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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.

andy on a beach 2 atoll volunteers maldives

  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

 

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Lhaviyani Turtle Festival 2017

Every year, the community of Lhaviyani Atoll come together to celebrate their Marine Wildlife and raise awareness around environmental issues, through competitions, educational presentations and cultural performances. Read on to discover the highlights from this incredible day!

On the 14th July, Naifaru Juvenile held the 2nd Annual Turtle Festival! After months of  preparation the day was finally upon us. The whole area in front our Atoll Marine Centre buzzed with excitement as the community came together to celebrate Naifaru, recycling, and of course, turtles. Passing through the entrance gateway, two giant jellyfish towered above, their tentacles of rope and plastic bottles danced in the breeze, the perfect representation of marine life and recycling in one amazing sculpture, welcoming you into the festival. Each side of the festival was lined with an array of brightly decorated stalls from schools across Lhaviyani Atoll, organisations such as Olive Ridley Project, Manta Trust and UNDP, as well as some of the Festival’s sponsors. With information, games, sculptures and crafts, each shed a little bit more light on how as a community we can protect our oceans and its wildlife. First up we had a warm welcome from our very own Marine Biologist, Zoe, outlining the purpose of the festival and challenging resorts and restaurants to make the important switch to paper straws over plastic. Over 500 million are discarded every day across the world after only an average of 20 minutes of use, leaving plastic straws littering our seas and beaches, and causing serious injuries to marine life.

The festivities went into full swing with some energetic performances from the Atoll’s children. We had been hearing the local school practicing their dance all week and it was so endearing to see how excited the children were, dancing in their handmade costumes, singing about the wonderful marine wildlife.

Turtle Festival Children dance

Presentations were given by Atoll Marine Centre around the important work they do, how to correctly handle injured turtles, and a little about our guests of honour; the turtles at our centre! Next, we had Lisa from The Manta Trust, who gave a fascinating presentation about the mysterious world of Ray’s! The children, members of the community and guests to The Maldives were able to walk around our open Marine Centre, asking questions about our turtles, such as the circumstances that brought them to us, our rehabilitation programmes and day to day life! It was a fantastic opportunity to see first hand these beautiful creatures and why they need our active protection.  We also had our own stall, providing information to fishermen, resorts and local people, crafts and games! Painting glass bottles found at the islands garbage dump and bowling made from used plastic bottles proved particularly popular. We were so impressed with the response to our bracelets and anklets made from ghost nets that they have now become a stocked item in our gift shop, proving that everything can be recycled and be made into something useful!

 

Turtle Festival painting bottles

To show the full cycle of our work, we were lucky enough to be able to release two of our turtles on the day, Luna and Lola. These two Olive Ridley’s had both arrived on the same day, after both having been caught in cement bags, resulting in flipper amputations. Everyone gathered excitedly on the beach as they lowered one by one into the sea, as we all watched as one, following their speedy progress out back into the wild. It was a beautiful moment, and the perfect example of the reasons behind The Turtle Festival.

Turtle Festival turtle release

It was then on to the judging! We had representatives from each of the schools, the police, and our very own Zoe, who had the impossible task of judging the schools on the recycled materials sculpture competition, revamped cement bags, and overall stall presentation. The standard and effort from all the schools was so impressive, they deliberated for hours! From a clown fish made from over 150 plastic bottles, to an underwater manta ray scene made from entirely recycled materials (even down to the glue!), the children truly did themselves proud! Cement bags were given a new lease of life as intricately decorated handbags, as hats, eye makes, art and a ton of other inventive ideas! We couldn’t resist buying some for ourselves, with all the money raised going straight to the children’s Nature Club!

Turtle Festival manta sculpture

After a delicious buffet at Aqqa Garden, the sun went down and we gathered around the stage to hear fabulous performances from The PalmTones, their mellow music providing the perfect soundtrack to a lovely backdrop next to the ocean. We even had a guest performance from one of our volunteers, Harry, who showed off his brilliant vocals and guitar skills. As the festival drew to a close, we walked towards the exit, back to the the giant jellyfish now illuminated by multicoloured lights. The light also shone on our newly painted wall that everyone has been contributing to throughout the day of the festival, each painting a small turtle, with their name. I looked at the vibrant mix of people; children, volunteers, resort guests, fishermen, teachers, organisations and locals, all together, all as one community, pledging to make a change and work together to protect our turtles.

Turtle Festival jellyfish

Volunteer Coordinator – Position now open!

We are looking for our next Volunteer Coordinator! – DEADLINE 13th AUGUST

Looking for experience in the conservation sector? Have a passion for marine wildlife? Want to explore paradise whilst living in a welcoming local community? Come join us in the Maldives, make a real difference and leave with memories to last a lifetime!

 

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The daily management of Atoll Volunteers is done by our resident Volunteer Coordinator. The work is varied and includes different tasks such as organising individual volunteer placements, volunteer activities, community events, web-management (our website, social media, listings and other channels), marketing, conflict resolution, short- and long-term planning of our different projects, writing grant proposal and progress reports to international donor agencies like the UNDP, World Bank, UNODC and much, much more!

Taking on the position as our Volunteer Coordinator is not just a retreat to a nice sunny tropical island (although you will get ample opportunity to experience that as well), as you will be given the responsibility to ensure that the organisation runs smoothly and effectively. We expect a disciplined person who can manage his/her time responsibly and keep a healthy balance between work and fun.

We attract volunteers from all over the world and from different backgrounds and you will interact with these on a daily basis and have to ensure that they have a good and meaningful stay. You will also get to work closely with our many local volunteers and form great friendships with the local and welcoming people of Naifaru.

Tasks

– Recruitment of international volunteers, including: posting on websites, developing content, building relationships with partner agencies and organisations and increasing Atoll Volunteers’ online presence through marketing initatives.

– Answering queries from prospective international volunteers regarding volunteering in the Maldives.

– Managing international volunteers’ stay in the Maldives and ensuring current volunteers’ wellbeing.

– Developing capacity and assist in administrative duties of Atoll Volunteers.

– Maintaining and progressing our activity on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

– Welcoming and briefing new volunteers.

– Performing on-going evaluation of our volunteer programmes.

– Composing reports and grant proposals for agencies such as the UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC and World Bank.

– Coordinating and organising events for the community through the umbrella NGO – Nairfaru Juvenile, such as anti-drug campaigns, women empowerment activities and youth development programmes.

Requirements

– Excellent written and spoken English.

– Experience working with volunteers.

– Ability to effectively communicate, in writing and verbally, and relay complicated information in a user-friendly manner.

– Experience with effectively using social media and online campaigning in a professional setting.

– Experience working with HR or the NGO sector is a plus.

– Good organisational skills with the ability to work independently and under time pressure.

– A strong interest in development issues such as human rights, gender equality and youth development.

– Bachelor’s, Master’s or professional degree in a relevant field.

– 3 months commitment.

The position is unpaid but comes with accommodation, food and domestic transport in the Maldives.

What’s in it for you?

Whether you are an experienced professional looking for a sabbatical or a student looking for experience, we guarantee that volunteering/interning in this programme will be both a learning experience and a lot of fun!

By becoming our new Volunteer Coordinator, you will be able to truly make a difference where it matters!

By joining our team of local and international volunteers you will gain a unique opportunity to help our community by providing us with good management, and joining us means that you will gain a lot of practical experience as well as be given the opportunity to bring in your own views and ideas to our organisation and projects.

Becoming our Volunteer Coordinator will grant you a unique chance to experience life in the ‘real’ Maldives, outside the crowded and expensive tourist resorts! On our island there are just over 5000 inhabitants so expect to be living in a small island community where everyone knows everyone and where you are bound to be welcomed with open arms and a sense of hospitality which is rare in this world!

With an amazing environment and equally amazing community unlike most other places in the world, our dedicated local and international volunteers as well as local school staff and our great efforts to make our volunteers feel at home, you will never be bored!

All work and no fun!?

NO! There’s time for fun as well! In fact we do what we can to engage our volunteers in social activities on the weekends. For instance, we arrange weekly boat trips to neighboring islands to enjoy the sun, swim, snorkel, and fish or just kick back and relax.

As our Volunteer Coordinator you will be tasked with organising fun and exciting activities for our volunteers, and you are to join in these yourself!

You will never forget your time in Naifaru. There are constantly things going on everywhere around you, and everywhere you are met with open arms and a friendly face. Don’t just take our word for it; take the time to wander down one of the many intricate side alleys and experience first-hand how there is a very special atmosphere, unlike any you will find anywhere in the world. Guaranteed!

We could go on about the splendors of living in a friendly, remote island community in the Indian Ocean, but really, it has to be experienced to get the true feeling of island life!

The best time of your life awaits you in Naifaru. Don’t just sit there! Join us and change your life and those of our community!

To apply please email your CV and Cover Letter to coordinator@atollvolunteers.com

The deadline for applications is the 13th of August 2017 and interviews will be held in the following week.  The starting date of the position will be around 13th December 2017.

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Aquarium Assistant Internship

We are looking for an Aquarium Assistant to run our new fish breeding project here at Atoll Marine Centre. This internship requires you to have experience breeding fish.

The aquarium trade is causing conservation concerns in the Maldives by exploiting thousands of fishes annually. This activity is depleting populations of target reef fish and coral species and the associated destructive capture techniques are harming both target and non-target species populations. Some fish and coral species are more vulnerable than others due to the market demand, such as the commonly known clown fishes or anemone fishes. Our goal with this project is therefore to feed the aquarium trade with sustainably sourced fish and release a proportion of bred fish into the wild to reduce pressure on wild stocks. We also aim to spread awareness and increase knowledge and appreciation for Maldivian marine life and the threats it faces among local communities.

The Aquarium Assistant will run the technical aspects of this project focusing on rearing and breeding three species of anemone fish and participate in awareness-raising activities. She/He will be assisted by the two resident marine biologists working on the other marine conservation projects. This position is a great opportunity to gain experience in aquarium rearing while being part of a local NGO and participate in programmes benefiting the communities through awareness raising and training!

We are looking for someone who has experience working in aquariums, in particular tropical aquariums as well as experience breeding fish. Ideally a candidate would have experience breeding clownfish although this is not essential.

Tasks

  • Develop and maintain tank and equipment health, inventory of supplies
  • Monitor breeding process (establish mating pairs, diet adjustment), fish behaviour and health
  • Oversee larval rearing process (diet, growth monitoring)
  • Manage rotifers and Artemia culture (live feed production)
  • Complete monitoring progress reports.

Requirements

  • Bachelor’s or Master’s in a relevant field (e.g. marine biology, zoology, aquaculture)
  • Experience in fish husbandry (previous experience with anemone fish breeding preferred, but not required)
  • Experience working in the NGO sector is a plus
  • Excellent written and spoken English
  • Enthusiasm for marine conservation and developing outreach activities and associated materials
  • Ability to effectively communicate, in writing and verbally, and relay complicated information in a user-friendly manner
  • Be self-motivated with good organizational and problem-solving skills & enthusiastic for marine conservation
  • Be available for 3 months

 

What’s in it for you?

Well, aside from the obvious perks delivered by the Maldives, namely the beautiful setting and fantastic marine life, you will be based in a wonderfully friendly community, fully supported in your work by a caring, fun international and local team. Being based on a local island, as opposed to a resort island, you will have the very real and exciting opportunity to instigate beneficial change right where it is needed. The community is responsive and ready to be educated.

This position will also grant you the unique chance to experience life in the ‘real’ Maldives, outside the crowded and expensive tourist resorts. On our island there are just over 5000 inhabitants so expect to be living in a small island community where everyone knows everyone and where you are bound to be welcomed with open arms and a sense of hospitality which is rare in this world! On the weekends we arrange weekly excursions to explore the wonders of the Maldives, whether it be to uninhabited islands or our favourite snorkeling spots.

 

To apply email your CV and a covering letter to coordinator@atollvolunteers.com
Applications welcomed for an immediate start date – ideally April / May 2017

Volunteer Coordinator Internship – Apply Now

Application Window is Now Open – deadline 15th April

sunset beach naifaru

The daily management of Atoll Volunteers is done by our resident Volunteer Coordinator. The work is varied and includes different tasks such as organising individual volunteer placements, volunteer activities, community events, web-management (our website, social media, listings and other channels), conflict resolution, short- and long-term planning of our different projects, writing grant proposal and progress reports to international donor agencies like the UNDP, World Bank, UNODC and much, much more!

Taking on the position as our Volunteer Coordinator is not just a retreat to a nice sunny tropical island (although you will get ample opportunity to experience that as well), as you will be given the responsibility to ensure that the organisation runs smoothly and effectively. We expect a disciplined person who can manage his/her time responsibly and keep a healthy balance between work and fun.

We attract volunteers from all over the world and from different backgrounds and you will interact with these on a daily basis and have to ensure that they have a good and meaningful stay. You will also get to work closely with our many local volunteers and form great friendships with the local and welcoming people of Naifaru.

Tasks

– Recruitment of international volunteers, including but not limited to: posting on websites, developing content, building relationships with partner agencies and organisations and increasing Atoll Volunteers’ online presence.

– Answering queries from prospective international volunteers regarding volunteering in the Maldives.

– Managing international volunteers’ stay in the Maldives and ensuring current volunteers’ wellbeing.

– Developing capacity and assist in administrative duties of Atoll Volunteers.

– Maintaining and progressing our activity on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

– Welcoming and briefing new volunteers.

– Performing on-going evaluation of our volunteer programmes.

– Composing reports and grant proposals for agencies such as the UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC and World Bank.

– Coordinating and organising events for the community through the umbrella NGO – Nairfaru Juvenile, such as anti-drug campaigns, women empowerment activities and youth development programmes.

Requirements

– Excellent written and spoken English.

– Experience working with volunteers.

– Ability to effectively communicate, in writing and verbally, and relay complicated information in a user-friendly manner.

– Experience with effectively using social media and online campaigning in a professional setting.

– Experience working with HR or the NGO sector is a plus.

– Good organisational skills with the ability to work independently and under time pressure.

– A strong interest in development issues such as human rights, gender equality and youth development.

– Bachelor’s, Master’s or professional degree in a relevant field.

– 3 months commitment.

The position is unpaid but comes with accommodation, food and domestic transport in the Maldives.

What’s in it for you?

Whether you are an experienced professional looking for a sabbatical or a student looking for experience, we guarantee that volunteering/interning in this programme will be both a learning experience and a lot of fun!

By becoming our new Volunteer Coordinator, you will be able to truly make a difference where it matters!

By joining our team of local and international volunteers you will gain a unique opportunity to help our community by providing us with good management, and joining us means that you will gain a lot of practical experience as well as be given the opportunity to bring in your own views and ideas to our organisation and projects.

Becoming our Volunteer Coordinator will grant you a unique chance to experience life in the ‘real’ Maldives, outside the crowded and expensive tourist resorts! On our island there are just over 5000 inhabitants so expect to be living in a small island community where everyone knows everyone and where you are bound to be welcomed with open arms and a sense of hospitality which is rare in this world!

With an amazing environment and equally amazing community unlike most other places in the world, our dedicated local and international volunteers as well as local school staff and our great efforts to make our volunteers feel at home, you will never be bored!

All work and no fun!?

NO! There’s time for fun as well! In fact we do what we can to engage our volunteers in social activities on the weekends. For instance, we arrange weekly boat trips to neighboring islands to enjoy the sun, swim, snorkel, and fish or just kick back and relax.

As our Volunteer Coordinator you will be tasked with organising fun and exciting activities for our volunteers, and you are to join in these yourself!

You will never forget your time in Naifaru. There are constantly things going on everywhere around you, and everywhere you are met with open arms and a friendly face. Don’t just take our word for it; take the time to wander down one of the many intricate side alleys and experience first-hand how there is a very special atmosphere, unlike any you will find anywhere in the world. Guaranteed!

We could go on about the splendors of living in a friendly, remote island community in the Indian Ocean, but really, it has to be experienced to get the true feeling of island life!

The best time of your life awaits you in Naifaru. Don’t just sit there! Join us and change your life and those of our community!

To apply please email your CV and Cover Letter to coordinator@atollvolunteers.com

The deadline for applications is the 15th of April 2017 and interviews will be held in the following week.  The starting date of the position will be the first week of July 2017.

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Finding Nema…A New Home

We’ve been so busy here on Naifaru these past few weeks hanging out with Manta Rays, visiting uninhabited islands and obviously doing lots of hard work in between, but we couldn’t not tell you about Nema’s journey.

Nema came to us in early December with a fin barely hanging on – she’d been caught in a fishing net and had to have one fin amputated by a local surgeon from the hospital (there is only one registered vet in The Maldives…you’ll meet her further along our story). She would barely eat to begin with and everyone was worried that this huge new addition to our Turtle family in Atoll Marine Centre was not going to make it. But gradually she began to eat and regain her strength and it wasn’t long before we had to start adapting the tanks to help her rehabiliation. With a little help from our a hundred man handyman (if you ask Mustafa, he will build it) we soon got Nema into a harness so her one good fin could recover in peace.

atoll volunteers nema

We knew from the get go that once she was fit and healthy Nema should be moved to a bigger tank so she could recover from her Buoyancy Syndrome with more ease; this syndrome is caused by the turtle taking in too much air while in a state of panic, so that it pushes through the intestine walls and gets stuck between the walls of the intestine and the carapace. Unfortunately, it’s a waiting game so the bigger the tank the better.

After two failed attempts to transport Nema via seaplane (she was so strong she broke free from her ties on the first attempt and on the second attempt, the airline decided she was not a priority), we thought third time lucky should involve a boat. It turned out to be very lucky as only two days before departure another Olive Ridley was delivered to us, after having been found floating in a neighbouring resort’s reef unable to dive by our Marine Biologist friend and colleague.

So now we had two Olive Ridley turtles to deliver to The Olive Ridley Project! Pictures paint a thousand words so this little gif expresses the bulk of our journey, which thanks to the skills and expertise of our team of volunteers (Director Kanma, Handyman Musta, Marine Biologist Zoe, Researcher Sebastien, Coordinator Cath & our boat crew) was as smooth and stress free as possible for Nema and Morla:

Animated GIF  - Find & Share on GIPHY

The release was an extremely joyous moment for all concerned. Nema immediately sped off to the other end of the tank and did a lap – a slightly lop-sided lap as she was still evidently getting used to a large space and only one fin, but a victory lap nonetheless. Then of course we were able to release Morla, our recent Olive Ridley rescue and we knew both were in the good hands of Claire Petros, the only vet in The Maldives, who’s working for The Olive Ridley Project, an organisation that now has a great rehabilitation centre and surgery in Cocoa Palm resort, so that turtles can be nursed to health and tourists can really see up close the damage done by waste in the ocean.

nema transfer

After a tour around the facilities and before a spot of fancy pants lunch, we talked shop. Having shared turtle tips across the atolls it was nice to discuss all the challenges and successes of turtle rehabilitation face to face. We learnt how a lot of poaching still goes on in the Baa atoll and that despite the best efforts of Claire, many local staff still think of them as food. Hence why she has been visiting schools to teach the kids about how important turtles are to the ecosystem & how if we take one valuable adult out of the population then it’s a 25 year wait until a newly born (of which 1 in 1000 survive) will reach sexual maturity. Cocoa Palm island is a Green Sea turtle nesting island in April, so we hope Claire can get the message through to young and old alike so that these nests are not disturbed.

After learning more about the successful adoption scheme they have as well as some very useful medical knowledge, we were taken through the Turtle & Ray Identification & Monitoring system they have up and running by the resident Marine Biologist Lisa. What with the huge numbers of Manta Rays spotted yearly around our island, we are thinking we might have to start a similar system soon. Finally we went through a great Dos & Donts Guide for when you find a turtle, which we are planning to engage resorts with for our Turtle Festival with the help of our partners The Olive Ridley Project and Marine Savers. Out of the many resorts who encounter turtles or set up centres for them, very few are doing it right or with the permits they require. Although, there is a long road to go, it is success stories like Nema’s journey so far which make it all worth while. Her strength and the strength of the community around her to give this turtle a chance is what conservation and volunteering is all about.

nema tank atoll volunteers

Leo Atoll Volunteers

Goodbye From Marine Biologist Leo

Marine Biologist Leo has been with us for 6 months and as we walked together through the sandy streets of Naifaru, this tiny island in the Maldives we call home, for one last time this morning, we had to ask him some questions to find out about his experience. You can read his answers here…

  1. What will you miss most?

Well this question is more difficult than choosing my desert island discs [final question below], but it has to be the turtles, the genuine/ crazy people and the lifestyle in such a different place like Naifaru, where the streets are Made by Sand & Coral and the timeless people enjoy every second just being themselves or being with their families. In essence, it’s the simple marine life I will miss most.

Leo & Zoe Atoll Volunteers Marine Biologist

  1. What will you miss least?

The sensation I’m feeling now that I have to leave and the chilli in my food 🙂

  1. Tell us something you learnt about yourself.

I learnt a lot, mainly that I know almost nothing about myself. Also, that I don’t need many of the things the “developed” world told me I need.

  1. Tell us something you learnt about the world.

The world is so beautiful, because it’s so simple, like a smile, and you can still see it in places like this. Unfortunately, sometimes we complicate everything with so much past and future, with theories, desires and ambitions, always searching for perfection while all along every moment we live is perfection.

sunset beach naifaru

  1. Tell us a joke.

Well I must say this would be a better question for Jeff, a previous marine volunteer or Cath, our volunteer coordinator but I’ll give it a try:

“Oh darling, since you’ve started volunteering, you’ve become such a passionate kisser…”

“What do you mean, passionate? I’m looking for food remains!”

  1. Sum up Naifaru in three words.

What’s the date?

  1. What have you loved best about being a Marine Biologist here?

The turtle releases and the first time that Nema [successfully rehabilitated turtle] ate her first piece of tuna after many days without eating.

Leo Nema Atoll Volunteers

  1. Did you have a favourite turtle and if so, who?

Donatello and Maya are very special turtles for me, as I have learnt a lot from them, but not really. All of them are full of peace and fun, so I have to say they’re all my favourites!

  1. Do you have a favourite place on the island? 

The reef and sea cage.

  1. What is your best memory from your time here?

I have too many really, but maybe a sunset with dolphins, or going home by bike with local friends, the football games with the kids, and barbecues with volunteers and locals friends.

Leo football Atoll Volunteers

  1. What is your favourite excursion?

Korralion lab [Vavvaru]. Just go there and chill out and snorkel with turtles, sharks and awesome fish!

  1. What food and/ or drink did you enjoy the most?

Veg kotu roshi  or club sandwich with mix milkshake 😀

  1. What is your advice for the next Marine Biologist?

If they don’t know too much about turtles it would be awesome for them to read up and to contact some people and learn about them.

  1. Would you rather eat Kothu Roshi or Roshi Mashuni for the rest of your life? [Both are traditional Maldivian dishes]

I know I can eat Roshi Mashuni every morning, so I’ll go for the Roshi Mashuni – it’s so good!

And finally…

15. Tell us your Desert Island Discs:

[8 songs you’d take to a desert island]

Let it be – The Beatles

Echoes – Pink Floyd

Redemption song – Bob Marley

Blowing in the wind – Mr. Bob Dylan 

Un angel cayo – Mana

Latino America – CAlle 13

5 Razones – Manu chao

Mas alla de tus ojos – dred mar i

And the one song you’d keep if you could only save one…

Echoes – Pink Floyd

You’re allowed one luxury – what is it?

A Sea plane.

And one book.

Manual – how to pilot a sea plane

Great answers, great guy! We will miss you mucho Leo Zelaya and we wish you all the best as you spread love for the ocean and turtles in Sri Lanka, Guatemala and wherever you go. Hasta Luego Amigo!

 

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Marine Biologist Internship Available Now

Join the Atoll Volunteers team and be a Marine Biologist in The Maldives!

Check out the role on www.environmentjobs.com or www.wiseoceans.com/jobs or see below.

Our two marine biologists are in charge of running the marine centre, caring for the sea turtles, progressing our coral gardening efforts, raising environmental awareness within the community, monitoring local reef health and managing the international volunteers who pay to participate in the marine programme ‘Marine Conservation and Turtle Conservation’. The daily work is mostly caring for the turtles, but the more efficient the management of the turtle programme, the more time there will be for the other projects.
The work requires constant commitment and passion. The position offers a lot of responsibility and the chosen candidate will be expected to manage this in a disciplined and professional way while also keeping a healthy balance between work and fun. We attract volunteers from around the world, from different backgrounds and with different needs. You will lead and interact with these volunteers daily and we strive to make sure that they have a meaningful stay with us.

Responsibilities
As the marine biologist your job description will include the following:

1. Managing and expanding/improving the Marine Conservation and Turtle Conservation programme:
• Ensuring correct sea turtle husbandry (daily)
• Working towards effective protection for sea turtles and their eggs
• Establishing and maintaining constructive communications with other sea turtle institutions
• Continuing turtle conservation contributions for the Maldives Sea Turtle Monitoring Network
• Restarting and monitoring coral gardening work
• Monitoring reef health in the surrounding areas

2. Managing and expanding/improving awareness outreach into the community:
• Weekly nature club lessons (ages 10-15)
• Environmental events to reach the whole community, including annual Turtle Festival (around 1000 attendees)
• Reaching out to neighbouring islands

3. Ensuring the health and happiness of participating volunteers and overseeing duties concerned with their stay.

4. Writing progress reports, funding reports and funding proposals where necessary, as well as daily admin.

5. Managing the operations and expansions at our marine centre
• Daily opening to receive and educate visitors (locals and tourists) includes Powerpoint presentation, marine centre tour etc. Confidence with large groups preferred.
• Maintaining and improving aesthetic appeal, operational facilities and educational content/displays.

Requirements:
The below criteria are extremely important as your effectiveness here will depend on your ability to thrive in the conditions and face all the tasks ahead.

Necessary:
1. You must have a Masters degree or a Bachelor degree with a lot of experience in a related field; marine biology, marine ecology etc.
2. You should have proven experience working in a tropical and/or developing country. Conditions are basic, food is simple and island operations and supplies tend to be limited and slow under the concept of ‘island time’.
3. You will need to be an easy-going, approachable and friendly ‘team player’ as this position is more than a scientific one. You will be leading a team of culturally diverse volunteers, working within a small community and working with busy NGO members.
4. The ability to work independently will be important as your ‘behind-the-scenes work/ideas’ will lead and mould the programme going forward.
5. You will need to be a confident and charismatic speaker with experience delivering informative but attractive and interactive slideshows. You will be delivering presentations to volunteers, tourists, school children and even adult members of the community, council or other NGOs.
6. You will need to be physically fit and comfortable/ strong in the water. It is extremely hot and unsheltered and you will have to travel around the island by foot.
7. You will need to be available for 12 months.
8. You will need to be a proficient English speaker. Other languages are beneficial.
9. You must be competent with Microsoft programmes and admin tasks.

Desirable:
1. Experience working with sea turtles, whether in the wild or a captive scenario, will be hugely beneficial as the health and happiness of the turtles is our first priority.
2. A working knowledge of reef ecology and tropical marine species.
3. Knowledge about aquarium maintenance and fish husbandry for our Anemone fish breeding programme (funded by the UNDP).
4. Experience with surgical procedures in a veterinary environment is beneficial due to recent increase of emergency care situations.

What’s in it for you?
Well, aside from the obvious perks delivered by the Maldives, namely the beautiful setting and fantastic marine life, you will be based in a wonderfully friendly community, fully supported in your work with a programme that is yours to mould and take into the future.
Being based on a local island, as opposed to a resort island, you will have the very real and exciting opportunity to instigate beneficial change right where it is needed. The community is responsive and ready to be educated.
Becoming our new marine biologist will also grant you the unique chance to experience life in the ‘real’ Maldives, outside the crowded and expensive tourist resorts. On our island there are just over 5000 inhabitants so expect to be living in a small island community where everyone knows everyone and where you are bound to be welcomed with open arms and a sense of hospitality which is rare in this world!
We do what we can to engage our volunteers in social activities, so on the weekends we arrange weekly excursions to explore the wonders of the Maldives, whether to uninhabited islands or our favourite snorkeling spots. This is an unpaid position. However, your board, lodging, domestic travel and visa will be covered while you are in Naifaru.

Application:
To apply for the position you must submit an application (CV and covering letter) to the Volunteer Coordinator on: coordinator@atollvolunteers.com. Questions are also welcome.
Applicants must apply no later than the 10th of March, interviews will be held soon after individual application submissions due to the position start date. Therefore, the earlier you can submit, the better. Applicants must be available to begin mid to late March and commit for 12 months.

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Doing Your Master’s Thesis in the Maldives

Crystal clear and turquoise water with uncountable colourful animals hidden in its coral reefs and palm trees that provide you with shade from the continuously shining sun… what sounds like the advert for an exquisite holiday in a far-away paradise, could also be the description of your next research location. Continue reading