TRAVEL GUIDE 2017
programme to improve the survival rates of turtles once they are released into the wild. Sharks are another priority animal species, as they were heavily fished until a ban was introduced in 2010. Restoration, education and research are the other key factors in the environmental strategy, and they complement the conservation work. “Education is integrated within guest experiences, because the best learning is when you don’t realise you’re learning; when you’re just having fun,” says Steve. This seems particularly appropriate for beautiful resorts like this, where every guest is, after all, taking a holiday. And how are Maldivian reefs faring after the 2016 global coral bleaching that made headlines across the world? Coral is especially vulnerable to high sea temperatures – which, in the Maldives, are caused by El Niño weather patterns. It can cope for a short period, but if the high temperatures are prolonged, the coral expels the algae living in its tissues, causing it to turn white – hence the term “bleaching”. Steve is optimistic that the reefs could recover quickly, as they did after a similar event in 1998. “As the Maldives has a small population, the reefs can rebound really quickly and have done so in the past – much faster than in other parts of the world,” he says. There are various opportunities, both passive and active, for guests to learn and see at both the resorts I visited. They include coral planting, as well as twice-weekly talks about all things marine; these are highly recommended (and great accompanied by a pre-dinner cocktail!). On Vabbinfaru, you’ll also have the chance to get involved in nightly stingray-feeding, a turtle conservation programme, reef monitoring and weekly reef clean-ups. With their current custodians, there’s no doubt that these waters are in safe hands.
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