Manta Trust, a UK-based NGO, is holding the first ever Manta Festival in the Maldives this November.
The festival is a combined effort of Dharavandhoo Island Council, 12 luxury resorts in Baa Atoll and Manta Trust. It is scheduled to be hosted on November 24 in the island of Dharavandhoo, which is located within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Baa Atoll, situated next to Hanifaru Bay, a world-famous site for the aggregation of reef manta rays and a breeding ground for grey sharks, stingrays and whale sharks.
The festival, which will have an open entrance, will be attended by participants from 13 schools, luxury resorts, NGOs and marine centres in Baa Atoll and across the Maldives.
"This is an event bringing together all the schools, communities, resorts and environmental organizations in Baa Atoll and beyond to celebrate and raise awareness of what is really important to us all- the ocean," said Shafee Ali, the Outreach Officer for the Biosphere Reserve Office.
The festival will include information sessions conducted by marine biologists and conservation experts, interactive education stalls and marine-themed competitions such as sculpting from ocean plastics. 'Learn to snorkel' sessions will be conducted throughout the festival for interested participants, while popular local artists such as 'Shiuz' will also be performing at the festival.
Flossy Barraud, from the Manta Trust, expressed that many Maldivians are disconnected from the rich marine environment around them.
"Despite being surrounded by water, many Maldivians - especially females - rarely snorkel to witness the beauty under the waves."
Barraud also expressed gratitude to the luxury resorts sponsoring the event, which have also decided to donate 16 sets of snorkelling gear to 13 schools in Baa Atoll in order to leave a lasting impact of the festival.
The Manta Festival is sponsored by Four Seasons, Vakkaru, Coco Palm, Mihaaru Maldives, Anantara Kihavah, Royal Island, Milaidhoo, Reethi Beach, Finolhu, Amilla Fushi, Dusit Thani and Soneva Fushi in addition to luxury travel agent, Manta Reisen.
Manta Trust works to conserve mantas through research, education and collaboration. Their project, the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP), is one of the most prominent and long-serving manta conservation groups in the country, having been initiated in 2005.