Our final Reef Check survey at Holiday Thilla went exceptionally smoothly. We recorded a lot of storm damage, but fortunately there was no actual storm during our data collection.
Next on the agenda was our whale shark survey, but the whale sharks beat us to it, interrupting our data entry! We grabbed our masks and snorkels and hopped back onto the dhoni (our dive boat) and set off down the transect to catch up with the shark. All in all we had five encounters with three individuals, the last unfortunately disturbed by a dive boat and jumping divers who scared it away. Iru, our placement from the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP), and the dive guides were outraged by the behaviour of the dive boat and rightly told them so! Encounter protocols are so rarely followed and although we were in an MPA (marine protected area), there is no enforcement and no limit on the amount of boats (and people) that can safely enter an area where a whale shark is present. It is very common for the sharks to bear scars as testament to this unregulated behaviour.
After a couple of hours of surveying, we headed back to the Carpe Diem and listened to Iru’s excellent presentation about the whale shark and the work that the MWSRP are doing, and later visited their headquarters on Dighura atoll – it was great to see such inspiring work taking place.