Connect with us
background

News

Laamu Atoll, Maldives named Hope Spot

Maldives DTA Team

Published

on

Marked by a continuous 130km reef, the Laamu Atoll is found in southern-central Maldives in the Indian Ocean. Laamu’s striking marine habitats have been a focal point for conservation and research within the atoll’s biologically unique and valuable seagrass meadows, isolated inner reef formations and mangroves since the opening Six Senses Laamu resort in 2011.

Laamu Atoll has been declared a Hope Spot by international marine conservation nonprofit Mission Blue in recognition of Six Senses Laamu’s work in demonstrating sustainable ecotourism practices and creating the framework for scalable marine conservation methods to help shape a healthy future for generations to come in the Maldives.

Dr. Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue, says: “To look back to 2011 when Six Senses began collecting information, to now as we’re celebrating the designation of the atoll as a Hope Spot – it’s truly a reason for hope. It’s so important that we protect the ecosystems there, especially the seagrass meadows that we now understand are so important to generating oxygen, capturing carbon and providing a home and security for so many creatures not only within the atoll but throughout the depths beyond. By promoting understanding of the value of the ocean to the people of the Maldives and the rest of the world, one Hope Spot at a time, we’re creating a true network of hope.”

The Hope Spot Champions, Marteyne van Well and Adam Thalhath are hopeful that Laamu will become an atoll composed of locally managed marine protected areas (MPAs), and to continue developing educational programs that will influence the next generation of environmental stewards with pride for their atoll.

Adam Thalhath, Sustainability and Community Outreach Manager of Six Senses Laamu says: “In the Maldives, it is very rare for an atoll not to have multiple resorts and developments. Six Senses is the only operating resort in Laamu Atoll and just 20% of the islands here are inhabited. It’s important that we continue to have a sustainable relationship with the ocean and have protections put in place to support those efforts.”

(c) Jennifer Penner

Laamu Atoll has been the location of consistent scientific monitoring from Six Senses Laamu since 2011. Through collaboration with its three partners- The Manta TrustBlue Marine Foundation and the Olive Ridley Project– Six Senses Laamu created the Maldives Underwater Initiative, a team working towards protecting Laamu’s marine habitats through establishing MPAs and a management plan. This has involved gathering ecological data, fostering support within the community and working with the local government in addition to establishing sustainable and profitable livelihoods for the surrounding islands. The Manta Trust and the Olive Ridley Project have been working to understand the population and habitat use of manta rays and sea turtles. Both Manta Trust and the Olive Ridley Project are Mission Blue Alliance partners.

(c) Leanna Crowley

“It is through our partnerships with these three experienced and specialized organizations that we have been able to collect such detailed information on Laamu’s species and habitats,” explains Philippa Roe, the Maldives Underwater Initiative’s Head Marine Biologist. “Our work through collaboration has also led to other successful projects, from nation-wide seagrass conservation to community knowledge sharing, none of which would be possible without the expertise and qualities each partner brings.”

(c) Alex Mustard

“The community is also involved in every project and initiative,” explains Marteyne van Well, General Manager of Six Senses Laamu. She continues, “It is truly a grassroots effort. In order for marine protected areas to be established, maintained and enforced, it has to come from the bottom-up, and it has to be sustainable in an economic way as well.”

The Maldives’ government is expected to announce new protected areas in Laamu, in accordance with the new Government’s Strategic Action Plan, in late-2021. The Laamu Atoll Council and Blue Marine Foundation have communicated the evidence of the need to protect this area. Blue Marine Foundation is working with Laamu Atoll Council to undertake resource use surveys, participatory planning sessions and community education and awareness programs, and is a Mission Blue Alliance partner as well.

Laamu Atoll’s three richly diverse ecosystems possess an enormous amount of healthy life. Researchers have counted 47 coral genera to date, with some inner reef coral cover recorded up to 50% – very rare in the Maldives since a mass coral bleaching event in 2016. These areas likely supply other damaged reefs with coral larval supply, vital for reef recovery. More than 400 species of fish have been recorded in Laamu, including endemic, endangered, and critically endangered species. The mangroves within the atoll consist of both open and closed systems, containing four mangrove species, providing a haven for migratory birds and juvenile fish.

Seagrass meadows act as a carbon sink by absorbing and storing carbon in their roots and the surrounding sediments. In Laamu, the Six Senses Laamu team is measuring the extent to which carbon is stored in Laamu’s seagrass meadows.These meadows also provide a key food source for green sea turtles, of which  Laamu contains the most significant nesting beach in the Maldives, on one of Laamu’s uninhabited islands, L. Gaadhoo. Despite this, scientists have determined that 38% of nests on this island were poached in the 2019-2020 nesting season, indicating the need for further enforcement of regulations protecting this species in the atoll.

The Olive Ridley Project is working with Maldives Environmental Protection Agency to implement community-led monitoring and patrolling of nesting beaches. Community led projects also extend to monitoring of Laamu’s marine habitats. Blue Marine Foundations’ Laamaseelu Farundun (Exemplary Citizen) program, trains volunteer local residents to monitor and survey seagrass, mangroves and coral reefs, contributing to further understanding of the present situation of the atoll’s ecosystem and any future changes.

“We hope that the Laamu Atoll Hope Spot can be a flagship for functional MPAs in the Maldives with the support of the local community, who will benefit both economically and ecologically,” says van Well. “We are capable of preventing unsustainable development without holding the community back economically. It’s important to show that it’s achievable – it’s been possible for Laamu, and it’s possible anywhere.”

Thalhath adds: “The Maldives relies on tourism, but now is the time to protect the marine ecosystems. If we put protections in place now, we’ll create a healthier future for all life here, humans and fish alike.”

The Maldivian government has pledged to protect at least one reef, one mangrove and one uninhabited island from each atoll by 2022. In 2018, the local government, the Laamu Atoll council, pledged to protect five ecologically significant areas in the atoll. Recently, significant progress has been made on these goals and the designation of nationally Protected Areas within the Hope Spot is expected in the coming months.

“Through these ongoing projects, it will be demonstrated how networks of marine protected areas provide a haven to replenish other areas impacted by either human or natural damage, increasing ecosystem resilience on an atoll-wide scale,” says van Well.

For more information about Mission Blue visit the website by clicking here.

News

Euro-Divers opens to guests at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives

Maldives DTA Team

Published

on

In celebration of Euro-Divers’ 50 Years of Diving with Friends in the Maldives, the team have opened a new PADI 5 Star Dive Center at Alila Kothaifaru Maldives.

Alila Kothaifaru Maldives retreat lies at the northern edge of the Maldives in the tranquil Raa Atoll, reached via a panoramic 45-minute seaplane voyage from Male. The island has 80 all-pool-villas, 36 of which are over water with a private pool for your enjoyment and 44 beachfront villas designed seamlessly to immerse guests in the natural surroundings. In support of sustainable tourism, Alila hotels adopt Earth Check operating standards, integrating their environments’ natural, physical, and cultural elements.

Raa Atoll is well-known for the excellent scuba diving it offers. The underwater landscape of Raa Atoll is characterized by a high number of thilas scattered inside the lagoons. These underwater coral mountains are magnets for marine life including huge schools of tropical reef fish, a generous splash of colour, iconic bucket-list-must-see marine creatures including sharks, mantas (appearing during the entire year), turtles, and uncrowded dive sites—a perfect diver’s heaven for beginners and experienced divers. We offer a full range of PADI courses for different levels. From November till March, the Manta cleaning station is located 15 minutes away by boat.

The team from Alila Kothaifaru Maldives look forward to welcoming you soon. 

Find out more at: www.euro-divers.com/alila-kothaifaru-maldives

Continue Reading

Blogs

Scuba Bucket List Maldives Vlog – Fuvamulah: Island of Sharks

Scuba Bucket List

Published

on

First in a three part vlog from Jake Davies (JDScuba) & Giovana Braia on their recent trip to the Maldives…

With countries opening their borders after almost two years of lockdown it was time to head to a destination which we had high on our list for a few years which was the Maldives. Whilst planning the trip we wanted to make sure we got to experience the Maldives, from its local islands to one of the many resorts that can be found around the archipelago. Whilst also ticking off the many shark and ray species that can be seen. 

There was one island in particular that we wanted to visit, an island that’s become more and more popular over the last couple of years and that is the incredible island of Fuvamlulah. However, it wasn’t long after arriving into the Maldives that we realised that the bag that had the underwater housing and some dive kit hadn’t got on the flight in Dubai. Not the start we had expected but we weren’t going to let this ruin the incredible trip that we had planned. 

Situated in the deep south of the archipelago, skipping over the equator is Fuvamulah Island,  an hour and a half flight from Male airport. The island offers one of the most unique shark encounters in the Maldives: diving with Tiger Sharks. The number of Tiger Sharks found around Fuvamulah has made the island an ever increasing important area for these sharks. Around the island the water drops off to hundreds of meters, where the water can upwell from the depths bringing cold nutrient rich water to the surface. This provides for even more exciting encounters that can occur within the blue and around the plateau cleaning station with species such as Thresher Sharks, Great and Scalloped Hammerheads, Oceanic Mantas and Whale Sharks. Tiger Sharks are guaranteed at the island, whether they are seen out in the blue or at the famous ‘Tiger Zoo’ which is located at the mouth of the harbour. 

We booked our diving and accommodation with Fuvamulah Dive School, as part of the ‘one day look‘ package. As part of the package, they organise the flights, transportation whilst on the island and a place to stay at the Fuvamulah Inn which is only a 5 min journey to the dive centre situated at the island’s harbour. 

We had two days diving booked where there were three dives a day which included a dive at ‘Tiger Zoo’ each day. This dive was planned for the end of the day as the  sharks follow the fishers out when they head out in the morning and then follow them back where they then stay around for the offcuts. 

Heading out on the first day of diving we went out to the plateau to take a look at the cleaning station in case any Threshers were around as well as the possibility of some pelagics. Jumping into the 29 degree water was definitely a change from the colder waters off the Welsh coast and the visibility was incredible. We headed down, taking the time to keep an eye out for any shadows in the blue, before reaching the plateau. A few small White-tip Reef Sharks were seen patrolling the ledges along with a large female Tiger Shark cruising below in the depths. After 40mins and no sign of Threshers it was time to head back, where the 6m safety stop was accompanied by another large female Tiger but sadly no pelagics. 

Following a surface interval we then headed to the next site, just a short steam out of the harbour to where the beach drops off to depth creating an almost wall-like dive. The dive provided plenty of coral including some huge fan coral at the deeper depths. The large amount of coral also provides for some encounters with Hawksbill Turtles. 

For the last dive of the day we went to the famous Tiger Zoo. Swimming over to the shallow ledge, we set up in a line whilst the dive school divers hid fish offcuts around the site to bring in the Tiger Sharks. In position, holding on as there was a swell running, we saw a glimpse of the the first Tiger Shark emerging from the distance. The Tigers found in the area are mainly large female sharks, growing over 4m in length and in some cases over 5m. As they came close it was incredible to look at these amazing Apex predators in their eyes and how graceful they glide past. In total, five sharks appeared, providing some close up encounters. During the second day and another visit at Tiger Zoo, a total of seven sharks were encountered, all providing the same close up curious experience. During the the dives the Fuvamulah Dive school team were incredibly professional and ensured that the dives were carried out in a safe and enjoyable manner. 

Surfacing after Tiger Zoo saw the end of the two days diving at Fuvamulah – two incredible and unforgettable days of diving where encounters in the blue alongside those at Tiger Zoo will never be forgotten. It’s a diving location that’s definitely recommended but also a spot that should be continuously monitored to better understand the population of the many species that are found around the island. Fuvamulah surely is the ‘Island of Sharks’. 

A 2am start beckoned for the beginning of our next journey, a flight back north to Male airport to then head to Dhigurah for a few days to explore another local island, this time on the lookout for Whale Sharks. Whilst also continuing to hope that our missing suitcase would finally arrive with us.


Watch more videos and subscribe to Scuba Bucket List on YouTube.

Continue Reading

E-Newsletter Sign up!

Trending