Posts Tagged ‘Maldives’

Voluntourism Saves Vacation $$$

When you’re in paradise, being willing to put in some effort to preserve the physical beauty, culture, and history around you can dramatically affect your ability to stick around a while longer. Six Senses Resorts in the outrageously stunning Maldives is offering FIVE Free Nights for guests who volunteer during their stay. Their “Eco Season Package” (between June 1-October 12) provides 5 nights free of a 10-night stay in exchange for at least 5 hours of time donated to local community projects.

Guests can choose from the following areas of work to help give back to the Maldives:
Marine Conservation – divers and snorkelers will be taught how to boost coral reef recovery and learn more about how to protect the dwindling shark community.

Waste Management – learn how to create home-made compost, charcoal, and biochar, to encourage locals into self-sufficiency and thereby reduce importation of food that can be grown at home.

Carbon Mitigation – plant trees on nearby islands to give Soneva neighbors much-needed shade and to mitigate levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Youth Education – give local island schools a 30-minute talk on the importance of waste management and composting and discuss Western culture and geography. Guests are invited to share their own relevant expertise in whichever field they specialize.

Boost Local Island Income – assist local families by learning the skill of making cadjan roofing material to sell and public rubbish bins for raising awareness of waste management. This not only helps create revenue streams for the islands that struggle to find alternative methods, but also helps to keep their islands in pristine condition.

Whale Sharks

whalesharkOne of the most regal creatures I’ve had the great good fortune to be near is a whale shark. Yesterday was a day of snorkeling in the Maldives on a whale shark excursion. The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean–up to 60 feet long–and they are gentle vegetarians, straining massive amounts of water through their gill system for plankton.

The Maldives is one of the rare areas on the planet with a year round population of whale sharks–most migrate great distances and are constantly on the move. Because of this, the area is also one of the premier research regions for the “threatened” (but not yet officially endangered) species. The only real predators they have are, of course, us. People kill them and lop off the dorsal fins for Chinese shark fin soup. They are so mysterious, and so rarely studied at length, very little is known about their mating habits, reproduction, and behavior except when they are in close proximity to humans (and therefore most vulnerable).

The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) is a charitable organization here in the Maldives, based out of the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. The Conrad resort sponsors the research as well as the researchers, providing housing and board at the resort, a research vessel, and logistical support (plus access to the resort amenities) for two shifts of scientists each year: 3 months in the spring and 2 months in the winter. Visitors to the region can volunteer with the research team (especially helpful are certified scuba divers) as they advance the science and conservation efforts. Others can volunteer for programs that inspire greater understanding and protection efforts among the local Maldivian community. The South Ari Atoll, where the research is carried out, is also now the Maldives’ largest Marine Protected Area (also realized with the Conrad resort’s support).

If you’re not hopping on over to the Maldives any time soon (it’s a giant hop, I assure you), you can donate here. The juvenile female we swam with yesterday was only about 18 feet long–and I dreamt about her all last night, and can almost guarantee I’ll do so again tonight. Trust me–it will not be OK if the whale sharks degrade further and get placed onto the endangered species list. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

More Ice? (Please)

The World Wildlife Fund has released a new study that points to the evidence that Arctic melting, which will likely change weather patterns and cause coastal flooding, is worse than previously estimated. Warming in the Arctic impacts the ecosystem around the planet, with a sharp increase of greenhouse gases and shifts in weather. Arctic Sea ice is melting more quickly than we thought.

“This is not about the Arctic, it’s what the Arctic means to the rest of the world and this study paints a truly sobering picture of the future if it continues to warm and melt,” said Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, “Warming in the Arctic will have negative consequences not just for polar bears, but for people across America and throughout the world. Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects.”

It’s a pretty vicious circle. The study analysis says: “The Arctic’s frozen soils and wetlands store twice as much carbon as is held in the atmosphere, as warming trends continue, soils will increasingly thaw and release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere as, at a significantly faster pace than previously predicted. Levels of atmospheric methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, have been increasing rapidly for the past two years, and many believe the increase is driven by the thawing Arctic.”

Sea levels will also likely rise at an alarming rate…I’m traveling to the Maldives later this year, one of the most threatened regions that will be underwater with just slight rises (much of the entire land mass of the island nation is less than 7 feet above sea level). That’s pretty damned freaky. Coastal flooding which will affect more than 25% of the world’s population, is now believed to be almost twice as much as was estimated in 2007. That’s only 2 years in which the prediction has grown twice as bleak.