Maldives Rescue Sea Turtles
We had a stupendous start to March, as we released not just one but THREE rehabilitated turtles. Diver, Rap and Denise were given a clean bill of health after being given much tender loving care at our Centre. The younger ones (Diver and Rap) were released together on 1 March, and Denise followed the following week. Many resort guests joined us to celebrate the turtles’ return to the ocean, with hopes that all of them will lead a good life and no longer be harmed again. With the release of Denise, Diver and Rap, the remaining turtle residents will have a larger pool to swim in, and hopefully have a speedy recovery as well.
I’ve been caring for Denise since her admission to the turtle rehabilitation centre (on the same day as my arrival to Landaa Giraavaru!). She was not the easiest patient to work on, squirming and wiggling whenever she was taken out of her pool. Generally, she made it clear she wasn’t a big fan of getting treatment, and I nicknamed her “Denise the Menace”. She was the only turtle that needed at least two people for her treatment, one to carry out the treatment while the other made sure Denise stayed under control.
On the day of her return to the ocean, I felt like a proud guardian, watching Denise swimming with ease in the water. I spent some time with Denise underwater, cruising along the House Reef before she was gone from my sight. (Such a wonderful memory).
Apart from helping the marine biologist, I also assist Monty (Assistant Coral Biologist) with the Reefscapers Project. The Coral Propagation Programme run by Seamarc is one of the most successful of its kind in the world. More than 3000 frames have been placed around Landaa Giraavaru, providing an immense habitat for the reef fishes. Every week, at least two coral frames will be set up for the project. Coral fragments from healthy coral colonies are collected and placed onto the coral frame (made from steel bar covered in resin and sand). The coral frames are monitored (cleaned, maintained, photographed) every 6 months.
When I’m having a break from work, I tag along on the dive trips whenever I can. Snorkelling and scuba diving in the Maldives have presented two different and unforgettable underwater experiences for me. My most memorable dive was a night dive at Finolhas; as we were approaching a cave entrance, a hawksbill turtle suddenly emerged from the shadows … and my heart nearly jumped out of my mouth!
I was also privileged to be given the opportunity to accompany the Manta Trust team on their week-long research trip around Raa Atoll. I helped the team with the production of a Manta Interaction Film, to educate tourists on the Code of Conducts to follow while interacting with Manta rays. It was a unique experience for me as it was my first time staying on a boat for a whole week and my first time seeing Mantas in the wild. In a span of 6 days, we encountered more than 80 Reef Manta Rays.
The best moment was saved for the last day, as we spotted 50 Mantas feeding at the surface of the water! It was a thrilling moment for all of us, as the huge rays were making acrobatic barrel-rolls just beneath our fins. Mesmerising photographs were taken as 25 Mantas formed a long feeding-train and cruised by. We even managed to catch a glimpse of a couple of pregnant Reef Manta Rays as well! Some Mantas also dropped by the cleaning stations to get a nice “spa treatment” from the cleaner wrasse and butterfly fish. This trip, without a doubt, is one of the highlights of my stay in Maldives.
Unfortunately, my time at Landaa Giraavaru has come to an end; I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at this pristine underwater paradise. Thank you, Marine Savers, for allowing me to be part of the team and for all the amazing experiences! I will miss all the wonderful people I have met on this island.