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How to be an eco-friendly scuba diver in the Maldives!

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Today we celebrate World Oceans Day. As divers, we are all connected by our passion for the ocean – our passion to explore it, to experience it and to protect it. Scuba diving in the Maldives offers us the chance to be a part of a world unlike anything above the surface, but it’s important that we respect that world, and scuba dive in a responsible and eco-friendly way.

In the Maldives, there are some very specific things you can do to help protect our environment and some particular regulations to be aware of. Our base leader Ali Miuraj put together his top tips for eco-friendly scuba diving in the Maldives and we hope you’ll remember them next time you dive!

scuba diver in the maldives
Photograph by Mohamed Afzal
  1. Dive neutrally buoyant and streamlined at all times.

Maintaining good buoyancy control will ensure that you do not accidently damage fragile corals or disturb the marine life. Ensuring that your gauge and octopus are safely tucked away minimises drag and any potential harm to your surroundings.

  1. Never feed the marine life

Feeding marine species, such as sharks and rays, changes their natural behaviour and as a rule this is something eco-friendly scuba divers should avoid. It may lead the animals to associate humans with food, or to the animals becoming overweight or lazy. Some studies suggest that the change in diet also leaves animals more at risk of diseases.

  1. Leave your spear gun at home!

Possessing or fishing with a spear gun is illegal in the Maldives. Anyone attempting to smuggle one into the country will be faced with the possibility of being arrested, fined or even jailed. Selective fishing with a spear gun can lead to the eradication of sexually mature species that are vital to the reef’s ecosystem. What’s more, it can leave fish injured, which leads them to die a slow, painful death.

Say ‘NO’ to coral and shark souvenirs!
  1. Avoid all shark and coral products in the souvenir shops

When visiting the gift shops in Male’ or other local islands, you may notice that there is a variety of dried corals and shark jaws for sale. Buying dried coral supports the global destruction of endangered coral reefs whilst purchasing shark jaws contributes to the annual slaughter of over one hundred million sharks. In addition, although the sale of coral and shark merchandise is allowed within the country on the grounds that these products have been imported from elsewhere, the export of any coral and shark product is strictly prohibited under Maldivian law. This means that if you are caught at customs when leaving the country with your souvenir, you could face severe penalties.

  1. Offset your carbon footprint

Wherever you are arriving from, you might want to think about offsetting the carbon emissions it took you to get here. There are several websites that are dedicated to helping you calculate your carbon footprint by making a donation to a conservation charity of your choice to ‘balance’ the impact those emissions made to the environment.

  1. Take recycling home

At present, there is no sustainable recycling infrastructure in the Maldives for many products and materials. Many divers use non-rechargeable batteries in their dive torches. Instead of disposing of them whilst you’re here, take them with you and recycle them at home, along with any plastic you might accumulate.

eco divers in Fulidhoo
Participate in local beach and lagoon clean-ups
  1. Organise and participate in beach and lagoon clean ups 

Especially if you are visiting a local island in the Maldives, such as Fulidhoo, you’ll definitely have the chance to do a bit of beach cleaning – even if it’s just a ten-minute stroll at sunset picking up trash – everything counts! And if you’re diving with us, come and chat to us about organising an underwater clean-up while you’re here.

  1. Be a sensitive photographer

If you are going to take photos underwater, make sure you don’t use the reef to stabilise yourself whilst doing so. Avoid rearranging or moving anything on the reef, as tempting as it might be to get that ‘perfect’ shot! And if you’re using a flash or strobe, make sure it doesn’t startle any of the timid marine life.

  1. Leave the wildlife alone

Never chase, tease or attempt to ‘ride’ any of the marine wildlife, as this might stress or provoke the animal and ultimately instil a fear of divers in these species.

Learn to dive in the Maldives PADI
Learn about the ocean with PADI
  1. Enrol in continuing education

PADI offers speciality courses that can help you to become an eco-friendly diver. For example, the Peak Performance Buoyancy specialty will ensure that you’re much less likely to accidently damage the reef. Likewise, PADI’s Project Aware Coral Reef Conservation speciality will teach you about what you can do to help preserve the aquatic environment.

7 reasons we fell in love with Fulidhoo

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We’ve always known that we wanted to open a dive centre in a local island, that we wanted to get away from the city and enjoy the calm pace of island life. The problem was knowing which island to choose – they’re all so beautiful! So it took us a while to decide where we would next call home. But when we arrived in Fulidhoo, we instantly knew we’d found our spot in the world. Here are the reasons it was love at first sight.

  • 1. It’s convenient to get to…

Fulidhoo may be in Vaavu Atoll, but it’s surprisingly easy to get to. There ‘s a ferry three times a week from Male’ that takes 3.5 hours and a speedboat three times a week that just a little over an hour. There’s no need to take a domestic flight or ridiculously expensive seaplane – just jump on a boat, enjoy the view, and before you know it – you’re here! Another great convenience is that the ferry route stops in Maafushi, another popular local island, so it’s incredibly convenient for travellers to include both islands in their itineraries!

  • 2. … but it still feels like you’re ‘away from it all’

Unlike many other atolls, Vaavu Atoll feels remote. There are only two resorts here at the moment and the atoll is famous for having the lowest population in the country. In Fulidhoo, you really can live the desert island dream. The only other islands are far on the horizon – it’s a perfect little retreat!

  • 3. The diving is SPECTACULAR!

Ok, so this really should be number 1 on the list! Vaavu Atoll is renowned for its fish life. It’s many channels – the entrances and exits to the atoll – make for high-adrenaline, fun diving! We’re talking sharks, sharks, sharks! Grey reef, nurse, black and white tip reef and even hammerhead sharks call this atoll home and if you dive here, it’s likely you’ll have some great encounters.

  • 4. It’s an ideal spot to learn how to dive

Fulidhoo has an absolutely incredible lagoon, with welcoming temperatures and calm conditions all year round. It’s the perfect place to practice your dive skills and to complete your PADI confined training dives. What’s more, the lagoon is only about 10m from our dive shop, so it’s a great environment to learn in.

  • 5. The Fulidhoo community are extremely welcoming

When we moved to this island to set up the dive shop, we knew very few people here, but we soon felt part of the community. Such a great number of people helped us realise our dream, people that we barely knew, but people who have become valued friends and neighbours. There’s no way we could have opened the dive shop without the outpouring of help from the island.

  • 6. There’s everything we need here

This island is small, but it’s very well organised. There’s a medical clinic with a doctor on call 24/7, convenience and grocery stores, a school, a football pitch, a community centre…. Why would we ever need to go back to the city?

  • 7. There are some amazing budget hotel options for travellers

When we were planning to open a dive centre, we wanted to make sure that our divers had somewhere great to stay. In Fulidhoo, there are half a dozen gorgeous boutique hotels and guesthouses offering really good value for money accommodation choices. And there are five more under construction, too!