As I prepare to lead the 2010 Maldives trips, I am reminded of the distinct beauty of the place. The archipelago is comprised of twenty-two coral atolls including 1,200 separate isles and islets, only 200 of which are inhabited.
This spectacular island group in the Central Indian Ocean is an icon for scuba enthusiasts, a holy grail for snorkelers. For those who love warm tropical seas full of life, it is a breathtaking place. Even the planning and academic preparations are exciting.
Apart from a few island groups in the Western Pacific, the Maldives are more dependent on coral reefs for their very survival, than any other nation in the world. However, the rise in sea surface temperature, which peaked during the El Niño event of 1998, killed many of the reef building species. The good news is that nature is staging a comeback and the corals are recovering, albeit at different rates from one locality to another. There is also help in the form of “bioreefs,” manmade structures that are successfully attracting coral communities and the associated reef fishes.
In addition to the innovative research that is being carried out on corals, whale sharks, and manta rays, the Maldives has been at the forefront of the global issue of sea level change. There is much to learn and prepare for in anticipation of a sojourn to the Maldives.