Battling through strong currents and winds, the four women standing up for our seas paddle through the world famous Manta, Whale Shark aggregation site at Hanifaru Bay.
The team took off from Amillafushi early Monday morning, paddling towards Hanifaru island.
The football field-size lagoon area known as Hanifaru Bay, is famous even for Baa Atoll's UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve, for the underwater 'ballet' that it is home to majestic visitors that arrive seasonally, every year.
The unique 'funnel-like' reef structure located right outside Hanifaru's drop off, allows for the accumulation of large amounts of plankton, which in turn attracts feeders such as Manta Rays and Whalesharks. The hundreds of Mantas that grace these turquoise waters has cemented its rank as the largest known feeding station worldwide.
Hanifaru and its surrounding area are regulated by Baa Atoll Conservation Fund (BACF) and more specifically the Hanifaru Visitor Centre permits trips to the site under the supervision of approved guides. Revenue generated from visitor tokens is used to manage operations and assign trained rangers who manage conservation efforts in a sustainable manner.
Although the group geared up for an eight-kilometre routine paddle, the currents, moderate winds and strong riptides in between Amilla Fushi and Kihaadhoo proved a bit harder than expected, reducing their average paddle speed from eight km an hour to a mere two km an hour.
During their long and arduous paddle, the team was separated in the process due to the currents dragging the paddlers in all directions.
Having successfully reached Hanifaru Island, the team was greeted by a bunch of Hanifaru Rangers and Manta Trust representatives.
"We got to interview them and ask them about their role in protecting the mantas, confirming that the guesthouse and resorts venture out on their designated days, thus ensuring that there is never too many people in the water", said Dr Claire Petros.
Concluding the interviews, the group then departed to Dhonfanu Island for a well-deserved lunch.