A volunteers perspective by Taylor Wasson
I had the amazing opportunity to volunteer for 4 weeks with Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) from June 9th-July 7th, 2019. I found MWSRP one day while on google researching jobs, internships, etc. My last year of high school and all throughout college, I have had a love of whale sharks. It was my goal/dream for the longest time to swim with them, observe them, study them, all of the above. So, when I found MWSRP, I was so excited and applied right away. Even after I was accepted to be a volunteer, put my deposit down, filled out the needed forms, booked my flights and paid my contribution, it still didn’t hit me that I was going. I was so excited to just get started but I was slightly dreading the travelling part because I live in Nashville, Tennessee in the USA and that’s not close to the Maldives. On the way there is took 6 flights varying in times (and a speed boat) to get to Dhigurah and 5 flights (and a speed boat) to get back home to the USA. The travelling wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, but it was so worth it in the end. I literally I have nothing bad to say about Dhigurah, the people there, the staff at TME where we stay or the MWSRP staff. I was able to work with Bas, Iru and the new intern Humaam for my first 3 weeks there. The last week of my volunteering, Iru left (sadly) but she was amazing and so incredibly knowledgeable and fun to work with. For my last week Clara came back to Dhigurah and she is so much fun and it was amazing to work with her! Each member of the staff is so fun, patient when we have zero clue what to do (especially the first few days) and very experienced and passionate when it comes to whale sharks and conservation. Each week was very similar but so different at the same time. My third week we literally had a whale shark encounter every day we were on the boat and had amazing weather. As opposed to my second week where we went 4 days without an encounter and very stormy weather. A normal week of volunteering is Sunday-Thursday are boat days and Friday & Saturday we have off. When on the boat, we stand on the top of the dhoni searching for sharks, keeping track of the megafauna and vessels we see with the occasional snorkel break to escape the sunlight. Boat days are important for gathering data, but it is also very important for us to input the data later that day, usually before dinner! Not only are we there on Dhigurah mainly for the whale sharks, but we are also there to help out the locals by picking up trash and things that shouldn’t be in the ocean. So MWSRP does beach clean ups and if we see trash in the water during a day on the boat, we slow down the dhoni, take a giant stick or just use our hands and fish it out. We fished out water bottle, various bags, lots of Styrofoam and the occasional bag of coconuts. Overall, this is an experience that I will never forget, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity. I got to experience a new country, new language, and new culture while staying on Dhigurah. I got experience some amazing boat days on the Dhoni, learn some new tools and tricks from the best, that I will use in my career. MWSRP not only gathers data to help with the knowledge of these gentle giants but helps clean out the ocean and creating a cleaner environment for all the animals living on that atoll. I would highly recommend MWSRP to anyone who has a love for the ocean and the animals living in it. I could probably talk about this experience for hours and hours, I loved it so much. Thank you so much to TME for being so helpful during my stay, thank you to the crew on Aris & Oceanholic for helping us out on the boat and thank you so much to the staff of MWSRP, you guys are the best and I hope to see you guys again someday!
Taylor volunteered with us in June- July 2019. For more information on how you can get involved as a volunteer with MWSRP please click here