Wednesday, March 25, 2015

We love “Iruvai” Season!

Stunning fusiliers. Credit to Brad Calder.
Unlike more temperate latitudes that experience four seasons in a year, the Maldives only experiences two –Southwest Monsoon (also known in the local language as “Hulhangu”) and Northeast Monsoon (“Iruvai”), and both of these have significant benefits for diving and snorkelling. 

Today we are enjoying the benefits of the “Iruvai”, which brings stronger currents and unbelievable visibility to dive-sites near Gili Lankanfushi. Nothing beats the experience of dropping in to crystal clear water that is teeming with marine life. We are happy to report that this year “Iruvai” is not a disappointment!  Brad, our very own Resort Manager, took this particular shot with beautiful fusiliers.

The forthcoming “Hulhangu” monsoon will bring milder currents and larger marine life, such as the majestic Manta Ray. With just one month of the “Iruvai” season to go, we will soon say a fond farewell to the “Iruvai” and a long anticipated greeting for the upcoming Southwest Monsoon Season – or should I say MANTA SEASON!

Jon - Dive Centre Base Leader

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Gili Lankanfushi Diving Against Debris

The sun was high in the sky and the water invitingly cool on Sunday 8th February. It is a rare treat for those of us working hard in paradise to get into the water during a working day, but Sunday brought some relief as we encouraged our guests and hosts alike to join us in grabbing their SCUBA gear and donning their snorkeling sets as we did a Dive Against Debris! After an informative presentation by Vaidas, we set out to clear our lagoon of any rubbish! This months reef clean was a huge success as we collected ~50kg of trash from our lagoon between 8 hosts in just 1 hour! Our collection included some bizarre items such as an old wooden stair, part of a sun lounger and some linoleum flooring, as well as the usual plastic bags and drinks cans. 
Our team of hosts collected 5 bags full of debris!
Photo Credit: Frank Mitchell
Trash in our Oceans is fast becoming one of the biggest ecological disasters of our time, with plastics circulating in the oceans in huge currents called Gyres for hundreds of years. The most important thing we can do to fight this issue is to reduce our daily consumption of waste, especially plastics; reuse any waste that we do use; and recycle as much as possible.
For more information or to get involved by finding a Dive Against Debris near you, visit the Project Aware website, and to learn more about the impact of plastics in our Oceanic environment, visit the 5 Gyres Organisation website.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Olive Ridley Project Visit

One month on from rescuing our last Olive Ridley Turtle from ghost nets, we were lucky to have Martin Stelfox, the founder of the Olive Ridley Project (ORP) come and visit our resort! If you're a regular reader of our blog, you will know  that the Olive Ridley Project is an NGO focusing on removing and collecting data on abandoned or discarded fishing nets from the Indian Ocean. These nets often cause marine animals such as turtles, cetaceans and sharks to become entangled. In particular, we see large numbers of Olive Ridley Turtles entangled, and so this species became the face of the project.

Our days with Martin were packed full of educational initiatives and outreach programs for guests, staff, and even the local school children!
The first morning began with an exciting guest experience, where our guests were treated to an interesting talk about turtle biology and the threats facing our turtle populations, with a particular focus on the star of the show- the ghost net! With our heads full of turtle related knowledge, we headed onto the boat for our snorkeling trip. Floating along the stunning reef of Thulagiri, we spotted hundreds of colourful fish and many different coral species, but what we really wanted to see - the turtles - still evaded us. However, right at the end of the snorkel, we got a surprise as one eagle eyed guest spotted a small Hawksbill turtle a few meters down, feeding on sponges in the reef! As we floated from above to watch, the juvenile turtle slowly drifted up towards us and swam smoothly along the reef, allowing our guests to take some excellent photographs! We were even able to take ID photos of the turtles face, and hope to find out some information about that particular individual!
Martin explains the threats facing turtle populations to our guests

Turtle ID: The scutes on the side of the
face are unique to each individual like
a fingerprint

Following our successful, turtle filled morning, we prepared for the next event of the day- a trip to the local island school on Himmafushi. Just 10 minutes ride on a local dhoni brought us to the beautiful island of Himmafushi where the grade 9 students were waiting for us to teach them all about the importance of the local turtle populations, the laws surrounding poaching and keeping turtles as pets, as well as being taught what to do in the case of finding entangled marine life. The school was keen to see us return in the future for more marine related lessons and presentations!

Education at schools is key to preventing the problem in the future!
Martin and myself joined the GM's cocktail party that evening and spoke to many guests regarding the issues of ghost nets and the plight of marine creatures entangled within them, and later we moved into the host area to deliver a presentation for our staff where representatives from all departments came to listen to what Martin had to say. Particularly relevant was the training he provided for ghost net removal and marine life rescues, with specific focus on the best way to untangle a sea turtle featuring myself, Debs, as the entangled turtle! 

Training continued over the next day as well for our staff, and once Martin was all presented out, we headed out to show him our Coral Lines Project nursery, where we planted a line together with Martin in the name of the Olive Ridley Project!
Myself and Martin with Line 006, which was planted in April
All in all, it was an extremely successful and eventful few days! Our thanks go to Martin Stelfox and the Olive Ridley Project for their time, and we hope to continue to collaborate with them and send them data for many years to come! Together, we can make a difference in reducing the number of ghost nets in our oceans.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Flight of Mobula's

Last week at one of our favourite dive sites, Manta Point, Maldivian Dive Master Shakeeb along with one very lucky guest encountered a true spectacle of nature! We are very lucky at Gili Lankanfushi to see Mobula Rays on a regular basis. These are close relatives of the Manta Rays, and the most common species here is the Short-fin Devil Ray (Mobula kuhlii), however what these fortunate divers witnessed was like something out of National Geographic.

Mobula kuhlii school captured by the Manta Trust's Guy Stevens
As all experienced guides can attest,  we can almost feel when something special is around. Shakeeb reported that during the dive some unusual currents were present and he knew “something” was close by. He extended the dive and continued to face these peculiar currents, until “a large black cloud blocked out the sun.” This large black cloud was nothing but a school of  Mobula Rays. With such vast numbers, both divers found it hard to put a number to the flight; but both agreed that there was a congregation of well over one hundred! Was it an aggregation, a migration or just chance? Little is known of these ocean wanderers, which makes encounters like these absolutely priceless!

Jon - Dive Centre Base Leader