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The Great Projects

Whale Shark Research

Help with vital marine conservation research of the world's largest fish - the magnificent whale shark!

Have you ever dreamed 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

Situated in the stunning island paradise of Dhigurah Island in the Maldives, this is a fantastic project offering you the chance to get up close and personal with the world's largest fish – the magnificent whale shark.

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! 

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.

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.

Suitable for

Singles
Couples
Groups

Typical day

First Days

Today you will arrive into Male's Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (preferably in the early morning or early afternoon to make the transfer) and then take a domestic flight to Maamigili Island. Upon arrival at Maagmigili, you will be met by staff from the project accommodation, and then accompanied via speedboat to Dhigurah Island. On arrival you will settle in to your new accommodation and meet your fellow volunteers and the project facilitators. After the first night and a healthy breakfast you will get an initial briefing and then the project work begins. 

Regular Days

You will head out to sea in search of whale sharks and assist with the identification and tracking process. Please note that activities will depend on the day and also on the weather conditions out at sea. From midday on day 6 (Friday) till day 7 you have free time which allows you to have a rest, enjoy the local area or take part in a different activity.

Activities during this project include:

Marine Research: 

This is the principle activity you will be involved in. You will be able to spend all day out at sea trying to spot the inconspicuous shapes of the graceful whale shark. You will also log any sightings of other marine animals including turtles, dolphins, reef sharks and even manta rays! When a whale shark is spotted you will be able to get into the water to take photos, measure and sex these fascinating creatures.

Data Entry: 

You will need to collate all of the collected data and whale shark encounters that are logged whilst out at sea. After this data has been extrapolated, you will then input this into an extensive database which will help to log and identify the individual sharks.

Local Community Work:

Your role whilst on Dhigurah Island, aside from helping with whale shark conservation, is also to improve the local communities' knowledge and understanding of these beautiful creatures and the marine protected area in which they reside. This is a great time to interact with the locals and understand a different way of life.

Beach Clean Ups:

Rubbish is a major problem in the Maldives, so you will also be involved with regular beach sweeps. This makes a big difference to everybody on the island, so there will often be half day beach cleans. Previously, volunteers even made a giant model of a whale shark out of old plastic bottles to highlight the problem of plastic on the island!

Last Day

After your final goodbyes you will fly back to Male in order to catch your return flight home or continue with any onward travel.

Details on Arrival

Project start dates for 2017:


April 2nd, April 16th, April 30th, May 14th, June 25th, July 9th, July 23rd, August 6th, September 17th, October 1st, October 29th, November 12th, November 26th and December 10th (Subject to availability)

Please contact us to see whether your preferred start date is still available!

Program Requirements

In order to join the program you need to be at least 18 years old on the program start date. There might be exemptions if you can provide the permission of your legal guardian(s).
Language Skills
You need to speak English (intermediate level)
Nationality Restrictions
No restrictions. Helping hands from all over the world are welcome.
Other Skills
The project involves a lot of open ocean swimming, so you will have to be fit enough (and a strong enough swimmer) to cope with this! Those that struggle with swimming are not advised to join this project - we advise that you must be able to swim around 200 metres comfortably in order to join this project. You will also be diving with whale sharks on this project so you must be comfortable holding your breath underwater.
No specific skills or experience are required, only a positive attitude!
Time Commitment
Your helping hand will be required on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Any questions? Just ask. We at The Great Projects are happy to help you.

Contact Project Manager

Free-time activities

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.

Water Sports
Swimming
Diving/Snorkling
Contact & Reservation
$946
/week
$946
/week
2 - 4
weeks
2 - 4
weeks
18+
age
18+
age
Airport Pickup
Housing
Food
Internet
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Included Services

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Services by The Great Projects
  • Accommodation
  • Three Meals Per Day
  • Daily Return Boat Transfers to and from the project site
  • All project activities
Airport Pickup at Malé International Airport

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.

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.

Guesthouse
Food & Beverages

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.

Internet Access
Limited access at the project site
What's NOT included?
Visa, flights, travel insurance or vaccinations are NOT included in the program fees.

No worries, Volunteer World supports you in raising funds, checking your visa regulations and travel insurance. We also assist you in finding the cheapest flights for your journey.
Costs (Prices in USD)
2 weeks (min. stay)
$1,980.00
3 weeks
$2,793.00
4 weeks (max. stay)
$3,606.00
Average fees
$946.00/week

You can volunteer at the project site in Dhigurah/Maldives between 2 weeks and 4 weeks. Please note that the above shown program fees are estimated and subject to exchange rate fluctuations. The Great Projects will let you know about the final price during your application process.
Deposit (15%)
The deposit is simply to reserve your volunteer placement. Payments are handled by PayPal, our trusted global payment provider. If you don't have a PayPal account, you can also pay using a credit card.
Final Payment (85%)
Your final payment will be agreed with The Great Projects during the application process. Common solutions are either via bank transfer or a cash payment at the project site.

Get ready to volunteer in Maldives

Check out first

Visa Regulations
Depending on your nationality, you have to arrange your visa for Maldives. Please check the visa regulations for Maldives.
Travel Seasons
Find out the best time to volunteer in Maldives and receive information on weather and climatic conditions.
Living Costs
Living costs vary with each destination. We give an overview of what you should plan as an estimated budget to volunteer in Maldives.
Budgeting
Generally, volunteering abroad involves certain costs. In case you need financial support, we will assist you to fundraise your volunteer program in Maldives.

What's next?

Airport
The nearest airport is Malé International Airport (MLE) in Male. We assist you to find cheap flights to Maldives.
Travel Insurance
Going abroad is an adventure and it is always best to be prepared. Sudden illness or injury, cancellation or theft - a travel insurance for Maldives provides security and is a plus to have.
Vaccine Checker
If you are intending to volunteer in Maldives you should seek medical advice before starting your social journey. Check your required vaccinations for Maldives.
Free-time
What can you do in leisure-time in Maldives while you are not working at your volunteer opportunity?
Maldives, Dhigurah, Maldives zoom="6"

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