worth significantly more alive than dead.

Over the last two months we have had many sightings of the short-fin pygmy devil ray on snorkels, dives, from the jetties and the villas. Although we cannot be sure why we have had a sudden increase in mobula ray sightings we have hypothesised that it could be due to upwelling currents bringing in plankton which the mobula rays are then feeding on. Either way we are very lucky and we hope to share the experience with you!

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.

Coral Lines Findings 2018

Our 2018 Coral Line update brings together different success stories, in the form of expanding the nursery, creating a workshop, and most importantly seeing a steady survival rate of our coral fragments.

IMPROVEMENTS

After four years, the Coral Lines Project was in need of expansion. Therefore, in May 2018 we added six new metal frames alongside the existing nursery.  This will allow us to continue the project into the future without the limitation of space.  We have phased out the use of plastic cable ties and now attach the lines to the frames by tying the end of the rope to each frame. We also up-graded the project by retagging all 204 lines to ensure identification is up to date. During this process, we removed all coral lines with no living colonies. Now we will have a much clearer view of the project into the future.

In March 2018, the Marine Biology team conducted training on how to implement and manage a coral line project. We invited interested researchers from resorts and local islands to Gili Lankanfushi to participate in a Coral Line Workshop.  The full day tutorial taught others to create their own project using a step-by-step process.  Some of the Workshop attendees have now begun their own coral rehabilitation projects on local islands.From November 2017, we began a coral recruitment project which will measure the coral larvae settlement and survival. This project is ongoing today with results expected in three months.Finally, in February 2018, we moved our Marine Biology blog and Coral Lines blog onto the Gili Lankanfushi Resort official website so it is more easily accessed by our guests and interested readers. As of June 2017, this blog is now published by PADI and reaches five million readers.

SURVIVAL

We have planted 204 lines in the nursery over a four year period and after a recent survey of re-tagging and removing dead coral lines we have found that 158 lines still remain in the nursery. Out of the 9928 colonies planted, 6713 remain alive.

 

 

There has been a steady increase in colonies added to the project with an overall survival rate of 68% which remains the same as our findings in May 2017.  The rate of survival is less than pre-bleaching in 2016.  However, it far exceeds the survival rate of coral on the house reef which was found to be between 5% – 10% after a recent coral cover survey.

GROWTH RATE

Every three months after planting a line, we measure the widest point of the coral fragments to determine growth rate and note the fragments survival level. We measure each line for a period of one year.The species found to be most resilient post bleaching were A.aspera, A. pulchra and A.muricata. Although P.lichen does not show a huge increase in growth it has a high survival rate. Whereas, A. digitifera has a particularly high mortality rate (90%) and we have consequently not planted any more of these.

GROWTH FORMS

Species of coral can more simply be grouped into ‘growth forms’. We are mostly using bushy and digitate species as these are the growth forms that have survived best on the lines.We have an abundance of Porites lichen on the house reef which we have just started using on our lines when it is broken off in storms.  This accounts for a 2% increase in submassive form 4% in 2017 to 6% in 2018.

TRANSPLANTATION

In June 2017, we transplanted 15 fragments of A.humilis onto our house reef.  It was our biggest transplantation post bleaching.  The line survived for around two months but bleached due to predation despite our attempts to remove all coral predators.Due to the fragility of coral, our rehabilitation plans are very flexible, and subject to a long monitoring period.  We adapt our approach and long term management to ensure we keep up with the changing environment of the reef. So far in 2018, the ocean surface temperature has not been stable enough to transplant our lines on the reef but we will continue monitoring the situation.

FUTURE PLANS

Many of our lines are so large and heavy after four years of growth that we have had to hang the lines over the frames in order to keep them off the floor.  In these cases, we would like the lines to hang from frame to frame and therefore we plan to attach flotation devices at intervals along the line to reduce the total overall weight.

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

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