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

 

Coral Reef Research at Gili Lankanfushi Maldives

We encourage scientists to visit Gili Lankanfushi to share their knowledge with the Marine Biology team and carry out in-depth research of our local environment.

In an ever changing world, research is an important method of tracking environmental fluctuations and sharing information about our surroundings. After the coral bleaching event of 2016, Gili Lankanfushi wanted to learn more about the damage caused to our beautiful house reef. We hosted a team of experts funded by Rufford Small Grants Foundation, Chiara Pisapia, Dr Morgan Pratchett, and Deborah Burn who assessed the changes on the reef.  They focused on coral cover, coral size, and the number of young corals that have grown on the reef since the bleaching. Morgan Pratchett, the leading expert in Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) Ancanthaster planci, also monitored the size, sex and distribution of COTS.

 

The team carried out an initial study in the Maldives in 2016 and then returned to the same sites in 2017 in order to carefully assess any changes in their original findings.  On Gili Lankanfushi’s house reef, the team carried out line surveys at five and ten metres along the drop off and found that after the bleaching, coral cover has dropped to 6% at five metres and 2% at ten metres. This low coral cover is predominantly due to the ocean warming event in addition to COTS predation. Yet, in comparison with other study sites, Gili Lankanfushi had a higher number of coral recruits than expected which means new coral is beginning to grow again on the shallow section of our reef. This results from the hard work of Gili’s Team.

Dr Morgan Pratchett, collected data on COTS around the resort.  Despite their beautiful appearance, COTS are far less captivating once you understand the threat they pose to a struggling reef. They eat the remaining hard corals and new coral recruits. Over the past year, their population has spiked into an ‘outbreak’ therefore they have to be removed from the reef and our team works tirelessly to find each individual. Morgan brought COTS to Gili Veshi, our Marine Biology Lab, to teach us techniques on how to better understand these starfish. By dissecting individuals Morgan was able to show our team the interior of each specimen and explain if the animal was well fed or reproductive.  We were able to highlight certain features under the microscope.  We found the starfish living on our house reef were starving and not yet reproducing which leads us to believe the outbreak is over.

 

The aim of monitoring our house reef over time is to predict and track recovery of different species. We are extremely grateful to the knowledge shared by Chiara, Morgan and Deborah hope they can visit the resort again in 2018 to assess how much our reef has recovered.  We look forward to their return.

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.

 

 

A PADI Divemaster Certification is just the Beginning

Working in a PADI Dive Center, Rescue Diver Lucy Crow not only gained her PADI Divemaster qualification but so much more.

“I started working with Ocean Turtle Diving doing some work experience. I had wanted to to do my PADI Divemaster for a while and decided that it was a great opportunity to start it with them. I must say that it was one of the best experiences of my diving life.

I am not a big reader most days, however, I started reading the Divemaster Manual and found it so interesting. If there were bits that I didn’t understand or had questions on, I knew that I would have the team’s full support to help me out.

It came to the theory exam day and because of my PADI Instructor’s support I felt confident about what I had learnt. I went in with a smile. We sat down as a group and went through the manual. There were three students there and we were all as happy as each other. We then completed the exam and all came out smiling. I could now focus on getting through the pool sessions and becoming fit enough to meet these performance requirements.

By January I had not only completed my PADI Divemaster course but also all of the training in the dive centre itself. I really enjoyed learning the ins and outs of how the dive centre ran and meeting new and exciting customers almost every day. There was always something new to learn.  I asked if I could continue to work there and was given an amazing opportunity for a Saturday job. Over six months later I am still working at the dive centre and love it.

Being a PADI Divemaster is not only about having professional level knowledge but also about being aware that people learning to dive may be nervous or scared. The best thing about working in the dive centre has been the staff and the customers combined. It is like my second family here. They have built up not only my knowledge of diving but my confidence overall.”

Prodivers Cleaned Up the World…

Sunday 17th September 2017 saw millions of people around the world join together for the annual Clean up the World event. Guest and team members of Prodivers on Kuredu and Komandoo joined them.

 

A team of more than 113 guests and staff took part in the event and collected rubbish from the islands, the ocean and the reefs.

A staggering 75 bags were collected as well as lots of pieces of wood and metal. The volunteers were organised into groups and were each given an area to clean.

After the clean-up came the celebration – participants enjoyed a cocktail party held in their honor and were each given a thank you gift of an event t-shirt.

A big thank you to the guests, Resort staff and Prodivers team members who gave up their time for such a good cause – what an amazing team effort.

 

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.

Scuola D’Amare initiative at Messina and “All Together” project.

Messina September 10th 2017– The Dive Village event, organized by the PADI Aqua Element Center of Gioiosa Marea and the MessinAmare Association, was successfully completed within the framework of the Scuola D’Amare project in collaboration with the “Caio Duilio” Nautical Institute of Messina, PADI, Project Aware, DAN Europe and MARES.

The event began on Friday September 8th in the prestigious Forte San Salvatore location granted by the Italian Navy, with the award of the diving certificates to the boys and girls of the Scuola D’Amare project and the migrants of the project “All Together”.

The Headmaster of the Nautical Institute, Prof. Maria Schirò, the military authorities, the Vice-President of DAN Europe Guy Thomas, the Regional Manager of PADI EMEA Fabio Figurella, the regional representative of MARES Nino Alessi and the diving instructors of the Aqua Element diving center all attended the awarding ceremony.

The Headmaster Schirò gave special emphasis to the project “All Together”, a project created from the Nautical Institute’s will to open to unaccompanied migrants a series of activities in the nautical sector that one day could give these children the chance to find a job and a place in society. “All Together” is a project connected to the sea, that for these children is synonymous with “Death”, whose is to organize a series of activities like scuba diving and first aid courses that can bring the children closer to the sea, as a friend and resource for their professional future.

To get excited each time and get new proactive energy by watching the spark in the eye of those who come into contact with the wonders of the underwater world. A World that has no: borders, masters, diversity” are the words of Giuseppe Pinci, great organizer of the event.

These boys and girls have been introduced to the scuba diving world thanks to the collaboration with Aqua Element diving center through PADI courses and first aid EFR courses.

 

If all the Headmasters in Italy were like Professor Schirò, Italy would be a much more open country to students, and there would be important synergies enabling social growth for our country and for the future of young generations,” commented Fabio, Regional Manager of PADI EMEA.

The event continued on September 9th and 10th at the Gioiosa Marea diving center, with dives, MARES equipment testing, and lots of fun, with barbeques and a final evening at the disco.

Thanks to the valuable collaboration with DAN Europe, all dives were monitored by the DAN research team that included the dive profiles of the participants in their database for medical-scientific research.

Through the collaboration with Dr. Cosimo Muscianisi of DAN Europe free ORL visits were performed during the event.

Guy Thomas, the Vice President of DAN Europe, was enthusiastic: “It was great to see that thanks to the collaboration between the Aqua Element diving center and the Caio Duilio Nautical Institute there are projects that bring young boys and girls underwater. Also noteworthy is the project “All Together” that reveals to young migrants the wonders of the sea, the sea that they always feared”. Congratulations to all the people involved, especially Mario Aiello and Giuseppe Pinci who carry out important projects such as these with devotion and passion. The enthusiasm was certainly not missing during the event: “Dive Village 2017, an event which allowed us to collect useful data for DAN’s research on diving safety”.

The event has ended, but the activities of Aqua Element and MessinAmare within the Caio Duilio Institute at Messina with the activities of Scuola D’Amare and a project that will bring students to Malta to integrate scuba diving and English learning have already begun with the new school year.

Mario Aiello, owner of the Aqua Element diving center, commented: “The (DIVE VILLAGE) comes to an end, an event where we delivered certificates, we dived, tested Mares  equipment, analyzed our profiles and made OTO visits thanks to DAN, and why not “we had fun like crazy at the disco, all of which brings us together in this huge passion “the sea“.

 

Ustica is once again the leading actor in scuba diving with Italy Dive Fest by DAN and PADI

Ustica, 9 September 2017 – 320 scuba divers, 4000 dives in the Marine Protected Area, 84 medical visits performed, 36 official partners, 9 diving centers. And then professional workshops, conferences, themed evenings… The impressive numbers of Italy Dive Fest, an event organized by DAN Europe and PADI EMEA in Ustica, the Black Pearl of the Mediterranean, from August 28th to September 3rd.

Italy Dive Fest, a new format in the scuba diving industry that is strongly supported by PADI and DAN with the goal of revolutionizing the approach to diving by joining moments of celebration, fun, training and especially diving, is envisaged as an itinerant event that shall be repeated in the coming years around Italy is the comment of Fabio Figurella Regional Manager of PADI EMEA.

Italy Dive Fest has been a unique event and certainly one of the most beautiful and complex organized in recent years. It’s unique because it has allowed us to achieve a great goal: to create a real diving festival that brings together many of the largest companies and manufacturing houses of the diving industry, for the benefit of the participants, who have been able to see and test the latest news on the market. It was a one of a kind event also because of its rich content: in addition to diving and equipment testing, participants could choose from a broad spectrum of workshops, conferences and courses. Last but not least, this was made possible thanks to the support and collaboration shown by all the diving centers of the island. Our researchers, thanks to the collaboration of more than 300 divers, have managed to gather a large number of data and dive profiles that will become part of the database on which our scientific publications are based. States Laura Marroni, vice-president of DAN Europe.

The island quay, the meeting point of all the divers, hosted the Dive Village, where organizers and technical partners showed the 2017 news, interacting with the public and collaborating with diving centers.

Those who dived had the chance to conduct physiological tests performed by DAN Research – 125 monitored dives, with 105 Doppler and 80 echo-cardiographs – actively contributing to important studies on decompression mechanisms. DAN doctors have also conducted numerous free ORL visits, as part of an international campaign to prevent barotrauma.

After diving in the morning, divers could choose between a range of training and leisure activities. These included technical workshops conducted by Beuchat, Coltri, Scubapro, the PADI Business Academy, and even EFR first aid courses and DAN crossover instructors. The events were distributed in various locations, thus involving also the Island locals, while special conventions were signed with local hotels and restaurants.

This year Italy Dive Fest matched the 58th International Diving Expo (whose logo was sponsored by PADI through a scholarship), with its historical charm, exhibitions, guided hikes and, above all, Golden Trident and the International Academy of Underwater Sciences and Techniques Awards. The ceremony was hosted by the social event offered by PADI and DAN, in the striking coastline behind the lighthouse Punta Cavazzi. And here are the awards: Golden Trident to Dr. Danilo Cialoni, recognition of the research carried out on the immune pathophysiology; Academy Awards 2017 to DAN, in its 5 world components (America, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Japan and South Africa), for the tireless help provided to scuba divers since 1980; special Academy Award to PADI, for its effective action in promoting safety awareness in diving, diving sustainability and in particular for launching an international program (Scuola d’Amare, ndr) targeted to students of primary and secondary schools, to promote knowledge on the ocean and diving among young people.

However, the best show was enjoyed by the divers who dived in the breathtaking waters of the first Marine Protected Area in Italy: the sun, visibility up to 30 meters, barracudas, amberjacks, salemas, dentex, groopers in waters teeming with life.

Italy Dive Fest has been the climax of an underwater season full of events and initiatives, featuring the Ustica scene, with its history and tradition, and has reasserted the vitality of the Italian diving world.

This is a unique event – commented Massimo Casabianca (DAN Training Manager and PADI Instructor Trainer), a full and articulated one, where a training agency and an organization devoted to diving safety have involved key players of the diving industry. In so many years of experience, I had never seen anything like it.

Thanks to those who wanted and organized the event (PADI team, DAN team), to the numerous technical partners, the flagship of the diving industry (Aqualung, Beuchat, Coltri, FInclip, Mares, Nauticam, Scubapro, Suex, Suunto, Y-40 the Deep Joy), to the institutional partners (Soprintendenza del Mare-Regione Sicilia, Comune di Ustica, AMP Isola di Ustica, WWF, Università di Bologna/Sea Sentinel, Reef Check, Clean Sea, Green Bubbles), to the logistics partners (Gesap/Aeroporto di Palermo, Liberty Lines, PMO Travel), to the diving centers (Altamarea, Blue Diving, La Perla Nera, Lustrica, Mare Nostrum, Mister Jump, Orca, Profondo Blu, Ustica Diving) and to Claudio di Manao, who presented his book “Io sono il Mare”, animating an interesting round table on the protection of the marine environment and its future prospects.

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.

 

Deep Blue Divers became 100% AWARE partner

Deep Blue Divers at Six Senses Laamu this week partnered with Project AWARE, a global non-profit organization, to join their growing number of 100% AWARE Partners who put ocean protection at the heart of their business. From August, 2017 Deep Blue Divers will make a regular donation to protect the underwater world our dive business relies on.

100% AWARE is a Partner Giving Program. All student divers who complete a course with a 100% AWARE dive center receive a Project AWARE limited edition card. It’s a great way to remind divers that the place where they learned to dive or furthered their diving education made a gift to protect the ocean on their behalf.

Deep Blue Divers at Six Senses Laamu is proud to join dedicated dive centers across the world who act locally and think globally.” says General Manager Marteyne van Well “We take pride in knowing that our donation to Project AWARE for every student diver who completes a diving course with us not only helps educate divers about ocean conservation but also supports Project AWARE’s mission to mobilize the world’s divers into a global force to protect the ocean one dive at a time.”

Deep Blue Divers has shown dedication to ocean conservation through their participation in Project AWARE activities. Their commitment to the 100% AWARE program makes them shine as they not only lead by example but demonstrate to their students the importance of supporting ocean protection. Thank you for leading the way,” says Alex Earl, Executive Director Project AWARE Foundation.

For additional information about Project AWARE’s 100% AWARE Partner program and to join the global movement for ocean protection, visit www.projectaware.org.

Please visit the website of Six Senses for more information