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Researchers in Maldives obtain first ever underwater ultrasound scans of wild reef manta rays

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A team of international researchers working with Six Senses Laamu in Maldives has obtained the first ever underwater ultrasound scans of wild reef manta rays.

The team of researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Manta Trust worked together with the Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI) at Six Senses Laamu resort in the unexplored Laamu atoll to successfully scan a pregnant wild reef manta ray underwater to obtain clear ultrasound images of her foetus, using the world’s first contactless underwater ultrasound scanner.

Two years ago, MUI brought together some of the great minds in veterinary technology and challenged them to create a device that could ultrasound scan Laamu atoll’s resident population of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi).

“MUI aims to be a marine conservation visionary,” Marteyne van Well, the General Manager at Six Senses Laamu, was quoted in a statement issued by Six Senses, saying.

“One of the ways we’re leading conservation efforts in the Maldives is by providing a platform for discussions on, and the field testing of, this world-first technology.”

Following a visit to Six Senses Laamu, Vetsonic (UK) Ltd Founder Ray Rochester approached veterinary imaging leaders IMV Imaging with the idea of developing a scanner to meet the rigours of diving at Manta Point, a manta ray cleaning station just a 10-minute boat ride from the resort that researchers from the Manta Trust have been studying since 2014.

IMV Imaging’s Duo-Scan:Go Oceanic is the first ever technology to allow contactless scanning of wild marine animals at depths of up to 98.5 feet (30 metres), whilst also being portable (the dive rig weighs less than 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms). The aim of bringing this technology to Laamu was to scan wild pregnant reef manta rays in order to study gestation and embryonic development.

“We know very little about where these reef manta rays go to give birth and how long gestation lasts in the wild. This ultrasound technology could allow us to determine rates of reproduction in the wild and this information would help guide conservation strategies for this threatened species,” Nicole Pelletier, Manta Trust Project Manager at Six Senses Laamu, said.

The research project is taking place in Maldives, which has the largest population of reef manta rays in the world. The team hopes that their work will help establish the factors responsible for annual fluctuations in breeding and discover why animals breed in certain areas but not others.

Manta rays are close relatives of sharks and rays. The largest individuals can reach as many as seven meters in width and weigh up to two tonnes. However, despite their size, and compared to some of their close relatives, mantas are gentle creatures.

Mantas are found throughout the tropical and sub-tropical oceans of the world. The animals never stop moving, as they must keep water flowing over their gills to respire. Their daily and seasonal movements are tuned to the ebb and flow of the ocean currents that carry the planktonic food upon which they depend.

“Manta rays are one of the most beautiful and iconic creatures that swim in our oceans,” Dr Gareth Pearce, from the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, was quoted in a statement issued by Manta Trust, as saying.

“Unfortunately, like many animals, their future is threatened. They are increasingly fished, both deliberately and through bycatch and their populations are now at risk.”

In recent years, manta ray populations have become threatened through bycatch in fisheries targeting other species, such as tuna and swordfish, but also because their gill plates have recently become sought after for use in Asian medicine.

Working with the Manta Trust, Dr Pearce and PhD student Niv Froman use the new ‘Duo-Scan: Go Oceanic’ ultrasound scanner to study the reproductive ecology of manta rays. To scan the manta rays, researchers dive down to a ‘cleaning station’ where smaller fish remove parasites from the mantas’ skin. These stations are typically 20-30 metres down, often with poor visibility and potentially strong ocean currents.

The diver then approaches a manta from above to avoid disturbing the animal. He positions the scanner 4-5cm above the surface of the manta, targeting the left side of the dorsal fin, which is where the reproductive structures such as the ovaries and the uterus are visible.

“It’s important not to cause the manta ray any stress,” Froman explained.

“Using these portable scanners, we’re able to obtain ultrasound images of their internal structures, particularly their reproductive tracts, without disturbing the animal. This is the first time that this has been possible in free-swimming mantas.”

The scanner enabled the team to obtain the first-ever scans of wild reef manta rays, including pregnant and non-pregnant females, as well as mature males.

“Using the scans, we’re able to determine the stages of maturity and when animals are becoming reproductively active. We can observe the stages of pregnancy, the development of the foetus and importantly, whether an animal maintains that pregnancy and gives birth to a live animal,” Dr Pearce said.

“Ultimately, our work aims to inform the conservation of manta rays both in the Maldives and other areas of the world, enabling the populations to survive and hopefully flourish. Our hope is that this research project will contribute to conserving the species for future generations.”

Sightings of the animals in the Maldives are reliable and consistent, allowing the researchers to take images of the same animal multiple times throughout its gestational period, which lasts just over a year.

“When the project began, none of the team knew whether scanning wild reef manta rays would even be possible. What has been achieved is beyond what we could have hoped for,” Dr Guy Stevens, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Manta Trust, said.

“Manta rays are threatened worldwide and we still know so little about their reproductive strategies. The ability to scan pregnant individuals will be invaluable in our quest to protect them.”

According to IMV-imaging, the ‘Duo-Scan: Go Oceanic’ represents significant improvements on previous technologies. It can be taken to depths of up to 30 meters and —with the assistance of Wi-Fi and a smartphone as a viewing screen—it is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

“What we are really excited about is the contactless nature of this technology. There are significant benefits for animal welfare, but you also open up a whole range of possible applications if you can scan animals that ordinarily wouldn’t let you get close enough to touch them,” Alan Picken, Chief Executive of IMV-imaging, said.

The Cambridge researchers, in collaboration with a team from the Manta Trust, verified that the contactless technology works in the field tests carried out in collaboration with the Vetsonic (UK) Ltd and Six Senses Laamu.

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Abdulla Wisam: A journey of excellence and growth in the Maldivian hospitality industry

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In the heart of the stunning Maldives, where luxury resorts and crystal-clear waters come together to create a paradise on Earth, there are individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that every guest’s experience is nothing short of exceptional. One such individual is Abdulla Wisam, whose remarkable journey in the hospitality industry is a testament to his dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment to providing the best possible service to guests.

Abdulla Wisam’s journey in the hospitality industry began right after completing his schooling. In 2003, he embarked on his professional career by joining Dhoveli Beach Resort & Spa, where he gained his first taste of the world of hospitality. It was here that he discovered his passion for creating memorable guest experiences and building relationships with visitors from around the world.

After his initial foray into the industry, Wisam’s career path continued to evolve. His dedication and hard work caught the attention of industry leaders, leading him to take on roles of increasing responsibility. His time at Meeru Island Resort saw him as an Outlet Cashier and Night Auditor, roles that allowed him to develop a deep understanding of the operational aspects of a resort.

Wisam’s determination and eagerness to learn led him to the iconic Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru, where he started as a Recreation Attendant. Over time, he showcased his exceptional skills in guest relations and management, and he was promoted to the position of Front Office Supervisor. His journey with Four Seasons served as a stepping stone for what was to come next.

In 2014, Wisam joined the W Maldives, a resort known for its luxurious offerings and unparalleled guest experiences. Starting as a Welcome Team Leader, he quickly rose through the ranks due to his impeccable guest service skills and innate leadership abilities. His promotion to Guest Experience Manager was a testament to his ability to not only meet but exceed guest expectations. He was then transferred to The St. Regis Maldives as the Assistant Front Office Manager with the pre-opening team.

As his career trajectory continued its upward trajectory, Wisam took on the role of Front Office Manager at prestigious resorts such as Milaidhoo Island, Raffles Maldives, and The Standard Maldives. These roles allowed him to refine his management style, hone his problem-solving skills, and contribute to the overall success of each resort.

Wisam’s journey eventually led him to COMO Cocoa Island, a resort renowned for its unparalleled luxury and exquisite attention to detail. Joining as the Front Office Manager, he embraced the challenges and responsibilities that came with the position. His dedication, combined with his innate ability to create genuine connections with guests, led to his promotion as the Director of Rooms.

Wisam’s journey in the Maldivian hospitality industry is a remarkable tale of perseverance, growth, and a genuine passion for creating exceptional guest experiences. His diverse roles, spanning from recreation to guest experience management, have equipped him with a holistic understanding of the industry. His commitment to continuous improvement and dedication to delivering top-tier service have not only benefited the resorts he’s been a part of but have also contributed to elevating the reputation of Maldives as a premier luxury travel destination.

As Wisam continues to shape the guest experience landscape at COMO Cocoa Island, one can only imagine the heights he will reach and the impact he will make on the ever-evolving hospitality industry of the Maldives. His journey stands as an inspiration to aspiring hoteliers and a testament to the boundless opportunities that await those who are truly passionate about their craft.

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A remarkable tale of wanderlust: Naito Takashi’s 103rd journey to the Maldives

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The azure waters of the Maldives have long been a magnet for travelers seeking paradise on Earth. Among these wanderers, one name stands out – Naito Takashi, a Japanese tourist whose boundless enthusiasm for the Maldives has led him to visit this tropical haven a staggering 103 times. His unwavering love for this island nation, coupled with its mesmerizing beauty, has turned his visits into a remarkable testament to the allure of the Maldives.

For the past 24 years, Naito Takashi has visited Maldives between three to five times annually, embarking on a journey that has spanned more than two decades. His tale is one of dedication, passion, and a deep-rooted connection with the captivating landscapes that the Maldives offers. Each visit is not just a vacation; it’s a renewal of his profound relationship with the natural wonders that have captured his heart.

Naito Takashi’s 103rd arrival to the Maldives was met with a warm and heartfelt welcome from none other than the Tourism Minister himself, Dr. Abdulla Mausoom. This gesture symbolizes the deep appreciation the Maldivian people have for their loyal and devoted visitors. The ceremony held aboard the M/V Blue of the Fun Azul Fleet was a fitting tribute to a traveler who has become an honorary ambassador of the Maldives.

The M/V Blue, Fun Azul Fleet, holds special significance for Naito Takashi. As an avid diver, he has found his perfect companion in this cruise boat specialized in diving charters. The vessel offers schedules tailored to explore the best dive spots around the Maldives’ islands, making it an ideal partner for a diving enthusiast like Naito Takashi. The crystal-clear waters of the Maldives have witnessed countless underwater escapades orchestrated by this intrepid traveler.

The Maldives’ Ministry of Tourism has lauded Naito Takashi’s enduring passion for the nation’s beauty. Their tweet acknowledging his multiple visits serves as a testament to his unique and cherished relationship with the country. He has witnessed the ever-changing landscape of the Maldives, from its pristine beaches to its vibrant marine life, and has undoubtedly contributed to the thriving tourism industry.

Naito Takashi’s story also reflects the profound impact that travel can have on an individual’s life. His unwavering commitment to exploring the Maldives has not only enriched his own experiences but has also brought attention to the natural wonders of Maldives. It stands as a reminder that the act of traveling is not just about ticking off destinations from a bucket list; it’s about forming connections, fostering appreciation, and creating lasting memories.

As Naito Takashi continues his journey through the Maldives, his story resonates as an inspiration to fellow travelers and a tribute to the unyielding allure of this island paradise. His 103rd visit is not just a numerical milestone; it’s a celebration of an extraordinary bond between a traveler and a destination, a bond that has grown stronger with each passing year and promises to endure for years to come.

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Amari Raaya Maldives opens its gates to paradise

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In a grand celebration of luxury and nature’s wonders, Amari Raaya Maldives resort has officially opened its doors, welcoming its first guests to experience a slice of paradise in the Maldives. The exclusive event was attended by the resort’s management team, as well as Atul Chordia, Chairman of Panchshil Realty, the developer behind this magnificent project.

Nestled on a pristine natural island in the heart of the Maldives’ Raa Atoll, Amari Raaya promises to be a sanctuary for travelers seeking an unforgettable escape amidst the archipelago’s breathtaking beauty. From the moment guests arrived via Manta Air seaplane, they were greeted with warm hospitality and a taste of Maldivian culture, as they were presented with traditional cultural items and treated to mesmerizing Maldivian dances.

Atul Chordia, the visionary behind Panchshil Realty, and Yuthachai Charanachitta ONYX Hospitality Group’s CEO marked the official opening of the resort by cutting the ribbon, signifying the culmination of a labor of love and dedication to creating a unique haven for luxury travelers.

With 187 villas offering a variety of luxurious experiences, Amari Raaya ensures that every guest’s stay is truly exceptional. Visitors can choose from an array of accommodation options, including the Beach Villas, Beach Pool Villas, and interconnecting Family Beach Villas, perfect for creating cherished memories with loved ones.

For those seeking unparalleled luxury and seclusion, the Ocean Villas and Ocean Pool Villas provide panoramic views of the azure waters teeming with marine life. Sunset enthusiasts can revel in the breathtaking beauty of the Maldivian dusk from the privacy of their villas, opting for the Sunset Ocean Villas or Sunset Ocean Pool Villas, promising an unforgettable experience.

Amari Raaya Maldives goes beyond offering captivating villas; it has curated an extraordinary culinary journey for its guests. With eight distinct dining options, visitors can embark on a gastronomic adventure that caters to every palate. From the signature Amaya Food Gallery, serving famous street food and hawker delights, to the rooftop bar Ampers&nd, where guests can savor sunset snacks and cocktails, the resort promises to delight all epicureans. Poolside Italian favorites, freshly caught seafood infused with Maldivian and Asian flavors, and the fun and playful experience of enjoying mobile snacks and drinks served from a bus all add to the culinary magic of the resort.

In the evenings, guests can find a sense of community and immerse themselves in the local culture through live music, traditional Boduberu nights, and regular cultural events and festivities, making every moment at Amari Raaya Maldives an enriching and memorable one.

Amari Raaya Maldives is developed by Panchshil Realty, a name synonymous with excellence in luxury real estate in India. The resort is managed by Onyx Hospitality, renowned for its exceptional and personalized hospitality experiences.

With its official opening, Amari Raaya Maldives invites travelers from around the world to discover the allure of the Maldives in unparalleled comfort and style. As guests arrive at this oasis of luxury and natural splendor, they are sure to find themselves enchanted by the timeless beauty of the islands and immersed in an experience that will linger in their hearts forever.

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