Diva Maldives Opens Their First Marine Biology Centre

Maldives Promotion House – In order to provide a much needed contribution to the research conducted on the year around presence of whale sharks in South Ari Atoll, former largest Marine Protected Area in Maldives, Diva has opened a dedicated Marine Biology Centre on the island of Dhidhoofinolhu.

While Dhidhoofinolhu is also home to a rich ecosystem, the reefs and the marine life of South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA) will be overseen by the newly appointed resident marine biologist of Diva, Chiara Fumagalli.

Chiara has brought her Italian expertise to Diva after gaining an international experience in various locations. She has worked at Cape Verde, in the Atlantic Ocean, Vanuatu, in the Pacific and several Maldivian islands in the Indian Ocean.

Her introduction to Maldives was in 2001 when she becomes a PADI Dive Master. “Maldives are every marine biologist’s dream, due to their incredible biodiversity and the chance to work in this country has always been one of the most exciting challenges of my life,” she said.

“Diva Maldives in particular, due to its position in the South Ari Atoll Marine Protected Area offers the unique opportunity to observe and work on whale sharks. The team at Diva is very keen on developing awareness on the protection and conservation of this still little-known and charismatic animal” Chiara added.

Chiara holds the position of Community Liaison Secretary for SAMPA C.I.C. by promoting and advising on environmental awareness topics amongst the local communities and the government agencies involved in managing the Marine Protected Area.

According to Diva the centre is located at the heart of the island. Moreover the Marine Biology Centre serves both as an interactive and learning gathering where the guest’s marine experience is enriched through a direct involvement in the on-going research as well as leading all the upcoming activities related to the recently established SAMPA C.I.C.

Among the various activities for guests of all ages, the Centre offers a space to learn what helps in preserving these endangered species and boasts the unique opportunity to use a special software called I3S.

The software was originally developed by the US space agency NASA to observe changing patterns of stars, now aptly adjusted to identify distances between spots on the whale sharks skin pattern in a given area and consequently their uniqueness.

The Centre uses this software to provide regular updates on the research conducted within the SAMPA and most importantly allows all the guests of the resort to see whether the whale shark they have seen during one of their excursions has been seen before.

Latest addition to the list of whale sharks currently tracked was the recent amazing discovery of one of the Diva’s guest who identified an unknown whale shark never seen before thanks to I3S software.

“It was a small animal, only about 3.5 to 4.5 m long, of unknown sex unfortunately. The shark was in very good health, with no signs of injury. The size of the shark shows its young age” Chiara confirmed.

In contact with the Ecocean’s team based in Australia, both teams have confirmed the unmatched event and coded the shark as WS159 – Stephanie, named after the guest who reported it.

To bring all the guests closer to the marine life of Diva, the Centre organizes a weekly educational day to raise and deepen the awareness around the resident community of whale sharks.

The full day program starts at the Centre with interactive presentations and briefings about whale sharks, sea shells, reef fish and carries on with a boat trip with the Marine Biologist. The trip is focused on dedicated reef snorkelling and whale sharks spotting.

The trip continues on a traditional Maldivian island where the guests have the opportunity to meet a few of the oldest fishermen of the village who share with them the timeless whale sharks fishing techniques in use before the establishment of the original Marine Protected Area together with a typical Maldivian snacks-lunch.

Once back on the island, the team rendezvous at the Centre, where the guests can identify the whale sharks spotted during the day with the I3S, under the guidance of the marine biologist.

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