As we shared here earlier, we had a team of Marine Biologists from Manta Trust spend two days at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu this June to lead a very successful Manta Ray adventure – today, we want to share the details of this amazing event with all of you!
The Front Office Manager of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, Abdulla Saeed, and the Marine Biologist of Coco Collection, Chiara Fumagalli, were on hand to welcome Niv Froman, Project Manager for Manta Trust Maldives, and Annie Murray, Director of Operations for Manta Trust Maldives, to our charming resort. After a 3 hour long journey from the Northern tip of Baa atoll by Dhoni, Niv and Annie were happy to be greeted by the friendly faces of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu.
After a few minutes, the arrival jetty was a hub of activity again as we welcomed high school students of Thulhadhoo School from Baa Atoll Thulhadhoo, a neighboring local island near Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu.
At our comfortable associates’ area, everything was setup for a fun and informative session about Manta Rays. Annie began the presentation by introducing the interesting biology and behavior of Maldivian Reef Manta Rays to the audience of fascinated students and associates.
Afterwards, everyone had a shot at identifying individual Manta Rays by observing their unique skin pattern. After a few hesitant attempts, the audience members enthusiastically competed to identify Mantas after only a quick glance!
Soon, it was time for a fun game with students wearing Manta Ray-costumes and racing each other to collect “plankton”, in this case, some delicious cookies prepared by our pastry chefs. Even Chiara had a few laughs as she put on the costume!
The winners who were able to fill up their bowl with the most cookies received gifts from Manta Trust, while two students won a special lucky draw awarding them with the rare opportunity to name a recently identified Manta Ray – of course together with the accompanying personal Manta Certificates. After all this interactive education, the elated but exhausted Thulhadhoo students bade farewell to Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu – until the next event!
When Niv and Annie joined us for a well-deserved dinner break, we couldn’t wait to see their reaction as they entered Cowrie Restaurant for the delicious buffet. Our Chefs had surprised everyone by putting out some creative Manta Ray inspired carvings! Chefs at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu always go out of their way to make Cowrie Restaurant look amazing for special events and everyone was posing for pictures near these fabulous displays.
After dinner, Niv conducted an informative presentation for the guests of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu at Conch Bar. Before the presentation began, we were awarded a Certificate of Gratefulness & Appreciation for our dedication and support to the Maldivian Manta Ray Project and for hosting the first ever dedicated Manta Trust event in the Maldives. On behalf of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu, our Assistant Front Office Manager, Anas, happily accepted this certificate.
The guest turnout was amazing as Niv proceeded to give an overview about Manta Rays and Manta Trust’s research and conservation projects, to which Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu has been contributing data for the last 2 years. Since July of 2012, we have identified 60 new individuals and submitted 170 confirmed sightings. Apart from that, our Marine Biologist together with guests and associates, has discovered new Manta aggregation sites and even rescued M2560 ARTURO, a Manta that was entangled in a fishing line. Our contribution also includes critical data on the regional Manta population of South Baa Atoll as well as important data on Manta courtship and reproduction.
The next day was sunny as ever when the Marine Biologists, joined by 17 guests, started out on an adventurous excursion to spot Mantas in South Baa Atoll!
It was as if the Manta Rays knew that we had come out especially for them – soon, we spotted several individuals cruising and feeding close to the surface, and everyone had a great time observing them from the boat or swimming close by these elegant animals. Some bottlenose dolphins also wanted to participate and a mother and calf delighted us by swimming near the Dhoni to have a look around at snorkelers and Mantas.
The most incredible moment was when a Manta Ray decided to perform a huge breach right in front of our eyes: It swam up vertically and did an incredible jump right out of the water! Our guests realized what a rare sight this was because of Annie’s and Chiara’s reaction: both seasoned Marine Biologists could not stop screaming out loud from excitement!
The team managed to capture identification pictures of 4 different Mantas out of which 2 are new individuals to the Maldivian Manta Ray database. The other two are good old friends of ours, M2452 PACHIDERM and M2457 VERONIKA. A honeymoon couple on board decided to name the newly identified female Manta Ray (M3341) as “B&B”, after their initials! In the meantime, our partners from the Viluxur Holidays familiarization trip named the newly identified male Manta Ray (M3293) “SHAFFI”.
We would like to thank the Marine Biologists of Manta Trust, Niv Froman and Annie Murray, for making these two days so eventful, and the guests and associates of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu for their support and participation. Through events such as this, we hope to raise awareness for Manta Rays across the world. See you next time!