Guests often ask me where my positive energy and motivations to “save the world” come from – was it always my dream to be a marine biologist and live on a tropical island? Seeing all these colourful fish and playful turtles every day must be the best job ever – how did a winter-sport-loving Canadian get into the niche field of adventure science in an underwater career? Whether I’m chatting with a friendly family by the turtle pools or sipping a cold drink with a new client during the weekly Managers’ Cocktail hour, I enjoy sharing the unorthodox path that brought me from the snowy mountains and boreal forests to the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean.
Life here at the Marine Discovery Centre of Four Seasons Kuda Huraa is often in turn a serenely beautiful experience and a fast-paced speedboat ride. The reality of living here is that I sometimes pinch myself, unable to believe my luck at working in a marine biology paradise… and then occasionally find myself blinking back the tears, frustrated at not being able to do more.
MDC Manager (at Kuda Huraa) - connecting mankind with nature, empowering our team to make underwater magic!
Erin’s first career was in professional winter sport athletics, racing the international biathlon circuit on the Canadian IBU Cup team. During this time, she witnessed warming European winters and the extremes of climate change high in the mountains. Erin also managed the Media and Communications for a charity inspiring women and girls in sport, and built up her coaching and leadership resume around the world.
Upon retirement from professional sport, Erin returned to her childhood love for tropical marine life, working for various sea turtle nesting research stations in Costa Rica. She also collected data in the jungle on everything from butterflies and bats, to caimans and (large!) cats, and completed a university Adventure Guiding program (covering extreme sport qualifications such as drysuit diving, sea kayaking, navigation techniques, avalanche rescue, and more).
Most recently, Erin worked underwater at Coiba Island (Panama), igniting her passion for coral research, and so she is now extremely excited to be working hands-on with Kuda Huraa’s coral propagation and marine conservation projects!
So, when I walk the length of our island and boardwalk each morning, watching the sting rays and marvelling at the sunrise, I have to remind myself that motivation waxes and wanes like the moon; we get cycles of energy for tasks throughout the month, just as the tide rises and falls. There will be days where I go from ‘mas huni’ for breakfast (spicy Maldivian tuna salad), to the Managers’ briefing, to scuba work on coral frames, to curry for lunch, to a guest presentation and shark snorkel, to an evening Dolphin Cruise.
Then there will be days when I don’t feel like a spicy breakfast, there’s wind and thunderstorms, and seemingly endless numbers of purchase orders to write, only to be interrupted by an important enquiry from reception. There’s a 100kg turtle carcass washed ashore, and the aquariums have suddenly overflowed, and … It’s at times tiring and exhilarating, to combine ocean conservation/marine research with the highest dedication levels required for luxury hospitality. It can be easy to lose sight of why we do what we do, and how privileged we are to be working in these famous turquoise-blue waters every day. 💙
We attached rescue coral colonies to existing Reefscapers frames, and secured some larger colonies to the natural reef
It takes a high-energy person to thrive here, and most days I leap out of bed, stoked to be freediving and transplanting corals for hours on end, and then I will turn on a dime to engage with curious guests… the entire day is a blur of underwater magic and human connections. My cheerful motivation and sunny energy grow from a love of simply being in the ocean… oh, and maybe that latest cup of coffee! And like anything exhilarating in life, as the shiny new lustre wears thin, we tap into deeper long-lasting motivational energy.
Our artificial reefs extend the biodiversity around the island, creating homes for many marine species
Three months in to my new position as the Manager of the Marine Discovery Centre at Kuda Huraa, I’m now relying on a sense of purpose over passion… inspiration vs motivation. For me, inspiration comes from somewhere internal, deeper and more everlasting – the word derives from ‘in-spirit’, after all! Passion and motivation burn hot but can gradually dissipate, whereas purpose and inspiration are quietly eternal.
To live so far away from my old style of living, working to save our dying oceans despite all the odds, takes that special eternal energy. Don’t get me wrong – just like my first weeks here, I still cultivate that child-like sense of wonder about the marine world, and am grateful at the end of a long day for this opportunity to work underwater. These days, I feel like my energy is less frantic and more focused, as I’m better able to zoom out and see the bigger picture, and then prioritise specific tasks.
I’ve found a sustainable pace of life, balancing the extremely social nature of living in staff accommodation with my introverted tendencies, and have finally learned to respect my time off. The joke during my first career as an athlete was always that our jobs were 24/7, and you couldn’t ever NOT be an athlete, if that makes sense… and I think working for Reefscapers is similar. We live and play where we work, and that’s both the best part (getting paid to pursue my diving hobby!) and the worst part (never turning off my brain or my phone). Just like we avoid dualistic thinking in science (it’s not either/or, but and) I don’t have a definite split between my work/life balance. And that’s OK, because after a wild initial three months, I now know my limits and work within them – letting purpose fuel me, with a slow-burn of positive inspiration.
As we translant our corals to the reef, we are surrounded by colourful marine species
What inspires me daily when I wake up in paradise? For the type-A personalities out there, here’s a list of what keeps me IN-SPIRIT:
- Our truly epic team; the perfect blend of skillsets and wisdom; personalities seamlessly balancing each other like a healthy ecosystem of reef-mangrove-seagrass.
- Descending onto our house reef and seeing all the big, healthy, new coral colonies we transplanted to new locations where they will survive and thrive.
- Freediving down to point out an anemone and clownfish family to an excited snorkelling guest.
- Seeing the unwavering determination of the entire Four Seasons crew, working together day and night to provide life-enhancing experiences for guests.
- Slowly but surely learning the names of all 250 Resort colleagues, and hearing the stories about their home nations (38 different countries represented here!)
- Being out on the open ocean, wind in my hair, lost in my train of thought, scanning the horizon for dolphins.
- Taking sunset walks on our neighbouring island of Bodu Huraa, glimpsing insights into local Maldivian island life.
- And it might sound strange, but even the bleached sections of reef inspire me… they are a stark reminder of the importance of the work we do, and keep us mission-focused in this race against the clock to save corals.
Overall, I’m just incredibly grateful for the waves, the creatures beneath them, and the people I am lucky enough to connect with… and I can hardly wait to see what the months ahead will bring. Monsoon season appears to have arrived early in the Maldives this year, and I look forward to having a little more time to dedicate to some specific projects during the off-peak season.
Thanks for reading, and for the endless support in rebuilding reefs, saving turtles, and researching cetaceans. The entire Reefscapers team, across the Maldives and beyond, are sometimes too busy saving the world to provide daily updates, but we can assure you that the mermaid life out here in the middle of the Indian Ocean is going, dare we say… swimmingly. 🧜
It’s always a delight to see the variety of nudibranchs (sea slugs) on the reef
As we transplant the rescue corals, a passing titan triggerfish enjoys a snack
Whilst working, we are surrounded by a variety of curious marine species