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Coral conservation in Maldives with Constance Hotels

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Ever wondered what’s going on underneath the sparkling Maldives ocean? From mammals to molluscs, the marine life that inhabits the Maldives water is diverse and is held together by oceans coral reefs.

These coral reefs provide an ecosystem for life underwater, protect coastal areas by reducing the power of waves hitting the coast, and provide a crucial source of income for millions of people.

Did you know that coral reefs are one of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet?

They are capable of producing half of the oxygen we breathe or creating the biggest structure made by living organisms that can be seen from space. Their complex tridimensional structure harbours the biggest amount of marine species per unit area when compared to other marine ecosystems.

It is like a small busy city where other animals and plants find shelter, food, or a partner to mate.

Coral reefs also support fishing and tourism industries, protect the shoreline and help fight climate change, among other key functions.

The most effective measure to safeguard these ecosystems and all the organisms that depend on them is the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs).

Besides, the development of coral restoration projects worldwide, like the one in Constance Moofushi, contributes to this regard at a local scale.

The coral restoration project at Constance Moofushi started at the end of 2017 in partnership with Reefscapers, the leading coral restoration company in the Maldives.

The target is to help restore the natural coral reefs surrounding the island by growing corals on iron frames. The type of growing form used for the project is the branching type. This type grows faster and it is easier to collect than the massive one.

The small coral pieces are attached to the bars of the frames with cable ties and generally start growing after a few weeks. In approximately three-years’ time, and if no major events disturb the corals (for instance, a wave of coral bleaching), the whole structure will be covered by colonies, which then become the new source for more coral planting.

The frame becomes part of the natural reef but pieces of colonies can also be detached from it and placed back onto the degraded reef.

Guests visiting the resort are the main sponsors of the project. Purchasing the frames and attaching the corals before placing them in the water. All this of course under the supervision of our resident marine biologist in charge of the conservation project.

The small monetary benefits of the project are reinvested. For instance, planting more frames into the sea, inviting specialists in the field to the resort or organising a coral conservation day for local kids.

Moreover, the project has also a small social component because the frames are constructed in a local island called Fulhadhoo in Baa atoll by fishermen. Currently, there are 135 frames in the water divided into two main areas: the drop-off and the arrival jetty.

Have you seen any of these coral restoration projects during your travels?

How long does it take for corals to recover?

When corals are stressed, for instance, if the temperature of the ocean rises, they can turn white (bleaching). The reason for this change is the loss of the microscopic algae living inside of them (zooxanthellae) due to the stressful conditions.

Zooxanthellae are not only responsible for the amazing colours of the corals but provide most of the food corals need to survive and grow. The survival of coral reefs depends on their resistance to bleaching, tolerance to survive a beaching event and the level of recovery they display.

Every coral colony has a different set of genes and is surrounded by different environmental factors; hence, it becomes very difficult to predict the outcome from a bleaching event.

Nowadays, the biggest problem is the increased frequency of bleaching events due to climate change, combined with other stressing factors such as ocean acidification or water pollution. If the stressor is removed in a short period, corals are potentially capable of uptaking new algae and survive.

But if the stressor stays for a long time, it becomes hard for corals to go back to normal and survive.

Even if they survive a bleaching event, the overall health and capacity of the reef to reproduce is hindered.

Some experts point out that after following a major bleaching event, it takes around 5-10 years for corals to fully recover.

But as mentioned above, this is quite difficult to predict and it can never be assured it will come back to the previous state.

It may be a long road ahead, but let’s do all we can to help these corals bloom back into their prime condition.

Does coral need sunlight to grow?

Many corals, including all the reef-building corals (those capable of creating the living limestone structures called coral reefs), have microscopic unicellular algae (like “small plants”, called zooxanthellae) living within their tissues in a very successful relationship know as symbiosis. Both organisms benefit from it, with the algae finding shelter in the body of the coral and the coral getting food and oxygen from the algae.

We must remember that all plants (including the algae) photosynthesise, a process by which they absorb carbon dioxide and nutrients to build up sugars and release oxygen.

Since algae need sunlight to do the photosynthesis and survive, we could say that indeed corals need light too. The most interesting fact is that the algae cover almost 70 per cent of the coral needs. Hence, without this relationship between them, there would be no coral reefs in the world.

This also explains why corals thrive in poor waters low in nutrients. Corals get the rest 30 per cent of the food by sieving seawater with their tentacles. We don’t know about you but our mind is blown!

What’s the rarest coral?

PHOTO: REEFBUILDERS.COM

In 2010, during an underwater survey in the remote North Pacific, specifically in the Arno atoll in the Marshall Islands, scientists discovered what could be the world’s rarest coral.

It looked very similar to the critically endangered Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) of the Atlantic Ocean, but genetic analyses made clear it was the Pacific Elkhorn coral (Acropora rotumana).

This species had not been spotted in over 100 years and it could be the same once described in Fiji islands in 1898, but no reliable data was gathered at that time.

If you spot this coral, make sure you get a snap of it!

What’s the role of Constance Moofushi’s marine biologists?

The marine biologist at Constance Moofushi, Estrella Gonzalez Tapias, manages the coral restoration project, gives four talks a week on marine life in the Maldives with a focus on conservation (manta rays, sea turtles, whale sharks and coral reefs), leads twice a week “Introduction to Moofushi reef”, and a presentation on marine life of the surrounding reefs.

She also takes guests on guided snorkelling trips to spot as much marine life as possible, joins as many whale shark trips as possible to enhance the guest experience and answer questions. She is also always around to meet guests and exchange knowledge with them.

So be sure to ask her any marine questions you have!

Estrella and Constance Moofushi’s team are also working on a number of projects. These include starting their own sea turtle database, to study the cetacean population near Moofushi, publishing their own guide to the reefs with photographs or broaden the resort’s collaboration with local NGOs such as Olive Ridley Project or Manta Trust! Talk about a dream job!

Have you ever been part of a coral restoration project? Are you feeling inspired to explore more of the ocean?

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Earth, space camp adventures at COMO Maalifushi, COMO Cocoa Island this Summer

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This summer, COMO Hotels and Resorts’ two Maldives properties are offering a unique and exciting line-up of activities designed to inspire and educate all ages. From an exhilarating Space Camp with astronaut-led adventures, to an immersive Earth Camp exploring the natural wonders at COMO Maalifushi, and the exploring the captivating universe under the ocean at COMO Cocoa Island.

Island Astronauts Return To Maldives: Space Camp at COMO Maalifushi

Join us for an unforgettable galactic quest from August 5th to 14th, 2024, at COMO Maalifushi, led by American astronaut Nicole Stott and space advisor Christina Korp. Inspiring for both children and adults, this Space Camp offers a unique blend of adventure and education through art, food, and movement.

Our immersive Space Camp features a fun-filled itinerary of complimentary space-themed island activities for ages up to, ensuring every moment is packed with excitement and learning. All camp activities are complimentary for children aged four to 16.

  • Postcards to Space: Participate in Nicole Stott’s “Postcards to Space” project by creating postcards with artwork and messages about your hopes and dreams. These postcards will be sent to space and returned to you with a “flown in space” stamp.
  • Spacesuit Art: Contribute to “Quilted,” a collaborative art project with children from around the world by adding your unique touch to a spacesuit.
  • Blast Off: Build your own rocket from recycled materials and launch it high into the sky for a thrilling blast off!
  • Protect Our Planet: Discover the impact of human activity on our planet from a space perspective, followed by a beach clean-up on a neighbouring island.
  • Galactic Gastronomy: Enjoy a stellar dinner under the stars, hosted by Nicole Stott. Hear about her adventures aboard the International Space Station while savouring a specially crafted menu.

Island Warriors: Earth Camp at COMO Maalifushi

From July to August 2024, younger guests can join us for a journey through the wonders of the natural world, on land and under the sea. Enjoy educational activities exploring everything from marine biology to traditional crafts, fun-filled fitness workshops, treasure hunts on our castaway island, and more.

Take advantage of our exclusive Family Getaway Offer when you book a stay of five nights or more for Space and Earth Camp. Adults will receive daily half board and complimentary full-board and seaplane transfers for two children (under the age of 12).

Universe Under The Ocean: COMO Cocoa Island

From August 16th to 17th, 2024, dive into the depths of the ocean with NASA astronaut and aquanaut Nicole Stott at COMO Cocoa Island. Experience the ocean through a guided reef dive, learn about the rigorous training astronauts undergo, and enjoy a specially curated menu shared beneath the stars.

Join us for these extraordinary experiences and let your imagination soar beyond the stars!

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Patina Maldives invites guests to embark on journey of artistry with Clay Studio partnership

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Patina Maldives, renowned for its seamless blend of luxury, nature and artistic expression, has announced an exclusive collaboration with Clay Studio, the premier ceramics hub in the Maldives. The unique partnership brings a series of engaging and creative pottery experiences to guests of all ages, offering an enriching addition to their island stay.

Starting on 1 June, Patina Maldives invites guests to embark on a creative with Clay Studio, where they can explore the therapeutic and artistic world of ceramics. This collaboration offers a variety of immersive pottery classes that cater to both novice and experienced artisans.

Wheel Throwing Experience Taster Class

Guests can discover the soothing rhythm of shaping and molding clay in this engaging session. Perfect for unwinding and tapping into their artistic side, this class offers a hands-on introduction to the art of wheel throwing.

Hand Building Experience Taster Class

Participants will enjoy the intimate and expressive art of hand-building pottery. This class provides greater creative freedom, allowing them to craft intricate, personal designs that reflect their unique artistic vision.

Paint A Pot

Guests can unleash their creativity by transforming pre-made clay items into unique masterpieces. This session invites participants to paint their imagination onto cups, trinket dishes, and more.

Kids Clay Studio

Designed for young artists, this class nurtures creativity and imagination through fun, hands-on activities. Children develop fine motor skills and sensory awareness as they create their own unique pieces.

Couple Wheel Throwing Date

Couples can experience a romantic and unique activity in a private setting. This special session offers personalised instruction, making it memorable and intimate experience.

Guests can also enjoy personalised attention and exclusive guidance through private sessions. Ideal for families or couples seeking a bespoke experience, private classes are tailored to meet individual interest and skill levels.

Patina Maldives honours itself on offering extraordinary experiences that blend art, nature, community and connection. This collaboration with Clay Studio is a testament to the resort’s commitment to providing guests with sophisticated and fresh experiences that reveal new layers of possibility and inspiration.

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Utheemu Ganduvaru: Portal to Maldives’ national freedom

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The Maldives, often celebrated for its sun-kissed beaches and turquoise waters, also offers a rich tapestry of history and culture waiting to be explored. Among the islands of Haa Alif Atoll lies Utheemu Island, home to Utheemu Ganduvaru, a historical treasure that invites travellers to delve into the storied past of the archipelago.

Utheemu Ganduvaru, the ancestral home of Muhammad Thakurufaanu, stands as a poignant reminder of the Maldives’ fight for independence. Thakurufaanu, revered as a national hero, led a successful campaign against Portuguese occupation in the 16th century. His childhood home, Utheemu Ganduvaru, offers a rare glimpse into the life and times of this legendary figure.

In 1558, the Portuguese invaded the Maldives, killing the Sultan in battle and establishing their rule. Muhammad Thakurufaanu and his brothers, Ali and Hassan, left for Minicoy to prepare a campaign to liberate their country. The boat they built, Kalhuohfummi, was crucial to their efforts. Thakurufaanu and his brothers fought the Portuguese for eight years, landing on different islands under cover of night to evade capture, and departing before daybreak. Eventually, they landed in Malé and defeated the Portuguese leadership in the capital. Freed from Portuguese rule, the people chose Muhammad Thakurufaanu as their Sultan.

Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu ruled the Maldives for 12 years until his death in 1585. He is remembered as a considerate and just ruler, concerned for the well-being of even the poorest citizens. He is also credited with establishing the country’s first formal military unit.

Back at Utheemu Island, visitors are immediately struck by the island’s tranquil beauty and its lush, green landscape. The journey to Utheemu Ganduvaru is a step back in time, where the echoes of history are palpable. The residence itself, a traditional wooden palace, is meticulously preserved, showcasing the architectural ingenuity and cultural richness of the period.

As you enter Utheemu Ganduvaru, the simplicity and elegance of the structure are apparent. Built from timber, the palace is a fine example of traditional Maldivian craftsmanship. The intricate woodwork, with its detailed carvings and polished surfaces, speaks volumes about the artisanship that flourished during Thakurufaanu’s time.

The main hall, with its open layout and cool, shaded interiors, offers a sense of serenity and reflection. It was within these walls that Thakurufaanu spent his formative years, and each room tells a story of his early life and the influences that shaped his destiny. The residence includes living quarters and storage spaces, all arranged in a manner that reflects the daily life of a prominent Maldivian family in the 16th century.

One of the most compelling aspects of Utheemu Ganduvaru is its connection to the larger narrative of Maldivian resistance against foreign rule. Guides at the site often recount tales of Thakurufaanu’s daring exploits and strategic brilliance. His knowledge of the archipelago’s intricate waterways and his leadership in naval battles are celebrated as key factors in the successful expulsion of the Portuguese in 1573.

Beyond its historical significance, Utheemu Ganduvaru offers visitors a deeper understanding of Maldivian culture and heritage. The site is a testament to the resilience and unity of the Maldivian people, embodying values that continue to inspire. For travellers, a visit to Utheemu Ganduvaru is an opportunity to connect with the soul of the Maldives, experiencing the essence of its history and the spirit of its people.

While on Utheemu Island, visitors can explore other points of interest, such as the island’s beaches and vibrant local community. Engaging with the locals offers additional insights into Maldivian traditions and hospitality, enriching the overall experience.

For those seeking a journey through time, Utheemu Ganduvaru in Haa Alif Atoll is a destination that should not be missed. It is a place where the past comes alive, where the legacy of a hero continues to resonate, and where the true essence of the Maldives can be discovered. As you walk through the halls of Utheemu Ganduvaru, you are not just a visitor; you are a part of a historical journey that defines the Maldivian identity.

So, when planning your next visit to the Maldives, venture beyond the beaches and dive into the rich history of these islands. Let Utheemu Ganduvaru be the highlight of your cultural exploration, offering a meaningful and memorable connection to the heart of Maldivian heritage.

Cover photo: Andreas Faessler

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