Ranger training programme in Baa atoll biosphere reserve concludes
A training programme for rangers working at three protected areas across the Maldives has concluded.
Four rangers from Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve Team, and six participants from Fuvahmulah and Addu Protected Area Teams together with two representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an official from the environment ministry and two students from The Maldives National University took part in the training workshop held from Thursday to Monday in Baa atoll.
During the workshop organised by the environment ministry in association with IUCN Maldives, two experts from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority combined theory and practical work to brief the participants on the challenges in managing protected areas and techniques used. Participants also undertook field visits to protected areas in Baa atoll and conducted a beach cleanup of Hanifaru island.
According to the environment ministry, the workshop, funded by USAID, was the first of its kind held in the Maldives.
Several areas in Addu and Fuvahmulah have been declared protected by the government. In 2011, UNESCO declared Baa atoll a biosphere reserve, making it the first biosphere reserve in the Maldives.
Baa atoll is home to Hanifaru Bay, famous around the world for large seasonal aggregations of feeding reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) and whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). This uniquely-shaped bay has attracted large numbers of tourists from across the globe to immerse themselves in the tropical waters amongst a feeding frenzy of these gentle giants.
Hanifaru Bay is carefully managed with entry limited to a small number of visitors every day to conserve the environment. Known as the world’s largest manta ray feeding station, it is also famous for being nursery grounds for grey sharks and sting rays and is one of the very few places in the world where whale sharks congregate to mate. It is best known for its concentration of reef manta rays, where on good days it is possible to see and swim alongside a hundred mantas.
Several resorts in the baa atoll, including Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, Milaidhoo Maldives, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas and Amilla Fushi, offer guided excursions to Hanifaru Bay for guests to snorkel with mantas.