Artificial reef building offers hope as super El Niño looms

In the turquoise lagoon of Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru, Moosa Shan dove down and cleared sand from a large block of cement. There, he placed several balls of marine cement and attached broken fragments of live coral. The balls would harden within hours and provide a critical stable base for coral growth.

Vabbinfaru’s shallow lagoon is dotted with coral gardens of all ages. The oldest garden has been there for fifteen years. The small fragments have now flourished into a vibrant colony, with ornamental fish darting amongst thorny branches and iridescent blue clams visible in the crevices of boulder corals.

The Banyan Tree hotel chain pioneered coral propagation or artificial reef building in the Maldives following a mass coral die off in 1998.

That year, the global El Niño weather event warmed Maldivian waters to 33 degrees Celsius, resulting in coral polyps expelling the algae living in their tissues and bleaching white. The algae provide the polyps with its food, and polyps died after a prolonged period without food.

Over 90 percent of Maldivian reefs died in the 1998 bleaching event.

In May, scientists have predicted an El Niño event comparable to 1998 levels for 2014 and 2015 which could spell disaster for the Maldives’ reefs.

‘The idea that this wondrous ecosystem may just die out in front of your eyes – I cannot really fathom it. If an El Niño occurs, there’s really nothing you can do to prevent coral death,” said Moosa, a conservationist at Banyan Tree.

Marine biologist Alexia Pihier at consulting company Seamarc said scientists have predicted a 70 percent chance of a strong El Niño event developing in the coming months.

If a strong El Niño develops, the Maldives may see bleaching starting in December and peaking in March 2015, she said.

“We are very worried. We are monitoring data from atmospheric scientists closely. There is uncertainty. But if it happens, there is not much we can do,” she said.

Artificial reef building

In the event of massive coral die-off, coral propagation methods practiced in the Maldives, on Banyan Tree Vabbinfaru and by Seamarc on Four Seasons Resorts at Kuda Huraa and Landagiraavaru Islands, offer a glimmer of hope.

According to Moosa, over 90 percent of Vabbinfaru’s reef died in 1998. But sixteen years later, with careful management, the reef has bounced back.

Vabbinfaru’s coral reef today is a kaleidoscope of colors. Among terraced table corals, schools of multi-colored fish roam, as larger fish and strong-jawed eels peek out from coral overhangs.

Moosa and his team dive every few weeks to remove coral predators, including the prickly crown-of-thorns starfish.

In 2001, the Banyan Tree Marine Center also sunk a giant lotus-shaped metal structure on the reef slope. Naturally broken pieces of coral were tied with cable ties to the latticed lotus.

The lotus was then connected to a power source on the shore. Low voltage electricity was run through the structure to help white limestone accrue around the metal. Over the years, coral larvae have settled and grown on the clean limestone rock.

Today, the lotus is an underwater amazement. On any given day, divers and snorkelers can see spotted eagle rays and black tipped reef sharks near the structure.

Between 70 and 90 percent of transplanted corals, both on the lotus and coral gardens have survived, explained Moosa.

In 2005, on both Kuda Huraa and Landagiraavaru, Seamarc developed an artificial reef system of interlinked metal coral trays. Coral fragments were tied to the frames and, within two years, the frames produced a full reef effect.

“Once the damage is done, the frames are a method of rebuilding the reef. It also increases biodiversity and improves the overall reef health,” Seamarc’s chief scientist Thomas Leberre said.

Leberre believes artificial reef building to be a viable option for reefs throughout the Maldives in the event of large-scale coral bleaching.

Climate change and human damage

Thomas also said minor coral bleaching events, such as that of 2010 which accompanied a minor El Niño, would better prepare corals for warmer temperatures associated with global warming.

Both the algae and coral polyps could adapt if the warming rate is gradual, he said.

“However, the fear here is that the rate of change may be faster than the rate of adaptability,” he said.

Recent studies suggest that while the overall number of El Niño is unlikely to increase, particularly strong “super El Niños” are likely to occur twice as frequently in a warming world.

Noting that healthier reefs are able to recover faster from bleaching, both Alexia and Moosa have urged Maldivians to limit damage to the reefs.

A 2013 study by conservation organisation Reef Check found local environmental pollution to have suppressed recovery from the catastrophic bleaching event of 1998.

Human activities such as “tourism, reef fishing, coral mining, dredging, reclamation and the construction of maritime structures and pollution represent most impacts on coral reefs,” the study found.

“Protecting the reef starts from the shoreline. We need better waste management and safer disposal of waste to limit reef damage,” said Moosa.

This article is part of an environmental journalism project supported by Banyan Tree Maldives.

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Against the current – Turtle conservation in the Maldives

Collecting turtle eggs is still legal and will remain so until at least 2015, according to government regulations, despite recent scientific reports stating that the population of the majority of turtle species is declining.

“We have a moratorium that will end at 2015, then we will look at other measures that we have to take,” explained Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Shainee.

With turtle population numbers declining and some species at serious risk of complete extinction, organisations are working hard to protect turtles from further degradation at the hand of both humans and the environment.

The biggest threat to turtles, according to Sam Hope – Marine Discovery Centre Manager at Four Seasons Kuda Huraa – is egg collection and trade.

“There is a ban on catching and killing turtles in the Maldives, and that has been in places since June 1995, however, there isn’t a ban on egg collection,” stated Hope.

According to the fisheries regulations, the” catching, fishing, collecting or killing” of sea turtles is illegal across the entire country. The collection of sea turtles and eggs is also illegal say the regulations, but this is only applicable to 14 islands out of a possible 1,192.

The continuing secret slaughter of turtles was demonstrated last year after photographic evidence the practice emerged, showing dozens of dead sea turtles loaded onto a dhoni.

More recently, an article by Dr Agnese Mancini – an expert on turtle conservation – reported a decline in the population of  the majority of turtle species found in the Maldives.

Published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the report established that while quantitative data on turtle numbers is scattered, the data collected recently from the entire Indian Ocean indicates negative trends in population numbers for all of the species, barring the Olive Ridley species.

Despite these findings, the laws governing the collection of turtle eggs remains the same and will do until at least 2015, stated Dr Shainee.

“Before that we will start planning for the next steps, and increasing our understanding – we will try and get stakeholders on board,” he said.

When asked if he thought the ban on egg collection should cover all islands of the Maldives, Shainee said that all islands would be protected, but that efforts needed to be focused.

“The rest of the islands we will do, but if they are not nesting islands there’s no point in unnecessarily restricting. For those areas that we know, we want to protect.”

Conservation efforts

Protecting endangered sea turtles is vital given the environmental pressures the Maldives already faces – pressures which themselves amplify threats to turtles.

In response to some of these threats, Four Seasons has teamed up with local environmental agency Seamarc to implement a number of valuable conservation programmes across the Maldives – based from their two on-site Marine Discovery Centres.

Among the pair’s successful projects is the ‘Head Start’ programme run from the Kuda Huraa resort – a fledgling project which has shown great potential to help increase the local turtle population.

The likelihood of turtle hatchlings surviving is estimated to be around 150:1, and so marine biologists have been hand-rearing a select few young turtles at the Marine Conservation Centre in order to give them a greater chance of survival.

“Where we do get a hatchling nest, we allow all of them to run down to the sea – because that’s very important for their development – but when they reach the sea we collect just two for our Head Start programme,” explained Hope.

Marine Biologists at the Marine Discovery Centre, Four Seasons

“The Head Start programme is aiming to provide a safe environment so those turtles can go through the early stages of development and avoid those early stages of danger.”

“Because turtles have got a pretty rough deal- anything from ants to rats, cats, seabirds, fish and sharks- its really tough when you’re only 4-5 inches long with no defence techniques at all -apart from looking incredibly cute.”

“So we bring them back here, place them into our pools where we do a weekly check up where we weigh and measure them. The weight is very important to their health, and we’re working hard to understand the sea turtle dietary requirements,” Hope continued.

“When the Head Start gets to 18cm – which takes about 13 months – we put a satellite tracker on their back and we send them out into the big blue. We download from the satellite every two days, and download the data into google maps.”

The tags are semi-permanent, meaning the researchers can see how far the turtles have travelled for up to 10 months.

To date, the Head Start programme has reared and released 37 turtles, with 16 tagged for satellite tracking.

There are a number of resorts which are contributing valuable work to environmental conservation, but in order to push this movement to the next level, Hope notes that the links between resorts and local communities need to be stronger.

“There needs to be more trust between resorts and local communities” he states. “What would really benefit the movement is a bottom up management, led by a greater amount of community work and community led projects.”

Regarding the laws against turtle egg collection, Hope said that it was unlikely all islands are being used for turtle nesting, but admitted there was a dearth of local knowledge which Seamarc was attempting to address with local surveys and community assessments.

“Turtles sometimes switch nesting beaches if the beach condition becomes degraded which means that they may start using unprotected islands in the future if they are not already. Before we can decide on scientific policy we require scientific fact on which we can base decisions.”

“It is our hope that our work will shed more light on the extent of turtle nesting activities in order to further protect these endangered species.”

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Manta rays lacking libido in empty blue seas around the Maldives: The Guardian

” ‘Mantas!’ shouts Guy Stevens from the top deck, pointing to huge bat-shaped shadows gliding under the rippling, turquoise water of Hanifaru bay in the Maldives,” writes Damien Carrington for the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

“Mantas are protected in the Maldives and had been faring relatively well,compared with populations in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and elsewhere, where thousands of the inquisitive creatures are slaughtered each year to supply the Chinese traditional medicine market.

But Stevens is worried by a new threat. Usually about a third of the females are pregnant every year, he says: ‘But then – boom – in 2009 reproduction just stopped.’

‘Is this part of long-term natural cycles or is it something more sinister, related to climate change and human impacts?’ asks Stevens, founder and chief executive of the Manta Trust, which runs its Maldives programme from the Four Seasons resort on Landaa Giraavaru island, with the company funding the Trust’s staff and operations.

‘I suspect it is not natural,’ he says. ‘The meteorological people say the monsoon is changing [from usual patterns], and the fishermen who have been out there for 50 years say it is definitely changing.’

Stevens has been tracking the Maldive mantas for eight years and has 15,000 sightings of 1,500 individuals from the last four years alone. Their feeding events correlate closely with the average speed of the winds, which have been blowing less strongly overall in the past four years.

Weaker winds are less effective at stirring up the seas, meaning the nutrients needed for plankton to bloom are missing. “If primary production is affected, that passes up through the food chain and affects the mantas,” he says, adding that mantas bring in about $20m a year in tourism revenue for the Maldives.”

Read more

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World Bank approves US$10 million education grant to halt decline in higher secondary enrollment

The World Bank has approved a US$10 million grant to the Maldivian government to expand and strengthen the education system.

In a statement, the World Bank noted that the country’s education system faced key challenges including a “sharp drop” in enrollment at higher secondary level.

“The higher secondary education net enrollment rate is a mere 19 percent, with boys’ net enrollment at 20 percent and girls’ net enrollment at 19 percent,” the World Bank stated.

“It is important that the education development program also addresses the quality of education through several strategic initiatives. In this regard, the project will support the development of a system of regular National Assessments of Learning Outcomes, which can inform policy formulation and program development” said World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Diarietou Gaye.

The US$10 million project will include professional development for teachers and a quality assurance program at school level.

“School-based management activities and the annual school feedback form (ASFF) program will be also implemented at the school level,” the statement read.

“The school heads and senior management teams will be responsible for the organisation and management of these activities. The principals and senior management teams will lead the internal self-evaluations of the quality assurance process. They will also lead the needs assessments of teacher skills and competencies in relation to the school development plans, and organise the professional development programs required. The school heads and senior management teams will also be responsible for implementing the ASFF program,” the World Bank stated.

The Maldives has 220 public schools spread across the country’s 200 inhabited islands, with 6000 teachers serving a 62,000 students. Approximately 1700 students attend private schools.

In a statement. President Mohamed Waheed meanwhile observed that many schools in the Maldives had very small student populations, “an issue of great concern for the nation.”

Speaking during a visit to Maduvvari on Meemu Atoll, Waheed said the average number of students per classroom was 3-4, and that in some schools the entire student body consisted of no more than eight.

Given the state of these schools, “a lot of very urgent reform measures are needed to improve teaching techniques and obtain better results,” the statement read.

System in crisis

The O’Level pass rate in the Maldives has steadily increased from 27 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2011. Beyond a general claim that the O’Level pass rate for 2012 was the “highest on record”, the Education Ministry has so far withheld the figures for 2012, citing “difficulties in analysis”.

Education leaders have repeatedly highlighted as one of the country’s greatest social challenges that fact that two-thirds of students leave the education system at age 16, with little possibility of employment until they reach 18,

Outside the rare apprenticeship program offered by the resort industry – such as one run for more than 10 years by the Four Seasons group – the Maldives has little in the way of vocational training programs.

With the large trade and construction sectors dominated by a massive and poorly-paid imported workforce, options for young Maldivians are extremely limited, especially if isolated on an island in a remote part of the country.

Young Maldivian women face further challenges, as they are largely excluded from the country’s largest employer – the fishing industry – and despite the opportunities, few work in the resort industry due to persistent social stigma.

In a 2011 report on the issue, one father told Minivan News: “If my daughter would not have the possibility of going home every night, I would not let her work in the resort, it is not safe […] if a woman will not come home at night after work, and she would maybe have a relationship with a man in the resort, which could result in a pregnancy… this would have very bad impact on the family and would not be tolerated.”

More recently, Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Regional Vice President and General Manager, Armando Kraenzlin told Minivan News that the number of females in the company’s apprenticeship program had declined over the last 10 years, to just two in the 2014 intake.

“We never had many [female] participants – five to seven per batch – but it used to be easier [to recruit women] about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, numbers have dropped,” he said, at the program’s class of 2013 graduation.

Education Minister Dr Asim Ahmed said the prospect of their female children living and working on a resort was a difficult concept for parents.

“The culture here is for children to grow up and grow old in same house. In the Maldives, you go to work [at a resort] and live there. It’s a very difficult thing to get your head around,” he said.

Ahmed explained the need for women and parents to be more aware about the conditions of female employees working at resorts, particularly in terms of accommodation arrangements.

“It is important parents buy into this and believe resort work is beneficial and reliable [for their daughters]. The other challenge is we have to provide child care and other facilities that will release the women to go and work,” he added.

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Four Seasons Maldives wins prestigious Conde’ Nast travel awards

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts CEO Katie Taylor yesterday received two prestigious Conde’ Nast World Savers Awards, on behalf of the company’s resorts in the Maldives.

Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and Landu Giraavaru resorts have been awarded the Conde’ Nast World Savers Awards in the categories of ‘Wildlife Conservation’, as well as the overall ‘Doing it all’ award.

“It’s in Four Seasons’ DNA to take steps to support the local community and environment in every destination where we operate; our social and environmental efforts in the Maldives date back to 1998,” said Regional Vice President of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives, Armando Kraenzlin.

Four Seasons Maldives also came runner up in the ‘Education’ category, one of six areas of social responsibility judged by an independent panel, which also include ‘Preservation (Environment and Cultural)’, ‘Health Initiatives’ and ‘Poverty Relief’.

A record 111 applications which were received this year for the luxury travel magazine’s awards, which are now in their sixth year.

A press release from Four Seasons explained that the company’s coral reef regeneration project, now in its 15th year, had become one of the most successful in the world.

The project started after 1998’s major El Niñoevent destroyed most of the country’s shallow reef coral and has been assisted by marine consulting firm Seamarc since 2004.

Four Seasons also runs a Hospitality Apprenticeship Scheme in the Maldives which this year will offer 50 young Maldivians a year’s vocational training in food and beverage preparation, service, maritime transport, housekeeping and guest services, PADI dive master and water sports.

The program, which has been operating for a decade, is open to young Maldivians aged 17-20, with O-level certifications and has seen more 265 young Maldivians graduate, said the company’s release.

Earlier this year Four Seasons Kuda Huraa worked with the local community of neighbouring Bodu Huraa and pest control consultant Trudy Rilling-Collins to introduce sustainable and environmentally-friendly mosquito control procedures.

Four Seasons stated that they had also contributed to projects involving two resort water-bottling plants, plant nurseries, local education and awareness outreach programs, health initiatives in support of local islands, support for local artisans, teachers and the Manta Trust charity.

Whilst the company was receiving its awards at the Lincoln Center in New York, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa were conducting a climate change workshop focusing on coral reefs and tourism, hosted by Seamarc marine biologist Patrik Svensson.

“Moving forward, the team at Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru is committed to working closely with local communities and agencies to ensure that the Baa Atoll World Biosphere becomes a world-class example of its kind, while at Kuda Huraa, the focus is very much on continuing to develop the Maldivian Sea Turtle Conservation Programme,” continued the release.

Earlier this week, Sylvia Jagerroos – a marine biologist working with Four Season’s partner Seamarc – discovered a dismembered turtle on the uninhabited island of Funadhoo in Baa Atoll, one of the country’s 14 priority nesting beaches legally protected under Maldivian law.

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Drowning victims widely honored by Male residents

Thousands have paid their respects to the victims of yesterday’s drowning incident, and hundreds attended the funeral for the five deceased, held at Male’ Islamic Center last evening.

Four grade-nine students Nash-ath Saeed, Mariyam Naza, Aishath Saniha, Mariyam Shaiha and Hiriya Principal Ali Nazim drowned yesterday during a Fisheries Science trip to Kaafu atoll Huraa. Nazim had rescued four students from the water before being drowned with the other four victims, Haveeru reports.

Relatives who attended the funeral said that the students were not asked whether they knew how to swim, and blamed the school management. No life jackets were taken on the trip, one source claimed, although this was unverified.

Police were criticized yesterday by Huraa council Deputy President, Easa Ahmed for their inefficient response to the incident. Police and MNDF forces had allegedly been notified by the Huraa council immediately following the incident, Haveeru reports.

Nearby resort Four Seasons Maldives Kuda Huraa told Minivan News that it had sent a rescue boat upon learning of the incident. At 12:00pm yesterday, the resort held a moment of silence in remembrance of the Hiriya School principle and students.

A Wataniya event that had been scheduled for yesterday at Four Seasons was cancelled after President Mohamed Nasheed asked that respect be paid to the victims.

The President made personal calls to families of the victims yesterday, and requested that the national flag be flown at half-mast for three days from yesterday.

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Baa Atoll to host Bodu Beru tournament

Baa Atoll and Four Seasons will host a Bodu Beru tournament in honor of Baa Atoll’s recent designation as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The ‘Baa Youth Bodu Beru Challenge’ will take place on 17 and 18 November 2011 on Kamadhoo. The competition is open to Bodu Beru groups with 16 to 26 members aged 15 to 25 from the 13 islands of Baa Atoll.

Four Seasons has teamed up with Male-based cultural arts institution Varutha for the event. The institution was founded in 2007, when the ‘Meenaz’ bodu beru group noticed the need for a formal, organised means of sustaining Maldivian arts culture.

Varutha dancers will lead a 10-day workshop from September 23 to October 3. Two drummers from each competing group will have the opportunity to hone their skills and explore new bodu beru beats and methods.

Bodu beru is said to have made its first appearance in the Maldives in the 11th century AD, allegedly by sailors in the Indian Ocean. Bodu beru groups typically consist of 15 performers, including three drummers and a lead singer. Using a small bell, a set of drums known as the ‘bodu beru’, and an onugandu – a small piece of bamboo with horizontal grooves, which is scraped – performers create a lively rhythm for dancing.

Varutha’s co-founder, Sham’aa Abdullah Hameed [Anna], expressed appreciation and support for the youth arts event.

“The tournament reflects our shared mission to reconnect local youth with their rich cultural heritage by restoring, developing and incorporating tradition into the rapidly evolving Maldivian music scene. We’re looking forward to a successful workshop and an exciting two days of competition.”

Landaa Giraavaru’s General Manager and Regional Vice President, Armando Kraenzlin, said UNESCO’s recognition of the environmental value of Baa Atoll inspired the competition.

“UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves rely on optimum social, economic, and cultural conditions for environmental sustainability. We’re delighted to be working with Varutha to help strengthen the respect for cultural values amongst the Baa Atoll youth, while giving them an opportunity to contribute to their home island’s own sustainability.”

The winning team will receive Rf 100,000 (US$6485) towards a community project, and Rf 10,000 (US$650) for themselves. The team will also be invited to an awards ceremony on Landaa Giraavaru island on 28 December.

Team Application Forms and full Tournament Rules and Regulations can be downloaded at www.facebook.com/baa.boduberuchallenge.

All applications must be submitted via email by 30 September 2011 to [email protected]

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President awards Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy

World Champion Surfer Mark Occhilupo has won all three divisions of the inaugural Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy, defeating longboard champion Josh Constable in the final and taking home US$19,000 in prize money.

President Mohamed Nasheed presented the trophy to Occy on board the Four Seasons Explorer, a luxury three-storey catamaran anchored near the Sultans surf break.

“We are people of the sea. We grow up with the elements around us, and the sea is never very far away. We are taught to swim from a tender age,” Nasheed said.

“44 percent of our workforce are fishermen, who spend more than half their lives on the sea, and many Maldivians looked up to famous surfers while growing up,” he said.

Nasheed dancing Bodu Beru with the surf champions

The relative seclusion of the country’s surf breaks compared to more famous surfing destinations such as Hawaii and Indonesia was not necessarily a bad thing, Nasheed said, “because we are not always clear about how to manage our resources. We have to use them wisely to benefit everyone.”

Nasheed told Occy that the Maldivian cabinet was not unfamiliar with the water, having conducted a cabinet meeting underwater in 2009. Occy asked if that was “the same as a cone of silence”.

Occy dedicated the champion’s trophy to Tony Hussain Hinde, the Australian-born surfer who pioneered modern surfing in the Maldives after becoming shipwrecked in the country, and who died in 2008.

Following the prize presentations, the six surfing legends, together with the President, Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair, cabinet ministers and several MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) erupted into a spontaneous traditional Bodu Beru dance.

Final day of the competition

The six surfers, including two-time world champion Damien Hardman, four-time world champion Mark Richards, world longboard champion Josh Constable, 1966 world champion Nat Young and seven times female world champion Layne Beachley competed in one-, two- and three- fin divisions over the three days.

On the last day the Sultans reef break served up consistent four-foot right hand waves. During the final event, Occy required an 8.10 score to reclaim his lead, and waited patiently for a wave on which he delivered a 9 with full rail-to-rail maneuvers.

“I made a couple of mistakes, including losing priority, and I had to tell myself to just calm down,” Occy said of his performance.

“So I cleared my head and moved up the point where I needed to be and then a gem of a wave came through and I surfed it as good as I could and got that nine. I didn’t have one heat where I felt I was not under pressure. All those memories of being on tour came back and I had to rely on my instincts to win this event and now that I have, I am over the moon.”

Constable praised Occy as a “solid competitor”.

Reehan surfing with Layne Beachley

“I just couldn’t get him. He was on his game all week. I felt solid in the final and I had a good score but couldn’t get that back up so hats off to Occy.”

Sole female competitor Layne Beachley came close to taking the single fin division title from Occy in the final of the first day, and was only narrowly defeated.

“It’s been surreal competing against five male world champions and being a contender,” said Beachley, noting that such match-ups were rare in the surfing world due to the anatomical disadvantages women faced: “our hips get in the way.”

“I knew it was always going to be challenging but I stepped it up and gave them a run for their money,” she said.

Four-time world champion Mark Richards was forced to withdraw from the final day of the competition after suffering a hamstring injury, opening the way for Maldivian surfer Ali Reehan Mohamed to take to the water as a wildcard entry.

Grinning, the 18 year-old described that surf as “the best experience of my life.”

Confessing to an attack of nerves at being out among the world champions, Reehan said “I did my best to show them something.”

"Best experience of my life" - wildcard entry Reehan

“It was very friendly, we were sharing waves,” he said.

Reehan has been surfing for two years, after upgrading from “fighting the white water on a body board”. He has since made his hobby into his work, freelancing as a professional surf guide.

“I stopped my last trip just to come here – I gave it to someone else,” he said.

General Manager of the Kuda Huraa Four Seasons Resort, Sanjiv Hulugalle, said the HSBC, Billabong, Wataniya, Surfing World and Singapore Airlines-sponsored event would return next year.

“The aim was to showcase the Maldives as a world-class surfing destination,” Hulugalle said, “and the international media has broadcast it all over the world.”

Reehan agreed: “With the media here, Maldives surfing is only going to get bigger,” he said.

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Conde Nast rates magazine rates Maldives world’s second most popular destination

Condé Nast Traveler magazine has rated the Maldives the second most popular island destination in the world.

The magazine’s 14th annual Readers’ Travel Awards also recognised the Kuda Huraa Four Seasons Resort as ‘The Best of the Best in the World’s Top 100’ resorts. The resort was also named ‘Best Overseas Leisure Hotel in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean’.

Resort General Manager Sanjiv Hulugalle traveled to London last week to receive the award on behalf of the Four Seasons.

“This award is a testament to an amazing joint effort and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who voted for us,” Hulugalle said at the ceremony. “We’re constantly looking to raise the bar.”

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