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Major study shows resilience of Maldives reefs

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US-based research group Coral Reef CPR, which has been studying a multitude of locations throughout the Maldives, has reported that some regions have demonstrated a remarkable resilience to elevated water temperatures, whereas others have been subjected to stress from other causes.

Bleaching in the Maldives was first reported in 2015, but most areas rebounded quickly. As the unusual weather patterns associated with an El Niño event persisted throughout 2015 and worsened in 2016, reefs bleached again. Coral Reef CPR measured the temperatures at a depth of 10 metres in lagoon, channel and outer reefs on Baa atoll and South Male Atoll, and found them to be abnormally high and steadily increasing between March and April that year.

Radshoo Atoll showing a high coral cover in August 2016.

Temperatures on exposed outer reefs ranged from 32-33° C, while lagoon reefs climbed to 35° C and higher, which was 2-5° C above the normal annual maximum. Using a highly accurate Castaway CTD (hand-held, deployable temperature metre), the team also measured temperature profiles from the surface to 40 metres of depth which showed a complete breakdown of cooler deep currents and absence of a thermocline. They reported that at the same time, “the surface of the sea was like glass and the water was gin clear,” allowing for a greater penetration of harmful UV radiation. “Together,” wrote Dr Andrew Bruckner of Coral CPR, “these conditions were a recipe for disaster.”

According to their research, Coral Reef CPR found that bleaching of the most sensitive corals started in March 2016, and by mid-April entire shallow reef systems throughout the country were stark white. Some corals resisted bleaching initially, especially the massive boulder corals such as Porites, but the water continued to warm. By the time the summer monsoon finally kicked in during mid-May, nearly every coral was either fully bleached or a vivid fluorescent colouration (yellow, purple, red or blue) as the coral animal produced photo-protective pigments to shield its tissue from too much sunlight.

Bleached coral can recover if environmental conditions return to normal relatively quickly, but the prolonged duration of the 2016 bleaching event overwhelmed many of the more sensitive species. Shallow lagoon reefs, reef flat and reef crest communities above five metres of depth sustained catastrophic losses, with up to 80 to 95 percent loss of coral in the hardest hit areas, particularly the dominant branching and table acroporids.

To gain more insight on the country-wide extent of bleaching impacts, Coral Reef CPR surveyed more than 80 reefs on eight different atolls in central and northern Maldives. While most emergent reefs in both fore reef and lagoon areas had become “a graveyard of coral skeletons” by August 2016, not all reefs were equally affected and even the hardest hit areas had survivors.

Acropora species at a ‘coral refuge’ in South Male, August 2017.

Pocillopora, another common form of branching coral, showed a higher survival rate in the shallow reef flats losing between 50 to 75 per cent of its cover – a large percentage, but significantly lower than other species. Other reefs throughout the country, especially those in outer exposed areas and submerged deep reefs which were dominated by massive boulder corals as opposed to the more fragile acroporids, lost between 10 to 20 percent of their corals, a much higher rate of survival.

Although initial observations suggested that the situation was ‘ominous’, Coral Reef CPR found that a more detailed examination of the reefs yielded a number of positive surprises. Of particular significance were individual colonies of certain species that failed to bleach, despite being located adjacent to other colonies that had fully bleached. Some of the corals produced vivid fluorescent pigments, which appeared to offer protection to these colonies.

The team found that some reefs provided a refuge from the bleaching, with high numbers of surviving corals on channel reefs and submerged reefs, known locally as thillas, where there is much more water movement. Coral mortality was also found to be reduced on outer reefs that are exposed to high wave action. These areas still lost most of their branching and table corals, but they are dominated by boulder corals, especially massive Porites corals which are much slower-growing and tend to be long-lived, with some colonies estimated to be between 500 and 1000 years in age. Although many of these larger corals appeared to lose some tissue, very few of them actually died, and the team began to see signs of tissue recovery, observing that all the reefs considered to be bleaching “refuges” had high numbers of boulder corals as well as the more fragile branching and plating acroporids.

Many of the Maldives’ atolls, especially on their western side, have small islands that contain their own lagoon, forming a structure that resembles a micro-atoll. These lagoons tend to be fairly shallow at only 5-15 metre deep, and the sandy bottom is covered with hundreds of small coral bommies and patch reefs. These areas often support unique, unusually large boulder, plating or foliaceous (leaf-like) corals that form the framework of the reef and are colonised by a high diversity of corals, especially acroporids. Within these areas, Coral Reef CPR identified more than 30 species of Acropora that survived the 2016 bleaching event. These environments tend to have lower visibility, which may explain why they provided a refuge from bleaching.

Baa atoll house reef with good coral cover despite being less than one metre deep.

In all reef environments, the team found much higher survivorship of corals on reef slopes. In many cases, the steep part of the slope was littered with hundreds of broken Acropora branches, fragments that had been detached from larger colonies on the top of the reef and carried down the slope. The base of these reefs contained larger, intact, branching, digitate (finger-like) and table acroporids in good condition.

Remarkably, the studied sites had unusually high numbers of coral recruits and one to two-year-old juvenile corals that had resisted bleaching. These included most of the acroporids and other species that sustained very high mortality during the 2016 bleaching event. Dr Bruckner notes that the presence of these corals provides evidence that coral reefs in the Maldives are still very resilient and are likely to recover quite quickly.

“Reading some of the recent negative reports from the Maldives highlights some of the gaps in understanding, variations between reef survey techniques and importance of evaluating a large number of reefs and not drawing conclusions from a small sample size,” reports Dr Buckner.

“This is particularly important as the geological foundation of the islands and reef systems of the Maldives does not permit small sample sets of data to be extrapolated for the whole country.”

Photographed in August 2017, this several centuries old Porites shows 100 percent live coral.

The Maldives contains a large number of reefs which are distant from populated areas. However, there is a great deal of concern regarding environmental degradation associated with a recent “building boom” around the islands. The team also found that other reefs, especially those around North Male Atoll and Ari Atoll have been badly damaged by a severe outbreak of Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS), cushion starfish (Culcita sp.) and coral-eating snails (Drupella sp.). This outbreak of “corallivores” began prior to the bleaching event in 2016 and has continued after the bleaching ended, causing the loss of coral to be misinterpreted, according to Coral Reef CPR.

“During 2017,” writes Dr Bruckner, “a number of other marine biologists told us about reefs that are undergoing bleaching again. However, when we examined these locations, the damage caused by the corallivores was misinterpreted as bleaching and, further, our temperature meters and NOAA satellite data have recorded temperatures that are within the normal range.”

Noting that some observations may have been carried out with non-scientific equipment, he adds that “we strongly discourage the use of recreational diving computers as a measure of accurate water temperature.”

In conclusion, Dr Bruckner writes that “there have been large scale changes to the reef systems throughout the country as a result of the 2016 coral bleaching event, and these have been compounded locally by other human and natural stressors. However, these reefs show multiple signs that indicate they are resilient to these stressors, and in absence of high numbers of corallivores and unsustainable coastal development and other human impacts, they are undergoing rapid recovery.”

Photos: Coral Reef CPR

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Mischa Zverev returns to JOALI BEING to host tennis workshops in August

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JOALI BEING invites German tennis professional, Mischa Zverev, to host tennis workshops between 9th and 19th August 2024. Young guests are welcome to join the Ace Academy workshops this Summer, where they can learn to become tennis pros through a variety of class levels that focus on the fundamentals of tennis all the way up to exciting tennis matches. Zverev will also host a tennis workshop for teenagers from the local community, supporting youngsters with diabetes as part of the Alexander Zverev Foundation.

Mischa Zverev had achieved a career-high ATP singles ranking of world No. 25. At the 2017 Australian Open, Zverev defeated world No. 1 Andy Murray in four sets. Zverev began playing tennis at the age of two with his father, Alexander, a former ATP pro and his coach from who he drew inspiration. Zverev is the elder brother of Alexander Zverev, who was ranked by the ATP as high as world No. 2. Together, they were the first brothers to reach 3R at the same Grand Slam event since Byron and Wayne Black in the 1998 Australian Open.

The B’Kidult Summer Programme – Ace Academy Tennis Camp

The B’Kidult Summer Programme took flight on 1st July 2024, welcoming adventurers of all ages to embark on a shared journey of joy, discovery and connection. Mischa Zverev will lead two sessions of the Ace Academy camp in August; the first workshop on 15th August 2024 and the second workshop on 17th August 2024.These workshops will focus on hand and eye coordination, foot work drills and cardio. Guided by Zverev, young players can start their tennis journey on the right foot, to develop essential life skills and a love for the game in a fun, supportive environment. Along with boosting speed and agility, the tennis workshops will also foster resilience and teamwork. Youngsters can learn to command the court with confidence and share their progress with the rest of the family.

Community Wellbeing and Inspiration

Following a successful local community workshop with the Zverev brothers in 2022, JOALI BEING is excited to welcome back Mischa Zverev to further inspire a group of teenagers from a neighbouring local island. “I am deeply honoured to return to the island of wellbeing, where we have created moments of joy and inspiration together with the team, guests and local community. I am very much looking forward to sharing my passion and motivate youngsters once again. JOALI BEING is truly my favourite place on earth” says Zverev.

Multi-generational play and learning

At JOALI BEING, we cater to multi-generational travellers, a place where every individual discovers and embarks on a journey of transformation and transcendence. Making the most of its remote tropical island setting, B’Kidult weaves elements of nature into each space and activity, awakening the senses and fostering a closer relationship with the earth. From crystalline waters and warm sunshine to soft sands and lush palms, nature’s sensory gifts set the stage for a memorable family journey that unites discovery, learning and wellbeing. The Four Pillars of JOALI BEING: Mind, Skin, Microbiome and Energy are brought to life through experiential learning and active engagement. Mischa Zverev will be visiting JOALI BEING with his family and will experience an array of multi-generational activities that nurture connection; from culinary classes, herbology workshops, yoga and sound baths, to marine conservation, snorkelling adventures and transformational wellbeing.

Since JOALI BEING opened its doors in late 2021, the wellbeing island has continuously strived to support and inspire local communities. In November 2022, the Zverev brothers visited JOALI BEING as part of tennis star Aleksander Zverev’s recovery journey from a past injury. Together, they hosted tennis workshops for guests and children from a local neighbouring island, supporting youngsters with diabetes. The Alexander Zverev Foundation had then been launched to help young people with diabetes to avoid limiting themselves because of the condition. The foundation particularly supports children with type 1 diabetes and aims to help prevent type 2 diabetes by encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle. At JOALI BEING, the wellbeing island’s philosophy of “Joy of Weightlessness” had well resonated with Aleksander Zverev at every level during his stay.

JOALI BEING has villas from $2700 per night based on two persons sharing an Ocean Pool Villa on a B&B basis. Wellbeing Programmes start from $1,693 per person based on a five-night programme.

For bookings and further information, please contact reservations.being@joali.com.

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Kandima Maldives remains top choice for sports celebrities; hosts futsal camp with Ricardinho

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Growing in popularity as a holiday hotspot among sports personalities, active lifestyle resort Kandima Maldives with Ricardinho, holding the title of being named the best Futsal player in the World 6 times by the Futsal planet.

The legendary Ricardinho spent a week at the island resort from 30th June to 6th July, providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both local youths and Kandima guests.

During his stay, Ricardinho conducted an engaging three-day futsal camp, coaching aspiring players from the local Kudahuvadhoo Island. The camp was open to Kandima’s guests too and provided an amazing opportunity for participants to learn from one of the greatest futsal players of all time.

Throughout the event, Ricardinho actively engaged with visitors, playing matches with fans and futsal enthusiasts, and showcasing his expertise in a community setting. Guests had the rare chance to watch, learn, and interact directly with the futsal legend, making the experience truly anything but ordinary.

“We are honoured to welcome Ricardinho, the world’s top Futsal player, to Kandima,” said Tom van Tuijl, General Manager, Kandima Maldives “This collaboration aligned perfectly with Kandima’s focus on an active lifestyle. Our commitment to promote a fitness-oriented way of life in a tropical island setting and Ricardinho’s visit undoubtedly inspired our guests, especially families with young futsal enthusiasts, to embrace a more sporty lifestyle.”

Kandima is no stranger to hosting renowned athletes from around the world and the UK. In recent years, the island resort has already hosted premium league footballers Liverpool FC’s Joe Gomez, Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes, and freestyle football champion Lia Lewis for a holiday. Innovative in their approach to creating distinct and memorable sports experiences for guests, Kandima continues exploring fun and educational partnerships with esteemed athletes to impress fitness-oriented travellers.

“We are thrilled to partner with Kandima Maldives for this exciting football camp,” said Ricardinho.” It was a great opportunity to share my passion for the sport and engaging with the Kandima’s guests, local youths and staff. Together, we created unforgettable memories and inspired a love for football and an active lifestyle.”

For more information about Kandima Maldives and upcoming Uber Kool events, please visit www.kandima.com.

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Tennis pro Dominik Hrbaty to conduct training sessions at Sirru Fen Fushi Maldives

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Sirru Fen Fushi – Private Lagoon Resort has announced the arrival of tennis legend Dominik Hrbaty for an exclusive series of training sessions at their luxurious island retreat in collaboration with LUX Tennis Private Coaching Academy. From 6th August to 14th August 2024, guests at this breathtaking Maldivian resort will have the unique opportunity to train personally with Hrbaty, benefiting from his exceptional skills and expertise in the sport.

Born on April 1, 1978, in Slovakia, Dominik Hrbaty is celebrated worldwide for his illustrious career as a professional tennis player. Throughout his tenure on the ATP tour, Hrbaty achieved a highest singles ranking of 12 and doubles ranking of 14, capturing the hearts of tennis enthusiasts with 6 career singles titles and 2 doubles titles. His remarkable achievements include victories at prestigious tournaments such as San Marino, Prague, Auckland, Adelaide, and Marseille, among others.

“We are honoured to host Dominik Hrbaty at Sirru Fen Fushi,” said Wellness & Recreation Manager, Wilfred Suarez. “His presence underscores our commitment to offering unparalleled experiences that combine wellness, fitness, and the pursuit of excellence. Guests will have the extraordinary opportunity to learn directly from one of tennis’s most esteemed figures in our idyllic island setting.”

Nestled amidst the serene beauty of the Maldives, Sirru Fen Fushi offers a haven of luxury and tranquility. The resort’s tennis facilities boast a stunning court set beneath swaying palm trees, complete with floodlights for evening games, ensuring an unforgettable tennis experience day or night.

In addition to personalised training sessions with Hrbaty, guests can indulge in a range of wellness activities, including yoga on the beach, rejuvenating spa treatments, and exquisite culinary offerings featuring fresh, local ingredients.

Hrbaty’s visit aligns seamlessly with the resort’s philosophy of promoting overall well-being and personal improvement. His exceptional career achievements and dedication to the sport make him an ideal mentor for guests looking to enhance their tennis skills while enjoying a world-class vacation.

For more information on Sirru Fen Fushi – Private Lagoon Resort and to reserve your exclusive training session with Dominik Hrbaty, please visit www.sirrufenfushi.com or contact our reservations team at reservations@sirrufenfushi.com.

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