Maldives: Giving, not taking

Update from our Maldives coral reef and whale shark expedition

We are half way through our annual coral reef and whale shark expedition here in the Maldives. Training in Reef Check was the usual mad dash. Everyone got there in the end. Congratulations to all new Reef Check EcoDivers!

Today is our first day of surveys only. Like a fairly well-oiled machine we descend onto the reef, lay the line of science, then count fish, invertebrates and impacts as well as substrate along it. The numbers and codes we glean from two depths tell us tales of reefs hanging on, despite multiple stresses: oceans that are getting warmer and more acidic due to climate change, land reclaims through artificial sandbanks whose grains in the current smother the corals, building works on many islands and increased tourist activity as if continued growth on a finite planet and building bridges between islands was the answer. It is not. The former is a mathematical impossibility and the latter a short-sighted pipe dream.

So we do what we can. There are 250 liveaboards in the Maldives taking tourist divers around all year. We are one liveaboard of 14 scientists and citizen scientists doing surveys for a week. We are the only ones. You can do the maths yourself.

We may be one in several thousands and a quiet voice in the chatter of growth and development, but it is a beautiful experience nonetheless. A holiday with a purpose with Reef Check as our zen companion. Reef Check teaches you to look at a reef in a totally new way, to appreciate the little things and not obsess about the megafauna. We enjoy coral banded shrimp, the skill to be able to tell a soft coral from a hard coral from rock or rubble. We delight in watching grouper behaviour, small as they may be, or spotting snapper that have not been overfished. Sure, there are lobsters, humphead wrasse, turtles and sharks too. But this is not what it’s about. Instead it is about doing our bit for the reef, giving up our time and money in the process. It’s about hard work, not pleasure diving to satisfy your very own self-centred needs. It’s about giving, not taking. And this really is what the planet needs now.

Thank you Jean-Luc, Paula, Steve, Olivier, Peter, Rick, Mark, Shuga, Bas, Toshia, Ann, Tine and Hampti for giving.

Update from our Maldives volunteer expedition encompassing volunteer scuba diving, marine biology volunteering and marine volunteering

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