[S]chool visits are organised each year by Four Seasons in order to inform more Baa Atoll students about the marine treasures that they have around them and give them an opportunity to be involved in the protection and conservation of marine life.
On 22 June, we welcomed eighteen students and nine teachers from Dhonfan School to Landaa Giraavaru as part of our environmental awareness program. This was an opportunity for the students to learn about the conservation programmes of the Marine Discovery Centre, including mantas rays, our mosquito control program and turtle conservation. Dhonfan Island is home to about 350 people living principally from fishing. Half of its population is under 25 years old, and there is one school on the island. The island’s surrounding reef is one of the best spots in Baa Atoll to swim with both Hawksbill and Green turtles – since 2010 we have identified 22 Hawksbill and 15 Green turtles from this reef. Dhonfan Island is also close to Hanifaru Bay, where manta rays and whale sharks aggregate to feed during the southwest monsoon (from June to October).
The day began with a tour of the Marine Discovery Centre (MDC). The students and teachers learned about our turtle monitoring programme and the purpose of the turtle rehabilitation centre, which is currently home to three injured Olive Ridley turtles. After this the students transplanted a coral frame and learned about the importance of the coral reefs around their home island and the major threats that corals are facing. They finished with a tour of the fish lab, learning about our anemone fish and sea horse breeding program. The morning ended with a presentation about the physiology, biology, and behaviour of manta rays, a species commonly seen near Dhonfan. The students then completed a quiz about what they had learned. After lunch, they listened to a presentation about the mosquito eradication program, sponsored by Four Seasons, which will be visiting their island in August of this year. They discovered more about how mosquitoes can transmit disease and what they can do to help exterminate them – the students were particularly interested in this topic and asked a lot of questions.
[S]ubsequently, on 24 June, we hosted a group of high school students from Geelong Grammar School, Victoria, Australia who were spending a week on a safari boat as part of a school trip. They joined us in the morning for a tour of the MDC, and then helped transplant corals onto their own coral frame. The day came to a close after presentations about our manta and turtle conservation projects. The following day we organised a visit to Dhonfan School, with a tour of the local island community and then a trip to the famous Hanifaru Bay. It turned out to be an excellent end to the day, as the students were able to see a group of fifteen manta rays feeding and barrel rolling in the shallow waters.