Monday, June 8, 2015

One Nation Coral Revival

Over the past weekend we have been in Villingili, a beautiful local island close to Male, attending the ‘One Nation Coral Revival event. This environmental festival was organised by Save the Beach Villingili; a non governmental organisation which takes responsibility for the cleaning and protection of the beaches and reefs of Villingili island.
It was an event that we had been planning for and looking forward to for a long time, but as is typical for Hulhangu monsoon, the weekend was threatened by the huge storm which brewed overhead the night before! Nevertheless, we endured a bumpy crossing over to Male with all of our gear in the hope that it would still go ahead. The weather didn't let up that night, and despite the organisers’ hard work, they were forced to postpone the event as it was impossible to set the tents and stalls up in gale force winds! We received word that the event was being postponed to start a day later on Saturday- but at least it would still be going ahead!

Debs planting her coral frame
Saturday morning couldn’t have been more different from the days before, the wind had completely dropped and the sun was out: What a perfect day for the event! We arrived in Villingili bright and early and were impressed to see all the work that had obviously been put into organizing everything. A number of tents were spread out over the beach area, each housing a different environmental organisation, school group or company, all of whom had put great effort into decorating their tent and providing great activities for the visitors. In addition to this there was a Main Stage where musicians and dancers performed throughout the day; a special Awareness Tent for organisations to share their work; free watersports and diving; as well as coral planting, which was the main event! Corals had been taken from a land reclamation site, and visitors could use these to plant a coral frame which not only raises awareness, but also helps to rehabilitate degraded reefs around Villingili.

A whole range of people attended the event from local islanders and school children, to resort guests and journalists. Even the local TV crews were present to make a short except for the news! Officially opening the event was the Minister for Tourism who spent a couple of hours visiting each stall and speaking to various organisations and visitors. 

Debs, myself & Nat manning "Resort Environmental Initiatives"
Our tent was representing ‘Resort Environmental Projects’ and it was manned by myself and Debs for Gili Lankanfushi, along with the Marine Biologist from Cocoa Island, Nathaniel (Nat) Stephenson. We were showcasing some of the environmentally friendly initiatives currently going on within our resorts which are relatively easy to do, and make a big difference. Using various posters and props from around the resort, we were able to spread awareness and speak with a lot of people over the course of the festival regarding initiatives and projects like our environmental codes of conduct, Coral Lines Project, Gili Eco Centre, Swimsol solar panel, the importance of snorkel/dive briefings and so on. Debs and Nat also presented in the Awareness Tent on the subjects of ‘Coral Lines’ and ‘The COMO Approach’.
It was great to see so many organisations that we currently work with like Manta Trust, Olive Ridley Project, & Green Fins, but we also got the opportunity to meet some groups that we hadn’t worked with previously.
Debs describing the threats facing coral reefs
Showcasing our Eco-Centre
As well as being a great platform for us to raise awareness to the general public about the individual projects we run, it was also great opportunity for all the environmental groups from around the country to gather and speak about some of the issues that we are facing in the Maldives and share advice. We’ve come away feeling like we’ve shared a lot and learnt a lot too.
The event was a great success and we hope to return again next year to be part of an even bigger and better One Nation Coral Revival! 

Marine Biologists also live in colonies!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

New Marine Biologist Joins the Gili Family

I was very excited this month to welcome a new face to the team as the new Assistant Marine Biologist arrived from Guernsey - Miss Josie Chandler.
Following a fond farewell to Vaidas, who has decided to return home after three years of incredible work here at Gili Lankanfushi, it was time for us to look forward to the future.

Settling in: Josie, our new Marine Biologist
Josie is no stranger to the Maldives, as she joins us from Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru where she worked as an intern in the Marine Discovery Centre focusing on turtle rehabilitation and reef restoration. Her first role within the Maldives however was in Lhaviyani atoll, where she was the first Science Officer to be based at Korallion Lab. Here she studied the territoriality of butterflyfish as part of her bachelor's degree in Marine Biology at Newcastle University, UK.
Josie also has reef restoration experience having worked with Biorock technologies amongst other environmental initiatives in Gili Trawangan, Indonesia with the Gili Eco Trust. With her many and varied experiences working within marine conservation around the world, she will no doubt be a great asset to the Marine Biology team here at Gili Lankanfushi.

Here's a few words from Josie:
"I'm excited to be working for an eco-resort which has such a great environmental focus; proactively implementing so many initiatives to help to preserve and improve the natural surroundings"

So far she's settling in well with the whole team and is learning quickly! Within her first few weeks I have been keeping her busy guiding guest snorkel trips and maintaining our coral nursery as well as preparing for the One Nation Coral Revival event that will take place this weekend on Vilingili! More on that to follow soon!

Please join me in welcoming Josie to the team!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gili Goes Renewable

Gili Lankanfushi is happy to announce its partnership with Swimsol, an Austrian company that  specializes in groundbreaking floating solar power solutions. Their idea is to bring green power to parts of the World, like the Maldives, where land space is limited. We are lucky enough to have Swimsol’s largest product so far; a 15 x 15 metre floating solar power platform.
The platform itself is an engineering marvel; an innovative floating structure that is designed to survive waves and water turbulence. It consists of glass fibre tubes, aluminum frames and 112 solar panels.  Weighing over 5 tonnes, it took nearly one third of Gili Lankanfushi’s hosts to push it into the water. Today after more than two weeks of hard work in the blistering heat of the dry season, the Swimsol team have plugged the largest floating solar platform in the Maldives into Gili Lankanfushi’s power grid.

Swimsol’s platform has a nominal capacity of 28 KW and on sunny days it will produce up to 200 kWh, which is enough to power the equivalent of all our pathway and jetty lights, as well as the Front Office lighting for 12 hours! The platform will reduce our carbon footprint by 35 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to the emissions of 30 return flights from Europe to Maldives per person!

On behalf of the team here at Gili Lankanfushi, our thanks go to the entire Swimsol team, but in particular we want to mention the guys working on the ground during the installation - Patrick, Zsolt, Tom, Dominik, and Akram who worked flat out in the hot Maldivian sun to make this project a reality, and of course we acknowledge the never ending hard work of Swimsol's managing director Mr Martin Putschek!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Pilot Whale Cruise

"Debs, Debs; we saw Pilot Whales!" seems to be a recurring sentence I've been hearing recently following our dolphin cruises. For the last 2 weeks our lucky guests have frequently been sighting these beautiful creatures cruising along the Eastern side of Gili Lankanfushi. The Short-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) is actually a type of large dolphin according to its classification in the family Delphinidae. It is easily recognisable in the water due to its dark colouration, bulbous head, and highly curved dorsal fin.
The large head and curvature of the dorsal fin can be clearly seen from the boat. Credit: Frank Mitchell
Pilot whales spy hop to get an idea of what's going
on above the water. Credit: Frank Mitchell

Commonly spotted in small groups of 8-20, we have been seeing more than 40 individuals on our trips at one time. This leads us to believe that this may be an aggregation where males from each pod may be crossing  over with other pods to breed. The pilot whales are one of the few species of cetacean where the males and females remain in the same family pod, whereas in many other species, the males split off and form 'bachelor pods' which discourages inbreeding. In pilot whale populations, inbreeding never happens due to these inter-pod aggregations which may be formed. 
She turns sideways and smiles for the
camera! Credit: Frank Mitchell

It didn't take long to convince our training manager, Frank Mitchell, to board his first ever dolphin cruise in 3 years of working at Gili Lankanfushi. One of the best photographers on our island, Frank took some incredible shots, and was thoroughly spoiled as the highly intelligent pilot whales seemed to enjoy spending time with our boat. More so than other dolphin species, the pilots were bow riding for over 40 minutes, spy hopping, and often turning sideways to get a good eyeful of our excited guests!

I will be joining the dolphin cruise (or should we call it pilot whale cruise?!) tonight to try and get a glimpse of my first ever pilot whale!! It's likely their presence is related to the change in season, and that they're following some food source- I hope they stick around for a while longer!

My thanks go to Frank Mitchell for providing such beautiful images!