Project Description

COASTAL

WATER ACTIVITIES

NATURE

SERVICE

Highlights: Geology, human & natural history of the Maldives / Marine biology & reef ecology / Celestial navigation / Climate change & sea level rise / Community service projects / Maldivian cooking class

Education Comes Alive in the Maldives – 8 Days

The Maldives is a nation unlike any other. This stunningly beautiful archipelago located atop a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean has over 1,190 islands, countless atolls and shimmering blue lagoons rimmed by pure white sand banks. The Maldives is not only the smallest Asian country… it is the worlds lowest country with an average ground level elevation of 1.5 meters.

With a population of only 330,000 inhabitants spread over 90,000 sq. km the Maldives face special challenges as one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries, and one that could be impacted more than any other by rising sea levels from climate change.

Unlike most international tourists isolated in the bubble of a Maldives luxury resort, students on this trip will live in a real Maldivian village and have a rare opportunity to see the world through local eyes. They will learn the folklore of their host community, teach children in the local school, engage in service projects with a village-based NGO, learn to hand line with fishermen, cook traditional cuisine, discover the secrets of navigating by the stars, learn boat building techniques, traditional sand massage, sand sculpturing and share in the joy of traditional dancing and drumming.

But this trip does not confine itself to culture and community… there are world-class adventures awaiting in the sea. Dhangheti Island in the south Ari Atoll is the best place in the Maldives to encounter whale sharks, giant manta rays, sea turtles and porpoise in every season. Ten of the best dive sites in the Maldives are located here and coral reefs are world-class.

This trip offers students a rare opportunity to bring their studies to life in comfort, safety and never-to-be forgotten experiences.

Study Focus: geology, human & natural history of the Maldives

  • Students arriving on international flights to Male, the Capitol of the Maldives, will be met at the airport and transferred by speed boat (1 hour and 45 min.) 87 km to the island of Dhangethi in the Ari Atoll.
  • Arriving at the Dhangethi pier, students will be welcomed warmly by the host community.
  • It’s just a short stroll through this traditional Maldivian village to reach Ariston Dhanghi Inn – a very comfortable 4-story lodge with air con rooms and all modern conveniences.
  • Students will enjoy lunch and have a trip orientation session before having time to swim on the beach and practice snorkeling in the shallow waters of the beautiful ‘house reef ‘just offshore.
  • After a fresh seafood welcome dinner, students will gather around a campfire for a talk on the fascinating geology, human and natural history of the Maldive archipelago.

Overnight: Ariston Dhangethi Inn

Study Focus: marine biology & reef ecology / celestial navigation

  • Right after breakfast this morning students board a local boat for a 30-minute cruise to a snorkeling site frequented by giant manta rays. As these massive fish feed in these waters year round, there is a very good chance of viewing these gentle giants.
  • After an exciting morning of snorkeling with manta rays, we visit a beautiful sand bank for swimming and snorkeling over dazzling reefs.
  • Ten of the Maldives top ten dive sites are found in this region and students will learn how crucial coral reefs are to Maldivians for many reasons: fishing, protection from storm surge & tsunamis, land reclamation and tourism.
  • Back at our lodge we will clean up before sitting down to a delicious buffet dinner and then gather on a dark corner of the beach for lessons in celestial navigation and constellations in one of the world’s best star gazing locations.

Overnight: Ariston Dhangethi Inn

Study Focus: climate change & sea level rise / community service project / Maldivian cooking class

  • Few countries in the world could be as totally devastated by climate change as the Maldives. Rising global temperatures combined with polar melt off could completely submerge this sea level nation in our lifetime according to some projections. Other research points to the coral growth on the reefs surrounding Maldives over 1,000 atolls and suggests the growth may match the rise in sea levels to offer continued protection.
  • Students will look at the environmental and social impacts of sea level rise… from investigating shoreline erosion on a walk around the island, to interviewing the island’s senior citizens that have seen the greatest history of change on their island atoll.
  • Dhangethi Island is a traditional Maldavian fisherman’s village with a history steeped in folklore that students will learn about during their village tour
  • After lunch, students will engage in a service project at the Dhangethi School where 174 students Grades 1 to 10 study at the only education facility for a community of 1,500 people.
  • All of this will take place in a spirit of genuine welcome from the Dhangethi islanders, simple fishing families tied to time-honored traditions and customs in a remote archipelago of our planet.
  • Returning to our lodge in the late afternoon, students will learn to cook traditional island dishes like flat bread and ‘mashuni’ (fresh cooked tuna with coconut, onion, chili pepper lemon and sea salt).

Overnight: Ariston Dhangethi Inn

Study Focus: marine fishes / sea turtle conservation / traditional fishing techniques

  • The Maldives is famous for the incredible variety of marine fauna and the abundance of fish in its waters. Today offers an experience students will never forget, an opportunity to swim with the world’s largest fish – the awesome whale shark.
  • Just a 30-minute boat ride from our lodge, whale sharks can be found at all times of the year feeding on plankton in waters shallow enough for students to snorkel with them.
  • After an amazing morning with the whale sharks, we will move by boat to another site to snorkel with several species of sea turtles at a dive site known as ‘Turtle Garden.’
  • After enjoying a picnic lunch on a beautiful island, students can further explore the amazing array of fish species in nearby coral gardens and reef drop offs.
  • At sunset time, we set out to sea aboard local boats to fish for grouper with hand lines. Students will then learn how to clean their catch and barbeque it for our dinner.

Overnight: Ariston Dhangethi Inn

Study Focus: geology of the Maldives / humanity’s ability to adapt to different environments

  • Today students will investigate how the Maldive Archipelago evolved geologically, who were it’s first peoples and how they adapted to survive in a challenging environment.
  • Activities today will combine local interviews with on line research, open forum discussions and role-plays to create a dynamic discussion on current affairs. Topics will focus on everything from the sustainability of the local fishery to desalination of seawater, the relocation of island communities to make way for resorts and methods to hold back rising sea levels as islanders struggle to survive as an endangered nation.
  • After a morning gathering information and formulating ideas, students will be given role play cards to enact a symposium where issues are discussed from the viewpoints of range of stakeholders: environmentalists, the tourism sector, scientists, economists, politicians, religious leaders, teachers, students and others.

Overnight: Ariston Dhangethi Inn

Study Focus: marine mammals / seabirds / beach clean up conservation project / sand massage course & sand sculpting

  • Right after breakfast this morning students will set off by boat in search of porpoise and whales at a time of day they are most visibly active.
  • Returning to our lodge for lunch, students will learn how flotsam and carelessly discarded trash can impact on wildlife.
  • Leatherback sea turtles are now critically endangered because plastic floating bags resemble their principal prey species – jellyfish. When leatherbacks and other sea turtles eat plastic bags it cannot be digested, clogs their gut and they die horrible deaths.
  • Seabirds like albatross, boobies and frigate birds that snatch small squid from the ocean surface often mistake plastic cigarette lighters as their prey. When they swallow discarded lighters and later regurgitate it for their chicks, entire colonies of baby chicks can die.
  • Because trash like plastic bags and lighters cast up on beaches can refloat with every high tide and storm combination, it is important to remove it from beaches. Our beach clean up service project this afternoon will do just that.
  • Once the beach around our lodge is cleaned, local villagers will teach students how to conduct a traditional Maldivian sand massage and how to build sand sculptures using white and black sand to create life-size replicas of whale sharks, giant manta rays, porpoise and sea turtles… the amazing sea creatures we have had the privilege to snorkel with during our trip.
  • After dinner this evening, a local cultural performance with drummers will show visiting students the Maldivians indomitable spirit and their joy of live in spite of the obstacles they face as island communities and a nation state living at the edge of the sea.

Overnight: Ariston Dhangethi Inn

Study Focus: impacts & benefits of tourism

  • Today we pack up after breakfast and cruise 1.45 hours by speedboat back to Male, the crowded Capitol of the Maldives. Here students will have a walking tour to explore the bustling fish market, visit the National Museum and look at the massive tourism industry that brings this island nation its greatest source of foreign revenue.
  • Students can determine for themselves the extent to which the enormous wealth flowing to the islands as the world’s premier honeymoon destination and through world famous luxury resorts benefits island residents.
  • After our city tour and lunch at a downtown restaurant, we will ride the local ferry across to Hulhumale – a tourism area near the airport built on artificial land. Here we will check into a boutique beach hotel and look at the challenges a growing economy and population place on the Maldives land and resources.
  • Maldivian islanders are being relocated from centuries of living on remote atolls and brought to Hulhumale to live in look alike housing apartment blocks. The government promises better health care and education here, but the very fabric of society for communities like Dhangethi village are being torn apart. Students can walk through the resettlement blocks and decide for themselves if this is an improvement in living standards for Maldivians or merely a means to clear islands for more resort developments.
  • After a closing dinner this evening on the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, students will be awarded certificates of achievement and share highlights of their amazing study adventure in a closing candle ceremony.

Overnight: Hotel Ocean Grand, Hulhumale

Departure

  • After enjoying a large buffet breakfast, students will be transported the short distance to Male’s International Airport for the return flight home.
  • As the plane banks out over the dazzling atolls, students can look down on a landscape that has now become part of their heart.
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