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Safe, Sustainable Travel – How will the new travel normal work for our environment?

Ruth Franklin

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The past year has definitely been a strange one for us all. Life as we know it has changed for good. Our daily lives, future plans, travel and holiday dreams have all changed in ways we never imagined. For some of us, it was a time of reflection, some sadness, some fear, but we all managed at some stage to find some peace and happiness too.

Reflection about our well-being, seeing how the environment has been positively impacted by the lock downs, connecting with family and friends, even if only virtually and perhaps uniting as a global community, we can’t say it’s been all bad. But moving forward, re-opening our countries and allowing freedom of movement once again – with the ‘new normal’ needs plenty of careful thought and consideration.

PPE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT 

We need to consider our health, especially now that many of us are returning to work. We need to make sure we are looking after our well-being and we also need to consider our environment. There are new requirements and expectations set in place, but if we are not careful, we will simply create whole new areas of issue, transferring what we have ‘undone’ during lock down to new environmental issues.

The internet is already awash with images of discarded face masks impacting wildlife and marine life. Even as early as February 2020, 70 masks along 100 meters of shoreline were found on a beach clean in Hong Kong and more recently in the Mediterranean, masks have reportedly been seen floating like jellyfish.

Discarded masks may also risk spreading the virus to waste collectors, litter pickers or members of the public who first come across the litter. Let alone the fact that as a mask breaks down over time into millions of particles, the potential is there for those particles to carry chemicals and bacteria up the food chain.

At Secret Paradise Maldives we are firm believers in sustainable travel and also believe that if each one of us takes individual responsibility and educates just one person, messages such as these will filter through to many people.

Picking up a couple of plastic bottles or bags on the beach may seem a tiny gesture given the global plastic crisis but what if every single person on this planet just picked up two pieces of plastic rubbish? Or better still, we individually stopped and considered our actions and disposed of rubbish and waste appropriately in the first place? The problem would pretty much be solved, or very close to it!

However, we are also realists and understand that this is easier said than done. So, we urge our followers, guests and partners to educate just one person about the new normal. Highlight how their actions can protect the environment and also achieve safe, sustainable travel, be that domestic travel or international travel. Ask them to pass their new knowledge on to another person and let the education and results filter through.

HOW TO TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY WITH THE NEW SAFETY REQUIREMENTS 

Sustainable travel is not just about considering your carbon footprint and who or what will benefit from your tourist dollar, it is also about making considered decisions and green choices when it comes to packing the necessities of travel in the post COVID world.

Face Masks:

Choose reusable masks. They are actually becoming quite a trend with many different designs to choose from. Why not make a fashion statement with them! Let kids wear fun looking masks, like a friend’s daughter who has a big smiley face on hers – it makes her less conscious about wearing it and she remembers to wear it because of the fun reactions she gets.

Keep a few fresh spare masks in different key places, like one in your handbag, one in the car, one at your place of work – this way you are less likely to forget them and need to buy disposable ones.

When travelling consider if you will be able to wash your mask after use. Packing a mask per day may now be like considering how much underwear to pack!

There is also the opportunity to support local businesses and purchase masks locally. Maybe they will become the new holiday gift for family and friends!

Hand Sanitizer:

Washing your hands with soap and water should always be your first option but when you are travelling this may not always be possible.

Many shops are selling handbag size hand sanitizers and once again this means more single use plastic being disposed of.  Consider purchasing industrial size hand sanitizer and refill your handy, on the go bottles.

We’ve successfully changed our mind set with water bottles and refilling them so there is no reason we can’t do it with hand sanitizer.

Disinfectant Surface Cleaning Wipes:

Disinfectant wipes are perfect to clean door handles, bathroom taps, AC remote control, toilet handles and more and it’s worth having a pack in your hand luggage.

Ensure to seek out eco-friendly biodegradable wipes and dispose of them responsibly.

Go Digital:

Never has there been a better time to go paperless.  Ask for electronic travel documents be they transport related, hotel confirmations or tour and activity bookings. Certainly, if the accommodation provider or tour operator are sustainably minded they will not blink at your request.

Not only will you be helping the environment it will also assist you in maintaining social distancing.

Bring Your Own Toiletries:

We may find that hotel properties find that they need to return to the old practice of single-use toiletries instead of multi-use bottles/containers to minimize the spread of germs.

Therefore rather than rely on hotel-provided toiletries bear the small inconvenience of packing your own or decant from larger size containers you use at home into re-usable travel containers. Or check out the now popular natural, soap/shampoo bars that are available which also have less impact on the environment as they wash away.

TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY AND SAFELY WITH SECRET PARADISE 

COVID-19 may have given us many new challenges and considerations to make, even before we leave the comfort of our homes. But this does not mean that you need to compromise on either your safety or on protecting the environment.

It remains about making the right choices and assisting others to do the same. If we all work together sustainable travel and safe travel can work hand in hand, albeit socially distanced!

As with travel in general at this moment in time, regulations and recommendations are constantly changing and evolving so make sure to check out local travel guidelines and listen to the medical experts.

At Secret Paradise we have reviewed all our operational practices to ensure all aspects of guest’s comfort and safety have been accounted for, but without losing the memorable aspects of our experiences and service.


Discover more of The Maldives with www.secretparadise.mv

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Blogs

Diving holidays in The Maldives

Ruth Franklin

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We are delighted to welcome Ruth Franklin of Secret Paradise Maldives as a Guest Blogger. Over the coming weeks she will be sharing her personal, expert knowledge of this leading dive destination…

Life beneath the surface in the Maldives is an underwater Disneyland, perfect for dive enthusiasts. The Maldives is renowned as being one of the very best diving holiday locations in the world. There’s not only an abundance of reef life here but also spectacular coloured coral and crystal clear water.

WHY CHOOSE THE MALDIVES FOR YOUR DIVING HOLIDAY?

The Maldives ticks all of the boxes when it comes to diving holidays. This tropical location boasts visibility levels of up to 40 metres, making it a great destination for advanced divers. However diving holidays in the Maldives are not just for the experienced. The shallow lagoons and channels make it the perfect location to try SCUBA diving for the very first time. Plus what better destination in the world is there to gain your SCUBA diving certifications?

The Maldives is also home to a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The presence of currents in this island nation means that open water channels are perfect for drift diving and it’s also possible to swim with gentle ocean giants like manta rays and whale sharks. Don’t forget the Maldives has year round water temperatures of 26 – 29 degrees Celsius meaning you can leave your dry suit at home!

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR DIVING IN THE MALDIVES?

Fortunately, the diving season in the Maldives is open all year round with the calmest conditions from December through to June. As the Maldives is located in the tropics, it is susceptible to both wet and dry seasons. June to November is the south-west monsoon season, bringing with it with overcast and wet conditions, especially in June and July. During these months expect slightly less visibility and different currents, although there is still plenty of marine life on offer, as well as sunny spells. Generally reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side from December to April. Reef sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads and whale sharks are found in the Maldives year round, along with manta rays and sea turtles, you just need to know where to head at the time of year you plan to dive!

MALDIVES DIVING HOLIDAY OPTIONS

There are a number of diving holiday options when it comes to Maldives. Here at Secret Paradise, we offer value for money diving holidays and tours that you will remember for a lifetime. Enjoy an all-inclusive guesthouse stay and be transferred by boat to incredible nearby dive sites, the same sites that you would dive from a resort but at half the cost! Our diving holidays are an affordable alternative to a resort stay and also allow you the flexibility of island hopping or if your budget is larger, atoll hopping to benefit from the best dive locations during your time of travel.

Liveaboards are a popular dive holiday option, allowing you to scour the waters for the ultimate dive spot each day. These days most liveaboards operate a year round schedule offering 7 night, 10 night and 14 night cruises, not only in the central atolls but to the deep south and deep north offering opportunities to discover less dived sites and pristine coral reefs.

OUR SECRET PARADISE DIVING HOLIDAYS

Here at Secret Paradise, we offer diving holiday packages in different atolls from the deep north to the Deep South and everything in between, allowing you access to what are some of the best dive sites in the world. Our diving holiday packages include Dharavandhoo, perfect if you want to encounter 100s of manta rays in Baa Atoll, Hulhumale if you need to stay close to the capital, Fuvahmulah for tiger shark encounters, Dhigurah home of the whale shark in Ari Atoll, Rasdhoo, the ideal location to spot a hammerhead and Gan in Laamu atoll, to mention just a few of our personal favourite dive locations.

Our island hopping itineraries in Male Atoll and Ari Atoll allow you to discover a range of dive sites and marine life whilst at the same time experiencing Maldives local life, tradition and culture, with or without a private dive guide.

All our dive partners are PADI affiliated dive centres and are operated by both local and European dive professionals. A personal interest is taken in promoting scuba diving in the Maldives, through education and awareness about the underwater environment here. Their objective is to encourage underwater conservation and safe diving practices.

Dives are generally conducted from the beach within an island’s inner reef for beginners or from a local dive boat, called a ‘dhoni’, for certified divers. Dive sites are chosen daily based on both the weather and current conditions as well as diver ability.

The dive teams will take you to the best dive spots and willingly introduce you to the characteristics of the underwater world of the Maldives. All offer boat dives, NITROX, night dives and a full range of PADI courses and will always ensure you get the best out of your dive. If you are learning to dive, you can do anything from completing a try dive or just the open water dive section of your PADI Open Water certification to completing the full PADI Open Water certification and more. Whatever you choose to do you can be assured of fun and safe diving with us and our partners.


Discover more of The Maldives with www.secretparadise.mv

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The Maldives – not just Mantas!

Sean Chinn

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Hopefully by now you have read my previous blog – “Manta Madness in the Maldives”. If not then you can find the article here

The Maldives is truly Manta heaven and reason enough for anyone to book a dive holiday there. But what about all the other wonders that greet you on a dive there? Unfortunately after a pretty severe El Nino a couple of years back the reefs took a bit of a battering and the coral isn’t as healthy as it was when I travelled here back in 2014. You can see where it is starting to recover with areas of amazing reef and hopefully it has time to really blossom again over a greater area.

This, however, didn’t mean that it was void of life underwater, in fact far from it, as schools of blue striped snapper and triggerfish would circle the reefs. There was still a lot of amazing unique marine life that would make an appearance during our dives, and many anemone and clownfish toughing it out amongst the reefs, providing beautiful splashes of colour.

One of the major highlights for our group was on our first diving day when we dived the famous night dive at Alimatha Jetty with the Nurse Sharks and Stingrays. This is a shallow dive on the house reef of Alimatha Resort, surrounded by friendly Nurse Sharks and Stingrays. For a lot of our group, it was a completely new experience as many had only done UK diving in quarries. To see the buzz it created amongst the boat after the dive was a great feeling knowing I helped to organise the trip.

I’d done this dive four years ago and it was incredible then, but this time it completely blew me away as I moved away from the reef and was greeted with a wall of sharks that was at least 30 strong. Something I wasn’t as fortunate to see four years previously. It was funny watching some video back of the dive and you can here me shouting with joy underwater as the wall of sharks come in view.

We did a number of channel dives where we were able to watch Grey Reef Sharks cruising up and down the channel. It is always exciting to see a healthy shark population as you know that although the coral may be in recovery mode, at least the reef life is supporting them. Again for many of my group it was their first time diving with sharks and it reminded me of that amazing buzz the first time you see a shark underwater. I mentioned in length on my previous blog about my best dive of the trip at Moofushi Corner. I can’t reiterate enough how good this dive was and how special it was to see the school of Eagle Rays. The cruising Grey Reef Sharks and Whitetip Reef Sharks just added to what was a truly incredible dive.

Most of our dive boat also got to see the biggest fish in the ocean – the Whale Shark. My dive group was a little further ahead when we heard the commotion underwater on its arrival. There was a mad rush to see it but unfortunately for a few of us stuck behind other groups it was a little too far. We were kicking like mad and I certainly needed a rest once we realised the hope had gone. I’m still debating with myself whether I saw the tail end before it swam off or it was my eyes deceiving me in the hope I could join in the enjoyment of the rest of the boat’s encounter. I’m really happy for them though as it was their first encounter with this majestic animal.

It’s funny, as for me personally, one of the major highlights with marine life interaction on the trip were the Octopus encounters where they were out of the reef and in full view. One dive in particular was starting to become a bit forgetful as we waited and circled a cleaning station in the hope of a Manta turning up. As the time went by, I was thinking surely something could happen to make this dive at least a little worthwhile. Then, out the corner of my eye, I spotted this Octopus going for a stroll along the reef. It was a decent size, and watching it crawl along the reef using it’s tentacles was amazing to witness.

As the week continued, we had more Octopus encounters and finished up with two mating on the second from last dive of the trip. I think everyone has a little soft spot for Octopus, especially when you get lucky and see them cruising the reef and watch the unusual way they move along.

The dives continued to deliver throughout the week as we were able to get right next to Hawksbill Turtles as they grazed on the reef, completely unmoved by our presence. Marbled Rays were particularly friendly on numerous dives, and weren’t shy in swimming directly at you. Playing chicken with a Ray was rather interesting and I found myself losing all the time against these bold and curious Rays.

Even more so on the night dive at Maaya Thila, as we watched the Rays hunt alongside Moray Eels, Lionfish, Giant Trevally and a lone Whitetip Reef Shark. I remember having one view where I could see Trevally, a Marbled Ray, Moray Eel, Stonefish and Whitetip Reef Shark in one small area that only required a small turn of my head to see all together. Another memorable dive in the Maldives.

For the macro enthusiasts of the world, there are still possibilities for interesting critter encounters even in the wide angle heaven that is the Maldives. Peacock Mantis Shrimp were particularly frequent sightings throughout the dives and I ended up getting my favourite photo I’ve ever taken of one whilst there. I didn’t use my macro lens much but I was happy with some of the encounters along the way with Blenny’s, Nudibranch, Pipefish and Mantis Shrimp. If you’re really lucky, the guides have also found Harlequin Shrimp and Frogfish at a couple of the dive sites on numerous occasions. Unfortunately I wasn’t one of the lucky ones this time but it all adds to the diversity of a trip to the Maldives.

The trip finished with a bang as we got back to Male and entered the water for the famous Fish Tank dive site. On the outside of a working Tuna factory it is like jumping into a wild aquarium as numerous fish species come to feed on the scraps of Tuna discarded from the factory. While the schools of fish are amazing to witness, the large numbers of Stingrays and Moray Eels also at the site is what makes it truly unique. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Guitarfish that sometimes frequents the dive site as well.

For any Moray lover, like one of my buddies onboard, it was heaven, as every nook and cranny had a head poking out revealing dagger-like teeth. I found myself at 3-5 metres for pretty much the whole dive, marvelling at the Stingrays as they would make a path through the abundance of fish. The colour was spectacular being so shallow. The saturation slider had been turned up to 100 for this dive. Being so close to the factory, at one point a pool of fish blood was released into the water and it became manic. I decided to back up at this point as I didn’t fancy a face full of fish blood and guts.

A great dive to end the trip, even though it came at a big price. Unfortunately for our boat we were unable to get as lucky as the sister boat, Ocean Sapphire, as they managed to come across a school of around 20 Sperm Whales on their way back to Male. They were around 30 minutes ahead of us and got to snorkel with them, but we weren’t as lucky. It put a little dampener on my trip knowing how close but yet so far I was. It would have really put the icing on what was an already special cake. I can’t dwell too much though as altogether the trip was hugely successful. And missing out on the whales just gives me more reason to return and hope I’m the lucky one next time :).

Sean’s trip was organised by The Scuba Place aboard www.topclasscruising.com. For more information and to book call +44 (0)207 644 8252, email reservations@thescubaplace.co.uk or visit www.comedivewithus.co.uk.

If you’d like to join Sean on any of his trips then please check out his trips page at: www.greatwhitesean.com/trips

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