Help with vital marine conservation research of the world's largest fish - the magnificent whale shark!
Have you ever dreamt of swimming beside the world's largest fish? Well now you can with this once in a lifetime experience, which allows you to help through vital conservation work with the magnificent whale shark - all within one of the most beautiful locations anywhere on earth - the Maldives!
About the Project
Formed in conjunction with a not-for-profit charity and active member of the international conservation coalition ‘The Shark Alliance’, this project offers volunteers the chance to “conduct integral whale shark research and foster community-focussed initiatives throughout the Maldives region”. The project is very lucky to have the help of some world renowned marine biologists, and with their help have been building up an ongoing demographic profile of the whale shark population through a non-invasive process called photo identification. Having documented (via ground-breaking satellite tagging and DNA analysis programmes) over 3000 encounters with whale sharks, the team have identified over 208 individuals, cataloguing them into a worldwide database, ultimately helping to assess and understand the wider importance of whale shark conservation.
The aim of this project is to increase knowledge of whale shark activity within the Maldives to allow for a sound conservation strategy. By encouraging community and stakeholder participation we are able to leverage scientific research to safeguard the marine ecosystem in the Maldives. All volunteer work will be carried out on the stunningly beautiful island of Dhigurah. With crystal clear waters, kaleidoscopic coral reefs and a fantastic array of marine life - this really can be considered paradise!
Prior to Arrival
Getting to the island is relatively simple. You will need to book a flight out to the capital of the Maldives, Male. Many airlines, including charter airlines, fly here so you should be able to find yourself a relatively cheap flight. It is better to arrive on either a morning or early afternoon flight. Once in Male, you will need to catch a domestic flight on FlyMe Airways - the only carrier plying this route - to Maamigili Island where you will meet up with a member of staff from your accommodation. Once in Maamigili, you will then be transferred via speedboat to Dhigurah Island - the site where the project is based. Please note that domestic flights will cost extra and you will be billed for these through The Great Projects and TME Resorts.
On arrival you will settle in to your new accommodation and meet your fellow volunteers and the project facilitators.
As a volunteer on this project you will spend much of your time out at sea, keeping your eyes peeled for the distinctive shapes of these graceful giants. Once spotted, you will then get the chance to enter the water with these magnificent creatures, measuring the sharks from head to tail and recording data via photo ID and written logs. The South Ari Atoll area is one of very few in the world to boast a year-round population of whale sharks, and you will most likely begin to recognise some of them! What's more, you may also have the chance to see some of the Maldives' other famous marine inhabitants – including manta rays and whitetip reef sharks. The chance of swimming with whale sharks does not come around too often, so you should be sure to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.
Another integral aspect to this project is the community outreach programmes that it promotes. You will be able to spend part of your time here talking and working with the local community, learning from their experiences and helping to promote the importance of whale shark conservation.Noticing new scars and other distinguishing can be really important in trying to record the health of South Ari Atoll's year round population of whale sharks.
After your final goodbyes you will fly back to Male in order to catch your return flight home or continue with any onward travel.
After a briefing in the morning, you will spend most of your time out at sea. Duties include out-at-sea research, data entry of the collected data into a database, which is an essential part of the process as it means that individual sharks can be recognised and studied for the future, as well as working within the local community. This will include regular beach sweeps and beach clean-ups, as well as hosting activities for the local school kids.
During your free time, you can fully enjoy the beautiful location you're set in and join a variety of water sports or just relax at the beach. Please not that the costs for water sports are not included in the program fees so make sure to bring some extra money for that.
You will need to book a flight out to the capital of the Maldives, Male. Many airlines (including charter airlines) fly here so you should be able to find yourself a relatively cheap flight. It is better to arrive on either a morning or early afternoon flight. Once in Male, you will need to catch a domestic flight (on FlyMe Airways - the only carrier plying this route) to Maamigili Island where you will meet up with a member of staff from your accommodation.
Your time here will be spent living on a local island called Dhigurah – literally meaning ‘long island’ in Dhivehi. Accommodation is in a guest house and rooms are on a shared basis of two people. There are 4 rooms so the project can have up to 8 volunteers at any one time. Dhigurah will be your home and being a local island you can get involved with the community. There may be opportunities for you to go to a local house for some traditional food, go on a fishing trip or have a look at some local arts and crafts in the gift shops.
Three meals per day will be provided for you for the entirety of your time on the project. The food provided will be a mixture of traditional Maldivian cuisine – with delicious fish, curries, cassava and coconut - as well as western choices. All food, apart from packed lunches (which will be eaten on the Dhoni), will be served in a buffet style.
Please note that there is a NO ALCOHOL policy anywhere on the island, and you will not be able to purchase any alcohol during your time here.