The two weeks I volunteered in the MWSRP was truly an amazing experience. Swimming with the whale sharks, observing them and occasionally running into some mantas, turtles, reef sharks and other beautiful creatures. I found it really interesting to learn about the encounters of whale sharks in South Ari and other atolls, and so I am doing my Final Year project for my undergraduate degree on estimating the population size of whale sharks in the Maldives. I would like thank MWSRP for giving me the opportunity to volunteer and use their valuable data of many years. I learnt so much by participating in the data collection and spending time with people of the same interest.
Every day spent in in Dhigurah was a lesson and a beautiful experience. I hope to work in the Maldives to help solve the environmental issues we have, and living in an island, working with researchers and even talking people taught me a lot. I found that marine conservation is not a popular topic amongst the locals here, mostly the elders, and I sort of understand why that is. For one thing, they are not educated enough to know the importance of conservation for certain creatures and the consequences that could have if neglected. Another reason might be their stubbornness. We have been fishing and hunting as we liked for generations thinking the seas and all that there are, are ours for the taking. They have seen whale sharks then, they see them now and they don’t think they have a reason to protect them. Hopefully, our future generations are going to be much better. I love how the MWSRP has a good relationship with the school. Educating the kids about whale sharks and marine life and involving them in beach cleanups and other activities.
One of the most exciting things that happened during that trip was having an encounter with shark that is completely new to the MWSRP database. This was the 300th shark and was named ‘kaunu’, meaning galaxy in Dhivehi. Data entering gets as exciting as the trips sometimes. The entire trip was incredible and I hope to return to Dhigurah and swim with the whale sharks again.