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Four women complete unprecedented ‘Stand Up For Our Seas’ paddleboard expedition, raises awareness on plastic pollution

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In February 2019, four women completed an unprecedented stand up paddle boarding (SUP) expedition in Baa atoll in the Maldives, raising awareness of the need to protect marine life, and the necessary actions to do so.

Dr Claire Petros and Dr Cal Major, veterinarians from the UK, and Shaaziya ‘Saazu’ Saeed and Dhafeena ‘Dhafy’ Hassan Ibrahim, Maldivian ocean advocates, paddled a gruelling 100km over eight days, the likes of which has never been done before in the Maldives. The women paddled in the beating sun, fighting dehydration and exhaustion, through unseasonal headwinds and waves and against strong currents, between 16 islands of the atoll.

The team — supported by environmentalist Rob Thompson of Odyssey Innovations, Videographer James Appleton, and Shameel Ibrahim of the Olive Ridley Project — visited schools, local islands and resorts along the way to give presentations, run beach and harbour clean-ups, and investigate the myriad of solutions to plastic pollution and climate change already in place in the country, with the aim of inspiring further positive change.

“This expedition was so different to my previous expeditions; one of the biggest challenges, and the most rewarding aspects, was working as a team, discovering our complimentary strengths and support, and creating a successful campaign as a unit,” Cal Major, who has previously completed world-record SUP expeditions, said.

The women were privileged enough to encounter turtles, dolphins and manta rays during the paddling, bringing home the importance of protecting the oceans around the world. They also encountered uninhabited islands covered in plastic bottles, enormous ghost fishing nets on beaches regularly used by turtles for nesting, and harbours packed with plastic.

Plastic pollution is a huge issue with recent global media attention. It is a global problem, and experiencing it here, juxtaposed by wildlife, highlighted the importance of the need to tackle this problem urgently and globally. The oceans are all connected and are vital to support life on Earth, producing over 50 per cent of the oxygen in the atmosphere.

“Having treated sea turtles with life threatening entanglements caused by plastic pollution and ghost fishing gear, I have witnessed first hand just how much suffering and damage each animal affected by this man made problem has to endure,” Dr Claire Petros, Lead Veterinarian of the Olive Ridley Project which is involved in protecting turtles in the Indian Ocean from ghost fishing gear, said.

The Maldives is renowned for its pristine marine environment and abundance of wildlife, but it is also vulnerable to plastic pollution, coral bleaching and climate change. Thousands of marine creatures every year are entangled in lost or discarded fishing nets. Thousands more ingest plastic fragments, causing starvation and poisoning the food chain.

The Maldives is the lowest-lying country in the world, made up of more than 1100 islands surrounded by coral reefs which support the ocean ecosystem. Due to warming seas, these corals are becoming bleached, with progressively less ability to regenerate. The rising sea levels are severely threatening the islands, with estimates projecting that they will be under water in 12 years if current trends continue.

The reception to the team was phenomenal, with local islands and resorts alike excited to share the positive changes they already had in place, proud to protect the local marine life, and eager to learn more. Many schools were working towards becoming plastic free, and as well as receiving the team’s presentations, were encouraged to give their own accounts of the waste management practices being initiated on their home islands.

The expedition was supported by Coco Collection, and the start and end points were Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu resort, home to the Olive Ridley Project Marine Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. As a locally-owned resort brand that’s part of the beautiful natural environment of the Maldives, Coco Collection is aware of their impact and they strive to make their impact positive, protective, and nurturing towards their surroundings.

“We are proud to invest time, money, expertise, and energy in playing our part. Beyond what we do at our resorts, we partner with and support initiatives such as Stand Up for Our Seas, in order to have the biggest lasting positive impact on our corner of the world and beyond,” Siraj Ali Waseem, General Manager of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, said.

The team met with the Maldivian environment minister Dr Hussain Rasheed before setting out on their voyage, and his message was a clear global call to action: The Maldives is taking responsibility for its own carbon emissions, aiming to become the first carbon-neutral country. They are supporting plastic free schools programmes, and helping islands to become plastic free. Resorts are answering consumer demands to use less plastic, and most have desalination plants to produce drinking water, removing the need for plastic water bottles. Fishing with nets is not permitted in the Maldives; pole and line methods are widely used instead, and the nets arriving in ocean currents into the Maldivian waters, entangling the megafauna here, are usually from further afield.

Even with the Maldives making all the changes within their power, it is up to the global community to take action to prevent carbon emissions and climate change from irreparably destroying this country. The expedition received copious in-country media attention and support, and was used as a vehicle to encourage continued positive change, and to inspire global action.

Photography: James Appleton

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Umair Badheeu sets new, national freediving record at AIDA Philippines National Championship

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Maldivian freediver Umair Badheeu has achieved a new national record with a dive to a depth of 62 meters in the bi-fin category. His accomplishment was made possible with the support of Kaimoo Resorts and Hotels, a key sponsor and advocate for Umair’s pursuit of excellence in freediving.

Competing among 14 international participants, Umair’s performance not only secured a new national record but also surpassed his previous bi-fin category record of 60 meters by a margin of two meters.

Reflecting on the challenges of transitioning from his training in Egypt to competing in the Philippines, Umair said: “Adapting to reduced buoyancy due to warmer waters and encountering jellyfish were part of the new environment.”

This marks the third national record Umair has achieved. He previously set two national records of 62 and 64 meters in the free immersion category of free diving at the Andrea Zuccari World Cup held in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt in October. Free immersion freediving is a discipline that requires divers to descend and ascend pulling a rope.

Umair’s switch from training in free immersion in Egypt to the bi-fin category for this tournament demonstrated his adaptability: “It felt like shifting gears, utilising distinct techniques, and returning to a more familiar discipline. This dive marks a confident depth for me, focusing not just on depth but also on refining dive times for a more enjoyable experience,” he remarked.

“Kaimoo’s support has been instrumental, offering me the freedom to train. This support has allowed me to focus on honing my skills and achieving new heights in my freediving,” Umair added.

“Umair’s third record-breaking dive this year is a testament to his exceptional skill and determination. Kaimoo is thrilled to continue supporting Umair’s journey in the world of freediving. His achievements inspire us, and we congratulate him on this impressive feat, looking for-ward to his continued success,” said Mohamed Manih Ahmed, Kaimoo’s Managing Director.

With this record-breaking achievement, Umair now looks forward to a period of rest before gearing up for the upcoming freediving season.

Kaimoo Resorts and Hotels is a leading tourism company in the Maldives that manages five properties across the country. In addition to Embudu Village and Summer Island Maldives, Kaimoo also operates Equator Village in Addu Atoll, and the Mookai Hotel and Mookai Suites in Male’.

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Kuramathi Maldives and Rasdhoo Divers dive into adventure with speciality courses

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Kuramathi Maldives, in collaboration with Rasdhoo Divers, is elevating the underwater experience by offering a captivating range of Dive Speciality Courses, tailored for both novices and seasoned divers alike. These courses go beyond the ordinary, immersing participants in topics such as Perfect Buoyancy, Wave, Tides and Currents, Turtle Ecology, Manta Ecology, Marine Ecology, Deep Diver Speciality, and Enriched Air Nitrox Speciality.

Perfect Buoyancy: Master the art of achieving and maintaining perfect buoyancy underwater, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable diving experience.

Wave, Tides, and Currents: Dive enthusiasts can now confidently navigate ocean dynamics, enhancing their skills in diverse underwater conditions.

Turtle Ecology: Gain insights into the captivating world of sea turtles, understanding their behavior, and contributing to their conservation.

Manta Ecology: Delve into the mysterious realm of majestic mantas, exploring their habitat, behavior, and the crucial role they play in marine ecosystems.

Marine Ecology: Discover the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and learn how divers can contribute to their preservation through responsible and sustainable practices.

Deep Diver Speciality: Embark on a thrilling adventure below 18 meters, gaining advanced skills for deep-sea exploration and mastering safe diving techniques and pressure management.

Enriched Air Nitrox Speciality: Unlock the secrets of the deep with Nitrox, ensuring safer and longer dives. Enhance your dive planning, elevate safety, and indulge in extended reef adventures.

These Dive Speciality Courses at Kuramathi Maldives are designed not only to enhance participants’ diving skills but also to instill a sense of environmental awareness and responsibility. As custodians of the pristine underwater environment, Kuramathi Maldives is committed to nurturing a community of conscientious divers dedicated to appreciating and protecting delicate marine ecosystems.

Led by certified dive instructors from Rasdhoo Divers Kuramathi, these courses provide a safe and enjoyable learning experience. Whether you are a beginner eager to explore the underwater wonders or an experienced diver looking to expand your knowledge, Kuramathi Maldives invites you to embark on a journey of discovery beneath the azure waves.

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Visit Maldives collaborates with Surf Session and Kyllian Guerin to promote the Maldives as a leading surf destination

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Visit Maldives has collaborated with ‘Surf Session’, a media platform dedicated to surfing. An exciting familiarisation trip and a digital campaign was conducted to promote the Maldives as a leading surf destination in the French market. The digital campaign was conducted on social media and the Surf Session website.

During the first part of the campaign, a young surfer, Kyllian Guerin, accompanied Surf Session on a week-long trip where he surfed and explored the best waves of the Maldives. Ayada Maldives, Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi, and Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives hosted this familiarisation trip. Kyllians’ journey was captured and brand content in the form of Instagram stories, posts, articles and banners were disseminated on Kyllian Guerin and Surf Session social media platforms and official website. As for the second part of the campaign, digital and print articles highlighted the surf lifestyle in the Maldives and were published on Surf Session website. Additionally, an exciting video of Kyllian’s journey in the Maldives was posted on YouTube, showcasing the beauty of the surf spots of the destination.

The campaign strengthened Maldives’ presence as a premium surf destination and drove excitement among Surf Session’s readership and surfing community. The campaign increased visibility for French surfers and further strengthened the Maldives brand in the French market. Collaborating with prestigious media like Surf Session and influential personalities like Kyllian Guerin allows MMPRC to capture the attention of potential surfers and travel enthusiasts alike, encouraging them to choose the Maldives as their preferred holiday destination. The entire campaign resulted in over a collective reach of 919,209.00.

The current ranking of France is at #8 with 41,072 arrivals as of 31st October 2023. MMPRC is consistently promoting the Maldives in the French market through various marketing activities. This year, we conducted a campaign with Vogue France and IFTM Top Resa 2023. We also plan to promote the Maldives at ILTM Cannes 2023 later this year. These marketing activities ensure the Maldives remain a top-of-mind destination for travellers from the French market.

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