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

Project AWARE – Dive against Debris in the Canaries and Switzerland

The 4th of March 2017 – was a great day for Project AWARE in the Canary Islands and Switzerland! Two Key Accounts in my Regions organised on the same day a Project AWARE Dive against Debris with outstanding results!

 

 

Dive against Debris Crew Tenerife

One Project AWARE Dive Against Debris event happened in Tenerife in the Canary Islands and has been organised by the Big Fish Dive Center in Los Cristianos. The other event has been organised by Adventure Sports and the Dive Club Rheindive.ch from Frauenfeld & Eschenz in Switzerland.
Both Events were organised almost similar. The Event from Adventure Sports in Switzerland started the evening before with the orientation for the Project AWARE Dive against Debris course – while the event in Tenerife started in the morning of the 4th of March.

It was amazing to see how passionate the participants were involved to clean the Beach underwater in Playas las vistas In Tenerife and in the “Untersee” in Steckborn. Even more impressive was the amount of rubbish who has been removed from the Atlantic and from the Lake of Constance.

Big Fish Tenerife

Data collected:
Divers collected the following amount in Tenerife;
66 KG 

 

 

 

 

Divecorner Frauenfeld

 

 

Divers collected the following amount in Steckborn;
259 KG 

 

 

A big Thank you goes to the organizers in both Countries. Thank you Michal Motylewski and Sandro Krawinkler!

The world and our environment needs more people like you! You are an inspiration for all of us and I hope that with your example we can make a difference and animate more Dive Centres, Divers and citizens of both regions to protect our beloved environment!

 

 

 

 

Dive against Debris Crew Steckborn

How can you help to protect the ocean?

Dive Against Debris is a global marine debris survey – the only data collection effort of its kind that involves volunteer divers collecting, recording and reporting data on marine debris found on the seafloor. Marine debris is a problem that is often considered ‘out of sight – out of mind.’ By sharing data on the debris we find underwater, we’re able to contribute the underwater perspective. It’s really exciting – divers can have a powerful role to play in helping contribute data to influence marine debris policy.
So how can you get started?

1. Download our Dive Against Debris Survey Toolkit – here you’ll find the survey kit for your divers, including a certificate to award to your volunteers.
2. Add your action to our Event Map. Create your My Ocean profile and add your action to our interactive map for our dive community to see. You can also blog and upload photos or videos in My Ocean.

3
. Promote over social media, through your network and communications – don’t forget to use the following hashtags #ProjectAWARE, #DiveAgainstDebris, #MarineDebris, etc.
4. Report your data. Data is critical. Don’t let your dives go to waste. Make sure you report the data on the litter you found.
5. Share the data with your divers by showing them the Dive Against Debris Map.

 
Project AWARE ® can offer you mesh bags and a banner to advertise your action during the day. Each mesh bag comes with a donation of € 6.00. This way, Project AWARE is able to send you some other promotional materials to use during your action (leaflets, posters, stickers, badges, etc.).
Adopt a Dive Site™ is a campaign where Project AWARE launched last year on Earth Day, which basically is repeated Dive Against Debris surveys in one dive site: Project AWARE requires divers adopting a specific dive site to clean up and report data at least once a month. You can find all information on the website www.projectaware.org and if you are interested, just sign up on the website.

Start your Ocean protection today, sign up with adopt a dive site and take an example of the two Dive Centres in Switzerland and in the Canaries! Together we can make a difference and educate the coming generations!

I still believe in us humans and that we can change the current situation, but the time is ticking… Our beautiful environment is counting on you!
#myOcean #myHope

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

baa-dharavandhoo-1

 

Full throttle diving in the Maldives!

Underwater scooters can easily spice up your diving adventures at Prodivers! The Lhaviyani Atoll is known for its reef channels or the so called kandus where the water flows in and out of the atoll. At these spots we can see huge congregation and a abundant variety of pelagics that rush to these areas to feed. Here you are able to see a lots of marine life such as grey reef sharks, eagle rays, napoleons, tunas and barracudas – gathering in large numbers!

tribe-peak

The main advantage of underwater scooters is that they take away the effort of fin kicking to these big fish hot spots, as well as the effort of staying there. In fact, the best big fish action takes place when currents are strong and flowing in the right direction. So with a scooter you are the luckiest diver out there.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1947.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1947.

Besides increasing your chances of seeing squadrons of eagle rays and dozens of reef sharks on the channel’s edge, scooter diving is also incredible fun. With a bit of practice you can quickly be ready to fly past the reefs yourself and enjoy seeing these great areas! All of our Instructors are PADI DPV Instructors so you can do your PADI Scooter Specialty at any time you wish with Prodivers!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1935.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1935.

It is very common the first thing divers say after ascend from their scooter dive, that this was the best dive of their life. What may sound to you as a slight overstatement is very likely the same reaction you will have after your first scooter dive. Chances are that you will experience an overwhelming feeling of joy and have a huge grin on your face once you tried it the first time! Come and join our scooter dives!

www.prodivers.com

 

 

It’s Not Too Late for Sharks and Rays at CITES CoP17

CITES appeal

Threatened by unregulated international trade, nine species of devil rays, three species of thresher sharks and the silky shark are proposed for listings under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Project AWARE and partner NGOs are on the ground at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to CITES in Johannesburg, South Africa from September 24th to October 5th to help these species receive the protections they deserve.

Drew Richardson, President and CEO, PADI

Drew Richardson, President and CEO, PADI

“Sadly, the possibility that one day there could essentially be no sharks or rays left in the ocean is plausible if things do not change. PADI is proud to support Project AWARE’s shark and ray conservation efforts at CITES and beyond with a $20,000 match*. Please show your support for this important cause.” Drew Richardson, President and CEO, PADI

Support shark and ray conservation with Project AWARE by making a Single Donation or better yet, elevate your commitment by making a Monthly Gift and your donation will be matched* dollar-for-dollar by PADI.

It’s also not too late to rally support from your dive students for the shark and ray proposals up for review at CITES CoP17! Download the #Divers4SharksNRays Toolkit and add your photos to Project AWARE’s #Divers4SharksNRays wall of support by sharing them on social media!

* PADI Match Giving offer valid until 7th October 2016 up to a maximum of US$20,000

Silent Auction Launches on World Tourism Day

Bidding for the annual Project AWARE silent auction is NOW OPEN! 

Project AWARE Silent Auction Prizes 2016

Launching on World Tourism Day, September 27 and running until October 22, Project AWARE is using this international celebration of tourism to raise funds for its critical ocean conservation work and remind the dive community of the importance of ecotourism and responsible travel practices.

Funds raised through the auction will go a long way toward engaging scuba divers in environmental programs and activities such as Project AWARE’s citizen science program, Dive Against Debris™, to support a return to a clean and healthy ocean. The winning bidders will be announced at the 2016 Sport Diver Awards Ceremony by adventurers, explorers and keen Project AWARE supporters Monty Halls and Andy Torbet.

Want to attend the 2016 Sport Diver Awards Ceremony? Grab your ticket today and visit http://www.jumblebee.co.uk/ProjectAWAREAuction2016  to see all the amazing prizes, scuba goodies, holidays & much more to win.

Wherever you are in the world, happy bidding and remember to make a difference for ocean protection every time you dive, travel and more!

ReMember: Support Ocean Protection with your PADI Member Renewal

ReMember Ocean Protection with your PADI Member Renewal 2017The diving community, especially PADI® Professional Members play a critical role in leading ocean protection.

There are so many significant problems facing mankind, but as divers this is truly our cause. If scuba divers do not take an active role in preserving the aquatic realm, who will? – John Cronin, PADI Co-Founder

Your renewed commitment to ocean protection with your PADI Member Renewal continues to give the ocean a voice, help secure important policy advancements to keep shark and ray populations healthy and protect marine life from the onslaught of marine debris.

Project AWARE®, PADI’s environmental partner, is dedicated to providing PADI Pros like you with the tools and resources to take action, advancing the health of the ocean for future generations. Your donation supports hands-on citizen science, education and local marine conservation actions tailored for the dive community across the globe.

Go to the PADI Pros’ Site to update your credit or debit card details and add your donation* to support Project AWARE’s critical conservation work today!

* Gifts of €15/£15/20CHF or more received during PADI Member Renewals will receive a new limited edition Project AWARE silky shark mask strap pad as a special thank you for your renewed support.

 

Project AWARE: #Divers4SharksNRays

Project AWARE® is committed to engaging the dive community in science-based, respectful and well-informed policy actions. Join us in delivering our message to CITES* Member Parties: Vote YES for sharks and rays.

#Divers4SharksNRays - Sierra Madre

How can you get involved in #Divers4SharksNRays?

  • Download our #Divers4SharksNRays sign
  • Take a photo underwater, on the boat, or in your dive shop with the sign and your dive buddy or group of divers
  • Share your photo on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Use our campaign hashtag #Divers4SharksNRays and the following social media post:

#Divers4SharksNRays in {insert location} urge @CITES countries to vote YES for sharks and rays #CoP17 @projectaware + photo

or

We’re supporting @projectaware’s #Divers4SharksNRays @CITES #CoP17 Campaign from {insert location} + photo

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora