Reefscapers coral frames at Kuda Huraa water villas

Erin's Monthly Marine Musings

Many of the guests we interact with – especially fellow divers – are on a marine mission: they want to see megafauna! We’re talking big sharks, even bigger rays, and as many turtles as possible. We love these creatures too – it’s exciting to snorkel and dive with them, educating as we go along, and doing our best to save the reefs they rely on for survival.
Sharing our passion for the tiny miracles in the sea is what really sets our souls on fire. If we can get someone stoked on a clownfish and its fluffy anemone, or take a big breath and peer up close at a coral colony and the damselfish living inside, or better yet, observe the tiny individual coral polyps in a fragment while building a frame … then we’ve done our job well.
We are starting new scientific studies on turtle behaviours and coral survival, and we are amping up our guest presentations to provide next-level experiences down to the last slide.
May was a beautiful month, with both hot sun and humid storms, and we’re ready to embrace whatever the wind blows our way. With our newest intern, Shona, on board, and Bethany now officially promoted to our Turtle Biologist role, there are many good times ahead!

Fish Lab & Aquaria – Marine Life in the Maldives

Fish Lab & Aquaria

Big changes in the Fish Lab this month as we completed a total overhaul of the lower tanks, emptying tanks 11-15 and 31-35, removing the sediment and changing the layout. Tanks 21-25 were deep-cleaned in preparation for new breeding pairs. Tanks 1-5 will also be deep-cleaned in the upcoming weeks.

  • Tank 15: the seahorse (Hippocampus kuda) now lives with the pipefish, in a newly designated Syngnathidae
  • Tank 32: our sexy shrimp breeding pairs, along with two juveniles. It will also house the captive bred juveniles once they have settled. It also contains several massive coral species including an experimental plate of microfragmented corals.
  • Tank 33: we released the Humbug Damselfish to make room for the Ocellaris juveniles.
  • Tank 34: home to four Marbled Shrimp (Saron species) that we hope to start breeding. The lionfish was released as it grew too large.
Fish lab rescaped tanks 21-35

Our Fish Lab – rescaped tanks #21-35

Plankton Production

Plankton production remains consistently good.

  • Rotifer numbers were maintained steadily through the month.
  • Algae supply continues to cycle well (with a turnover every eight days). This allows four days for the algae to settle and grow, and then:
  • Artemia are added to the algae and grown to adulthood (and then transferred to a 20L bucket as feed).
  • We have restarted our Zooplankton Survey, practising plankton tows out in the lagoon, and processing the collected samples.
Fish la tank 15 Syngnathidae

Tank #15: Syngnathidae

Fish lab tank 32 sexy shrimp

Tank #32 sexy shrimp

Fish lab tank 33 marbled shrimp

Tank #33 marbled shrimp

Fish lab tank 33 Ocellaris juveniles

Tank #33 Ocellaris juveniles

Small Marine Aquaria

Both of our small aquaria continue to be healthy, with consistent water flow, although aquarium-1 tends to accumulate algae. The coral fragments on both mini coral frames are healthy, fusing and growing well.

Jellyfish – Aurelia aurita

The jellyfish in our Fish Lab system are growing steadily, and have been transferred from the 30L Kreisel tank to the 100L Kreisel with sump (30% water changes every other day).
We have installed a new chiller in our main cylinder system, to maintain a steady temperature of 24°C.

Ornamental Fish Breeding

  • Common clownfish [Australia] (Amphiprion ocellaris) – our juveniles continue to thrive, so much so that their full hosting behaviour overwhelmed the anemone. We moved them to a new tank with a larger hosting option, a ‘flowerpot coral’ (Goniopora) relocated from the main tank. So far, they have been ignoring the coral but are beginning to acclimatise, and may start to host in the coming months.
  • Clark’s clownfish (Amphiprion clarkii) –several spawning events from Tank 3, with three clutches surviving to the final day of gestation. But there is a low hatching rate, and the larvae are weak (dying within two weeks, before metamorphosis).
  • Maldivian clownfish (Amphiprion nigripes) –the juvenile was lost, maybe from water contamination (due to ongoing construction work in the  Fish Lab).
  • Sexy shrimp (Thor amboinensis) – we have five surviving larvae from April; the clutch hatched on 9 May is being carefully monitored (currently, 61 larvae in stage #6 of #8). An egg clutch from our second breeding pair hatched 81 larvae on 27 May.
Fish lab Thor amboinensis larva developmental stages

Developmental stages of Thor amboinensis (at Landaa’s Fish Lab)

Maldives Sea Turtle Rescue & Conservation

Turtle rescue Maldives Marine Savers Artemis
Large green turtle stranded Maldives Marine Savers
Large green turtle stranded Maldives Marine Savers
Large green turtle stranded Maldives Marine Savers

Sea Turtle Stranding (3 photos, above)

On 6 May, we received a call about a stranded green turtle on a beach in Maadhoo (South Ari Atoll). The large 65kg adult female turtle (‘RB.CM.034’) was transferred to our rescue centre at Kuda Huraa in a very weak condition, but without obvious injuries. After a team effort, she was given antibiotics and fluids, but sadly died on day two. Under consultation with Kat, our vet at Landaa, we performed an autopsy but no abnormalities were found.

Sea Turtle Rehabilitation

At the close of May, we were caring for three Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea), one Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), and one Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) in our Rehabilitation Centre at Landaa.

At Kuda Huraa, we continue to care for Ari (52.6cm, 18.4kg), our amputee Olive Ridley patient transferred from Landaa on 12 March. She has settled in nicely and is eating well; her buoyancy appears to be improving and she enjoys regular ocean swims with us out in the lagoon. Ari continues to be very popular with guests and staff alike. She enjoys chasing a frozen fish ‘popsicle’ around her tank, simulating a hunt for food.

Turtle Nest Protection

On 16 March, we helped the Environment Ministry to relocate a Green turtle nest from a small beach in busy Malé city, to an ideal new home on ‘Secret Beach’ at Kuda Huraa. We installed simple fencing for protection, and started monitoring the nest each day. As hatching time approached, the outdoor lighting nearby was minimised, and we started routine night-time monitoring.
On 12 May, after an incubation period of 57 days, the sand over the nest began collapsing (at 5.30am) and the hatchlings could be seen moving. By 6.00am, the hatchlings had started to emerge and make their way successfully down the beach towards the ocean, all during a heavy rainstorm (we were unable to take any photos of the event).

Later that day, we excavated the turtle nest (standard procedure) looking for injured stragglers. From the 87 eggs in total, we calculated an emerging success of 76% as follows:

  • 66 empty shells (from 66 healthy hatchlings).
  • 18 eggs without embryo (tree roots may have been responsible for 5 of these).
  • 2 eggs with dead embryos, and 1 egg yolkless.

Maldivian Sea Turtle Identification Program

During May, we received 9 submissions of photo sets from the public to our Sea Turtle ID project (8 different Hawksbills plus 1 Green turtle).
Our current database now catalogues 5,200+ separate sightings, across 16 different atolls of the Maldives. To date, we have positively identified and named a total of: 1346 Hawksbills, 282 Greens and 95 Olive Ridleys.

We have started trialling a new recognition software that uses the Citizen Science Wildbook ‘Internet of Turtles’. Photos of individuals that are not recognised using I3S software were added to this database to search the wider local network for a match. The trial also involves comparing the recognition success rate of I3S verses IoT using individuals with multiple images that have been sighted many different times. The trial is being conducted with the goal to establish one database for the whole of the Maldives’ turtle population.

Spotted a turtle?  Share your photos

Turtle ID Maldives photo submissions Hawksbill male

Submissions consist of close-up photographs of the turtle facial profile, enabling us to outline the unique pattern of scales (scutes) that act like a human fingerprint.

Turtle ID Hawksbill on reef

Turtle ID photo submitted by the public, showing a wild Hawksbill living on the reef.
Note the missing front flipper, likely caused by entanglement in a ghost net (discarded fishing gear).

REEFSCAPERS Coral Propagation & Reef Restoration in the Maldives

Monthly Progress

At Landaa during May, we transplanted 14 new coral frames using a total of 542 coral fragments. In addition, we have been busy monitoring (cleaning, repairing, photographing) a total of 846 coral frames across all sites around the island.

At Kuda Huraa this month, we transplanted 15 new coral frames using a total of 1153 coral fragments. We spent time repairing some Gulhifalhu rescue colonies that were damaged in a storm brought in by the south-west monsoon.

Read our Reefscapers Diaries for further details and photographs of our ongoing coral propagation efforts and reef regeneration experiments, both in the Lab and out in the lagoon, updated each month.

You may also be interested in our ongoing research and photography, studying coral spawning.

Reefscapers reef regeneration Maldives
Reefscapers coral polyp growth A.plantaginea

Settlement and growth of tiny coral polyps in our Lab

Reefscapers coral health survey

Coral health survey (Kuda Huraa)

Junior Marine Savers activities

Further News & Updates

You might also be interested in:
– our ongoing Dolphin ID Project,
– our unique Sea Turtle Lagoon Enclosure, and
– our Zooplankton Monitoring Project (launched in 2021). 

Looking for details of our Reefscapers coral propagation and reef restoration program ? Then head over to our Reefscapers Diaries for all the latest updates.

You can view your sponsored frame photographs (updated every 6 months) as part of our Maldives resorts Coral Frame Collection.

‘Junior Marine Savers’ photos: (1) Transplanting a Reefscapers coral frame; (2) feeding turtle juveniles.

Junior Marine Savers activities

Four Seasons Apprenticeship Program

The Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Apprenticeship Program is dedicated to providing enthusiastic Maldivians with the expertise required to excel as professionals in the hospitality industry.

Young men and women (aged 17 to 20) are invited to apply to the annual intake of this government-accredited Technical & Vocational Education & Training (TVET) program.

Since the program’s inception in 2001, the total number of graduates stands at 651, making it one of the most successful tourism & hospitality apprenticeships in the Indian Ocean region.

For further information, read about the 2021 inauguration and join the Official Facebook Community.

Core program goals:
develop technical skills and professional knowledge; coach mindsets, attitudes, values, and behaviours.

Whilst living, studying and working onsite at Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru, apprentices gain hands-on experience in:
– Food & Beverage Preparation & Service;
– Housekeeping & Guest Services;
– PADI Dive Master; Water Sports; Marine Biology;
– New modules in 2021: Safe Maritime Transport & Boat Mechanic, and Front Office & Recreation Attendant.