Update from our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with coral reefs and whale sharks of the Maldives (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

We checked another reef yesterday, but then the whale sharks obstinately refused to be checked! There was one at noon, just as the bell rang for lunch, but it did not feel like being studied and dived away before we could get into the water. But I think everyone enjoyed the lazy day steaming up and down the surf break, the sunshine, as well as a great farewell sunset and dinner.

It was a late 08:00 breakfast today as we steamed back to Male’, having covered North and South Male’ and Ari atolls on our Reef Check quest (see map in slideshow below). Our scientist Jean-Luc then gave us a presentation on our achievements in reef research/conservation (see http://www.slideshare.net/BiosphereExpeditions/reef-check-results-maldives-2012).

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As I write this on the Carpe Diem, our time draws to a close here. I would like to thank the crew of the Carpe Diem for looking after us so well, Jean-Luc for being an excellent alpha male scientist, our partners in the Marine Research Centre, Soneva, LaMer, the Live & Learn Foundation, Reef Check and many others for supporting us in our coral reef conservation endeavours, and last but not least the whole expedition team for being such competent and relaxed divers and Reef Checkers. It was a pleasure to have worked with you and I hope I will see you again some day, somewhere on another expedition.

Best wishes

Matthias

P.S. Rafil asks for your support about a petition to halt the privatisation of surf breaks in the Maldives. Please vote and spread the word about http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Say_NO_to_surf_exclusivity_in_the_Maldives.

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Update from our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with coral reefs and whale sharks of the Maldives (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

We’ve been very good and checked those reefs, so we treated ourselves to a lazy dive yesterday, at night (after the work was done) and at arguably one of the world’s best night dive sites. Night dive fears were overcome heroically and our reward was a great display of sharks and stingrays hunting, turtles trying to find a place to sleep and a very different reef at night. The daytime reefs haven’t been bad either including one with an unheard of 50% hard coral coverage! Pictures of everything and a short movie of the night dive below.

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Our scientist Jean-Luc is happy, the sun has come out, the food’s delicious and we’re winning the Reef Check Distinguished Service Medal. What more could we hope for. Whale sharks perhaps? Ah, that’s tomorrow, we hope.

Stay tuned.

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Update from our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with coral reefs and whale sharks of the Maldives (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

With everyone fully qualified Reef Checkers (well done everybody!), we checked our first reef (Ellaidhoo of Ari atoll) today. This reef was surveyed just before the massive bleaching event of the late 1990s, so it was exciting to go back and see how it had fared after the event.

The great thing about Reef Check is that it gives us tangible results almost as soon as we’re out of the water and have punched our data into the laptops. The results are encouraging. Coral cover is back to half or two-thirds of what it was pre-1998, so that’s a decent recovery in 14 years. There certainly were a lot of butterflyfish, sweetlips, snappers and quite a few groupers (all Reef Check indicator species) and the coral diversity was as beautiful to look at as it was interesting to record.

Tomorrow things get even more interesting as we re-survey a reef for which we have pre- and post-bleaching data. Thanks again to everyone who came on this expedition to spend their time and money on getting us and our Maldivian partners these data. You could have gone to roast on a beach, but you decided to help us. Thank you!

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Update from our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with coral reefs and whale sharks of the Maldives (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

We’ve spent the last days training our team up to be Reef Checkers and so far they have passed with flying colours as one of the most capable and relaxed teams, sitting in their lecture, hardly even blinking an eyelid as the Carpe Diem had to plough through a storm with the waves crashing against the portholes.

Just an hour ago everyone passed their fish identification exam with flying colours.

Here’s the roll of honour of people who’ve passed:

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And here’s the rest of the beach bums who were already qualified and so could laze around on the boat whilst the rest were sweating it out in the “exam room”.

Left to right: Loz, Jan, Ushan, Rosella, Nicola, Jean-Luc
Left to right: Loz, Jan, Ushan, Rossella, Nicola, Jean-Luc

Tomorrow it’s invertebrate and substrate exams, then an in-water test and then we’ll be ready to Check that Reef!

The diving’s been good too with a variety of good sites so far to get everyone to recognise indicator species in situ.

Check that Reef!
Check that Reef! (Picture courtesy of Nicola Bush)

Update from our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with coral reefs and whale sharks of the Maldives (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

We’ve arrived, the boat’s set up, Jean-Luc and I have finished the itinerary and the first thunderstorm has just moved through.

JL (right) and MH (left) putting the finishing touches to the itinerary
JL (right) and MH (left) putting the finishing touches to the itinerary

The Carpe Diem is as beautiful as ever.

My mobile number (for emergencies only) is xxxx and I look forward to meeting you all tomorrow morning.

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Update from our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with coral reefs and whale sharks of the Maldives (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

As the sun rises over this Paralympic city of London and my bag looks manageable, I hope your packing is going well too.

What's that pink thing on the left? You'll find out...
What’s that pink thing on the left? You’ll find out…

I am only slightly ahead of you and wish you safe travels. The weather looks like it’s going to be a mix of rain and sunshine throughout the week (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/1282027).

For those of you who may still be under the impression that you are joining a cushy dive holiday, I attach our draft work plan for the week. It’s a draft and Jean-Luc and I will see whether we can cram any more in when we meet later in Male’ 😉 As you can see it’s mostly survey dives, but we usually get in a few “lazy dives”, i.e. dives when you don’t have to fill in any datasheets. Please come rested and with your heads clear for all the Reef Check information we’re going to hit you with.

See you in Male’ soon.

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Update from our SCUBA conservation holiday volunteering with coral reefs and whale sharks of the Maldives (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/maldives)

Welcome to the Maldives diary. My name is Matthias Hammer and I will be your expedition leader for the Maldives replacing Kathy Gill. More information about me is at www.biosphere-expeditions.org/about > tab “Staff”.

I hope your preparations are going well and I look forward to seeing you in Male’ on 2 September at 09.00 in the lobby of the Nasandhura Palace Hotel. My Maldivian mobile (for emergency purposes only, such as missing assembly) will be +960 7570825. Because we have such great support from our Carpe Diem liveaboard team, I will only arrive a day ahead of you and set things up. I may write again before we all meet, but if not, I look forward to seeing you Sunday after next.

Safe travels.

Dr. Matthias Hammer
Expedition leader

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