This week we follow one of our Marine and Turtle Conservation volunteers to get an insight into what daily life on Naifaru is like!
Most mornings we wake up around half seven in our room’s, which we share with a fellow volunteer at Aqua Inn, the volunteer house. The sun is usually shining in through the window already, signaling the start of another lovely bright day in the beautiful Maldives! We get washed and dressed into our scruffy clothes ready for the morning’s shift in the Marine Centre. It’s a short walk across the island of Naifaru, with the friendly community already bustling about their day, and many people stop and say hello as the volunteers walk through the colourful streets to Vela Beach, and Atoll Marine Centre.
Walking through Naifaru
We get the shift underway before breakfast, as there is lots to do! Atoll Marine Centre usually has around 40 turtle’s, mainly Green Sea Turtles rescued from the illegal pet trade, and a few injured Olive Ridley Turtles. The Centre and it’s operations are run by two international Marine Biologists, at the moment they are Alex and Zoe. There are three big round tanks in the Marine Centre for the larger turtles. These take a little longer to drain and fill, so we try and get at least one drained before 8:30am, so it can fill whilst we are having breakfast.
We have a quick break for breakfast at Aqqa Garden, which is conveniently right next to the Marine Centre. We sit eating our choice of toast, continental breakfast, roshi mashuni or fruit, in a lovely outdoor garden with beautiful views of the bright blue ocean and neighboring uninhabited islands just in front. And then it’s straight back to work!
Breakfast at Aqqa Garden
The shift is right under way by now! Depending on how many volunteers we currently have, one or two people are on food duty, cutting up vegetables and tuna for the turtles, weighing each portion out carefully so that each turtle gets the correct amount. The rest of us are working on cleaning the tanks, moving the turtles to temporary large containers to wait whilst each is drained, cleaned, and refilled with fresh saltwater pumped directly from the Ocean. Each turtle has it’s own distinct personality, and it’s so fun interacting with them and getting to know their little quirks!
One of the marine Biologists will usually be giving presentations and tours to visiting resorts and tourists. This is really important for the Centre, because as well as raising vital funds to maintain the Centre, it’s resources, and projects, it also raises a lot of awareness around marine conservation issues, and ways tourists can ensure they are not harming the environment during their stay in the Maldives. The guests usually ask us a few questions too, and it’s fun interacting with them and sharing the knowledge we have learnt. We may also need to visit the sea enclosure, which is a short swim from the beach, to feed and monitor any turtles completing their final stage of their rehabilitation before their release. The final job is to assist the Marine Biologists in administrating any medical treatment to the sick or injured turtles, some of them can be quite strong, and it takes a whole team to ensure the patient remains calm and safe during treatment! It’s a tiring morning, and very physical, but incredibly rewarding knowing our efforts have contributed to all the turtles eventual release.
Marine Centre activities including cleaning, administrating medical treatment, at the sea enclosure and feeding
We usually finish the shift at the Marine Centre around 12:30 pm, with just enough time for a quick shower before lunch at Wataruperee, where we meet up with any volunteers on other programmes. It’s quite a big menu, with lots of pasta, noodles, rice, toasties, soups, kothi rotti and burgers, but we all quickly find our favourite foods and usually have the same thing every day (veggie burger!!!). We usually sit and chat for a while afterwards, getting to know each other, as you can learn a lot from everyone’s different backgrounds from around the world!
After a full belly and a tiring morning, we are all grateful for a little lie down and some relaxation time. This gives us a chance to talk to people back home, read a book, or even have a nap!
Then it’s on to the afternoon’s activities! This can be anything from attending Nature Club at a local school, assisting with the coral data collection, snorkeling around one of the island’s beautiful reef’s and spotting the tropical marine life, a game of volleyball, taking one of the injured turtles for their diving rehabilitation sessions in the ocean, or if it’s a Saturday, off on an excursion to a nearby uninhabited island to explore and snorkel!
Snorkel, visit to an uninhabited island, diving rehab session, volleyball, coral monitoring
On an evening we usually head to Sunset Beach to watch, unsurprisingly, the beautiful sunset as it slowly descends into the Indian Ocean, casting beautiful red’s and pinks across the sky and white sand. The beach is always filled with local families, and it’s not uncommon to get an impromptu invite to join one of the many parties they have with an abundance of birthday cake and juice!
Sunset at the aptly named Sunset Beach
After enjoying the beautiful view at Sunset beach, it’s time for dinner again at Watarupree, enjoying the easy conversation, and always ending with a game or two of cards!
There is still plenty to do after dinner! On an average night we could find ourselves either watching a film in the cosy presentation room, making bracelets and keyrings from ghost nets, catching crabs as a tasty treat for the turtles, receiving an educational lecture on fish species from the Marine Biologists, or if it’s a special night, releasing any healthy hatchling’s that have been handed into Atoll Marine Centre that day!
After a long and exciting day, we all bed down for the night, looking back on another rewarding day in the beautiful Maldives!