It is not an easy task trying to describe the beauty of the Maldives because simply put, the wonders of this idyllic paradise are indescribable for the most part. The sands are white and powdery, the sea seemingly changes shades at will and the sharks are
– Walk along the powdery white sands of very beautiful beaches of Maldives.
At rst, they look like dew drops – giant round blotches on an endless palate of blue paint. The sea is moody and almost indecisive – unable to x its mind on its favourite shade. Every 100 metres, it changes its mind – some parts a shade of dark cobalt, others Eton, turquoise, Persian and electric.
Welcome to the world’s most disparate country – Maldives - where even the sharks are friendly and the highest point – Mount Villingili is slightly taller than a golf mound at four feet 11 inches.
Getting to Maldives for Indians is easy. A couple of hours to Bangalore and then an hour long early morning ight to Male. My Indian Airlines ight was bang on time. I landed at the airport – surrounded on all four sides by water, only to be received by a broad smiling local, dressed in all white, who escorted me to speedboat. A refreshing welcome drink and a cold sweet towel transported us to a different world for a brief minute. The local, a staff of one of the world’s most exotic and sought after island resort – Gili Lankanfushi where I was to stay for three nights, suddenly made a unique demand – hand over your shoes and kiss it goodbye for the next few days that you are here, he said, smiling all through.
The Gili experience had started – no shoes and no news – a unique concept that has won it worldwide fame.
The idea is to completely relax – let your feet wade through white powdery sand – to leave all worldly worries outside before stepping into the island and immersing ourselves into a hypnotic divinity.
The speed boat roared to a start and ew over the choppy green waters. In 45 minutes, I got the rst glimpse of Gili – authentic Maldivian dhonis ( boats) with white sails dotted against the backdrop of shining green coconut trees and thatched palm leaf roofs.
Brad Calder, a burly, great natured bloke who had invited me to be his guest was waiting at the jetty with his incredible team chosen from across the world to receive me. The handshake and the welcome were as warm as the Maldivian sun at high noon. Brad and his beautiful wife had us for an incredible yakitori dinner the rst night. We became friends and soon realised that Brad’s incredible adventure spirit leadership had brought in unique ideas to that island. Can you otherwise imagine lying on hammocks dug into the shallow ocean bed for you to relax in the middle of the sea?
The next morning I got the real sense of beauty of this island that bases its core values on sustainable tourism.
The water villas are built keeping the environment in mind. The jetty is made of old treated telegraph poles so that trees did not have to be cut from the forests. Bicycles are parked outside every room made from bamboos.
Maldives understands how important sea life is to its existence, especially corals. The government of Maldives held the rst ever underwater cabinet meeting some years back to gain the world’s attention towards serious coral loss.
Gili on the other hand has devised one of the world’s most incredible and unique holiday experiences – coral line adoption programme.
Coral Reefs are some of the most important ecosystems on earth. Home to 25 per cent of all marine sh species, coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of sh and 800 species of hard corals. Scientists estimate that there may be another one to eight million undiscovered species of
organisms living in and around reefs.
This biodiversity is considered key to nding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections and viruses.
However, reefs in Maldives are facing some serious threats, leading to fears that Maldives will disappear into the sea in a few decades. Weather-related damage to reefs occurs frequently. Large and powerful waves from hurricanes and cyclones break apart or atten large coral heads, scattering their fragments. Increased sea surface temperatures due to global warming have had devastating effects on coral life in the Maldives. Sea surface temperatures spiked at 33°C Maldives, which resulted in mass coral bleaching.
Surveys have shown that an astounding 80 per cent loss in living coral on some reefs in Maldives, with certain species locally wiped out altogether. In an effort to bring the corals back to life, Gili in 2014 initiated the Coral Lines Project. In March of that year, marine biologist Vaidotas Kirsys initiated the first ever process to regrow fragmented and orphaned corals onto artificial underwater lines and
make them grow and come back to life.
This form of coral gardening involves two simple steps – corals are rst nursed in a mid-water rope nursery before being transplanted to Gili Lankanfushi’s house reef.
For guests like me, it was an eye opener. It meant I could get involved directly in saving the Maldivian environment. How? Simple. Guests at Gili Lankanfushi can now adopt a single rope for a one-time payment of $140. They are invited to join the marine biologists as they fragment one coral colony into 50 small pieces to be attached to a ve metre long rope.
Coral is a colonial animal, so even if it is cut up, the fragments will still survive provided they are in favourable conditions and attached to solid substrate. The coral colonies Gili uses to fragment are those that have been broken off by storms or taken from construction zones; corals that would be unlikely to survive if left alone. Once the fragments are in the rope, each coral is measured with guest. The Coral Lines are left to grow in the mid-water nursery for one year until they are large enough to be transplanted onto the reef.
Guests who have adopted a line of corals are kept updated on the development of their line every three months, besides being informed about the coral’s growth rate. The idea has become a massive hit with guests.
British marine biologist Deborah Burn who runs the programme now says, “The phenomenon of coral bleaching is devastating for our islands, this is why Gili has dedicated itself to saving the environment. Even guests who come to stay with us have taken a keen interest in this coral line adoption programme. We now have 151 lines adopted each with about 50 corals. Till date, we have about 7000 fragments that have been planted since the beginning of the project. To date, we have a 71 per cent survival rate these corals.”
Burn, who is originally from Newcastle University, added “The nursery is ve metres deep and about 400 metres from the island. We have a oating platform you can reach by boat and jump off there to go to the nursery.”
Holiday has never been this gratifying for me. Eversince I adopted a coral line, I eagerly wait to see how my adopted children are doing. I now feel as if I too have contributed, in my small way, to save the incredible Maldivian paradise.