Hello everyone! I am Janice from Singapore, and I’m Seamarc’s marine biology intern at Four Seasons Resort, Kuda Huraa. I am currently in the final year of my ‘Veterinary Technology’ course and have chosen ‘Aquaculture’ as my elective cluster.
During my first week at Kuda Huraa’s Marine Discovery Centre (MDC), I took the opportunity to work on each of the conservation programmes in rotation. Jamie (Turtle Biologist) introduced me to turtle feeding and care of the hatchlings, and I accompanied Kimberly (Marine Biologist) on the daily snorkel excursions. Stephen (Coral Expert) was also there to teach me about coral biology and the ongoing Reefscapers coral propagation work. I must admit that initially the work was quite a challenge, as I needed to absorb all the specialised marine biology terminology and practical techniques … but I’m glad I persevered!
I learnt how to give the four different presentations on marine life at the MDC (fish, turtle, shark snorkel, dolphin cruise). The Seamarc team were excellent teachers (thank you!) and everyone was very patient, going through all the information and PowerPoint slides with me, so I learnt very quickly.
By the second week, I found myself increasingly drawn towards the turtle patients, so worked closely alongside Jamie to help with the specialised turtle diets and medical treatments, as well as chores like pool cleaning. I’ve learnt each turtle’s likes and dislikes when it comes to meal times and have also mastered the art of hiding tablets of medication! It requires a lot of patience when there are turtles like AaaVee, who is really picky when it comes to food. AaaVee is an Olive Ridley that lost his right front flipper following entanglement in a ‘ghost net’ (drifting discarded fishing net). Because of his missing flipper, AaaVee is not capable of diving under water so must be hand-fed every meal. This lobster-lover is a master at detecting hidden medicine in his food and often spits out the tablets, especially ‘Gas X’ which is given to rid the body of trapped gas (contributing to the problem of sea turtle ‘floating syndrome’).
‘Floating syndrome’ is also known as ‘Buoyancy Disorder’ and this means the turtles are unable to submerge under water to hide or look for food. This usually happens when the turtles become victims of trauma due to boat collision or entanglement with abandoned fishing gear (‘ghost nets’ that drift on ocean currents). We’ve been working hand in hand (or hand-in-flipper!) with AaaVee during meal times, when we push him down underwater to catch the sinking morsels of food.
Kainalu (aka the ‘Bulldozer’) swallows anything including tuna meat with bones and skin, which the other turtles would never touch. Kainalu is a hawksbill turtle, usually resident close by in the Channel area at the sunrise side of Kuda Huraa. She currently has a carapace length of about 60cm and weighs over 30kg. After 60 days of medical treatment at our Centre, her broken carapace healed well and she made a quick recovery back to health. So on Xmas Eve we were pleased to release her back into the ocean … YAY! Kainalu was then spotted a few days later in the Channel area, happily munching on sponges!
We monitor the weight and size of the turtles every Tuesday, to keep track of their growth and to make sure their wounds are clean and healthy. It is important to ensure a healthy growth rate, especially for the hatchlings under the ‘Head Start Programme’ since they are often the runts in the litter. Observing their growth every week will allow us to make amendments to their diet so they receive enough of the correct foods. It is mentally and physically challenging work, but very satisfying to observe the turtles grow bigger and stronger and get closer to the day they are released back into the ocean.
Olive Ridley turtles are not often seen in the Maldives as they don’t live or nest here, preferring the open ocean. Despite this, the start of the year has been nicknamed “Olive Ridley Season”, not because the turtles are aggregating near nesting beaches, but because of the numbers of Olive Ridley turtles to be found entangled in ghost nets. With the change in monsoonal wind directions, discarded fishing nets from countries like Sri Lanka and India are being swept along in oceanic currents. Turtles can be attracted to marine debris and drifting ghost nets whilst looking for food, but can then become entangled in the netting. This is made worse by the struggle to break free, as the net filaments can tighten and restrict the flippers, causing permanent tissue damage or flipper loss within several days of entanglement.
Captain Ibrahima (Olive Ridley turtle juvenile) was found entangled in a fishing net at Soneva Jani resort, and is suspected to have been floating on the ocean surface for quite a while. He arrived at our Centre in a dehydrated and underweight condition. Thankfully, he had escaped fatal injuries and managed to keep all his flippers intact. On his first day of admission, we had to give him a good scrub to clean off the algae, and administer reptile ringer to replenish his bodily fluids lost whilst trapped and unable to feed. The good news is that Captain’s condition has improved and he can now be seen resting at the bottom of the pool. Once he regains weight, he should be ready for release back into the ocean.
Pumpkin, another Olive Ridley turtle juvenile, was admitted in October with severe tissue damage to three flippers. After several weeks of intensive care and treatments at our Centre, she made full recovery and was successfully released back into the ocean. Off she swam, heading out of the atoll all and ready for her new adventures. Wherever she may be, let’s wish her all the best!
And to end on another happy note, just a few days before the end of my internship, 24 Hawksbill turtle hatchlings were welcomed into the world! The nest here at Kuda Huraa had been found in November immediately outside a guest room, and after 68 days of incubation the baby turtles were spotted emerging from the sand. I woke up early the next morning to join the team in releasing these precious new born babies. We headed to the outside of the atoll, to safely release the hatchlings away from many of the dangers they would have faced in the shallow lagoon.
I will always be eternally grateful for this opportunity to work alongside Jamie, Stephen, Gerardo and the two Sophies. 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. If given the chance, I would love to stay and absorb all your teachings like a sponge, however, it is time I say goodbye to continue my Veterinary Technology studies (hmmm … I am tempted to change courses!)
The memories I have forged here will always have a special place in my heart ♡ … what a wonderful country!
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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