The first ever Lhaviyani Turtle Festival took place this week on Naifaru, and it really was a great success! The aim of the festival was to increase awareness about the marine environment, and to celebrate sea turtles, an essential feature of a healthy marine ecosystem. For the past few months, we have spent a lot of time organising the turtle festival, especially our marine biologists, Fanny and Ben and those that run Naifaru Juvenile. Organising the festival meant finding partners, sponsors, organising activities, and seminars. We wanted to involve the schools as much as possible, which meant doing various competitions, for posters, t-shirts and sculptures. The kids did a great job and the artwork we received was really excellent and creative.
The few days before the festival were exhausting, with lots to plan and do, while still doing all our day-to-day work. We set up games and decorations all around the marine centre. The aim was to recycle as much as we could. My personal favourite was bunting made of old clothes. There was also a papier-mâché turtle mascot, which came together so well, although it was a little claustrophobic inside, I very much enjoyed walking around in it. I was so convincing as a turtle, I was nearly released.
Despite some recent bad weather, it was perfect for the whole day! if anything, I was slightly melted. The opening ceremony had different speeches, as well as some really great performances from some of the younger local people from Naifaru, with dancing and drums. I desperately tried to get a place in the girl dance group afterwards, but apparently, I’m too old, and too not Maldivian. I would say maybe I’ll have better luck next year, but I don’t think I can remedy either of these factors. The morning consisted of some games and crafts, but was a little quiet, mostly due to the heat.
After lunch I attended the seminars, which were all really interesting. We had speakers from different resorts and organisations, about ocean litter and problems with ghost nets. This gave local people information about what they can do to help. The bits on coral gardening and turtle enrichment also gave us some inspiration and new ideas for the atoll marine centre.
In the evening, there was a lot more music and dance performances. The atoll volunteers had a great time dancing when the DJ was on. It really was impressive how many people did not mind dancing away, even though we had quite an audience watching.
It was a tiring and a long road organising the festival, but it was definitely worth it. It was a great experience to learn how much goes into organising such an event, and to learn what type of things you need to think about. It was great to have all the volunteers involved, and they were a huge help. I hope in the future the volunteers can take a leading role in the organisation and development of this event. Bring on Turtle Fest 2017!