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

 

Reef Restoration at Gili Lankanfushi – “Mahuge Veshi”

Home to more than a quarter of all marine species, coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. But these reefs are now under threat.

Of the many problems facing coral reefs, rising sea temperatures due to global warming are perhaps the most serious. In 1998, a complex climate event in the Pacific Ocean known as ‘El Niño’ pushed global temperatures to new highs and killed 16% of coral worldwide; this was declared the first major global coral bleaching event. The El Niño of 2010 triggered the second global event, and in October 2015 The US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced a third global bleaching event – so far this has been the longest event recorded, impacting some reefs in successive years.

Here in the Maldives, we witnessed the effects of global warming first hand when the bleaching event caught up with us in 2016 – affecting about 60% of corals.

In view of the environmental and economic value of coral reefs there is considerable interest in preventing further damage as well as rehabilitating and/or restoring coral reefs subjected to damage. A widely adopted method for reef restoration is the construction of Artificial Reefs (AR’s). The main purpose of these structures is to attract fish by providing them with habitats that are as favourable as those that are present in the original environment.

Gili Lankanfushi is surrounded by a beautiful and diverse coral reef, but we weren’t exempt from the bleaching of 2016, and some of the varied habitat once provided by corals has disappeared. To aid the reef we recently constructed a small AR adjacent the damaged coral. In this instance, the term ‘artificial reef’ is somewhat of a misnomer as its purpose is to rehabilitate an already existing reef; so a better way to think of our project is the building of ‘fish homes’. To maintain the natural aesthetic we are accustomed to here at Gili, the AR was constructed using natural rock from around the island. After settling on a location the rocks were assembled in a pyramid shape and care was taken to leave several openings as previous studies found that reef blocks which had a higher number of holes also possessed the greatest fish species richness and abundance. We have named our structure Mahuge Veshi (Pronunciation: ma-hoo-geh veh-she), meaning fish environment.

AR’s tend to develop in fairly predictable stages: When an ocean current encounters a vertical structure it creates a plankton-rich upwelling. This upwelling provides a reliable feeding spot for small fish, which draw in pelagic predators such as trevallies and sharks. Next come creatures seeking protection – hole and crevice dwellers such as grouper, snapper, squirrelfish, eels, and triggerfish. Over months and years the reef structure becomes encrusted with algae, tunicates, hard and soft corals, and sponges which add to the structural integrity of the AR. There is an expectation that ecologically the AR will resemble the local natural environment over the long term as plant and animal assemblages associate with the structure.

We know from previous studies that AR’s can increase the total aggregate of fish and invertebrate species, and in some cases the abundance of corals have exceeded that of adjacent natural reef areas.

The use of AR’s to increase fish populations goes back at least 400 years, but there have been suggestions that they don’t actually increase the total numbers of fish, and act simply as attractors; moving fish from one place to another. However, we know from well documented studies between animals and their environment that when a habitat range is extended their numbers tend go up. Imagine an island populated with birds: their population is at its limit, until one day another island appears within flying distance. What we would expect to see is a sequence of events:

  1. Arrival – Some of the birds would migrate from the old island to the new one.
  2. Population increase – With more nesting space available the populations of each island would increase.
  3. Persistence – Assuming a steady supply of resources (food, nests, etc.) the birds on each island would thrive.

AR’s can be thought of like underwater islands, and for each one built we essentially extend the geographical range of the animals that live within reef structures, and so we would expect to see the same sequence of events mentioned above.

So far Mahuge Veshi has been visited by large schools of surgeonfish, butterflyfish, and on last inspection a large moray eel had made itself at home within the structure. The Mahuge Veshi project is a simple, environmentally friendly and self-sustaining venture. All being well, the structure will help grow the natural area and support help marine life while our corals recover.

PADI guest blogger Jon Fry introduces himself:

After receiving my degree in Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology from Plymouth University I worked in Madagascar where I gained experience in reef restoration and tropical biology. I believe awareness is the most important tool we have in conservation, and I am pleased to be here at Gili Lankanfushi where I can educate the curious about marine life and sustainability.

 

 

From Doomed Voyager to Victorious Wreckage

The story beneath one of the most famous dive sites in the Maldives

Part One

When Mohamed Saeed first stepped aboard MV Victory as the Chief Electrical Officer, little could he have known that it would be his first and final voyage on the doomed cargo ship.

“I was one of the last to be rescued,” he revealed, thirty-seven years after the freighter sank off the coast of airport island Hulhule to become the most famous shipwreck in the Maldives.

A diver during an excursion to the wreck of MV Victory. PHOTO MOHAMED SEENEEN

An error in judgement

It was the night of February 13, 1981, with clear skies under a bright waxing moon. Victory had just returned from Singapore, carrying general cargo from cement and iron to timber and cooking oil. Recalling the events of the fateful night, Saeed said he had not expected Victory to enter the capital’s harbour until the following morning, as it was illegal to enter Gaadhoo Kolu, Male’s main cargo route, after dark.

“What happened was that, on the night we left Male for Singapore, we saw a larger ship entering Gaadhoo Kolu,” narrated Saeed. “So our captain figured he could do it too.”

The wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

Saeed was surprised when the Chief Engineer ordered him, the Second Engineer and Third Engineer to be on standby for docking that night itself. Despite his misgivings, he took up his duty as the Chief Electrician while Victory entered Gaadhoo Kolu, making her way to Male’s commercial port.

“The popular belief is that Victory ran aground Male’s reef, but that’s not true,” said Saeed, explaining that they had seen the shallows clearly in the moonlight and kept their distance from the capital’s shore.

Once the freighter came upon the island of Fonadhoo, which lies between the capital city and Hulhule in the cargo route, she was steered around to enter the channel between Fonadhoo and Hulhule, since the Male-Fonadhoo channel is prohibited for freighters and tankers,

Here the freighter’s fate was sealed: a misjudgement by the helmsman coupled by the vessel’s near-ancient hydraulic steering system failed in swinging her around and, at approximately 10:00 p.m. on a particularly unlucky Friday the February 13th, MV Victory hit Hulhule’s house reef.

A battle in vain

“It wasn’t caused by equipment failure,” said Saeed stoutly. “The Chief Engineer and I checked; it was a steering fault.”

Their first cause of action after the collision was to try and save the ship. She was steered urgently back out of Gaadhoo Kolu while Saeed and the three engineers below deck tried to pump out water from the double-bottomed tank.

It was a futile attempt. The hull was breached a level above the cargo storage and there was no stopping the water flow. The sinking of the freighter was guaranteed.

A diver during an excursion to the wreck of MV Victory. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

With Victory already beginning to keel, it soon dawned on everyone aboard – 30 crew members and seven passengers – that they would be left to the mercy of the waves if she remained in open water. Saeed and a handful of other seamen quickly sought the captain, urging to take Victory back through the cargo route.

“If we’d sunk outside Gaadhoo Kolu, we would’ve been done for. The ocean currents there are very strong.”

Options exhausted, the captain gave the dreaded order: scuttle the ship.

Engines at maximum power and keeling more than 12 degrees to the side, Victory reentered the cargo route where under the captain’s orders, she was deliberately run aground.

The bereft crew

News of the wreckage spread swiftly across the capital despite the late hour. Representatives of authorities gathered at Male’s shore while the military were dispatched to evacuate the people aboard the sinking ship.

Inside the wreck of MV Victory off the coast of Hulhule. PHOTO – MOHAMED SEENEEN

“We were the last to be rescued,” said Saeed, referring to himself and the three engineers. While the passengers and the rest of the crew were on deck and promptly evacuated, the four had remained below, still working fruitlessly to pump out water.

When the four finally emerged, it was to an empty deck. Fortunately, rescue soldiers soon returned for them, while work was underway to tow Victory away from the reef to be floated.

While there were no casualties in the incident, several of the mostly-foreign crew were left bereft afterwards, losing nearly all their worldly possessions on the freighter.

With nothing but the clothes on their backs, the dismayed seafarers had watched MV Victory, with all of her lights still blazing, sink below the waves in the early hours of February 14.

Please visit next week for Part Two of MV Victory’s journey from above to below water

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

 

Green Sea Turtles hatchlings on Kuredu

Guests at Kuredu Resort recently had a very cute surprise in the sand: a green sea turtle nest hatched! Late in the evening, while walking back to their villa, the guests spotted the tiny turtles making their way quickly across the beach into the ocean. A few hatchlings wandered astray and were collected by resort staff, soon to be released under the supervision of resident Sea Turtle Biologist, Stephanie, along with volunteers from the Prodivers Team.

According to previous reports, it takes green turtle nests 49 to 62 days to hatch here in the Maldives, but the baby turtles on Kuredu were a little slower – it took them 64 days to make their way out of the nest.

To evaluate the hatching success of the nest, Stephanie and a volunteer digging team from Prodivers went to exhume the nest 48 hours after the hatching event. After quite some digging, they successfully discovered the nest and out of 105 eggs laid, only three had failed to develop – that’s 102 more baby green turtles in the ocean! Such a successful nest is great news for the sea turtle population and we hope to see some of the hatchlings back on Kuredu to nest in about 10 to 15 years’ time.

Snorkelling or scuba diving at Kuredu Island Resort Maldives gives a very good chance of seeing turtles – the island is blessed with a large community of green sea turtles that can be seen at Caves, either on a Prodivers snorkelling excursion or dive trip. Turtles can also be spotted grazing in the lagoon.

Want to learn more about turtles? Visit Stephanie at Kuredu’s Marine Center and join her snorkelling on the reef for a turtle tour while she collects valuable data for the Olive Ridley Project.

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

This blog has several parts, next week read about general tourist information……

Tourist Information

Unlike most destinations, don’t expect to find a tourist information centre that will provide answers to all your questions. There is an Information Desk within the arrival area of the airport who are happy to point you in the right direction, assist you if you need to contact your accommodation provider and provide you an information booklet. They are not there, however, to organise accommodation, excursions or transfers. Once you arrive at your hotel, guesthouse or resort they will be able to offer advice on excursions and activities or check out Trip Advisor for local operators providing these services.

 

Transferring from the airport

Unlike other International Airports don’t expect to be able to hail a taxi as there is no taxi rank. If you have booked with a hotel, guesthouse or resort and provided them with your flight arrival details it is usual for them to send a representative to meet with you.

To reach Male independently you can choose to take the Airport Express Speedboat, the charge is MRF30 or US$2 for a one way transfer per person, leaving every 15 minutes. Or the airport public ferry, charge MRF10 or US$1 per person one way, leaving every 10 minutes. Both leave from the jetty opposite the Domestic Terminal. When you arrive in Male, just a 10 minute public ferry ride, you will be able to hail a taxi from the ferry terminal to your destination, guesthouse or hotel. A one stop drop regardless of distance is 25MVR plus an additional 5MVR per item of luggage.

To reach Hulhumale independently you can either enquire as to if a guesthouse vehicle has room on their return journey, the charge would usually be around US$10 one way or take the public bus. The airport bus departs every 30 minutes from the airport and Hulhumale on a 24 hour timetable. On the hour and on the half hour except on Fridays during Friday Prayer when there are no busses between the hours of 11:30 and 13:30. The charge is 20MVR per person one way and it is a journey of 15 minutes. Luggage is accepted and stored in the luggage compartment. At the airport the bus stop is located outside of the International departure area to the left of the food court as you face the ocean.In Hulhumale the bus stop is at the T Junction of Nirolhumagu and Huvandhumaa Higun.

Due to the location of the airport terminal it is not possible to walk to Hulhumale.

If you are transferring on to an island outside of the immediate capital area it is likely that transfer arrangements offered will include speedboat or for islands further afield a domestic flight. These methods will add a minimum of $25 per person one way dependent on distance and if the service is scheduled. Note the Maldives covers a distance of 500KM north to south. If you have done your homework it is possible to take a local ferry to many central atoll islands. These local ferries depart from one of a number of jetties in the capital Male so ensure you have allowed time to cross to the capital and locate the correct jetty.

Business Hours

It is important to know that the Maldives follows a business week from Sunday to Thursday.  Most places are closed on a Friday until after Friday prayer. No public ferries operate on a Friday with the exception of those operating in the capital area between Male, Hulhumale and Villingili. These ferries also stop operation between 11:30 and 13:30 for Friday prayer.

The shops in the Maldives open at different times in the morning but usually before 09:00. Most shops close for prayer times for an interval of 15 minutes. The latest time for the shops to close business is 22:00 and cafes and restaurants 23:00.

About Secret Paradise

Since 2012 Secret Paradise has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Offering group and private tours or independent travel packages, Secret Paradise holidays are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise generally known as a luxury resort destination.

Responsible Tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life. We partner NGOs such as Save the Beach and marine charity organisations such as Maldives Whaleshark Research Program to provide opportunities for our guests to learn and support local conservation initiatives.

The benefit of travelling with us is that Secret Paradise guarantees you prompt and efficient personal service. We deliver high standards of service and professionalism and you can rely on Secret Paradise to provide expert local knowledge, clear communication and honest advice.

www.secretparadise.mv

 

Crown of Thorns Eradication

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

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

Crown of Thorns

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

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

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

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

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

COT being predated upon by Triton’s Trumpet.

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

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

PADI’s guest blogger Emma Bell introduces herself:

I am a marine biologist and scuba diver from England. I have had the privilege of working in Greece, Seychelles and Maldives. I have worked in an aquaculture research centre where I focused on hormonal manipulation of a pelagic fish species. In addition, I have experience with coral restoration projects including frames and ropes; habitat restoration – crown of thorns, drupella and invasive plant species removal; educational activities and social media updates including blogs. I have also monitored population dynamics of bird, turtle, shark and cetacean species to aid in their conservation. I started my career working in the Maldives and I have done a round trip via Greece, England and Seychelles, I hope to increase my skills set and knowledge further whilst I am at Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives.

 

To eat or not to eat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

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

Colonies of Hope

Blog written by guest blogger and marine biologist Clare Baranowski

Preserving coral reefs is a growing concern in the Maldives

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

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

Josie monitoring our 153 coral lines

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

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

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

Josie beginning the process

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

Clare cutting the coral from the line

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

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

Attaching the colonies using epoxy

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

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

PADI’s guest blogger Clare Baranowski introduces herself:

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

MALDIVES DIVING HOLIDAYS

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

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin
Photo credit – Nigel Wade

WHY CHOOSE THE MALDIVES FOR YOUR DIVING HOLIDAY?

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

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin
Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

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

THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR DIVING IN THE MALDIVES

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

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin
Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

DIVING OPTIONS

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

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin
Photo credit – Renee Sorenson

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

SECRET PARADISE DIVING HOLIDAYS

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

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin
Photo credit – Boutique Beach

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

DIVE TEAMS

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

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin
Photo credit – Nigel Wade

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

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

Photo credit - Ruth Franklin
Photo credit – Nigel Wade

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

About Secret Paradise

Since 2012 Secret Paradise has been at the forefront of the Maldives local island tourism industry, promoting and supporting guesthouses, dive centres and activity operators based on locally inhabited islands throughout the Maldives archipelago. Offering group and private tours or independent travel packages, Secret Paradise holidays are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise generally known as a luxury resort destination.

Responsible Tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life. We partner NGOs such as Save the Beach and marine charity organisations such as Maldives Whaleshark Research Program to provide opportunities for our guests to learn and support local conservation initiatives.

The benefit of travelling with us is that Secret Paradise guarantees you prompt and efficient personal service. We deliver high standards of service and professionalism and you can rely on Secret Paradise to provide expert local knowledge, clear communication and honest advice.

www.secretparadise.mv

“Person of the Year”

“Person of the Year” of the Republic of Maldives

Maldives First PADI Course Director Mr.Hussain Rasheed Sendi was named “Person of the Year”  at Maldives Travel Awards People’s Edition by Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tourators (MATATO).

Sendi who is also the Managing Director of Dive Oceanus has been among the active dive industry professionals who have worked hard in training the youth as dive masters and instructors. His contribution to keep the marine industry safe is remarkable while his experience and knowledge to keep the diving industry going ahead by awareness programmes on species and environment have benefited the tourism industry and the nation.

The first event of Maldives Travel Awards People’s Edition has been held on 13th July at Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi in North Male’ Atoll.

Ten Individuals were honored with the title of “Person of the Year” at the special function. MATATO started the Nation’s first travel industry recognition brand in 2012 and succesfully deleivered Maldives Travel Award events in the country and a special edition in Dubai.

In 2017 MATATO has introduced 3 editions of Maldives Travel Awards, recognizing Guesthouses, People’s Edition and the Gala.