Hello everyone! My name is Mark and I am the new volunteer Marine Biologist here at Four Seasons Resorts Maldives. I will be working as part of the Marine Savers team here in the Maldives for a total of 10 weeks, spending five weeks at Kuda Huraa followed by five weeks at Landaa Giraavaru.
Having graduated from Bangor University (Wales) in 2012 with a Masters in Marine Biology, I have spent the last few years working in public aquaria/zoos in my home city of Chester (England). Although I really enjoy working in this industry, my passion lies in marine conservation. Therefore, in order to gain more practical experience in this field, I decided to come out to the Maldives and join forces with the Marine Savers team.
After spending a week in Doha (Qatar), I arrived in the Maldives and came straight to Kuda Huraa from the airport. 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!
On my first day at the resort, I was shown to my accommodation on the neighbouring local island of Bodu Huraa and given time to unpack and settle in. I was then taken on a tour of the island by Ben (Marine Discovery Centre [MDC] manager) and shown all of the staff facilities as well as my place of work – the Marine Discovery Centre. This is where I got to meet the rest of the Marine Savers team and find out about all of the conservation projects they are currently working on.
In my first week, I spent a lot of time learning about and working with the resident sea turtles currently receiving care at the MDC. Five of the seven sea turtle species are found in the Maldives and at present the MDC is home to individuals of three different species: Green turtles (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Olive Ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). Most turtles at the centre are individuals that have been found stranded, floating in the ocean, entangled in drifting ‘ghost’ fishing nets or previously kept as pets around the Maldives. The turtles are sent to the MDC for rehabilitation, care and in some cases medical treatment, before being released back into the ocean. Other turtles are part of the ‘Head-Start’ Programme, whereby hatchling turtles that would not naturally survive in the wild are admitted and reared before release. We are essentially giving them a ‘head-start’ in life. From my second day here, I have been busy helping to look after these turtles by preparing their food, feeding and cleaning out rehabilitation pools. I have also been assisting with the weekly sea turtle monitoring, whereby we take weight and size measurements of each turtle individually, and give them a general health check to track their progress.
Caring for these turtles has been great fun and each one has its own personality. One amazing individual is a green turtle named Crush. Crush had been previously (and illegally) kept as a pet on a local Maldivian island and whilst a juvenile, he sustained an injury to his fragile shell resulting in a deformity. Unfortunately during his time at the centre Crush’s shell has continued to bend further in half, but despite this he still appears to be full of energy! At present, Kuda Huraa’s turtle biologist Jamie is looking at possible options to prevent further bending and hopefully allow Crush to sit the right way up. Crush is definitely a favourite amongst guests visiting our turtle pools as each one asks about him and leaves knowing his full life history. Therefore, Crush himself is an excellent ambassador, helping to educate people about the reasons why these animals should never be kept as pets.
As well as working with the sea turtles I have also been assisting on the various guest excursions that run each day such as the coral reef adventure snorkel, shark and turtle safari snorkel and the evening dolphin cruise. These excursions allow guests staying at the resort the opportunity to see just how amazing the marine life of the Maldives really is, as no two snorkels are the same! They also allow us as marine biologists the opportunity to educate and share important conservation information on how we can protect the rich marine life of the coral reefs. On these excursions, I have been assisting both on the boat and in the water and I have just started to lead them myself – which I am really enjoying. On the dolphin cruises we have had lots of spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) sightings recently, and on one cruise that I will never forget, we were incredibly lucky to encounter a large pod of false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), which was an incredible experience!
Over the last couple of weeks we have been busy with our sea turtles, welcoming 6 new arrivals over the last month. These include two very young hatchlings, a large hawksbill, a large green turtle (Aleena), and two large Olive Ridleys (Nash & Greg). All of these turtles have been living at the MDC and receiving care. Nash the Olive Ridley arrived at the MDC after being found entangled in a drifting ‘ghost’ fishing net, but despite no severe injuries, she could not dive. Luckily within a few days Nash had recovered and was happily diving again. On 16 June (World Sea Turtle Day) we successfully released Nash back into the ocean where she belongs. We wish her the best of luck back in the wild!
So that’s a brief overview of my time in the Maldives so far, and as my five weeks at Kuda Huraa is unfortunately drawing to an end, I am excited to move on to the next stop – Landaa Giraavaru. Here, I am really looking forward to meeting the team, their resident sea turtles and helping out on the various research projects they are running … especially the ornamental fish-breeding project.
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