I first found my way into marine conservation and research through a very convoluted route, discovering a passion for the oceans through diving that left me asking endless questions and desperate to know more. Having graduated with a BSc degree in Psychology but not quite ready to get a fully-fledged career started, I decided to explore further afield and knew immediately after my first dive course that I was in my element, literally!
Over the course of the six years that followed I worked as a diving instructor aboard several dive boats in various tropical locations, always getting involved with local marine conservation efforts. From the control of invasive species in Honduras to community outreach programs in Egypt, I strived to be a part of projects that focussed on good quality research coupled with promoting awareness of the issues faced by our seas today.
However, some of my work with dive companies left me feeling deflated and helpless as the demands of customers took over and the protection and conservation of the local biodiversity took second place. Having spent time with Guy aboard his Southern Maldives Expedition, it’s refreshing to finally see a trip tailored around engaging stakeholders and the boat’s guests in marine issues and encouraging their support for the conservation of manta rays and their wider ecosystem.
A core focus of Guy’s expeditions is to not only to provide close encounters with manta rays but to enthuse and educate divers in marine conservation issues, so they take home more than just a collection of fantastic photographs. Through a series of presentations on topics covering local marine species and habitats, the Manta Trust trips ensure that divers leave with an increased awareness of the threats these graceful creatures are facing and, perhaps more importantly, how they can help. A workshop in collecting and recording manta ID shots cements the theoretical and practical aspects of the research being conducted by giving divers the tools to get involved knowing that they are contributing meaningful data to the project. Divers are then able to continue this work in their future dive trips around the world taking ID shots wherever they are and submitting them online to the Manta Trust’s global database.
As a future expedition’s leader, Guy’s expert knowledge and overall running of the expedition have created a model for me for which all Manta Trust trips will be built upon. The Manta Trust aims not only to conduct high quality, robust research but to generate awareness of the multiple threats currently faced by manta rays globally. The expeditions provide an opportunity for me to fulfil both aims while giving people an unforgettable experience with one of nature’s most intelligent marine species.