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Major study shows resilience of Maldives reefs



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


Experience tennis excellence amid tropical luxury: Hideaway Beach Resort’s exclusive tennis camp with WTA Coach Carlos Martinez Comet



Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa, the epitome of luxury in the Maldives, has announced an extraordinary tennis camp experience featuring renowned WTA tennis coach, Carlos Martinez Comet.

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Maldivian paradise, this exclusive event promises to elevate your tennis skills while indulging in the lap of luxury. The camp is to be held during this October for five days.

Carlos Martinez Comet is the driving force behind acclaimed tennis academy based in Spain – CMC Competition. He is a tennis visionary known for his commitment to shaping the future of women’s tennis. With an unwavering passion for the sport, his coaching philosophy emphasises technique, mental strength, and hard work, fostering a new generation of tennis stars. His students, mentored under his expertise, have risen through the ranks of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and currently is coaching the rising star – Daria Kasatkina – who reached to the top 8 in the World WTA rankings last year.

From October 16th to 20th, 2023, Hideaway Beach Resort & Spa will transform into a tennis enthusiast’s haven as it welcomes acclaimed Coach Carlos Martinez Comet. With a track record of coaching some of the world’s greatest players, Coach Comet will lead an immersive tennis camp that promises to refine your game, perfect your strokes, and elevate your serve.

In collaboration with RTC Sport (Royal, Timeless & Challenging), Hideaway’s resident tennis pro and also the resort’s resident Sports Master, Ameen, will guide participants of all experience levels through a series of comprehensive tennis lessons. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a competitive player, this five-day intensive course will cater to your individual needs.

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ROBINSON NOONU offers exciting sports, well-being events for guests



ROBINSON NOONU, the premium resort on the Maldivian island Orivaru, is offering guests the chance to experience innovative concepts and practice them with experienced coaches and experts. The resort’s upcoming event weeks include the HOT IRON Event Week, Mindful METIME Event-Week, “BODY POSITIVITY”-Event, and “Your timeout” Yoga-Event.

From October 16th to 21st, 2023, guests can participate in the HOT IRON Event Week “Strength meets mobility”, led by Sebastian Prahl. This strength-endurance training with the barbell is suitable for all levels and focuses on body toning and fat reduction.

From October 16th to 21st, 2023, guests can participate in the HOT IRON Event Week “Strength meets mobility”, led by Sebastian Prahl. This strength-endurance training with the barbell is suitable for all levels and focuses on body toning and fat reduction.

The Mindful METIME Event Week, led by Peter Praunsmändtl, takes place from November 7th to 19th, 2023. Guests can find their inner strength through meditations, breathing exercises, and workout classes, including Pilates and mobility sessions.

From December 22nd, 2023, to January 13th, 2024, guests can participate in the “BODY POSITIVITY” Event with Sava Assenov. This event includes core training, Pilates, and yoga flows, as well as early bird workouts and intensive whole-body workouts.

For those looking for a yoga-focused event, the “Your timeout” Yoga Event with Anja Bölitz takes place from January 13th to 27th, 2024. Bölitz, founder of emBODYMINDing®, focuses on healthy alignment for the body and mind, combining yoga and fascia training with meditation and mindfulness.

“Many of our guests come to our island not only to relax and enjoy the dreamlike scenery, but also to benefit their body and mind during their holiday,” said Jan-Hendrik Karliczek, General Manager of ROBINSON NOONU. “With our sport and well-being event weeks, we offer them the opportunity to get to know new innovative concepts and to practice them with experienced coaches and experts.”

In addition to the special event weeks, the resort offers a wide range of activities for all guests to enjoy, including volleyball, badminton, football, water polo, table tennis, billiards, snorkelling, diving, fishing, sailing, boat tours, and wakeboarding.

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Inaugural Kandooma Manta Week kicks off on World Manta Day 2023



Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives celebrates the annual World Manta Day (17 Sept) with the naming of a recently rescued Giant Oceanic Manta Ray, an award and a variety of guest activities for the resort’s inaugural Kandooma Manta Week. World Manta Day has been created to celebrate manta rays and to raise awareness of the threats that these beautiful, mysterious, ocean giants face.

Last month divers from Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives led by Japanese PADI-certified Dive Instructor Tomoyo, freed a Giant Oceanic Manta Ray tangled in ghost nets, at a site nearby to the island resort. The Manta Trust through its identification process has now confirmed the Manta is an adult male and is the 915th Oceanic Manta Ray to be spotted in Maldivian waters. As part of the identification process the Manta was named ‘Kandooma’ in honour of where it was seen and the dive team who freed it from tangled nets.

“We are delighted to have the Manta named after our natural island, Kandooma. When the Manta Trust shared confirmation of the name with us, I was absolutely thrilled,” said Mark Eletr, General Manager, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, who was one of the divers who freed the Manta.

As part of the Kandooma Manta Week activities at the resort, the team at Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives will host a naming ceremony for Kandooma the Manta and will honour the Dive Instructor, Tomoyo from the Kandooma Dive Centre for her bravery, seizing the opportunity to cut ‘Kandooma’ the Giant Oceanic Manta Ray free. Other activities for the week long celebration of Manta Rays includes special scuba dives and snorkelling excursions to observe these giants in their natural environment and learn about their behaviours, the threats to their survival and share the story of the freeing of ‘Kandooma’.

“Tomoyo showed no hesitation on the dive. First ensuring the group of accompanying divers were all safe before proceeding. Fortunately they were all experienced and each had enough air remaining for her to do this. In all it took about three and a half minutes to free Kandooma. I was so proud of her for the way she conducted herself and took positive action. I think also the other divers need to be acknowledged as well, they remained calm, kept their distance, didn’t interfere with what Tomoyo was doing and recorded the entire encounter,” added Mark.

The newly named Manta, ’Kandooma’, is estimated to be 4 metres in size. While confirmed origin of the fishing net is yet to be confirmed, it is understood it is not Maldivian and has drifted with the tide from another country, reinforcing the importance of education and responsible disposal of nets and fishing line.

The theme of World Manta Day 2023 is Tourism. Tourism plays a pivotal role in Manta Ray conservation, as it helps to raise awareness, generates funding for research, and contributes to efforts to protect Manta Ray habitats and prevents their exploitation.

Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma is on the doorstep to some of the Maldives Top Ten Dive Sites and the wellbeing of the ocean and all the life within it, is important to guests and hotel staff alike. The resort aligns its efforts with IHG’s purpose True Hospitality for Good, through their sustainability programme ‘Journey to Tomorrow’ which is the hotel group’s response to helping achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

Recent events with Kandooma the Manta have inspired the resort’s management to add two free Scuba Dives per day for certified divers staying at the resort for 3 nights or more.

Located in the South Male atoll just 40 mins from the airport by boat, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives is a beautiful island paradise. White sandy beaches, swaying coconut palms and turquoise waters form the backdrop for various leisure pursuits and some of the best diving in the Maldives. Guests can choose from Garden and Beach Villas, two-storey Beach Houses and the popular Overwater Villas. Families are well catered for with a choice of 2- and 3-bed villas, the Kandoo Kids’ Club, and its complete activities programme. Six food and beverage outlets ensure healthy appetites are satisfied and the flavours of the Maldives are explored. For guests who desire the ultimate relaxation, sun loungers and hammocks are located around the island. The Kandooma Spa by COMO Shambhala offers the ultimate tranquility and escape for body and mind.

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