Her name was Sasha. And Paris and Vanessa, my nine and seven-year-old daughters, were enamored. They went to check in on baby Sasha, a giant green turtle, and April, also a turtle, everyday during our visit at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. You’d think at a luxe resort like this — with all the water sports, child-centric trappings and kids’ club activities — there might be other more compelling attractions. But for the girls, it was all about the turtles.
The Marine Discovery Center (MDC), prominently located in an oceanfront building next to the main pier, is a marine research center that is active in protecting and caring for the Maldivian atolls. The centre works to educate visitors about the local marine ecosystem and efforts to conserve it through interactive exhibitions, lectures and environmental projects. One such project is the preservation of the green turtles.
These threatened creatures head back to the beaches of Landaa Giraavaru every two to three years to nest. In an effort to monitor the returning turtles and the number of hatchlings, MDC works to ensure there are no obstacles that would disturb or hinder the process. They even ask guests to keep an eye out for hatchlings heading inland, like Sasha, the baby turtle who’d recently been rescued by a member of the hotel staff.
April had lost a fin. Trapped in a fishing net, by the time she was rescued, the fin was too badly damaged to save. She’d been convalescing at MDC for three months, learning to survive with one less fin. Baby Sasha will stay until she is big enough to fight off predators and survive on her own in the ocean. The girls just loved keeping track of these beautiful, exotic creatures.
Of course Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru was the dream vacation you’d expect. Our accommodation was a beach bungalow with a garden and plunge pool that looked out onto a semi-private beach. Several restaurants and specialty dining were all at our disposal. The spa and Ayurvedic Retreat offered indulgent therapies and treatments.
We also spent several days at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, and quickly discovered that the staff there are every bit as passionate as their sister resort about respecting and protecting the local marine life.
Paris and Vanessa learned more about the local marine life during their time at Kuda Huraa’s Kids For All Seasons club: looking for stingrays and sharks, going on lizard walks and in the kids’ marine lecture series. They even discovered that several fish from “Finding Nemo” live in the waters around the resort, including the Moorish Idol (“Gill”), Powder-blue Surgeonfish (“Dory”) and the Maldivian Clownfish (“Nemo”). They helped with daily fish feeding, attracting baby sharks to the pier who hoped to catch some of the chunks of meat the kids would toss out to them. But — once again —proving it’s the simple things in life you enjoy most, it was the daily hunt for hermit crabs, followed by the crab races, that they most looked forward to.
With its abundant marine life, consistently warm waters and great visibility, the Maldives ranks as one of the world’s top diving destinations. Having done the PADI online home study, my husband Thai decided to “dive” in and do his open water dive while here to complete his certification. The girls and I didn’t dive, but we did snorkel. And with schools of fish visible in the shallow lagoons, we were able to get close-up views of the colorful coral and a variety of fish. We even saw “Gill.”
And April? April was recently released back into the ocean. Paris and Vanessa were delighted to hear the news. Remembering what she’d learned about the turtles returning to Landaa Giraavaru every so often to nest, Paris wondered if April would one day return — then suggested we also return in a couple of years to be reunited with our friend. Sounds like a plan to me.
Monique Rubin lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters. She writes about her travels, running and expat life at motravels.com
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