Carpe Diem Maldives announces Dive with a Purpose expeditions for 2018

Carpe Diem Maldives Cruises has announced its 2018 Dive with a Purpose series of hands-on marine expeditions for leisure divers.

The 2018 expeditions build on the success of three marine expeditions in 2017, in partnership with US based research organisation Coral Reef CPR.

“Divers with an avid marine conservation interest should not miss out on this unique opportunity to work alongside expert marine biologists in the 2018 series of Dive with a Purpose expeditions from Carpe Diem Maldives,” a statement issued by Carpe Diem Maldives read.

Taking a concerted approach towards protecting and restoring the health of coral reefs and marine life in the Maldives, three “Rescue a Reef” weeks with experts from Coral Reef CPR will look at addressing issues around reef predators, damage prevention and restoration. These expeditions are an extension of Carpe Diem’s support of the organisation’s Holistic Approach To Reef Protection (HARP) programme. A fourth week has been added to the 2018 Dive with a Purpose programme in partnership with Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP).

On each Dive with A Purpose week, up to 20 recreational divers can join the marine expeditions; divers must have an Advanced PADI qualification, excellent buoyancy control and ideally a minimum of 70 dives.

Priced from USD 1,863 per person for the week, the expeditions include:

  • Seven nights aboard the assigned Carpe Diem Maldives vessel
  • Three meals daily, plus between-dive snacks
  • Three to four dives daily (except for on day of arrival and day before departure)
  • Use of tanks, weights and belts
  • Drinking water, tea and coffee
  • Airport transfers on the days of embarkation/disembarkation
  • Evening workshops on marine ecology, coral reef, marine life and more
  • On-board marine biologists
  • GST 12 percent

Rescue a Reef: Crown of Thorns Starfish Removal with Coral Reef CPR

Expedition dates: May 19 – May 26 / July 15 – July 22 / Sept 8 – Sept 15

Reefs in the Maldives are currently being impacted by the third outbreak of crown of thorns starfish (COTS; Acanthaster spp.) that started in 2014 at the western end of North Male Atoll, near Reethi Rah, and has progressively spread throughout North Male Atoll, South Male Atoll and Ari Atoll, with smaller infestations reported on six other atolls. While normal densities of these starfish are generally not a concern, over 130 localised outbreaks were reported between 2014 and 2017.  Many of these have consisted of thousands of starfish and hundreds of reefs have been completely destroyed as a result of their voracious feeding.

Coral Reef CPR, in partnership with Carpe Diem Maldives, has removed over 10,600 starfish from reefs in the Maldives since 2015.

In the 2018 “Rescue a Reef” expeditions, divers on the trips can expect a hands-on role in eliminating the starfish from badly infested reefs. Divers on board these expeditions will assist the Coral Reef CPR scientists in collecting valuable data on the behaviours of the starfish and their genetic make-up. This will help understand why the outbreaks occur, where they originate from and what we can do to prevent a recurrence.

In addition to the COTS removal from reefs, the team will also visit a number of unique reef environments, including submerged farus and giris to explore the invertebrate life as and also collect valuable data on the diverse and colourful reef fish communities and larger megafauna such as sharks, manta rays and turtles.  During these dives and COTS removal dives, quantitative transects will be conducted to measure the health of the reefs and patterns of recovery following the 2016 bleaching event.

Working in buddy teams to remove the COTS from the reef, divers will be assisting Coral Reef CPR scientists in all aspects of research, including reef assessment surveys, collection of samples, and removal of crown of thorns starfish, cushion stars and coral eating snails. Across each of the one-week trips, divers will be trained in reef conservation methods and survey approaches, and learn about coral reefs and the vibrant and diverse life found on reefs through nightly workshops and discussions.

“Joining these ‘Rescue a Reef’ expeditions will provide divers with an opportunity to be part of a team who are saving thousands of hectares of reef and preventing the potential for future outbreaks,” the statement read.

The Great Megafauna Migration: Track whale sharks, mantas and turtles

Expedition dates: May 26 – June 2

There is a growing school of thought that the Maldivian ‘big three’; whale sharks, manta rays and turtles react to the changes in the monsoon seasons by moving to sites on the leeward side of the atolls. In May 2018, Carpe Novo will become a research platform for biologists from the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme providing them and 20 lucky guests an unprecedented opportunity to explore this phenomenon.

“The goal of this particular Dive with a Purpose expedition is to begin the 2018 southwest season’s data collection, documenting the movements of these iconic yet enigmatic animals,” the statement read.

There are two monsoons in the Maldives, Iruvai as the Maldivians call the northeast monsoon between December and April and Hulhagu, the southwest monsoon from May to November. How quickly these megafauna species transition from sites on the west coasts to sites on the east coast and vice versa is not defined and probably depends on currents and surface weather conditions.

The MWSRP will be setting out on Carpe Novo with the aim of seeking whale sharks, as well as manta rays and sea turtles at differing points amongst the central atolls. Whale sharks, manta rays and turtles will be photo identified, with individuals compared to previous sightings in national level databases to identify movements between locations, both within and between atolls. Equipment will be deployed to gather data on current and surface weather conditions in the hope of gleaning information on how quickly the 2018 season has changed and how the megafauna has reacted to it.

Special attention will be paid to whale sharks which have moved from other atolls, where a fledgling understanding of seasonal cyclic movements can be reinforced by any sightings of 29 individual whale sharks known to be regular inter-atoll travellers.

In areas where whale sharks are prevalent, the MWSRP will explore oceanic conditions in the isolated parts of the atolls where whale sharks are not expected to be sighted through the deployment of temperature and current reading loggers and compare that to data collected in areas where whale sharks would be expected to be seen.

Guests joining this expedition will be offered the opportunity to assist the researchers in the hands on equipment deployment and every data gathering aspect of their work and will be afforded nightly workshops, lectures and discussions on marine life and the leading edge findings from Maldives-specific research on these species.

The Carpe Novo vessel.

Established in 2008, Carpe Diem showcases a collection of three luxury liveaboard cruises, each accommodating 20 guests at a time. Carpe Diem is renowned for delivering a sense of discovery and adventure while enriching guests’ knowledge. The Carpe Diem name has built significant brand recognition within the top echelons of the travel industry for diving and leisure, and is currently developing a resort in the Maldives.

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