A warm hello from our Marine Discovery Centre at Landaa Giraavaru, a place that I am pleased to call my office for the past month.
My name is Gesa (mostly known as Gigi) and I am the new marine biology intern, supporting the Reefscapers coral team during their second spawning season of the year. My first few weeks on site were packed with new ideas, covering all parts of the Marine Discovery Centre, from turtle care to Artemia production and dolphin cruises – it’s always great to broaden your skill set!
A warm hello from our Marine Discovery Centre at Landaa Giraavaru
Monitoring our Reefscapers coral frames
As part of the coral team, I was introduced to the restoration and monitoring practices here, and quickly started guiding guests through the process of building their own sponsored coral frames. Corals tend to attract less attention compared to some of the more charismatic megafauna you find in the tropics; they appear to be simple organisms from the outside, so I enjoy sharing my passion for these very sophisticated invertebrates. This also gives me the opportunity to educate guests about coral bleaching, and the dramatic losses of shallow water reefs around the world.
Our artificial reefs are teaming with diverse marine life
One of my favorite species: Acropora digitifera
My day-to-day activities of collecting coral fragments and building frames allow me to familiarise myself with the local coral species – having previously worked on restoration projects in the Caribbean, I was astonished by the diversity of Acropora species you find here in the Maldives! (Check out our unique coral database to learn more!)
With spawning coming up later this year, we have been busy ticking off as many tasks as possible to get on top of our schedule, meaning lots of monitoring, building frames, and out-planting. This past month, we built a total of 39 frames (= 2674 fragments!) and our work was rewarded with the celebration of Reefscapers’ 5000th coral frame – what a milestone! (see Instagram video)
One of the main reasons I applied for the internship during this specific season was my interest in sexual propagation methods for coral restoration. Most of the eggs in the colonies around Landaa are still immature (white), but since I have never had the chance to witness a spawning event, I appreciate following the whole process from white to pale and finally pigmented eggs (at which point we expect them to spawn). To ensure that we don’t miss any spawning of frame or wild colonies, we go into the water in the evenings around every full moon and new moon to check for signs of bundling.
At the beginning of October, our coral biologist found a few colonies with pigmented eggs, and so we are anticipating this upcoming full moon… fingers crossed that I will be able to share my first spawning experience in the next blog post! (Meanwhile, you can check out our coral spawning diary !)
We are checking regularly for signs of coral ‘bundling’
If I’m not collecting, fragmenting, and counting corals or monitoring frames, I am helping with our turtle patients and guest tours. This involves guest talks, snorkel trips and dolphin cruises, and turtle-care days (feeding, weighing, measuring, and cleaning our three resident turtles). During my first month, I have mostly been shadowing guest trips to get a feeling for the different sites, but as the weeks go on, I am starting to take guests out by myself. It’s a good feeling to gain confidence and competence with the tasks and activities around the Marine Discovery Centre.
Here at Landaa Giraavaru, we are lucky to be located just a 20-minute boat ride away from the world-famous marine protected area, Hanifaru Bay, which hosts one of the largest feeding aggregations of manta rays in the world (specifically at this time of the year, due to the nutrient-rich water).
With the Manta Trust team making frequent trips to Hanifaru Bay, we can join ‘Manta on Call’ trips on our off-days. So, after years of dreaming about seeing reef mantas (Mobula alfredi) up close, I found myself in the water with hundreds of these gentle giants dancing around me. Oh, and a whale shark too… such a memorable day in beautiful Baa Atoll!
Turtle care day – health check, measure, weigh, clean.
After years of dreaming, I get to witness Reef mantas in Hanifaru Bay
Beautiful and majestic marine megafauna
As you can tell by now, my first month has not been short of exciting events and experiences, so why not add a World Record attempt into the mix! To celebrate 50 years of tourism in the Maldives, and increase awareness about the risk that global warming poses to the country, “Neyvaa 2” was organised as a World Record free-diving attempt, specifically “people performing static apnea simultaneously”. The Reefscapers team was among the 457 participants, and I was grateful for the opportunity to be part of the event! (The attempt has been submitted for review, pending an official decision).
See you in Chapter 2
Gigi x 🙂
Do you want to experience life as a marine biologist
here in the Maldives ?
Head over to our Employment page to read about the different ways you can work with us - full time, apprentice or intern.
And see more from our Interns in their very own words & photos as part of our Diary / Blog series.
... sharks and rays and fish of every imaginable colour, living right on my doorstep, welcomed me to my marine biology internship. It was utter bliss.
I often lose myself in the work here: taking care of the turtles; accompanying guests on boat trips and snorkelling excursions; showing young children the excitement of what it is to be a marine biologist; the positive impact that we are making here ... the days are flying by.
After graduating in July ... My first month here has been nothing short of incredible, with a variety of different projects keeping us very busy.
Coral spawning is an amazing event I never expected to be able to witness, with hundreds of floating coral eggs appearing like a blizzard of snow in the water column.
Work is busy but always rewarding – it makes my day when the guests tell me how their snorkel excursion was an epic experience!
“I can’t believe you secured such a dream job … You are so lucky to live in the Maldives!” This, I know for certain! 😊
I have recently graduated in Zoology and taken a year out to gain work experience before starting my Master’s. Working here has been an incredible experience and there’s so much more to learn about the turtle, fish and coral work.
The internship is made even better by the fact that the Marine Savers team is amazing and it’s a tropical paradise here! 🌴
Kihineh (/kiːhiːne/) ! 🙂 Not a day in my experience has been anything short of sensational ... every aspiring marine biologist must consider the opportunity to live and work here as a dream and privilege.
Meeting people, young and old, from all four corners of the globe, educating and showing them our rich marine biodiversity and sea life has been wonderful.
Typically, each day involves a solid 7 hours in the water … which we LOVE! 💙 We finished with a grand total of over 18,000 coral fragments collected and transplanted!
A huge thanks to the whole team at Marine Savers ... We had an absolutely amazing time.
As part of my Master’s degree, I am researching the size of coral fragments on the overall health of the Reefscapers coral frames.
I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to gain experience in my field ... I’ve enjoyed every second and have made some lifelong friends.
I am in a gap year between my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees to gain working experience ... across all the different projects ... I built coral frames, and helped with cultivation and rearing of the rotifers, artemia and jellyfish juveniles in the fish lab.
I’ve spent ten weeks as a marine biology intern, and I’m having a fantastic time! There is so much to learn: Turtle care, Fish Lab and Coral propagation, turtle safari, night snorkel, dolphin cruise.
I was lucky enough to see around 20 Mantas feeding on the ocean surface … which was incredible!
When arriving here, the first challenge is getting used to life on the island, your new everyday routine and the functioning of the Marine Discovery Centre. Luckily, all this is made as easy as possible by the friendly and helpful staff.
For my project, I will be assessing the growth rate of the coral frames that are located around the island as part of the Reefscapers coral restoration programme.
There are large numbers of adult Olive Ridley turtles drifting to the Maldives trapped in discarded (ghost) fishing gear, often wounded and dehydrated when they’re rescued.
With the annual coral bleaching event expected in the coming weeks, I hope to collect enough data to analyse the effects of shading the coral frames from the sun on the corals’ resilience to bleaching.
For my intern project, I have been analysing the recorded megafauna sightings from our snorkel and dive trips. By collating the various species and different locations around the atoll, we can increase our knowledge about local populations and their movements.
I’ve always wanted to visit the Maldives, so being an intern here at Marine Savers has been a dream come true … time has really flown by!
being able to watch beautiful sunsets while cruising next to 100 spinner dolphins is unreal … definitely one of my favourite parts of the job!
... the Marine Savers and Manta Trust teams are amazing people to work with and I thank them for what they taught me ... I gained here an impressive amount of knowledge and experience!
I also worked on a personal project, studying Acropora species corals under the microscope.
I’ve spent time learning about the different aspects of the Marine Discovery Centre: the turtle care, the Fish Lab and about the coral frames. After shadowing a few times to learn the ropes, I am now leading turtle safaris, guided adventure snorkels and dolphin cruises for the guests.
There was a lot to learn during my first weeks here, and it's all hands on deck with turtle rehabilitation and care.
My thesis is on coral speciation, but all my work with DNA fragments was confined to the lab, so it is exciting for me to fill the gap and finally be working with corals in the water.
Coming straight out of Uni, I never thought I would get the opportunity to even visit the Maldives, let alone work in such a beautiful place!
It has been a very exciting month, with some green turtle hatchlings from a nest at Landaa Giraavaru, and the release of one of our mature Olive Ridleys with a satellite tag!
My first few weeks have flown by! I’m working on a technique called coral microfragmentation, cutting corals into small pieces to study their growth rates.
I have also been leading some snorkel excursions and dolphin cruises, which is a wonderful way to explore the beautiful Baa Atoll area.
I helped improve the Fish Breeding Programme protocols, to increase the number of eggs laid, the quality of larvae and the larvae survival rate of the two clownfish species.
Swimming with manta rays with the Manta Trust scientists will long burn in my memory.
When I heard about the bleaching event of 2016, I felt completely powerless and didn’t want to just sit back and wait for the coral ecosystem to disappear from our planet. I therefore decided to work on coral bleaching, specifically trying to understand why some corals had survived these events whilst others didn’t.
After spending several months with the Marine Savers team at Landaa Giraavaru, I can say for sure it was one of the best experiences of my life! I was able to help with the variety of different projects at the Marine Discovery Centre, and had the pleasure of working with an amazing team of dedicated biologists. One thing I really liked about my internship was being able to work independently and to have a lot of responsibility from the beginning.
I cannot believe how much has already happened in such a short period of time … during my first week, I learnt so many new things that I thought my head might explode!
Snorkelling is a big part of the job, and the best snorkel trip I have experienced included 15 reef sharks, multiple hawksbill turtles, a pair of eagle rays, octopus and stingrays.
It is wonderful to share my marine passions and experiences with the lovely team at Marine Savers Kuda Huraa. I really feel so lucky to be living this tremendous experience.
Apart from enjoying my every working day, even my off-days are great fun too ! The ‘Tropicsurf’ guys have been helping improve my surfing technique, and I am finally able to perform a proper take off and enjoy the ‘Sultans’, the typical Maldivian wave.
Days spent at Landaa Giraavaru are always ones to look forward to, as each day has its own fascinating adventures.
I spend most of the time working with the 6 Olive Ridleys ... it is my first time being up-close-and-personal with injured sea turtles. We follow treatment and diet plans that specially cater to each individual patient, and each turtle has their own unique personality.
The 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
All of the experiences have allowed me to make many new friends and gain knowledge and memories that will never be forgotten.
Thank you to everyone for making my time here so enjoyable!
Beth (UK) 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