Hello again, everybody!
I had the opportunity to extend my internship period for three more months, so here I am again, feeling lucky and happy about having the chance of learning more about Maldivian marine life. That also means that I am going to keep you updated for a little while longer. 😊
During the time that I am going to stay in Kuda Huraa, from May to August, the summer monsoon shifts through a series of dry and rainy periods, getting more windy and rainy through the monsoon change. What is more, we are in the manta ray season!
Manta rays are elasmobranchs belonging to the same family as sharks; the manta species that we can spot in our snorkel safaris are the reef manta rays. This type of manta is one of the largest rays in the world, measuring up to 3.5m in disc width (wingspan), with a maximum size of about 5.5m.
We are lucky here in the Maldives because the mantas usually go to cleaning and feeding areas where it is easy to observe them. Every Saturday, we organise a manta ray snorkel for the guests of the resort and I am in charge of guiding them all and explaining interesting facts about these incredible animals.
As we are at the start of the season, and the mantas are not yet using the cleaning and feeding stations known to be found in North Malé atoll, we have not spotted any manta rays during our snorkels so far. I am hoping so much to experience an encounter with these animals, as I have never yet seen them in real life.
However, we always have a backup plan! After checking the manta ray spot, our excursion boat leads us to Tuna Pass (a snorkelling spot close to a tuna processing factory) to enjoy the beautiful school of banner fishes and large groups of sting rays. In only a single snorkel trip, we can see up to 30 sting rays swimming very close to us.
My first dolphin cruise was one of the most memorable ones. I remember pointing out some dolphins to the guests, when suddenly a group of pilot whales surfaced just in front of us! The pilot whale is among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the killer whale. Like dolphins, they are highly social and it is believed that both males and females remain in their mother’s pod, an unusual trait among mammals.
Hawksbill Turtle, ‘Bill’ (EI0953) Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
During the turtle adventure safaris, I have also been in charge of taking photos of the carapace and face of the sea turtles for our Identification Project. I really enjoy swimming with marine turtles with an underwater camera. They have this restful way of swimming, as if they do not have any fear or burden worrying them.
Identification is possible because of the pattern of the facial ‘scutes’ (scales). The scutes can be used as a reliable method for individual recognition, just like fingerprints in humans.
With this project, we are trying to establish an estimated inventory of Maldivian sea turtles; the identification of individuals within a population being the preliminary step taken in the ecological study of a species. We currently have more than 2,000 individually identified Hawksbill and Green turtles in the database; thanks to everyone who is contributing from resorts, dive schools and safari boats from all over the Maldives.
So far, our research has shown that Hawksbills remain on their home reefs throughout the year, travelling only between reefs less than two kilometres apart, while Green turtles tend to use multiple reefs for feeding. Our data also show that we mainly observe female and juvenile turtles on the reefs, with few males of either species being spotted by our researchers.
Flipper surgery on a rescued sea turtle (Luc)
The pattern of scales is unique to each turtle
Our Rescue Turtle Patients
Our sea turtles in the Marine Discovery Centre have gone through several changes. Some of them have been released, others sent to nearby facilities, and one of them unfortunately didn’t have the strength to make it through.
Luc is an Olive Ridley sea turtle found by crew members from a cruising live-aboard. The boat crew spotted floating debris and after having a close look, they realised that three sea turtles were trapped in a drifting ‘ghost’ fishing net. The boat crew extracted them from the tangled mess of marine debris and sent the reptiles to our Marine Discovery Centre in Kuda Huraa. (Sadly, one of them didn’t survive the journey).
Luc started to be more rehydrated following baths in fresh water after his arrival to our Centre, and also because of the reef fish our team offered to him and which he gladly ate. Despite his first improvements, Luc had an almost amputated flipper. With the help of the resort doctor, we removed that hanging flipper and with my veterinary knowledge, I was able to assist with Luc’s surgery. He managed to make it through surgery and as we began to give antibiotics, wound care and daily fluids, it looked like he was starting to slowly recover. Unfortunately, he began to lose interest in food, became very lethargic, and unfortunately succumbed to his wounds and peacefully passed away on 20 June.
Max’s story is a brighter one, following his arrival at our facility in March. This Olive Ridley was found floating and entangled in a fishing ghost net along with five other turtles! The wounds in his flippers were mostly superficial. The most worrying issue was his poor body condition; he was underweight and unable to dive. Little by little, this weak animal started to develop more interest in food and he even ended up diving to reach the pieces of fish we threw in front of him!
In June, Max was strong and powerful enough to return back to the wild. We released him on a bright sunny day, in open ocean outside the atoll, and I had the chance of holding him before the last goodbye! He was so eager, that he swam straight downwards after release, just as if he had been longing for ages for that moment to happen.
I am enjoying my island life, and although I’m missing my family and friends from Spain a little, I really feel that I belong to somewhere like this magical place, surrounded by the ocean and the amazing creatures living there.
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