Spending the last month at MWSRP has been the best decision I have made with my life so far. Being surrounded by a horizon of endless ocean on a remote island searching for whale sharks on a daily basis is something real hard to fly back home from.
Days on the dhoni are gathering information about megafauna, tourists, boat trafficking, and variables, getting sun-kissed as you listen to music and make life long friendships with people like yourself from around the world.
Leaving Australia and coming to the Maldives for the first time and not having ever seen a whale shark before I went out there with an open mind not knowing what to expect.
I found out about the programme through The Great Projects but decided to look it up online and go through MWSRP themselves. The communication was awesome, quick responses and all questions were answered in great detail. This made the process before coming super easy with no stress. I felt super comfortable and at ease with the transfers to and from the island.
Entering the water with a whale shark for the first time is something so magnificent and exhilarating. Once you get past that excitement you start to relax and watch these gentle giants swim, move through the water effortlessly and peacefully. To be in their presence and learn from the whale shark first hand awakens a deeper love for these animals, something that no documentary or hearing from anothers experience can give you. You start to notice everything about the shark, it’s slightly different features, injuries, size, I.D. patterns and body language which sets them aside not as just a whale shark but an individual being. You get excited about data entry and finding out which sharks you saw during the day as if they’re a friend you haven’t seen that week or someone you just met for the first time.
The best moment during the the four weeks would have to be the last day out on the dhoni where myself and Sam were freediving out from the reef. We both came up from a dive to look back down and see a whale shark cruise right underneath us! It was such a surprise, we weren’t expecting to see a whale shark right on the outside reef of Dhigurah. It took us a little while to realise what was happening before it occurred to us we needed to take I.D. photos! There was no need to dive down as he became super inquisitive swimming towards Sam and I, leaving us with no time to keep our 4m distance. An encounter that lasted only about 5 minutes at the max will be a moment I will cherish for a life time.
Overall it was more magical than I could ever have hoped for. I left the Maldives with an even deeper love and appreciation for the ocean and all its wonders. It was a truly special experience for myself and the other volunteers. Learning more than expected and gaining a drive to raise awareness for these beautiful sharks. I will continue to learn and inspire other people to open their minds and gain more of an understanding for our oceans and wildlife.