Update from our Maldives coral reef and whale shark expedition
It feels strange and somehow wrong to be sitting on a long-haul flight again. Strange because it’s been a good while, thanks to the pandemic, and wrong because so much has happened since then in terms of the planet sending very clear signals that we are doing a great job in cutting off the branch that human civilisation sits on. So we at Biosphere Expeditions have decided we will only fly if absolutely necessary. If we can’t avoid flying (such as to the Maldives), we now try to pack as many jobs as possible into a flight. So I am here on the non-too-shabby resort of Baros, not far from Male’, to train their dive centre staff and the resident marine biologist in Reef Check so that they can conduct surveys themselves and eventually also train other Maldivians (and on the way back, I will stop off in Dubai to work on our forthcoming Arabia expedition).
Shuga, the Maldivian marine biologist I am training here, will also join us on the expedition, alongside two other Maldivians, as part of our placement programme.
Anyway, I am Dr. Matthias Hammer, founder and executive director of Biosphere Expeditions and I will be your expedition leader for this Maldives coral reef and whale shark expedition, next to our esteemed expedition scientist Dr. Jean-Luc Solandt. We’re both old and frustrated codger-biologists, so you have been warned! 😉
I arrived to grey, stormy weather and rain. Jean-Luc’s codger message to me on take-off was “enjoy the rain, old man”. I wasn’t surprised.
But underwater made up for it. The Baros house reef was in a bad state three years ago, but it has bounced back somewhat. There is quite a bit of coral regrowth and within two 40-minute dives, I saw all fish indicator species (grouper, sweetlips, butterflyfish, snapper and more), three shark species, a turtle and all substrate types (hard coral, soft coral, rock, sand, rubble etc.). Not expecting much, it was a pleasant surprise to see the reef not dead, but fighting back. I wonder whether this is a good omen for the forthcoming expedition? It will certainly be interesting to see what state the reefs are in. Don’t get your hopes up high, though. We may just be documenting humankind’s cancerous effect on this part of our planet too. We will see. Jean-Luc will be telling us, without mincing his words, what it all means and I can guarantee you that he will open your eyes to reefs and help you see them like you’ve never seen them before, no matter what state they will be in.
The itinerary he has set for the expedition is below and a visualisation of the places we will survey and visit is here.
I will write again in the next couple of days. In the meantime, happy packing and travels. I hope you have swotted up on Reef Check. The more you can do now, the easier the whirlwind of the first two training days will be, trust me.
Update from our Maldives volunteer expedition encompassing volunteer scuba diving, marine biology volunteering and marine volunteering