This week we catch up with Karolien, an Industrial Engineer student from Belgium, with a passion for Marine Biology. Karolien spent three weeks with us in August.
Hi! So what’s your name and age?
My name is Karolien and I’m 22 years old.
What inspired you to come volunteer with us in the beautiful Maldives?
I love working with animals and I wanted to do something rewarding for my holiday. I did some research on different volunteering programs, but once I came across the Atoll Volunteers Marine program I didn’t look any further! Naifaru is such a beautiful place, the people are so nice and I love the turtles.
Time for an impossible question. Who was your favorite turtle and why?
I can’t really choose between them! I love Pyg because he’s so cute, and his tank mates were so funny hanging out in their bucket. But, I also loved feeding Nadia bits of tuna and encouraging her to dive. I often found myself heading to Maya’s tank to give her a backrub to make her do a little dance. And there are so many others with beautiful shells which I enjoyed watching and photographing!
As well as having a rewarding hands on experience, we also love our volunteers to come away with some new knowledge, so what’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about Naifaru, turtles or the marine program?
I’ve learnt a lot about the turtles and the threats they’re facing in the wild. I feel like I understand a lot more about the impact waste has on marine life and the ocean, and I hope to pass this knowledge along at home to raise awareness. I also enjoyed getting to know the real Maldives while staying on the island, the people are so nice and the island life in general is so relaxed. Love it!
Which was your favorite excursion?
I enjoyed all of the excursions, but the day we spend at the Kuredu resort was my favorite. It was nice to get a little taste of the resorts the Maldives are so known for, but what I enjoyed most was the marine life around the island. It was amazing to walk in the water near the beach with baby sharks and stingrays swimming around. On the other side of the island, we saw a green turtle feeding on sea grass while we were out snorkeling. I really loved seeing the turtles in the wild, getting a peek of the life our green turtles at the marine center are heading to.
If you had a time machine would you do anything differently?
I would have booked the program several years ago! I would swap any other lazy holiday for a volunteering experience.
And before you go, any final words?
I would like to thank all the people I met along the way, everyone was so nice and I loved hearing about their countries and experiences. I’m glad I got to learn so much from the marine biologists, and thanks to volunteer coordinator Sarah everything from boat rides to food orders was taken care of. I hope one day we can all sit down together and have another game of Brinx!
Thank you so much Karolien, it was truly a pleasure to have such a compassionate and smart soul with us, and we hope to see you again soon!