Excellent surf wave at Kuda Huraa, Maldives

Hi, my name is Adam, and I’m the new intern here at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. I have been here for the last five wonderful weeks and will be here until September; plenty of time to get involved with the great work the team do here at the Marine Discovery Centre and to learn all I can about the amazing marine life in the Maldives.

I have just finished studying Environmental Science at Plymouth University and prior to that I studied Marine Science in Falmouth; it’s great that I can finally put my knowledge to the test in the ‘real world’! I didn’t want to waste any time in getting out here, and as soon as I finished my final exam I was straight in the taxi and off to the airport!

The last five weeks have already been such great fun and every day is so varied. Here is an idea of my ‘typical day’:

– 07:30: Good morning!
– 08:15: Short ferry ride to the resort island
– 08:30: Breakfast in the canteen
– 09:00: Check on all turtles and feed our aquarium fish
– 09:30: Turtle feeding and cleaning
– 10:30: Turtle medical treatments
– 12:00: Lunch time
– 13:00: Turtle feeding (veggies) and prepare for the afternoon guest excursion
– 14:00: Snorkel briefing and marine life presentation
– 14:30: Head out on the boat to see sharks or turtles
– 16:30: Turtle dinner of fish and lobster
– 17:00: Record of who ate what food
– 17:30: Dolphin cruise
– 20:00: Dinner time

Wild Hawksbill turtle on the reef

The majority of my time is spent tending to our resident turtles, especially as Jamie (our turtle biologist) has now gone on holiday, so the responsibility lies with me and Kim (our marine biologist). We currently have 19 turtles in house, however, when I first arrived we had 22! Turtles are sent to us from all around the Maldives, often after being found floating in ghost fishing nets, or sent to us as part of our Head Start programme.

Ghost fishing nets are lost or discarded fishing nets which float around in the ocean collecting and killing marine life for years. These nets often attract turtles as an easy source of food, however, when the turtles get close to investigate they can easily become entangled within the filaments of the net. Turtles, like us, need to come to the surface to breathe, and when entangled they can often drown. In some cases they may need their flippers amputated as the filaments of the nets become tighter and tighter, causing irreparable tissue damage.

Our Head Start programme consists of monitoring turtle nests when they hatch. At this time, most of the hatchlings head straight to the sea to start their lives, however, some undersized or unhealthy individuals are often left behind in the nest. These remaining hatchlings would usually die if left on their own, so we collect these stragglers and grow them on until they are of a decent size (>30cm) and they can then be released into the wild with a much better chance of survival.

The first week was a busy one as three new rehab turtles turned up in three consecutive days. The first of which was a large hawksbill turtle who was found floating at the surface; she was not interested in any food we gave her and unfortunately passed away after a few days. After carrying out a necropsy we discovered lots of plastic inside her stomach. Plastic pollution in the seas is a major issue for sea turtles as they can easily mistake it for food, once consumed, plastic can block the turtle’s intestines causing them to starve to death. As well as this, plastic pieces can accumulate persistent organic pollutants from the water; these can leach out once consumed and cause the turtles lots of discomfort and potential illness.

Rescue turtle 'Greg'

The second of our new arrivals was Aleena, a Green sea turtle. She was found floating at the surface suffering from ‘floating syndrome’. This can be caused by air being trapped in the turtle’s gut due to a blockage in their digestive system or through other natural illness such as pneumonia or an infection in the lungs. It can also occur following a stressful event such as a shark attack or a boat strike; either way the turtle becomes positively buoyant and is unable to dive for food. Aleena would not eat at all when with us, so after a week of giving ‘IV’ to keep her fluids up we had to make the decision to start tube feeding as she was losing a lot of weight. Sadly, after just over two weeks with us she passed away. After carrying out a necropsy it was found that she was in fact a he, and that he had a large blockage in his digestive system and his intestines were swollen up like a balloon. It was a sad day for us all at the MDC.

The third turtle we received was Nash, another Olive Ridley turtle who was found entangled in a fishing net. When he arrived he was very stressed and could not dive. After 10 days he was happily diving and resting on the bottom of the pool so it was time to send him home. We were lucky enough to be able to fit Nash with a satellite tag, donated to us by Dusit Thani Maldives, so we can track his movements (these tags are very expensive so we cannot fit them to all of our turtles). Once securely attached, the tag can last for up to one year and should give us a picture of the oceanic journey of the turtle, especially helpful for Olive Ridley turtles as they are a predominantly oceanic species so knowledge on where they travel to is limited (as opposed to the Green and Hawksbill turtles, which are regularly seen on the shallow reefs around the Maldives).

On release, Nash shot off and within two weeks has already travelled over 400 km! You can track his progress here, on our interactive satellite tracking maps.

Another of our rehab turtles is Greg, an Olive Ridley turtle, but he is like a big puppy dog and loves back scratches! He was found floating around at the surface and had lost both of his front flippers, most likely the result of a ghost fishing net. His flipper stumps were well-healed so the amputation probably occurred around one month before coming to us. His eyesight was also very poor, possibly a result of floating in the sun for such an extended period of time. After giving him lots of medication and eye ointment every day, Greg is now a very happy turtle with much improved eyesight. Unfortunately Greg will not be able to be released back to the wild as he will struggle to dive for his food, so the hope is that we can find an aquarium somewhere in the world with the resources to offer a nice home and to help educate people about the impact of oceanic ghost nets.

But it’s not all about turtles, as I have also been busy with guest snorkel trips, dolphin cruises, scientific projects, coral reef monitoring and surfing world class waves at the local breaks! I am having such a great time here and can’t wait to update you again on my goings on at the end of the month!

Thanks for reading
Adam

False Killer Whales

Do you want to experience life as a marine biologist
here in the Maldives ?

Head over to our Employment page to read about the different ways you can work with us - full time, apprentice, intern or volunteer. And see more from our Interns and Volunteers in their very own words & photos as part of our Diary / Blog series.

One of our first interns, Dylan (from Singapore's Temasek Polytechnic) had an amazingly unique experience with us.
Firstly, he helped with the rescue of a stranded false killer whale 'Haita' (although she sadly did not survive rehabilitation).
And then he was invited to the “Marine Mammal Stranding Symposium” (February 2013), to present our work and findings to fellow marine biologists.

Dylan (Singapore) 2012

Glen worked with us in 2014, developing a shark population survey to study local populations of Blacktip Reef sharks using a variety of survey methods including underwater camera traps, and snorkel surveys.

Glen (UK) 2014

Frédéric was a PhD student and lecturer at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, specialising in ecology and tropical marine biology.
During his time with us, Frédéric researched indigenous Echinoderms, and possibly discovered a previously undocumented new species of sea cucumber.

Frédéric (France) 2014

A very enjoyable part of my job is spreading awareness to the public, to promote better understanding and appreciation for the marine ecosystem. We recently organised a school excursion ... seeing these enthusiastic children learning about the environment brings me joy and hope.
My time here has been an amazing experience ... more than just swimming with the fishes and being surrounded by beautiful reefs!

Adrelia (Singapore) 2014

All of the experiences have allowed me to make many new friends and gain knowledge and memories that will never be forgotten.
Thank you to everyone for making my time here so enjoyable!

Beth (UK) 2015

The care and rehabilitation of the turtles here is very satisfying work.
In just a short few weeks, I have seen Spinner Dolphins, Hawksbill Turtles, Black Tip Reef Sharks and of course lots of colourful and varied marine life ... a wonderful moment each time!

Mailis (Belgium) 2015

Every day since I have arrived has been an adventure!
I am witnessing new and amazing things every day, from sunsets to 'Spanish Dancers' ! It’s a wonderful experience as we share underwater marine life encounters, and I have actually lost count of how many sharks, dolphins and turtles I’ve encountered since I arrived ... and it’s magical every time.

Cath (UK) 2015

Winy and Hazel had a very busy and enjoyable time, working with our turtle care patients and the Reefscapers coral propagation programme.
They also helped with an important reef clean-up, and had a memorable day releasing baby turtle hatchlings into the ocean.

Winy & Hazel (Hong Kong) 2015

Taking time off work to travel all the way to the Maldives to care for sea turtles might seem a crazy idea to some; for me, however, it was the chance of a lifetime. This was the perfect opportunity to leave my office desk in the concrete jungle of Hong Kong and take part in something meaningful in a unique part of the world.
I have had a tremendous time, and have made friends with a lot of lovely people from around the world. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would definitely like to come back some day to visit everyone… and the sea turtles too, of course!

Keith (Hong Kong) 2015

I had never seen a turtle this large before, which was a whole new experience for me in itself ... It took 6 people to get this amazing turtle out of the water and into the boat.
I have even started leading some of the snorkel safaris around nearby reefs, an incredibly rewarding experience to be sharing information and experiences with people. My favourite moments have often been on our dolphin cruises, the incredible spinner dolphins never cease to amaze me as they throw their bodies high above the water surface. That is certainly a sight I will never get tired of!

Sophie (UK) 2015

You can see some breathtaking marine life here in the Maldives, and every time I’m in the water I feel constantly in awe of my surroundings ... 2 mantas at a cleaning station swam through our dive group, getting extremely close!
These activities, along with the people I have met along the way have ... made the experience so enjoyable and memorable.

Emily (UK) 2016

Every day was a different adventure, with turtles to treat, corals to transplant, talks to give and dolphins to spot. It is always a thrill to (see) the juvenile Spinner dolphins, who stick very close to their mothers but are often the most acrobatic jumpers, putting the ‘spin’ in Spinner. Sometimes we were lucky to spot manta rays too.
I am very grateful to the Marine Savers team ... It has strengthened my desire to work in marine conservation and I hope to be back in the Maldives one day!

Roz (UK) 2016

The Marine Savers team is great fun to work with, and I couldn’t have asked for a better location to gain some experience in environmental conservation.
It was wonderful to be around so many people who share my passion for the underwater world, and I hope it’s not too long before I’m back beneath the waves in the Maldives!

Dhiya (Sri Lanka) 2016

Each morning I caught the local 8:15 ferry boat … much better than the bus in Germany!
One day we went to a nearby uninhabited agricultural island, to collect some turtle hatchlings and release them out in the open water. Another great experience was the manta boat-trip ... for one whole day we searched for mantas in different sites around Baa Atoll.
All in all I can say that my 6 weeks’ volunteering ... was a great experience, I met a lot of nice and very friendly people and I learned a lot about turtles, fish species and corals in the beautiful tropical waters around the Maldives.

Nicole (Germany) 2016

The first week was a busy one as three new rehab turtles turned up in three consecutive days. I have also been busy with guest snorkel trips, dolphin cruises, scientific projects, coral reef monitoring and surfing world class waves at the local breaks!
I have been here for the last five wonderful weeks ... such great fun and every day is so varied ... to learn all I can about the amazing marine life in the Maldives.

Adam (UK) 2016

From literally stepping out of the airport and onto the resort speedboat, I was completely blown away by how amazing the Maldives is; hot sun, blue skies, and crystal-clear waters … paradise!
In my first week, I spent a lot of time learning about and working with the resident sea turtles ... Caring for these turtles has been great fun and each one has its own personality.
... we were lucky to encounter a large pod of false killer whales, which was an incredible experience!
The teams at both resorts are a fantastic group of people and I enjoyed every moment working with them all.

Mark (UK) 2016

The Seamarc team were excellent teachers (thank you!) and everyone was very patient so I learnt very quickly.
I will always be eternally grateful for this opportunity ... A very sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart for everyone’s encouragement, hard work and dedication. My short time here has allowed me to learn so many things that otherwise might not have been possible.
The memories I have forged here will always have a special place in my heart ♡ … what a wonderful country!

Janice (Singapore) 2017

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