“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living,” – David Attenborough

Christina's marine biology internship Maldives (first dive MV 11yo)

My first ever dive! Age 11, on vacation in the Maldives

Christina's marine biology internship Maldives (sunset)

It’s always a good idea to make time for the sunset …

Hello! My name is Christina, and I’m the new Reefscapers intern here at Marine Savers, on the Resort island of Four Seasons Kuda Huraa. Having just graduated with a Master’s in Biology and Marine Biology from the UK, I am constantly pinching myself as to how lucky I am to currently be here.

My journey into the depths of the ocean began long before I got here, even before I started my degree. Growing up in Lebanon, the coast was at my fingertips. I have always had a deep love for the ocean (pun intended), and this stemmed from my father who used to be a diving instructor.

My first snorkel at the age of seven in Sharm El Sheikh introduced me to the beautiful underwater world, where I saw a whale shark for the very first time. It was not like anything I had ever seen before, and despite my young age, I remember it like it was yesterday.

My first ever dive was funnily enough in the Maldives, aged 11. I was so amazed that I vowed to return someday… and here I am! Young me would be so proud, being in the Maldives and opening the door for myself to such an incredible opportunity and experience.

I always felt a personal responsibility to help reverse the horrors that our planet succumbs to, which is why I chose my degree, and why I pursued an internship here in the Maldives as a hands-on way to make improvements that I can see with my own eyes. So naturally, when I received the internship acceptance email, I may have shed a happy tear.

Christina's marine biology internship Maldives sea turtles (Emma ocean walk)

Taking EMMA for an ocean swim in the lagoon – an important exercise in the rehabilitation of sea turtles

Christina's marine biology internship Maldives sea turtles (bandaging Burrita)

Bandaging BURRITA – treating turtles injured by ghost net entanglement is an important part of the job

I normally wake up at 6am, when I sit and admire the beautiful sun rise over the ocean, looking out for marine life. One morning, I was lucky to spot 12 black tip reef sharks, feathertail rays and a mangrove whipray in the shallow lagoon; if this isn’t the best way to start your day, I really don’t know what is. I then head to the gym and get ready for work.

Work starts with turtle feeding and pool-cleaning. When I first arrived, we only had two sea turtle patients, but we now have five! While this might sound exciting, the reasons behind their injuries are heart-breaking, and they often arrive in poor health. I help out by weighing the turtles, taking monitoring photos, and treating their injuries. I even helped to suture a cloacal prolapse, which was an interesting and unique experience. I have grown so attached to our turtles that their small victories have now become my own! For instance, our double amputee turtle Ari is regularly taken out for swims in the lagoon, with limited improvements due to her condition. When Emma’s turn came around, taking her on that first ocean swim, I was so proud to see her diving!

On one exciting day, I even got the chance to release my first turtle hatchling that had washed up on our island; it was such a beautiful moment to send him back to the ocean. Safe journey Sheldon, I hope you’re the 1 in 1000 that survives until maturity.

Some days, I venture out onto the reef to help monitor our Reefscapers coral frames, a task that really helps develop my free-diving and underwater photography skills. I got to witness a mini coral spawning, an event I can only describe as adorable. Other days, I might join a snorkel excursion, or lead the dolphin cruise, which I absolutely love as I get the chance to work on my wildlife photography. I have taken pictures of newly identified Spinner dolphins (as part of our Dolphin ID Project), so I was eligible to name them, and chose ‘Viv’ and ‘Tiger’!

Christina's marine biology internship Maldives (beach bioluminescence)

Bioluminescence washed onto Maldives beaches is so spectacular!
(But notoriously difficult to photograph!)

Christina's marine biology internship Maldives (corals at water villas)

Monitoring our Reefscapers corals frames at the water villas site.
We perform regular maintenance and take photos every 6 months.

On my days off, I get to explore, join a dive trip, or to relax on the beach… all are a lovely way to unwind. On one special night, I witnessed an incredible phenomenon: a beach full of bioluminescence… absolutely mesmerising!

I have seen and learned so much already in my first month, and I’m really looking forward to the next two. Time really flies when you’re doing what you love! Being an intern here has been nothing short of an experience full of excitement and incomparable beauty; it just makes all the hard work that I put in to get here that much more worth it.

Bye for now … see you in Chapter 2!