MALDIVES—Gili Lankanfushi announced that its new marine biology center opened on June 8—World Oceans Day. Gili Veshi, which translates as Gili Environment in the local Dhivehi language, will become the island’s primary marine research facility and the central hub for all sustainability and conservation issues, as well as offering a host of new guest experiences.
Nature lovers will have the opportunity to get involved through participating in monthly reef clean efforts to remove oceanic litter, coral watch dives to check on new specimens and Crown of Thorns eradication dives to remove the invasive starfish species. Guests can also opt to sponsor the team’s research and conservation efforts, or offset their carbon footprint by planting carbon-sinking seagrass.
The island’s smallest guests will not be forgotten, with a wide variety of new experiences and activities tailor-made for children. New educational treasure hunts throughout the island, both on dry land and beneath the waves, will see children seeking out clues about the island’s environment, accompanied by the marine biology team. Fascinating marine movies and interactive iPad will educate children about sustainability and the marine environment, whilst a roster of rainy day activities will keep children happy when the clouds—however rare—roll in.
The Gili Veshi team will monitor all aspects of the island’s reef biodiversity, including sea surface temperature and coral growth, to protect the fragile coral reef environment. They will also roll out a number of conservation initiatives, including planting seagrass to create new feeding grounds for endangered turtle species.
New Initiative Planned for Himmafushi Island
Gili Lankanfushi’s innovative and hugely successful coral lines project—which sees coral fragments suspended in mid water to accelerate growth and reduce predation—was the first of its kind in the Maldives and will be expanded, with the existing coral lines transplanted onto the house reef and monitored as the primary stage of a wider transplantation effort. Further afield, the team will spearhead a new conservation outreach initiative to focus on the local community and schools on nearby Himmafushi Island and the capital, Male.
The new marine biology shack will also include a large wet lab to support the team’s ongoing research efforts, and will host visiting researchers and academics from across the globe. Guests will be invited to visit the lab to learn more about the local marine and terrestrial environment, with high tech new microscopes available to allow guests to study local coral specimens through a lens.
Working with the Maldivian government and NGOs including the Manta Trust, the Olive Ridley Turtle Project and Shark Watch, the Gili Veshi team will continually monitor the marine ecosystem and threats to biodiversity including coral bleaching and the onslaught of invasive Crown of Thorn starfish.
Gili Veshi launched on June 8 to coincide with World Oceans Day, with a day of ocean-focused activities including a group Paddle Out into the lagoon to pledge the island’s commitment to protect the ocean, followed by a screening of the film Plastic Ocean in the outdoor Jungle Cinema. World Oceans Day is a global day of celebration and collaboration focused on marine conservation, the prevention of marine litter and the promotion of a healthier oceanic environment for the future.