Greetings everyone! My name is Hannah and I am from the Gold Coast, Australia. I am now one month into my internship with Marine Savers, and I cannot believe how much has already happened in such a short period of time … during my first week, I learnt so many new things that I thought my head might explode!
Working hands-on with marine turtles has been awesome. During my university degree (Bachelor of Science), I had the opportunity to work with turtle cells but never the actual animal … a welcome change. My daily jobs working in the Marine Discovery Centre (MDC) include tasks such as feeding the turtles and cleaning their pools. More daunting tasks include administering injections and fluids, as well as cleaning and caring for wounds. It is like nothing I’ve done before but I’ve happily embraced it.
Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation
So much time and effort goes into looking after the turtles, that when an individual is finally able to be released, everyone is overjoyed. So far in my short time, I have witnessed the release of five turtles: Dash, Valentino, BCD, Captain and Winslow. Dash is a green turtle that was part of the Rehabilitation Programme and was secretly my favourite. He was found as a hatchling by a marine biologist from another resort. He had never seen the ocean in his life and when he was released, it was like he paused for a moment in disbelief at where he was. Each release is unique because each turtle has a different personality and life history but they are all equally as thrilling to watch.
Sea Turtle Hatchling ‘Head Start’
Overnight on 8 March, hawksbill turtles hatched on Kuda Huraa beach behind one of the bungalows. From the nest, 11 hatchlings were collected. It was decided that four of them would be kept to include in our Headstart Programme where turtles are reared until 30cm in length. The remaining hatchlings were released at sunrise the next day into the open ocean to avoid reef-living predators. I was terrified on their behalf, seeing such small creatures taking off into the big blue!
Max, one of 6 turtles rescued from a single ghost fishing net.
Here, Irene and myself are treating Max’s lacerations at our rescue centre.
The four hatchlings we kept were the smallest of the clutch and included one born with deformities – aptly named Quasimodo. Quasi was born with only one eye, a very crooked overbite and strangely asymmetrical carapace scutes. Everyone has a soft spot for him, and we were worried when the other hatchlings began to eat but he still hadn’t tried to have a bite. I spent some extra time trying to feed him, being sure to hold the food in front of his single eye … and sure enough, he lunged and snapped it right up. That moment he finally ate was possibly one of the happiest for me so far, and he’s now the most active of the hatchlings and greedy for lobster! It’ll be very interesting to see how he looks as he grows.
As well as receiving new hatchlings, we also received an intake of injured juvenile to sub-adult turtles. Fishermen found six turtles tangled in a SINGLE ‘ghost net’ (discarded fishing gear) and brought them to us. Unfortunately, one died before they could reach us and some of the others were in very bad health. Between them, there were many serious lacerations and some flipper amputations. Two large turtles (Julie and Susy) were transported to Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu with Claire, the vet from the Olive Ridley Project, as they each required a front flipper amputation. We still have Bones, Max and Poppy to look after. Poppy was the luckiest, with just one laceration that is mostly healed now. Bones, named for his exposed bone in the place of an amputated flipper (that he since broke off), has improved leaps and bounds. Previously not eating and stuck floating, he now eats anything thrown his way and has even started to dive. Max is also showing great signs of improvement as he has started to eat and move around instead of moping in the corner as he used to.
Unfortunately, these turtles are not the only victims of fishing nets that we have received this month. Marine biologists from the nearby resort, One and Only, found a very big (36 kg!) Olive Ridley turtle stuck floating on the surface with a front flipper amputated. She was named Sweetie but turned out to be not so sweet. After being caught chasing down poor defenceless Greg (with no front flippers) and trying to bite him, Sweetie had to be segregated to her own pool. Though I do understand why she is so ‘angsty’, it must be frustrating not being able to dive despite trying every minute of every day.
Although getting to know the personalities of each individual turtle has been a major highlight of my internship thus far, there are many other animals that are equally thrilling to experience. I never expected to be so excited about the dolphin cruises. It seems an expectation that all marine biologists love dolphins … but I definitely do not! I respect their intelligence and charisma, but I also know too much about their disturbing behaviours to only see that side of them. Despite this, seeing the spinner dolphins put on acrobatic shows and playing in the bow of the boat does have an undeniable majesty. Seeing the calves try to jump and spin like the adults always makes me smile and laugh. During one of the cruises, we also found a pod of playful pilot whales, and I’m fairly certain I didn’t blink the entire time! I think I was more excited than any guest on the boat and it was an experience I will never forget. Since enjoying the dolphin cruises so much, my newest goal is to snorkel with them. So far, this has proven extremely difficult as it seems spinner dolphins do not appreciate snorkellers. Despite my best efforts throwing myself off boats near pods, I have so far only heard their whistles.
Snorkelling is also a big part of the job, and the best snorkel trip I have experienced so far included visits from 15 reef sharks, multiple hawksbill turtles (one of which followed us), a pair of eagle rays, octopus and stingrays. The night snorkels are always good fun too. I’ve seen massive moray eels hunting, decorator crabs, colourful nudibranchs, cuttlefish, shoals of squid, a huge male green turtle, and Christmas tree worms. I’ve also had a shark nearly run into me because it was curious about our torches, and didn’t seem to realise there was a human (me) attached to it!
Early last year, an El Niño event caused sea temperatures to be well above the normal average and this bleached many of the coral reefs in the whole of the Maldives. As part of the coral propagation programme, I have been helping to make new coral frames and recycle old frames that didn’t survive. From the older frames that have died, it’s easy to see how effective the programme can be as the coral had grown incredibly large. These frames are left in place despite being dead as they still provide critical habitat for the wildlife and a potential substrate for new coral to attach and grow.
When collecting coral to use on the frames, partially dead or diseased colonies are taken in order to minimise the impact on the reefs, as such colonies will rarely survive over time. The type of coral being used (genus Pocillopora) has proven to be the most robust, as it is currently the dominant branching coral on the reefs. By using robust Pocillopora, the rate of frame survival in future climate events will hopefully be improved. I have become extremely interested in coral conservation and have chosen a related research project that I’ll carry out next month.
Overall, this month has been very eventful and fun. I have learnt so much and can’t wait to see what will follow next month. I am extremely grateful that I have been given this opportunity and that I get to work with awesome like-minded people. I am loving island life and my little island family.
Until next month
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.
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
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
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