Monday, July 7, 2014

World Oceans Day 2014!

World Oceans Day on June 8th is an annual event to celebrate the World's oceans, and to show our appreciation for the goods and services the ocean provides such as seafood, medicines, trade routes, and economic revenue. It’s also a day for education; to spread awareness of conservation issues and protect these goods and services we often take for granted. At Gili Lankanfushi, I put together a program for the day, which all guests were invited to join in on. 

 All day, from 8am until 5pm guests were encouraged to come down and try out some of our exciting water sports! Kayaks, windsurfers, and paddle boards criss-crossed our lagoon throughout the day. 

The morning was filled by Marine Biologist guided snorkeling of our One Palm Island reef which included a short presentation about the fishes we were likely to see! On these reef tours, I am usually able to point out lots of cryptic reef critters our guests have never seen before, and today was no exception! We were even lucky enough to spot two green turtles during our snorkel!

Our Ocean Paradise Dive School held a Discover SCUBA Dive session in our pool for any guests interested, which was followed by a special presentation "Rainforests of the sea" delivered by myself at our Over Water Bar. The presentation covered biodiversity of reef systems, including a short snorkelers guide on the animals on our reef! We also discussed climate change and the impacts it could have on reef ecology, and how we might be able to mitigate these effects.

Our guests were given the opportunity to taste the goods of the ocean with our ocean inspired dinner menu developed by Executive Chef John Bakker at our By The Sea restaurant, which was comprised of sustainably caught seafood bought from local fishermen who use hand lining techniques which allows for very selective fishing and no by-catch! 

Finally, to round off our action packed day of ocean appreciation, underwater themed movie 'The Big Blue' was screened at Horizon Beach under the stars!

This World Oceans Day was a great success. But here at Gili, our many eco initiatives help us to conserve and protect the ocean all year round, improving our surrounding environment and allowing for incredible natural experiences! We try to make each and every day as exciting as the next when it comes to celebrating our Indian Ocean! 

Gili Identifies a New Manta Ray!

One of the main reasons guests come to the Maldives is to swim, snorkel & dive the azure blue Indian Ocean on one of the many farus, thilas, giris or channel reefs. Home to approximately 1100 species of fish and an even greater number of invertebrate species, coral reefs are the densest ecosystems on the planet in terms of biodiversity! Despite this huge range of creatures, Maldives has a few big ocean dwellers which, for snorkelers and divers, are a must-see, and are part of the reason Maldives offers world class diving and snorkeling experiences! Among these creatures is the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi). Maldives is home to the largest known population of Manta in the world, and their distribution is strongly linked to food availability (zooplankton), which is in turn dictated by the monsoonal currents. Manta season for Gili Lankanfushi runs from June through until November, due to the Hulhangu (wet season) monsoonal currents which flush huge abundances of plankton to the Eastern side of the atoll. During Iruvai (dry season), the Mantas will migrate to the Western side of the atoll, or possibly to another atoll altogether. This being the case, Gili Lankanfushi, our dive school Ocean Paradise, and several lucky guests have spotted some of these gentle giants during the season so far at our house reef; as well as a cleaning station outside Paradise Island we call Lankan Corner; Bogy faru by Himmafushi; Sunlight Thila dive site; and even in our own lagoon next to the arrival jetty!

Working closely with the Manta Trust, Vaidas and I work hard to photographically track the Manta rays we spot. We do this by taking photographs of the ventral side (belly), upon which is a black spot pattern unique to each individual, like a finger print. By comparing our image to the National Database of 3350 mantas, we can determine and track the migrations and health of each individual in the Maldives. We try to encourage guests to help us out, and this month we have had several guests kindly donate IDs from their dives!

 Occasionally we come across a Manta which has never been ID’d before, as was the case last week during one of our group boat snorkels. First spotted by the boat crew, snorkel guide Nappe quickly ushered our guests over to the area where the manta was feeding! It swooped around us for almost 20 minutes before it was time to move on. One swift duck dive, and I managed to capture the mantas underside, which I later sent to the Manta Trust for confirmation that it was in fact a new Manta, which we were able to name! We would like to welcome ‘Nappe’ the Manta to the North Male area! We hope to spot her again soon as we continue to unravel the mysteries of manta ecology!

Our thanks go to the team at the Manta Trust!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

No longer a one-man team: Marine Biology at Gili Lankanfushi has just got better and stronger!

Since early 2012, when Gili employed the first marine biologist, we have achieved a lot; from launching simple guest awareness programs (briefings, presentations, snorkels, posters, underwater world blog, the book ‘Living Life The Gili Way’, organising reef cleanups, and special events), to creating codes of conduct and carrying out staff training,  all the way to conservation efforts e.g. rescuing 9 turtles, working on a long term beach management solution, and making contributions to national and international projects such as Sharkwatch, Manta Trust, Olive Ridley Project, Project Aware.  

Finally, in 2014 we launched our non-profit making, grand-master-plan “Coral Lines”,  in order to grow large amounts of coral, and make a contribution to reef rehabilitation science. With the introduction of Coral Lines, we were in dire need of a helping hand, and we also felt that the project would provide an opportunity for a marine biologist who wanted to carry out research in the field of reef rehabilitation science.  Therefore, we advertised for a volunteer to join us…

It with pleasure that we introduce you to our new team member: Deborah Burn (Debs –as she prefers to be known), our Volunteer Marine Biologist. Debs holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Biology from Newcastle University in UK and she comes to us with recent experience working as a Science officer at Korallion Lab in Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives, as well as having carried out coral disease research in Venezuela. Because Debs worked in the Maldives before, she knows a few words of the local language (Dhivehi) and gets along with the team extremely well. Debs is here primarily to work on the Coral Lines project, carry out research and help with our guest awareness programmes. 
Here’s a message from Debs:

 “I’ve really enjoyed my first month here getting to know the role and the resort, and I’m excited to work on a project like Coral Lines, which is showing real promise as both a research opportunity and a great guest experience!”

While I (Vaidas) was away for most of June, Debs temporarily took care of the Marine Biology operation here at Gili, and has done a great job – she even organized World Oceans Day 2014. She has also written up some cracking articles for June that we will be posting later, as we are currently setting Debs up with our blogger platform – no need to get confused. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Green Fins Certified- Gili Lankanfushi ‘Ocean Paradise’ dive centre

As of today, our Dive Centre has been recognized for its environmentally friendly diving and snorkeling efforts. Owned and operated by ‘Ocean Paradise’, it is the first Resort Dive Centre in the Maldives to be certified with Green Fins accreditation, which is a great achievement.

Green Fins is a project funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), operating in South East Asia and the Indian Ocean, and this project is changing the way people dive and snorkel, ensuring that the marine environment is not damaged by underwater tourism. Green Fins works with scuba diving and snorkel ling operators to implement robust environmental standards for the diving and snorkeling industry through a Code of Conduct. 

Yesterday, our Dive centre operation was shadowed for the full day by two observers from Green Fins Maldives. They watched us go snorkeling, joined us for a dive later in the afternoon, and finally gave the dive centre team a presentation on the Green Fins organization and the importance of environmentally friendly dive centre practices. 

Overall, ‘Ocean Paradise’ did very well, and we are proud to become a member of Green Fins. The efforts of eco-friendly snorkeling at Gili go beyond the Dive Centre; our Mr. Fridays advise the guests on good snorkeling practices upon arrival and snorkeling guidelines, as well as custom-made marine life awareness materials, are provided in each guest Villa. 

Come and explore the underwater world with us, all of that in eco-friendly Green Fins way !