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We’ve found Nemo, now let’s save him!

This is the second installment in Cassie’s blog series highlighting threats to Clownfish. Cassie explains the pressures of wild harvest and why it is so important to keep wild fish free!

We all grew up watching Finding Nemo, and for many of us it sparked the sense of wonder and awe for the marine world that we still carry with us now. While this movie was pivotal for inspiring future marine biologists everywhere, it also had an unexpected and damaging impact on the one species it aimed to protect; clownfish.

 

The popularity of this charismatic reef fish skyrocketed after the 2003 release of this film. More and more people wanted to see and interact with clownfish, however not necessarily in their natural habitats. Everyone wanted a pet Nemo! Clownfish, as highlighted in Finding Nemo are a very popular aquarium species; but have you ever paused to think where these fish actually come from?

An alarming 90% of all aquarium fish have been wild harvested, resulting in around one million fish being removed from reefs globally each year. In order to meet the increasing demand for popular aquarium species, more and more fish are being harvested each year; causing local population declines of up to 75% in some regions. Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are popular locations for the harvesting of clownfish but these practices also occur in Australia, the Maldives and Hawaii.

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While we do hope one-day clownfish won’t be kept as pets anymore and will be able to live free, a more sustainable alternative is desperately needed right now. Luckily for clownfish they are easily bred in captivity. Instead of harvesting the fish they can be bred in aquaria and subsequently sold into the aquarium trade creating a sustainable way to keep clownfish as pets.

There are a range of benefits to the aquarium trade from adopting a captive breeding strategy:

  1. Captive bred fish live for longer in consumer tanks than wild harvested fish; due to the stressful transition from ocean to tank.
  2. Cyanide (used to slow the fish for capture) is not needed as fish are no longer harvested, reducing the ecosystem wide impact the trade has.
  3. Juveniles from captive breeding programs can also be released back onto reef ecosystems, restoring population numbers.Harvest 3

Here at the Atoll Marine Centre we have established a captive clownfish breeding program in an attempt to supplement the trade with a sustainable option. Through both education and breeding we hope to make positive changes to the aquarium trade and reduce its impact on these essential reef species. Our program houses both the Clark’s and Maldivian clownfish; the later which is endemic to this region and thus important to protect. We conduct daily tours with guests from local resorts informing them about the benefits of captive breeding and the impacts of both climate change and the aquarium trade on clownfish. Further, we educate local students using Finding Nemo; teaching them about symbiotic relationships, climate change and why we should keep wild fish free!

So if you are interested in having your very own Nemo at home make sure it has come from a sustainable breeding program and not from the sea!

Keep an eye out for more blogs on clownfish coming soon!

By Cassie Hoepner

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An Introduction to Coral

This is the first installment in a three-part blog series about Coral written by Jess; one of our previous Marine Biologists.

Coral reefs are my favourite places on the planet. I love everything about them: the vibrant colours, the intricate structures, and the endless amounts of creatures you meet. I was so completely bewildered with amazement the first time I saw this wondrous world, it was then that I knew I wanted to spend my life protecting these unearthly beings. But, how can I expect everyone else to love them as much as I do when most people don’t know what corals are, and how interesting they can be? So, here’s a brief insight into the creatures that bring me so much happiness.

Coral might look like a multicoloured rock, but it’s an animal. Actually, it’s thousands of tiny animals creating one huge colony of animals. Coral polyps are soft-bodied organisms, each only a few millimetres wide, and in the same family as anemones and jellyfish.  Coral reefs commence when a tiny 2-day-old polyp finds the perfect place to settle and spend its entire life, here it attaches to the rock on the sea floor and divides (or buds, if you want to be scientific) into thousands of clones.
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Coral polyps hiding in the hard corallite vs coral polyp outside the corallite.

At the base is a hard limestone skeleton called a corallite, which forms the structure of coral reefs. It’s like a little protective cup that corals can shelter in. The corallites connect to one another, creating the colony that acts as a single organism. As colonies grow over hundreds and thousands of years, they join with other colonies and become coral reefs. Some of the reefs on planet earth today have been growing for over 50 million years.

Corals are very demanding in their environmental requirements. Water that is too salty or too hot will kill them. Nor can they grow at depths beyond the reach of sunlight because of their dependence upon single-celled algae that grow within their bodies. Residing within the coral’s tissues, the algae, called zooxanthellae (pronounced zoo-zan-thell-ee), are well protected and make use of the coral’s waste products for photosynthesis. The corals benefit, in turn, as the algae produce oxygen, remove the waste, and supply nutrients that corals need to grow, thrive, and build up the reef. This partnership is called symbiosis, an interaction between two organisms that’s advantageous for both partners (like the clownfish and anemone – see Cassie’s blog).  More than just a clever collaboration between some of the tiniest ocean animals and plants for 25 million years, this mutual exchange is the reason why coral reefs are the largest structures of biological origin on Earth.

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So that’s a very brief introduction into the rocks that are actually thousands of tiny animal clones that house even tinier photosynthetic algae in beautiful partnerships that have been around for millions of years. Always remember how sensitive these creatures are, never snorkel wearing suncream because the chemicals kill the corals (wear a rash vest instead), always say no to plastic bags because these end up in the ocean and smother all the wildlife, and finally, be a climate change warrior and eat less meat. Fight global warming by doing as little as “Meatless Mondays” and help stop the mass coral bleaching that could completely wipe out these vital ecosystems.

By Jess Kalisiak

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Nature Club 2017

Zoe restarted Nature Club in two local schools this year, in this blog she writes about the other NGOs that got involved, what the programme involves, the children’s passion, and her own thoughts and feelings towards setting up this after-school club that inspires so many. 

We restarted Nature Club in July after our turtle festival. The festival was a great way to get involved with the school children again and also start to build a stronger relationship between Atoll Marine Centre and the community.

Manta Trust had established a Marine Biologist, Lisa Bauer, at one of the local resorts, Hurawalhi. We have built a close relationship with her and she was also passionate about the education programme, so helped us design our lessons as well as teach. Lisa took the lead on the lessons regarding Manta’s and Sharks, and also provided a tour of Hurawalhi’s fauna and flora with the children from both Naifaru and Hinnavaru, they were so excited to visit and thoroughly enjoyed their time there! There is little relationship between the resorts and the local people in Lhaviyani outside of employment, so this was a really positive event, especially as it was regarding education of the environment.

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We started off the club with an introductory lesson about the ocean, talking about the different habitats with a small overview about what they knew. We were pleasantly surprised that they knew so many solid facts about the ocean! We also tried to fit in an activity within every lesson, as this is in afterschool club their concentration might not be best so we try to get them to learn by doing. They were creative and very much enjoyed drawing so we frequently asked them create mind-maps and posters with diagrams; these are then displayed in our marine centre, where people from all over the world can see their work!

We then covered the fauna, such as fish, turtles, mantas and sharks. The children were most engaged in these lessons! We had guest speakers from Manta Trust and Olive Ridley project for some of these lessons. It was great to have a Dhivehi speaker, Shameel, from Olive Ridley Project, to show them how to rescue turtles correctly and teach about the devastating effects of ghost nets. Lisa from Manta Trust also got the children very excited with the lesson on Mantas, the children had so many questions.

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For Nature Club at Naifaru; Thoriq, who is in charge on waste management on the island, gave a talk to the children on the best ways to manage their waste. They didn’t seem too engaged on my talk about the degradation of plastic, but Thoriqs talk seemed to piqued their interest a lot more!

Waste management was the last lesson for the children, a game was made where they had to match the rubbish to the amount of time it took to degrade. After this lesson the children were given two options for their last session; a hatchling game on the beach OR a beach clean competition. All the students voted for the beach clean! Although waste management isn’t the most exciting topic, is seemed to impact the children enough to want to do something about it. We were extremely happy to see that!

When it came to the beach clean competition, they were split into three teams; Hinnavaru girls, Hinnavaru boys and Naifaru. They all had to collect rubbish, and the longer the piece of trash took to degrade, the more points it was worth. We gave them half an hour and one large bin to fill. Little did we know we massively underestimated these students, their bins were overflowing with rubbish and it took 8 people to count all the rubbish! The beach clean was a huge success and a great way to end Nature Club for 2017.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Nature Club, which to be honest, I didn’t think I would! I had never taught before and wasn’t confident doing so. But after my first lesson with them I loved it, their personalities were hilarious and the whole experience was very rewarding. They always found a way to surprise you!

By Zoe Cox

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The Silent Killer of the Sea – A Halloween Ghost Story

Seeing as we are so close to Halloween I want to tell you about a real ghost story; about a serial killer that strikes time and time again. We don’t fully know the impact, but what we do know is that this silent killer causes strangulation, suffocation and dismemberment. Year after year hundreds of souls are washed up and found in our oceans, seriously harmed or killed because of Ghost Nets!

Ghost nets are fishing gear that has been lost at sea. Fishing line takes up to 600 years to degrade and in this time can travel vast distances around the globe. The FAO estimates that one-tenth of all marine litter is lost or discarded fishing gear—equalling 640,000 tonnes annually. These marine plastics have horrific consequences on many marine species. Ghost nets travel along with the currents and catch marine wildlife and other debris found along the way. This causes them to become heavy and sink to the depths of the ocean. Once down they don’t stay on the ocean floor for long, as bottom dwellers will feed on the decomposing wildlife reducing the weight of the net. Once it becomes buoyant again it can be taken back up by ocean currents to continue this deadly cycle.

Most marine species are impacted by Ghost Nets, as trap and kill wildlife including sharks, turtles, dolphins, whales, rays, fish and birds. These nets even threaten reefs, by entangling coral and possibly introducing non-native species into these vulnerable ecosystems. Once entangled in coral the currents will cause the net to sweep through the ecosystem, often leafing a wasteland of damage and despair.

When an animal becomes ensnared by a ghost net the impacts include exhaustion, suffocation, starvation, amputation of limbs and even death. As more and more species get caught in nets, curiosity and predation will lead to other species such as dolphins and sharks getting caught in these deadly entrapments. So there is a snowballing effect in that when a fish becomes entangled it acts as bait for larger marine predators, which often become entangled too!

The key causes of Ghost Nets in the Indian Ocean include bad weather conditions, catch overload, nets snagging on the seabed, poor gear maintenance, high cost of net retrieval, fishery conflicts or vandalism, poor recycling or disposal facilities, illegal and destructive fishing.

We need to keep our oceans safe by reducing the amount of gear lost at sea and supporting programmes such as the Ghost Fishing Foundation, where groups of scuba divers aim to find and reduce abandoned fishing gear in the Oceans.

Let’s try to make our marine environments safe by removing plastic and debris when we find any! So when swimming in any of the worlds oceans, look out for the most lethal killer – Ghost Nets!

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Make sure you share this tale with your friends and family in hopes to keep our oceans safe.

By Alexia Hemming

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Symbiosis – A partnership for the future

This is the first installment on a three-part blog series about Clownfish written by our Aquarium Biologist. 


Symbiosis
: a relationship where both parties benefit from their association with each other. These relationships are particularly prominent in coral reef ecosystems and are essential to its functionality. One of the most iconic symbiotic relationships involves the charismatic clownfish and its protective sea anemone home. But how does such an essential relationship evolve in nature?

The anemone with its toxic properties offers protection the small clownfish (anemonefish), who in return provides additional nutrients and oxygenation to the anemone. Clownfish are also fiercely defensive of their anemone and will fight off predators such as other fish species and even Sea Turtles to protect their home! Through toxic mimicry, the clownfish is able to develop an immunity to the sting of the anemone, allowing it to be the only species who can pass through the anemones tentacles. Anemonefish incorporate some elements of the anemones toxin into a mucus layer over its body, making the anemone think the fish is its ‘self’ and therefore not firing its toxin.

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Anemones are very special in that they have a three-way symbiosis. A symbiotic alga, zooxanthellae lives inside their tissues providing additional energy and nutrients through photosynthesis. The algae gives the anemone its unique colours and allows the anemone to invest less energy into sourcing food for itself and more into toxin production.

There are 28 species of anemonefish and they form a symbiosis with only 10 host anemone species, despite there being around 1000 different anemone species. It is thought that there is an optimal range of toxicity that these 10 anemones fit, allowing for the best cost/benefit ratio for the clownfish. Throughout the Maldives there is only 2 species of anemonefish:

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Anemonefish will generally be found in pairs, with the larger of the two fish being the dominate and protective female. Her smaller male partner takes on the submissive role in their relationship and is responsible for cleaning and caring for their eggs. Any other juveniles present are all males, as all clownfish are born male and only one fish per anemone group will make the transition into the dominate female to produce offspring.

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Anemones and clownfish can be found on reefs all throughout the Maldives at depths from 3-12m and can be viewed by both snorkeling and diving. The one of most famous and abundant locations in the Maldives for seeing this symbiosis in action is Anemone Thila in the Lhaviyani Atoll.

Stay tuned for more upcoming blogs about clownfish and anemones!

By Cassie Hoepner

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Fundraising for Turtle Tanks

Please help us raise money for Atoll Marine Centre to build larger tanks for the rehabilitation of our Olive Ridley Turtles.

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We recently set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money through donations for larger tanks to be built in our Marine Centre. Atoll Marine Centre undertakes incredible work daily; rehabilitating rescued sea turtles in order to release them to the wild is one of the main aims of the centre. Other activities include running ‘Nature Club’ which involves educating children from local schools. More recently we have started a clownfish breeding programme with an aim to reverse decline of wild stocks in the Maldives in association with Finding Nemo. Our marine centre is expanding as we now have a mini-museum and a brand new lab to look after the sea turtles.
With all this going on we must stress that sea turtles are still being brought in due to injuries, or because people no longer wish to keep them as pets. Injuries in the ocean are mostly caused by fishing nets, which are a huge threat to marine life globally. In the Maldives we only use the pole-and-line methods to catch fish, however nets drift into the Indian Ocean from much further afield causing damage to local marine life. People take hatchlings as pets and often are kept in unsuitable conditions, which leads to a decline in the sea turtles health. Turtles are brought to us from neighbouring atolls if they are rescued from the ocean for rehabilitation, and in the end rewilding.

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In December 2016 we received our first Olive Ridley turtle ad since then we have received another 9 in our care. All of these turtles have been brought to us with injuries so they need medical attention, suffering from lacerations from the nets, shell damage, or buoyancy syndrome. We currently have two 25kg Olive Ridleys in 2-meter tanks (our largest), and both are suffering from buoyancy syndrome. Buoyancy syndrome is a stress response to being caught in a net, the turtles inflate themselves with air to prevent drowning. Lola and Luna are two turtles that have been released into the wild, they were able to beat their buoyancy syndrome after 6 months. Nadia on the other hand has been with for 10 months and is still buoyant. She still has the air stuck between her shell and her organs so she cannot dive to get food and just floats at the top of the tank. To help with buoyancy syndrome we take our turtles swimming in the ocean for dive therapy. Due to the size of the tanks and the buoyancy syndrome we have found our Olive Ridleys scratching their faces and shells, and breaking their fins against the wall. To prevent this from occurring they have to be tied up in the tank, which further restricts movement. We need funding to be able to build larger tanks, more suitable for our Olive Ridley rescue turtles, so that they can swim more freely and practice their diving. Once the turtles within our care healthy we start the process to release them into the wild but we know bigger tanks would help with our Olive Ridley turtle rehabilitation.

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Please visit our Go Fund Me page and donate whatever you can for our turtles.

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International Coastal Clean Up

Environmental issues aren’t new; we have been aware of the devastating damage that marine litter has on our oceans and marine life for quite some time. 80% of marine litter originates from land, whether it has been swept out from the coastline, the streets or sewers, or simply dumped there. The time that litter takes to degrade is staggering; 600 years for a fishing line, 500 years for a plastic bag, 200 years for an aluminum can. Plastic is carried all around the globe through the ocean’s currents, and litter originating from other countries (especially ghost nets) get washed through the Maldives, into our oceans and on to our beaches. This is incredibly dangerous for our marine wildlife. A recent study by The Marine Conservation Society found that more than 280 marine species have been found with microplastics in their stomachs, including all species of sea turtles.

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But this month, the world came together took action. Saturday 16th September was International Coastal Clean Up day. All across the world, millions of people came together and made a collected stand to protect our oceans. However, the Maldives wasn’t satisfied with just one day, and a national coastal clean up WEEK was organized instead! From Saturday 16th September to Saturday 23rd September, thousands of people all across the Maldives volunteered their time each morning to clean up their islands. This was a monumental task! Not only does the Maldives have a significant waste management problem as it is; we are also a group of over 1000 small islands, and so we are pretty much nothing but coast!

Beach Clean up team

On our island of Naifaru the costal clean up events were organized by the Naifaru Council in association with Naifaru Juvenile, and support from Atoll Volunteers and the community. The community of Naifaru were incredible! Every morning the community gathered at 6am and spent three hours gathering all the waste and litter from our beaches. Using recycled cement bags to collect the litter, it was then taken to the island’s waste management plant to be sorted and disposed of sustainably. The sheer amount of litter we collected was staggering and included all kinds of items including; straws, toothbrushes, clothes, plastic bottles, nappies, tin cans, fishing line, broken bikes, computers, cutlery, batteries, shampoo bottles, metal pipes, ceramic tiles, the list goes on and on.

We had such an amazing and heartwarming experience being a part of a community wide effort to improve our island and raise awareness at the same time. The amount of rubbish we collected was staggering, so a huge thankyou and congratulations to all involved!
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As well as action, Atoll Volunteers is passionate about community education. During our weekly nature club with the local school children we turned our focus to waste management. The children learnt about how long different items they use on a daily basis take to degrade, the threats to marine life, and actions they can take in their own lives to reduce, reuse and recycle!

There are some truly inspiring projects happening all across the world to help tackle this issue and raise awareness, including art installations, banning of single use plastics, and the 2 minute beach clean movement. It’s a humongous problem, Atoll Volunteers will be organizing a monthly beach clean up with our volunteers. To get involved and make a real difference to our island community, join one of our volunteering programmes today.

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Ghost nets – The haunting truth on the floating threat to turtles, and how we can stop it

This week our Marine Biologist, Jess, discusses one of the biggest threats to marine life; ghost nets, and how this deadly marine litter is affecting the turtles in our Atoll Marine Centre. 

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Whilst the majority of the turtles we receive at Atoll Marine Centre are illegally kept hatchling or juvenile Green Turtles, this year we’ve received record numbers of injured Olive Ridley turtles.  At the beginning of December 2016 a fisherman found a large Olive Ridley sea turtle caught in a ghost net, with deep lacerations around her fin, which ended in an amputation. We named her Nema; she was the first of 13 injured Olive Ridley’s arriving at Atoll Marine Centre within the following 8 months.

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A timeline of the 13 injured turtles we have received in the last 8 months

Ghost nets are fishing nets that have been left or lost in the sea. They have become one of the greatest killers in the ocean and now pose a serious threat to marine life all over the world. Hundreds of kilometers of fishing nets are abandoned annually and can take up to 600 years to degrade. It’s estimated that these fishing nets make up a whopping 10% (640,000 tonnes) of litter in the ocean, leading to devastating impacts on the environment. In the Maldives, fishing nets are illegal, with only pole and line methods utilized by fishermen, however when the monsoons change, an influx of ghost gear washes through from surrounding countries such as Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka.

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The shocking injuries Stitch received from a ghost net

When discarded, abandoned or lost at sea, nets become caught on coral reefs, smothering and destroying coral, wiping out whole ecosystems while they move in the current. Some nets drift further into the open ocean continuing to catch fish, which is known as ‘ghost fishing’. This is often where the nets catch other marine mammals, seabirds and turtles ,who get trapped and die. With the weight of the animals the nets sink to the seafloor where scavengers feed on the carcasses, the weight is then lifted, and the net floats back into the water column for the cycle to start again and continue to cause further damage.

ghost net cycleThe destructive Ghost Fishing Cycle. (Source: Olive Ridley Project)

There are many ‘ghosts’ in the marine environment including overfishing and acidification, connected with greenhouse gases, and the increase of anoxic ‘dead zones’ as a result of run off filled with fertilizers. Ghost gear is part of the array of challenges which must be addressed urgently to protect the ocean from anthropogenic impacts.

8 out of the 13 turtles we’ve received have had fins amputated and 9 out of 13 have been suffering from buoyancy syndrome, injuries directly caused from ghost nets. When caught in the ghost nets turtles often inflate themselves with air as a stress response, in order to protect themselves from drowning. This air then gets trapped between the carapace (shell) and the organs, causing them to float. 9 months later, and Nema, our first Olive Ridley, is still very buoyant and cannot dive. Although she is healthy, we have to wait for her to naturally release the air to release her, as she would currently starve on the ocean surface if she were let back into the ocean. Some of our turtles have lost their buoyancy overnight and some have taken months, unfortunately the reasons behind their recovery is still a mystery. We are currently taking Nema out into the sea, giving her more opportunities to practice her diving, and we are seeing promising improvements, so we hope it won’t be long now!

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Nema during one of her diving rehabilitation sessions in the ocean

We have received turtles up to 30kg, a size bigger than our centre was designed to accommodate. Many have been transferred to and from the Olive Ridley Project and we are now building bigger tanks more suited to their needs (if you wish to help donate to this cause, please visit our Go Fund Me page). We’ve also began re-purposing ghost nets we find and have started selling keyrings and bracelets in our gift shop with bowls and animals next on our to-do list!

Don’t forget – 80% of ocean rubbish comes from land! Here’s a quick picture of how long it takes some general household goods/common marine debris to decompose. Please think twice about purchasing single use plastics and always remember to reduce, reuse and recycle.

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By Jess Kalisiak 

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6 Reasons why volunteering is better than travelling

Our Volunteer Coordinator explores why volunteering trumps travelling every time.

There is nothing quite like the excitement of arriving at a brightly coloured hostel door, in some exotic city that you’ve been drooling over on instagram for the past few months. You whack out the old Lonely Planet guidebook, and set off on foot experiencing this new exciting culture for a day or two, taking in the sights, and probably going for a drink or two with your fellow hostel travelers. Then you pack up your rucksack, and its on to the next hostel and exotic place, where, sat with another bunch of people in another bar, you will no doubt utter the phrase all other travelers do; “oh yeah, I’ve done (insert exotic place here)”.

I myself am guilty of this. For years I was in an endless cycle of scrimping and saving for months, before embarking on my next trip, moving from one travel spot to the next every few days, before coming back and saving for the next trip. And don’t get me wrong, it was incredible. I loved every single second and have seen some incredible sights and gained memories that will stay with me forever. And I myself would sit in a bar and say proudly “Oh yeah, I’ve done New Zealand” or “Oh yeah, I’ve done Chiang Mai”. But have we really ‘done’ a country, or even a single town, after a day or two? Can you experience what makes that place unique, it’s little local quirks, understand the local people’s way of life, by following a guide book? The answer is no, and that is why I will always pick volunteering over travelling. Here are my top 6 reasons why;

  1. It’s like having your cake and eating it

Volunteering abroad is travelling, but so much more. There are many reasons why we have this sudden urge for ‘wanderlust’. To escape our normal humdrum lives, to experience other cultures, soak up some sun, see the wonders of the world, to name but a few. You still get all that with volunteering abroad, but you also get to make a difference to the place you visit, and gain all the other benefits from volunteering and settling in one place for a few weeks/months that we discuss below. And hey, if you still want the spontaneity of travel, a lot of volunteers spend an extra week or two just travelling after they finish their programmes.

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  1. Become part of a community, not just an observer

As a volunteer, you become a familiar face around the community, from simply living there for an extended period, to working with the local people. You get invited to dinner at a family’s home, the little girl runs up and holds your hand as you walk down the street, you are actually in the festival, you join a bashi team, you somehow get roped into a local fashion show, you taste REAL local food. These experiences simply aren’t found in a guidebook or a tour. Living in the community for an extended period of time allows you to not just be a stranger walking down the street; you become a friend. Everyone stops and says hello and welcomes you not only into their town, but their lives.

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  1. Contribute to the right kind of tourism

There is big money in tourism, and especially in developing countries this can mean people and companies often exploit wildlife and the environment to get a piece of the pie. Controversy around attractions such as Thailand’s ‘Tiger Kingdom’ and ‘Elephant sanctuaries’, or Florida’s ‘Sea World’ is not new, and there are countless other examples where half the time we don’t even realise the harmful ramifications. Animals are forced to preform, reefs are destroyed to make way for underwater restaurants, marine life’s natural habitat of seagrass beds are removed because they are ‘unsightly’ and baby turtles are taken from nests so that they can be released by resort guests. The main problem is that the allure of seeing these animals we love, or eating in an underwater restaurant, or having that picture perfect white sand beach is too great. Remember, if there is no demand, there is no supply. So use your purchasing power wisely and ensure your hard earned money is making the right choices. By volunteering with an approved programme, you are still able to get a taste of these incredible experiences, but know that your money and time is contributing to actually protecting the animals and the environment we love, rather than helping to continue a destructive cycle of exploitation.

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  1. It’s not all hard play and no work

One of the reasons a lot of young people in particular love to travel is to escape the pressures of future careers. Unfortunately, eventually we have to face up to reality and join the big bad working world. There is a bit of a debate about whether companies look favorably or not on an extended period of travel, however, as well as satisfying that travel bug, volunteering actually enhances your CV. As well as gaining skills transferable for most future careers, from practical field experience, teamwork, communications, leadership, data collection, report writing and a whole host of others, many volunteering companies will happily provide references and help find networking connections.

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  1. Money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s world

It’s the unavoidable downside to anything. Money. Holidays, travel, and yes, even volunteering costs money. Having funded all my travels myself, I can relate to the disheartening feeling of watching your hard-earned funds slowly trickle away. The majority of volunteering programmes do charge a fee for your efforts. The initial numbers can be quite shocking, with the norm being over a thousand dollars for two weeks. “But this is unfair” I hear you cry, “I’m giving my time and effort to doing good!”. However, the cost of volunteers transport, accommodation, food, resources, and activities needs to be covered somehow. There is a silver lining. Whilst on volunteer projects, there is actually very little need to spend any additional money whilst there, as in most programmes, everything is included. Having been volunteering for nearly two months now, I estimate I’ve spent less than $20, and that is just because I needed to satisfy my chocolate fix. The up front cost is high, but in the long run, it can actually be much more budget friendly than a regular holiday.

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  1. Make your mama proud

Volunteering genuinely does make a huge difference to the local community and the projects you work on. Most NGO’s don’t make a profit (or they shouldn’t anyway), and the good one’s want to dedicate any funds on the actual conservation and developmental projects, rather than pay expensive staff salaries. These organizations, and therefore these valuable projects, simply wouldn’t get done without the self-less work of volunteers. Rather than boasting of your beer-pong tournament title you won in a hostel bar, you can proudly show off those turtles that are now free because of you, or that new clean drinking water system, or those children who now have an education. Feel proud knowing you have made a real positive impact, and actually made the world a little bit better.

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There are a ton of incredibly worthwhile volunteering projects all across the globe. If you do your research properly, ensuring that the organisation and its projects are sustainable, well run and make a positive tangible impact, volunteering abroad is a life-changing experience, and you will leave having made a much-needed difference and alasting impression to a community or cause. As our motto at Atoll Volunteers goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer”.

For more information on the volunteer programmes we have at atoll Volunteers, visit this page; Volunteer Programmes

Two exciting new positions! Marine Biologist and Ambassador

We have two exciting positions open at Atoll Volunteers!

If you can commit to 12 months living in the beautiful Maldives, are looking for hands-on experience working with sea turtles, coral regeneration and conservation awareness, apply to be our next Marine Biologist! If you are looking for a part time role to gain valuable marketing and communications experience in your spare time at home, then apply for our Ambassador programme!

For more information and to apply to be our new Marine Biologist, follow this link: Marine Biologist 

For more information and to apply to join our Ambassador team, follow this link: Ambassador Programme