Introducing the four female environmental activists, Claire, Cal, Dhafy and Saaxu, who are set to paddle across Baa Atoll on SUPs this February, to bring a vital message about our oceans.
Amidst an increasing number of campaigns for the protection and conservation of our oceans, ‘Stand Up for Our Seas’ is a one-of-a-kind expedition.
It marks the first time for ocean enthusiasts to attempt a daunting voyage of 100km on stand up paddleboards (SUP), travelling around Baa Atoll to raise awareness on a range of environmental issues facing the Maldives.
At the heart of this event, sponsored by luxury resort brand Coco Collection, are four incredible women from the United Kingdom and the Maldives, ready to ‘stand up for our seas’ and combat the negative impacts of plastic pollution, climate change, and discarded fishing gear on the fragile ecosystems and marine life inhabiting these waters.
A childhood passion for nature and wildlife had spurred Claire Petros to her current career choice as a biologist, veterinarian and conservationist.
She achieved her undergraduate degree in Biological Science at Oxford University, specialising in marine ecology. She studied coral bleaching in Wakatobi National Park, Indonesia, for her final year dissertation, where she developed her love for diving and protecting marine life.
Claire took up veterinary training at Bristol University, where she joined the Exotic and Turtle Rescue team during her final year elective in North Carolina State University. It was here that she grew fascinated with turtle medicine. After graduation, she briefly worked as a research assistant he Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, which ultimately cemented her decision to become a 'sea turtle vet’ and marine wildlife conservationist.
Claire joined the Olive Ridley Project (ORP) in November 2016 and moved to the Maldives to open a Marine Turtle Rescue Centre for injured sea turtles found entangled in ghost gear, which was the first veterinary clinic in the archipelago. Now the lead veterinarian for ORP, she travels to turtle rescue centres around the world to learn more about medical treatments and rehabilitation for sea turtles. With the support of OceanCare, she plans to continue her efforts as an ocean and turtle advocate in 2019.
A dedicated ocean activist and veterinary surgeon, Cal Major is the founder of ‘Paddle Against Plastic’, an organisation set up in 2016 which uses stand up paddleboarding to bring the global issue of plastic pollution to the people’s attention, and empower positive environmental change.
Her adventures have set world records, such as conducting the first paddleboard expedition covering the entire length of mainland Great Britain in 2018. She paddled a distance of 1,000 miles within 59 days, picking out plastic from the water along the way.
Cal encourages everyone to develop a strong connection with nature, not only for one’s physical and mental wellbeing, but in order to nurture love for the world and its wildlife, thereby instilling the desire to protect it.
In 2018, Cal was conferred the Prime Minister’s Points Of Light Award for her inspiring endeavours to combat plastic pollution and inspiring positive change.
Dhafeena Hassan Ibrahim is a personal trainer at Glowfit, who finds herself drawn to the sea in her free time.
With a great love for nature and fascination with the unique geography and biodiversity of the Maldives, she is a great advocate against the perils of climate change and plastic pollution.
She started bodyboarding as a hobby for the peace and balance the ocean brings her. Her love for the sport led her to co-found the Raalhu Edhuru Raajje Tour, a non-profit programme which aims to raise young generations of surfers across the country, while teaching children the importance of protecting the environment, above and below water.
Dhafeena's experience with Raalhu Edhuru has impressed upon her that the challenges faced by the country can only be tackled by constant awareness and working as one, and she is confident that bringing up well-informed generations will positively impact the future of the Maldives.
A proud mother and environmentalist, Shaziya Saeed not only advocates for sustainable and environment friendly choices, but adopts the lifestyle for her and her family.
She is an accomplished dive instructor, having worked in various resorts from 2002 until 2010. Currently, she works with local dive centres such as Moodhu Bulhaa Dive Centre and Dive Club. She volunteers her time at Farukoe Programme as well, a government-spearheaded initiative to ensure that each and every child experiences the reef at least once in their lives, in order to nurture love for marine ecosystems in their hearts and combat the dangers to sea life.
A passionate surfer, Shaziya is also a co-founder of Raalhu Edhuru Raajje Tour Surfing. She has been bodyboarding since 1998 and is the current Vice President of the Maldives Surfing Association.
Having seen first-hand the repercussions of climate change and plastic pollution, Shaziya is committed in her endeavours to raise awareness. She further hopes to inspire more women involvement and empowerment in the field of diving, surfing and other water sports.
‘Stand Up for Our Seas’ has brought these inspiring four women together, with a united spirit to spread the message and encourage more people to work for a common cause - be aware of the dangers of man-made pollution to marine life and their impact, which ultimately comes full circle, and do what can be done, as an individual and community, to protect and conserve the environment we call home.