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!

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