Understanding the Mysteries of the Ocean and Coral Reefs

For those who have traveled the Maldives with Kamey, you will know he has a wealth of information regarding the oceans and marine life. We asked him to share some of his knowledge with us, as well as his concerns for the future of our oceans.

Kamey

Have you ever wondered how old this strange rock we call earth is or even wondered how old the life blood of earth which we call the oceans are?  I do! They are both pretty old and we still don’t know all there is to know about them. The place we call home is around 4.56 billion years old and the ocean where there remains millions of mysteries is around 3.8 billion years old. When the earth cooled down from malting lava, the gas in the atmosphere cooled down to below the boiling point of water and it rained for approximately a million year nonstop. That’s lots of rain! Worse than UK! This rainfall filled the basin of the earth that we now call the ocean.

Then I wonder how old is the underwater rain forest that we refer to as coral reefs? The oldest fossil of coral ever found is 500 million years ago but sadly they died around 225 million years ago. The modern day coral reefs that we see today are around 240 million year old, so literally speaking that is old too. Coral reefs keep growing and the polyps keep multiplying so we could say that they have the capacity to live forever. There are corals that we see that are around 4000 years old, one species of coral called ‘stag horn coral’ are around 5000 years old.

coral reef alive

The formation of atolls and barrier reefs around the world, dependent on size, has a time gap of between 1 million to 30 million years. This is how long  scientists believe atoll formation takes to create the forms we see today. Coral has a slow growth rate all over the world and it’s growth is dependent on both the clarity of water and its quality.  The slowest coral grow is around 0.4 centimeter in 1 year. The fastest corals can grow at a rate of 13 centimeter per year. Isn’t that amazing?

There are around 420,000 recorded species of animal in the ocean and there are still an estimated 500,000 to 2 million marine organisms yet to be discovered. Most marine scientists  predict 91 percent of species on the ocean have yet to be discovered. All I can say is WOW!

The ocean covers 71 percent of the earth’s surface and still 95 percent of the ocean needs to be explore. Who is coming with me?! The ocean is the biggest play ground we have in the world and we know more about the stars then our own oceans. These facts astound me. 2/3 of the world population rely on the ocean. 53 percent of world’s economy is linked to the oceans. The Ocean generates half of the oxygen we breathe and stores carbon dioxide 50 times faster than even a forest. My final fact is that the ocean regulates all the weather patterns around the world.

coral reef

Climate change acidification plastic pollutions

Climate change and acidification are the biggest threats to our oceans and there is no easy way to fix everything. Climate change and its impact has been fast and is moving much faster than ever predicted. Sometimes we don’t even realize it is that big until we see an article online or on TV and we see how much devastation it brings.
When a weak storm hits in tropical waters,  the warm surface provides additional moisture to fuel the storm and create a hurricane. This is because of the sudden temperature change in surface water.

plastic waste

Ocean acidification happens because the ocean is trying to absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2) created by the increased levels of CO2 that we are producing. The saltwater molecules have a chemical reaction with the CO2 that changes them into hydrogen ions. The more this reaction is off-balance with the natural calcium carbon ions that are the building blocks of the ocean structure, the greater the risk to the whole food chain. The more hydrogen ions there are, the warmer the ocean gets. Plastic pollution is the biggest threat and one that we created by ourselves.  The most common type of ocean debris recorded is cigarette filters.  A minimum of 30% of ocean species are threatened by just plastic, as it starts to decay it turns into micro plastic and this has begun to end up in the food that we eat daily. We can’t just stand and watch we need to hold hands and stand for the protection of our oceans as our lives depending on it.

coral reef before and after

In the Maldives our life revolves around the ocean. When I think to myself that my whole life I have lived in this beautiful place that I call heaven on earth. We are born as sons of the sea and we live and breathe with the beauty of it.  I have such respect for the amazing diversity of our coral reefs. It is sad to see it is fading faster than we I could ever imagine. As a world society we need to educate more people worldwide and use more effective and sustainable eco-system management methods to slow down this process and find a solution to this sadness. There is lots of research happening right now that we need to closely observe and learn from. We can all take action to reduce the damage, something as straight forward as saying no to plastic will have a positive effect on out oceans.

Plastic pollution in ocean environmental problem. Turtles can ea

For me I want to try hard to live a sustainable life that is adventures and fun. Creating awareness of our environment with both my guests and my friends so that we can pass on the beauty and mysteries of the ocean to a new generation.

Join Kamey on a 7 Night Ocean Discovery Cruise, contact sales@secretparadise.mv for more information.

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How Our Team at Secret Paradise are Making Sustainable Waves in the Maldives

Since 2012 we have been providing a range of unique Local Island multi day tours and holidays as well as day tours and guesthouse accommodation options. All combine the beauty of the Maldives, with activities and cultural engagement. We are delighted that  for the fifth year running we have been awarded the TripAdvisor certificate of Excellence and that we remain the number one provider of day tours in the capital.

There is no greater seal of approval than being recognised by our guests and it is a remarkable vote of confidence to our business, out amazing guiding team and to our continued commitment to sharing our island experiences.

For those that have travelled with us you will know that responsible tourism plays a very large part in what we do. We are mindful of ensuring we promote local tourism in line with Maldivian culture and beliefs and through education of both guests and locals we aim to protect the environment and limit where ever possible any negative impact to local life.

Our team of tour guides have been specially selected for their commitment and passion to local island tourism and environmental initiatives, our TripAdvisor recognition would not be achieved without them.  Check out why some of our team do what they do and why we love to #letusguideyou

Engaging guests with local life, culture and traditions

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The best and unique aspect of my job with Secret Paradise is touring with our guests around this special Island paradise I am lucky enough to call home. They get to experience local culture and traditions like dining with a local family, sampling local foods that they would not get to experience in a local restaurant or café, interacting with local families and learning first hand how local island people live. My mission with each tour is to teach them at least 3 local phrases and pass on as much knowledge about our traditions and culture as I can so that they leave with a greater understanding of my island home.

Kokko Ibbe – Tour Leader

Educating guests on responsible snorkelling

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Responsible snorkeling is essential in the preservation of our coral reefs. Following the Green Fin protocol is not only for the safety and well-being of marine life and it’s habitat but our own as well. Think of entering the ocean as entering someone’s home.

Ahmed Mashir Ali – Tour Guide

Why work for Secret Paradise

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I’ve been working in the travel industry for more than five years and joined Secret Paradise just two months ago. I am really pleased to be working with a company that is committed to its employees. There are not many companies in the Maldives that can boast 100% local employment with the exception of one member of the team, who is the boss and we class as a local anyway!

Archie Athif – Tour Guide

Reducing the use of plastic

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Reducing plastic is a must for a cleaner safer environment for future generations. Saying no to plastic is something everyone must consider. Reducing the use of plastic is becoming easier with all the plastic replacement biodegradable/reusable products on offer and as part of our tour briefings as guides we highlight how plastic impacts our environment. We encourage our guests to support this fight on plastic by using reusable bags for shopping, re-fillable bottles for water and refusing plastic straws. Small actions making a difference.

UB Waseem – Tour leader

If you have any questions, require copies of the tour itineraries or just wish to seek advice do not hesitate to contact us.

You can view our Responsible Tourism Policy Here

Keep up to date with Secret Paradise news and offers by joining our Facebook family

 

 

Plastic Pollution, Marine Life and Sustainable Tourism with Secret Paradise Maldives; part 1

Raising awareness about environmental issues seems to be on everyone ‘s agenda these days. But we all need to understand that this is not a short term project that needs a year or two focus only to fall by the way side when a new trend emerges.

But how do we all keep focused and ensure our efforts are not in vain?

At Secret Paradise we educate our guests in ways that encourage them to support local hotel and guest house programs. Our tour guides are our ambassadors, they lead by example every day in and out of work. For myself having worked and managed teams of over 200 people I have plenty of experience in how to continue to motivate and re-focus my team on our mission to make long lasting environmental change. These topics need to be spoken about on a regular basis, new initiatives need to be implemented and the existing initiatives need to be boosted every once in a while to bring it back to focus.

For example, in 2018 we launched our #strawwarmv initiative where local guest house owners and business operators were encouraged to replace the use of plastic straws in their business with other alternatives. We were delighted with the positive response we received from our local island partners, people all over were posting their photos online and tagging us using #strawwarmv. With our partner guest house owners fully committed to working with us to make sustainable changes we have challenged ourselves to look for additional ways we can work in partnership with properties to make changes.

Today on the last day of their Beach Break tour, Kavitha and her family were happy to join strawwarsmv and enjoy a coconut the traditional way, drunk without the aid of a plastic straw

This year we are taking our sustainable initiatives to the next level by introducing water coolers into a number of  our local guest houses encouraging our guests to re-fill their water instead of buying new bottles each day. This is something that is being introduced worldwide including in many popular coffee shops offering a small discount if the customer brings in their own travel mugs. It’s simple; it really doesn’t take that much effort but it will make such a huge positive impact on our environment not just in the Maldives but worldwide if we all make these small changes.

Working with local island guest house partners means that we also support a sustainable local community. You can image that with many islands as small as 1-2 square kilometres there is only so much employment available for local people. Many of them over the years have left their families to work in resorts but with the introduction of mindful tourism it means families have a choice and don’t have to live apart from one another because job opportunities are now available for them locally. You may wonder what do we mean by mindful tourism? Well many countries around the world have adapted to cater for the needs of tourists, this often means losing their local culture and traditions. At Secret Paradise we are determined to help maintain Maldivian traditions and local island culture by allowing our guests to be exposed to them through local island tours and engagement with locals. It benefits our guests greatly as they leave with a greater understanding of the Maldives and are also welcomed as family into the island homes, having the opportunity to learn how to cook a local meal and even dine alongside a local family. These amazing feasts are not to be missed! We’ve even had guests attend local birthday parties and weddings!

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Because we employ only local island tour guides it opens a new channel of communication between visiting tourists and local island people. They are keen to learn about their island visitors as our guests are to learn about their host’s local island life! This intrigue often results in islanders inviting guests and our tour guide into their homes, sharing stories and history of  each others cultures. Where else do you get to experience something so unique, educational and inspiring? For me it is essential that these traditions are kept alive and that the local islands never lose their culture and uniqueness. After all we are visitors to their country and their environment.

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In our next blog we will continue to showcase initiatives we have and are implementing at Secret Paradise in order to create a more sustainable environment in the Maldives.

To see our responsibility tourism policies <<click here>>

Banning Plastic Straws Will Not Be Enough: We Need To Clean The Ocean

There is a huge call to ban plastic straws all over the world and even celebrities have used their voices in the attempt to make this initiative known to a much wider audience and gain traction and support. Big brands such as Starbucks and Disney have joined the movement to ban straws as well. *Supporters of the plastics ban say that every year, more than 35 million tons of plastic pollution is produced worldwide and about a quarter of that ends up in the water.

#STRAWWARMV

**Straws are consistently on the top 10 lists for marine debris collected every year during International Coastal Cleanups and the Maldives is no different as we have found from our own experience of beach clean ups. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in our ocean than fish (Secret Paradise Maldives). Last year alone, 1.4 million tourists visited the Maldives with each guest staying an average of 6 days. If each of those guests only had one drink served with a straw per day during their stay that is 8.4 million straws and that is most likely a conservative estimate.

That’s quite a staggering number if you think of it in this scale. When we use straws, we actually don’t really realize the effect of it to our environment. Thinking of it in this proportion and spreading such awareness, does really make you think. But will simply banning straws be enough to save our oceans? The answer is obviously NO! There needs to be a collective and conscious effort across individuals, businesses, organizations and governments as a whole.

Leeann and her friends showing nostraw needed to enjoy a kurumba on yesterday's Male walking tour

We think we could definitely do more than just refusing to use straws or banning the use of straws. On World Environment Day, June 5th 2018, Secret Paradise Maldives we invited all our partner guesthouse properties to pledge to STOP the use of plastic drinking straws in their guest houses.

However, there’s another problem hiding in plain view and that is the presence of micro-plastics in our oceans. Micro-plastics are the degraded particles sometimes seen floating as giant globs in the ocean being devoured by fish and seabirds. Imagine that on a larger scale and realize that these micro-plastics are degrading our oceans. At this point though, actions on an individual scale wouldn’t be felt anymore. There needs to be a massive and widespread awareness across all sectors and banning straws whilst a start is simply not enough.

What Else Can We Do At This Point?

We are living in a period of extraordinary times where plastics are all over us and the population dependence of plastics, especially on single-use plastics, is really alarming. We need concrete measures to rise above just banning straws. Here are some suggested steps that we and others feel could have a bigger impact:

  1. Make the producers pay for their waste. When we say pay, it should involve a hefty amount of money so they will be more responsible in their manufacturing practices.
  2. Make the consumers pay premium for plastics. – Increase the prices for plastics so people think twice before using it.
  3. Cut waste – shift from an opt-out to an opt-in model. Teach people responsibility, provide awareness and education.
  4. Go after the bigger cause, the root cause. – We need to look at the systems in place and determine where the disconnect is. Determine what we can do to solve the problem about cleaning our ocean at a much larger and effective way because let’s face it, just banning straws will not magically clean our oceans.
  5. Start a movement and make it less effort, more impact. – ***Environmentalists hope the movement will stir a larger conversation about runaway plastics pollution. Straw bans alone — which have been criticized for not truly reducing waste — will barely dent the flood of plastic spewing into the environment each year.
  6. Declare a massive clean-up drive. – Mobilize everyone to help clean our oceans – schedule a worldwide clean-up day and make sure to implement sustainable measures.

****To understand the magnitude of the environmental dilemma facing Earth, consider the explosion in the use of plastic bottles. Beverage companies produced 239 billion plastic bottles in 2004. That total had more than doubled by 2017 to 494 billion, and the trend continues, with plastic bottle production predicted to hit 594 billion by 2022, according to the market research firm Euromonitor International. That means bottlers will be churning out more than 1.6 billion every day.

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What we are doing at Secret Paradise Maldives is a good start and we will continue to support other initiatives. “This we know is the start of a long journey, but a journey that we hope will gather momentum and support across all local islands, not just with our partner guesthouses but with other businesses too. Our guiding team continually monitor properties on their tour visits as well as when we complete our annual property audits. This ensures that each guesthouse maintains its commitment to our initiative and offer support as necessary.We also speak with our guests upon arrival to encourage them to refuse plastic straws and bags”

How about you? How do you think we can clean our oceans?

 

 

*https://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/commentary/banning-plastic-straws-and-bags-isnt-enough-to-save-our-oceans-opinion-20181009.html

**https://secretparadisemaldives.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/are-our-efforts-in-the-maldives-to-reduce-plastic-waste-really-worth-it/

***/****https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/banning-plastic-straws-will-not-be-enough-fight-clean-oceans-n951141

 

 

 

 

Facebook Live Chat – Secret Paradise Interview with Go to the Maldives

Heidi from Go to the Maldives recently interviewed Ruth from Secret Paradise Maldives via Live Facebook chat. Heidi wants to dispel the myth about the Maldives being an expensive holiday destination, so she asked Ruth if she could run a live interview and ask her the pressing questions on everyone’s lips about visiting the Maldives.

 

 

Many people still consider the Maldives a holiday destination for a once in a life time trip or if they win the lotto. How has that now changed?

Indeed that still remains the perception for many. However, since local island tourism and guesthouses were introduced in 2011 the Maldives has become a far more affordable destination. There are now opportunities to island hop and discover history and culture as well as the beautiful beaches and amazing marine life that it is already known for.

Why was Secret Paradise introduced?

In a nutshell I was in the right place at the right time!  I had visited the Maldives on over 30 occasion after being introduced to the country by my dive buddy, Romney, who you will know from Boutique Beach! Following a stay of almost three months to complete a diving course I was provided the opportunity to start a travel agency with a local business man,  but being me I said let’s not do resorts let’s do something different!

Our tours are designed to allow guests to engage with local people and experience the best from a paradise that as we said a moment ago is generally known as a luxury resort destination. As well as at the time providing the platform to market and promote the newly formed guesthouse industry.

What kind of customers do you get?

We are fortunate to welcome guests from all over the world, of all ages and from all walks of life. We have even welcomed a celebrity or two! Guests may be travelling solo or with family or friends. They may be on a tight budget or have no restraints. However, the one thing they have in common is that they are looking for a memorable experience.

Many people tell me that if they are only paying $100 a night for bed and breakfast in the Maldives the accommodation must be terrible. What do you say to those people?

Accommodation certainly isn’t terrible and as local tourism has developed so has the range of guesthouses and hotels on offer. For under $50 a night you can generally expect a basic standard room with ensuite shower room, AC and access to Wifi. I believe the saying you get what you pay for is quite apt. Expect to pay between $90-$140 for an ocean view room with modern décor and facilities.  At the other end of the scale there are some fabulous boutique style properties where the level of service equals or surpasses that of some resorts.

My advice – Check out online reviews or for real peace of mind book with a company like us who audit their hotel and guesthouse partners on an annual basis.

What will people experience in the local islands?

Local islands certainly offer the opportunity to see the real Maldives and observe Maldivians go about their daily life. But like resorts every local island is slightly different and with a little bit of research or advice from Secret Paradise you can find one that meets your holiday needs be that surfing, diving, relaxing or discovery!

One thing every island though has in common is the warmth and hospitality of the locals who will take great delight in welcoming you to their island home.

What tips would you give someone visiting the Maldives for the first time?

Read the small print when making a booking or payment – is all local tax included GST, service charge and green tax for accommodation.

If you are booking independently understand the cost of transfers to the island you have selected. You may have got a real bargain for accommodation only to find you need to take a $400 domestic flight to reach your holiday home.

Don’t over pack, you need very little in the way of clothes and shoes! Sun screen, mozzie repellent and a rash guard if snorkelling are essential.

You offer tour guides on your trips, surely that is only for the wealthy how can I afford a private tour guide in the Maldives?

Certainly you don’t need to break the bank to have a tour guide, although expect to pay more for a tour including their services than if you were just to book accommodation online.

However, travelling with a local guide not only provides an opportunity to learn about the country and culture it allows you access to experiences or places that many tourists may not encounter. Plus it’s safe and convenient and ensures a hassle free holiday experience.

Where can people find more information about your trips and tours?

Take a look at our website www.secretparadise.mv. Plenty of information regarding our day tour sand multi days tours as well as travel advice. Follow the link to our blog which has loads more travel advice and information on what to expect when travelling in the Maldives.

We are hearing a lot in the news about plastic pollution what are the challenges the Maldives are facing with this?

Sadly, plastic pollution has become a key environmental issue in the Maldives as well as Worldwide. We see evidence of plastic bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic waste scattered on our islands and washed up regularly on our beautiful beaches and of course this waste has a negative impact on our environment, our marine life and the impression we give visitors.

The positive news is that local NGOs, island communities and environmental groups are working hard to deal with plastic issue with initiatives including beach clean ups, reduction of plastic bag use and environmental awareness campaigns.

But we also need effective policies to be implemented for meaningful long termchange.

Why did you introduce the #strawwar initiative?

There was so much international coverage regarding single use plastic that I felt Secret Paradise was in a position to influence and encourage our partners to lead a change in the Maldives.

We have had a terrific response from our partners as well as guests. Currently we are in the process of obtaining EPA approval which will hopefully assist us in taking #strawwar to the next level.

Surely banning single use straws is a small feat for such a large problem, wouldn’t it be better to ban plastic bottles?

In the ideal world yes and I would love to think that this could be achieved in the future, but unfortunately for the time being both locals and tourists have become reliant on bottled water as tap water is not promotedas being perfectly okay to drink.

This together with the fact that a new water bottling plant that will produce 10,000 plastic bottles every hour, is being opened makes single use plastic bottles a real challenge.

What are local business do to work with you on the strawwar?

It’s easy, contact Secret Paradise and pledge to stop using plastic straws!

How can tourists get involved?

Take a photos and tag @Secretparadisemaldives and use #strawwarmv when they refuse a straw or find a property or café who do not use plastic straws.

Secret Paradise Maldives War on Straws

The now viral Utube video of the sea turtle having a straw removed from its nose with a set of pliers was certainly heart breaking to view but most certainly it appeared to make the world sit up and pay attention to the plight of our oceans.

Straws are consistently on the top 10 lists for marine debris collected every year during International Coastal Cleanups and the Maldives is no different as we have found from our own experience of beach clean ups.It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in our ocean than fish.

FACT – 1 straw is manufactured in 1 minute

FACT – 1 straw is used for an average of 10 minutes

FACT – 1 straw takes 100 years to decompose

Last year 1.3milion tourists visited the Maldives with each guest staying an average of 6 days. Even if each of those guests only had one drink served with a straw per day during their stay that is 7.8milion straws and that is most likely a conservative estimate.

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Sadly, plastic pollution has become a key environmental issue in the Maldives as well as Worldwide. In the Maldives evidence of plastic bottles, straws, carrier bags and other plastic waste scatter our islands and wash up regularly on our beautiful beaches and this waste has a negative impact on our environment and our marine life.

Local NGOs, island communities and environmental groups are working hard to clean up the countries plastic issue with initiatives including beach clean ups, reduction of plastic bag use and environmental awareness campaigns.

The simple fact of the matter is, that we all need to join together and fight this worldwide plastic issue. If everyone makes a small change it will only have a huge long term positive effect on the environment and our oceans.  Britain has announced this week that they are banning single use plastic straws alongside Canada and other countries. In the Maldives we are seeing many of the luxury resorts ban the straw and move to biodegradable alternatives. Now it is the time for local island businesses to make that change.

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War on Straws

On World Environment Day, June 5th 2018 we invited all our partner guesthouse properties to pledge to STOP the use of plastic drinking straws in their guest houses.

In return we pledged to:

  • Collect any remaining straws from them.
  • Dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way.
  • Provide a certificate for each business to display and use to promote their support.
  • Provide information that can be shared with both staff and guests as to why the plastic straw should be no more.
  • Request all our guests to refuse the straw.

We were delighted to gain the support of the following properties within less than 24 hours and we are confident that other partners will swiftly come on board.

Lily Rest – Maafushi

Guraidhoo Palm Inn – Guraidhoo

Bibee Maldives – Dhiffushi

Canopus Retreats – Thulusdhoo

TME Retreat – Dhigurah

This we know is the start of a long journey, but a journey that we hope will gather momentum and support across all local islands, not just with our partner guesthouses but with other businesses too.

Our guiding team will continually monitor properties on their tour visits and when we complete our annual property audits to ensure that each guesthouse maintains its commitment to our initiative and offer support as necessary.

If you are a tourist visiting local islands in the Maldives and find a local guesthouse or hotel still serving plastic straws, we encourage you to take a photo and tag us on Instagram @secretparadisemaldives #letusguideyou #strawwarMV and we will make contact with them to see if they will unite with us on our mission to ban plastic straws altogether.

The call to action to eliminate single use plastic including plastic drinking straws is getting louder and louder worldwide, let’s add the voice and actions of the Maldives.