Lhaviyani Turtle Fest, an atoll-wide event initiated by Naifaru Juvenile, Atoll Volunteers and Atoll Marine Centre, was held in Naifaru on June 30 welcoming hundreds of turtle fans from across the Maldives.
The third of its kind, Lhaviyani Turtle Fest is an annual event held to raise awareness within the community about an array of environmental issues, especially turtle-related concerns.
The event organizers also described the festival as a platform seeking to work with different NGOs, experts and volunteers who have been, and are currently working in the environmental field.
Given the commonality amongst many issues faced by these islands, the organizers wish to provide a common space for discussion and sharing information among environment and conservation advocates.
A special area was allocated by the beach for activities and presentations, including stalls presented by Naifaru Police, Dhiraagu, Naifaru Juvenile, Environment Protection Agency of Maldives, Eco Youth, Save The Beach, Olive Ridley, Manta Trust, Pro Divers, Best Dives Maldives, Marine Savers, Dusit Thani Maldives, Hurawalhi Island Resort and Spa, Kuredu Island Resort and more.
The main sponsor for the event, Dhiraagu, also distributed free re-usable bags made for their "For the Oceans" campaign, for all festival goers, in an effort to discourage the use of single-use plastic bags.
Students from various schools within the atoll travelled to Naifaru to take part in the one-day event, which also featured creative games and exciting prizes that encouraged learning within fun.
Each stall addressed a selection of environmental issues essential to the cause.
While some highlighted the importance of waste management and recycling, others addressed the significance of protecting marine species such as turtles and manta rays.
Additionally, several presentations aimed at students and young people in general, were delivered by experts, educating attendees on importance of conservation and waste management.
The creative and crafty creations by the participants using recycled materials were, in the words of one young participant, "truly inspiring."
Visitors were able to hear sometimes tragic stories behind the turtles that had been rescued and were being rehabilitated at the Naifaru Juvenile facility.
Seeing the injured turtles and discovering the human impact that had caused such pain, were seen to have a visible effect on all audiences.
Attending the event, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)'s Resident Representative to the Maldives, Ms. Shoko Noda, joined in the festivities, assisting in the release of the rehabilitated turtles back to the ocean.
A large crowd gathered to witness and cheer the turtles on, as they crawled back home and towards freedom.
Adding a little glitter to the event, Maldivian Idol stars Azal and Maeesha gave special performances for their fans, participating in the games and taking time to interact with fans afterwards.
In an exclusive interview to The Edition, vice chairperson of Naifaru Juvenile Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and the general coordinator of the Turtle Fest, Mohamed Ibrahim, described the festival as "a one-day event that delivers a strong and lasting message to the communities about human impact on the environment."
The organizers expressed their hopes to continue to host this event in the coming years as well as to foster a positive relationship with Maldivians and Maldives' unique environment.