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Researching Whale Sharks in the Maldives

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When I started diving in 2004 I knew I discovered a new passion. The underwater world. Within the next 10 years I travelled to different countries and got more and more mesmerized.

One of my dreams was to encounter a whale shark. That would be a dream come true. Luck wasn’t on my side, everywhere I went they were seen, but not around when I was there. Time to change my luck.

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Charlotte Hesterman Whale Sharks

By coincidence I discovered a program in the Maldives conducting research on Whale sharks. Not with scuba gear, but freediving.

So, it begun. After completing my free dive training, I signed up and arranged my ticket to the Maldives. It’s harder than you think to spot a whale shark in the water. Standing on top of the roof of the Dhoni in the burning sun was a challenge so we covered ourselves in different ways for protection. There was also enough time to cool down in case we didn’t encounter a whale shark.

The moment we saw a shark we jumped into the water. Everybody had a dedicated task. Two people will measure the length of the shark, some take pictures of the shark and the (old) injuries / scars it has. One will take ID pictures to identify the shark later that day and one will try to swim below the shark to determine if it’s a male or a female. The crew on the dhoni will take notes about the (weather) conditions of the encounter.

Charlotte Hesterman Whale Sharks

To be fair, the moment I jumped in the water I forgot a lot of my free dive skills. It’s a challenge to keep up with the shark, duck down and try to get close.

Finally, my luck changed. In the 4 weeks I participated I encountered 45 whale sharks. And in a way I was able to help to understand the behavior of these majestic animals a little bit better.

Are you interested in helping the whale sharks around the Maldives?

If you would like to get more information about my experiences, contact me via Facebook: Charlotte Hesterman / Life Below Water or Instagram: Chardushi.

Protect what you love!

The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme is a charity that carries out whale shark research and fosters community focused conservation initiatives in the Maldives. https://maldiveswhalesharkresearch.org

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About Author

My name is Charlotte Hesterman, a Dutchie who loves the ocean and its creatures. I started diving in 2004 and became a dive instructor in 2008. After working in Thailand, the Philippines, Bonaire, the Maldives, Fiji and traveling to many more stunning places it became very clear to me what the impact of (plastic) pollution is having on the ecosystem. Therefore 2 years ago I started my own plastic recycling business in Bonaire, together with a very good friend. Next to that I’m establishing an NGO called ‘Life Below Water’ to create more awareness among people wherever they live by creating events, workshops, beach-clean-ups, documentaries and more.

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