Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort has been tracking whale sharks, manta rays and sea turtles and sharing information with conservation groups in the Maldives.
Whale shark and manta ray populations around the resort in the central Maldives atoll were found to be stable.
“Many of the whale sharks spotted in South Ari Atoll are juvenile males five to eight metres in length. The waters around here are like a boys’ high school for whale sharks,” explained the resort’s marine biologist, Lynn Jula Kessler, who leads the effort.
Data collected by Kessler and guests on whale shark sightings on snorkelling trips – taking note of injuries caused by collisions with boats – are shared with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme.
The Maldives also has the biggest recorded population of manta rays in the world. Information on manta ray sightings are sent to the global NGO Manta Trust, which uses underwater images to track new pregnancies, injuries and overall population trends. The local chapter of Manta Trust is part of the award-winning Maldives Underwater Initiative, a group of environmental NGOs based in the Six Senses resort in Laamu atoll.
“No matter how often I encounter manta rays, they always amaze me. Besides being unbelievably graceful, they are also very curious and intelligent. They can often be observed interacting with snorkellers and divers which makes the encounters even more magical,” said Kessler.
Outrigger’s tracking and monitoring efforts raised more concern about sea turtles, which often get ensnared in fishing nets travelling between their nesting grounds in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Kessler offers twice-weekly presentations to guests on manta rays, whale sharks, turtles, marine life and coral reef preservation in the South Ari Atoll. In July, guests were invited to join Kessler to plant corals, adding frames of new coral beneath a jetty at the resort to encourage the breeding of young corals and fish species.
This September, Outrigger plans to join the #GentleToGiants initiative of the whale shark research team, a campaign that hopes to secure commitments from tourism businesses to adhere to whale shark encounter guidelines.
The American luxury hotel chain Outrigger acquired Maafushivaru in April after extensive renovations to the five-star property.