My name is Nicole and this is my blog about my six weeks’ volunteering at the Marine Discovery Centre (MDC) on the beautiful island of Landaa Giraavaru (Baa Atoll, Maldives). Here we take care of injured turtles, breed anemonefish and have a large coral frame propagation project. This means that guests can sponsor a frame with corals on it and a personalised nametag, to rebuild the reef and help the environment.
- 7:30am: Waking up – I lived on the nearby local island of Kamadhoo. Each morning I caught the local 8:15 ferry boat … much better than the bus in Germany!
- 9:00am – 10:00am: Turtle care. My work in the MDC started with cleaning the rescue turtle pools in the MDC backyard, and then preparing the turtle food. Every turtle has a special diet depending on its bodyweight and size. None of the turtles are able to dive (except Elsa) so we hand feed with leftover fish, lobster and squid.
The MDC takes care of six injured turtles: Ossy, Elsa, Peggy, Zahiya, Kerry and La Petite. They were found injured, floating in ghost fishing nets on the surface of the ocean. Some of them have lost flippers, as you can see in the photos. Another big problem is ‘floating syndrome’, all turtles (except Elsa) have some trapped air between their shell and body, so they are not able to dive below the surface and eat from the pool bottom.
- 10:00am – midday: I helped out with the Reefscapers project, taking “monitoring” photographs of the coral frames, to observe coral growth over time as well as the more recent coral bleaching. Corals have a calcium carbonate skeleton with polyps, living in a symbiotic relationship with algae which give the corals their typical colour. But when the water temperature is too warm for a long time, the algae disappear from the polyp, and the only thing you can see is the white-coloured ‘bleached’ calcium carbonate skeleton. Unfortunately, the ocean temperature has been too warm for too long this year, and as the corals can’t survive in warm waters the Reefscapers project is currently not making any new frames.
- 12:00am – 14:00pm – Lunch break
- 14:00pm – 16:00pm – Guided Adventure Snorkel/ Dolphin Cruise
- 16:30pm – Collecting turtle food from the canteen, for the turtle feeding (and fish feeding, for the kids’ club).
After a presentation about the fish or turtles of the Maldives, we left the resort and went to a nearby reef to snorkel. If we encountered any turtles during the trip we would take photographs for the Turtle-ID project. Turtles have a unique pattern of scales (scutes) on their head, so we take identification photos to add to the national database (guests and fellow marine biologists from around the country are invited to send us their photos).
After a few weeks, I started to make the marine presentations myself and then lead the guests out on excursion. A colleague from the recreation team would check the ocean currents before giving the all clear for everyone to jump into the water.
The MDC also has lots of fish-breeding tanks, to breed two types of Anemonefish – the Clarks Clownfish and the Blackfoot Anemonefish (a species only seen around Maldives and Sri Lanka). The Fish Lab also produces algae to feed and grow rotifers, which are the main food of the Anemonefish larvae.
One day we went to a nearby uninhabited agricultural island, to collect some turtle hatchlings and release them out in the open water. Turtles have a lot of predators during their early years. The adult female turtles leave the water to crawl up the sandy beach, dig a hole and lay their ping-pong ball shaped eggs. When the little turtles hatch and try to find their way from the beach into the water, they have to face a huge predation risk – for example birds, fish, sharks or other animals that live in the shallow water.
Another great experience was the manta boat-trip. Annie, one of the Manta Trust marine biologists, invited me on a dhoni excursion (a traditional Maldivian boat) and for one whole day we searched for mantas in different sites around Baa Atoll. There are some feeding stations (places with a lot of plankton) and cleaning stations (where wrasses clean parasites from the mantas’ bodies). The manta season in the Maldives is from May to November, and during this time the Manta Trust go out every day to search for these huge, fantastic animals.
All in all I can say that my 6 weeks’ volunteering at the MDC 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.
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
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