As our intern, Isha’s 3 month placement comes to a close, we asked her to reflect on her experience:
The days start early – carrying our packed lunch, GPSs, and data logs onto the boat, we get ready for the long trip with sunscreen and water. Then we hop onto the deck on the dhoani searching the changing waves for whale sharks. In my first weeks, we didn’t spot any. It was only after the first whale shark sighting that I realised the adrenaline pumping excitement of swimming with the largest sharks in our ocean.
The whale shark is a gentle creature, coming upto the shallows to thermoregulate after long dives. It is happy when feeding on plankton, tired when parabola diving, stressed when evasive, and curious if it comes to check you out. I learnt all this in my three months with the MWSRP as an intern. I learnt more – what megafauna constitutes, what it means for health of the reefs, and how we can find patterns into whale shark behavior with the data we collect.
The learning experience isn’t confined just to the boat – I spent hours listening to the field team give presentations to volunteers and guests, finding out something new every time, trying my best to remember all the amazing facts. Some news are heartbreaking – seeing and documenting the injuries of whale sharks has been the most difficult, and understanding the lengths we have yet to go to raise awareness to avoid future injuries.
I also learnt by listening to the Dhigurah community as they share about what whale sharks mean to them, how the relationship with whale sharks has changed from hunting them to a source of pride in the tourism industry, and the enthusiasm to spot and swim with these creatures when they can be found.
When we’re lucky enough to swim with a whale shark, I am always humbled that they allow us the privilege. I’ve also learnt of patience – we can’t always expect whale sharks to show up, wild creatures as they are. South Ari means something to them – a secondary nursery, their home, a safe haven. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn about them and safeguard them with MWSRP and Conrad Maldives.
The thing I’ll miss the most – waking up for work hoping to see a whale shark in the wild, and swim alongside with ocean conservationists working for their survival. I hope to keep learning about our marine environments and how to protect our ocean, because we owe it to the lovely creatures of the ocean.
Isha joined MWSRP as part of our Paid Internship initiative for Maldivian Nationals. Her internship involved 3 months with our infield team before taking a 3 month placement as an MWSRP representative at Conrad Maldives. We would like to extend a big thank you to Conrad Maldives for sponsoring Isha’s internship.