As a volunteer on this project you will engage in a wide variety of activities integrating yourself with the local communities, working with marine life and whale sharks and taking part in data entry around Dhigurah Island.
This is the principle activity you will be involved in. You will be able to spend all day out at sea trying to spot the inconspicuous shapes of the graceful whale shark. You will also log any sightings of other marine animals including turtles, dolphins, reef sharks and even manta rays! When a whale shark is spotted you will be able to get into the water to take photos, measure and sex these fascinating creatures.
You will need to collate all of the collected data and whale shark encounters that are logged whilst out at sea. After this data has been extrapolated, you will then input this into an extensive database which will help to log and identify the individual sharks.
Local Community Work
Your role whilst on Dhigurah Island, aside from helping with whale shark conservation, is also to improve the local communities' knowledge and understanding of these beautiful creatures and the marine protected area in which they reside. This is a great time to interact with the locals and understand a different way of life.
As a volunteer on this project, there will be a chance to explore surroundings and be involved in a range of activities offered which include scuba diving and snorkelling. (Please note that these activities will NOT be included within the price of the project. Scuba diving in the Maldives is around U$100 per dive, so make sure that you have enough funds to cover this should you want to dive.)
Beach Clean Ups
Rubbish is a major problem in the Maldives, so you will also be involved with regular beach sweeps. This makes a big difference to everybody on the island, so there will often be half day beach cleans. Previously, volunteers even made a giant model of a whale shark out of old plastic bottles to highlight the problem of plastic on the island!
Please note itineraries are subject to change and what follows is simply a rough guideline. The day off per week is dependent on weekly activities and may not be on 'Day 7' as specified.
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
Today you will arrive into Male's Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (preferably in the early morning or early afternoon to make the transfer) and then take a domestic flight to Maamigili Island. Upon arrival at Maagmigili, you will be met by staff from the project accommodation, and then accompanied via speedboat to Dhigurah Island. On arrival you will settle in to your new accommodation and meet your fellow volunteers and the project facilitators.
Day 2-6 - Briefing & Project Work:
After breakfast and an initial briefing the project work begins. You will head out to sea in search of whale sharks and assist with the identification and tracking process. Please note that activities will depend on the day and also on the weather conditions out at sea. From midday on day 6 (Friday) you have free time which allows you to have a rest, enjoy the local area or take part in a different activity.
Day 7- Free Time:
Today is a day off from project work and there are the options to scuba dive or snorkel out on Dhigurah Island, or just kick back and relax!
Day 8-13 - Project Work:
After a day off you will spend these next 6 days continuing with the project work. Marine research of whale sharks will remain a key part of the work during this period meaning more of a chance to swim with whale sharks!
Day 14 - Final Day:
Unfortunately, today is your final day. After your final goodbyes you will fly back to Male in order to catch your return flight home or continue with any onward travel.
Dates, Availability & Price
To secure a place on this project a deposit of £195 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Select a duration below to see the available start dates. All dates shown are currently available for you to join this project!
Updates & Outcomes
This whale shark research programme is run in conjunction with a completely not-for-profit charity, dedicated to studying and conserving the world's largest fish. All donations from volunteering go towards work within the field, the running of the volunteer programme itself, and the very modest running costs of the charity. With the ethos to 'To conduct whale shark research and foster community-focussed conservation initiatives throughout the Maldives', the programme reflects not only the ongoing commitment to just the Maldivian whale sharks, but also to increasing the participation of the local communities in managing this magnificent species.
What's more, the project is very lucky to have the help of some world renowned marine biologists, and with their help have been building up an ongoing demographic profile of the whale shark population through a non-invasive process called photo identification. Having documented (via ground-breaking satellite tagging and DNA analysis programmes) over 3000 encounters with whale sharks, the team have identified over 208 individuals, cataloguing them into a worldwide database, ultimately helping to assess and understand the wider importance of whale shark conservation.
One of our volunteers kindly wrote us a review of her journey to the Maldives to visit the Whale Sharks! Khristine flew all the way from Scotland over to Dhigurah Island to volunteer beneath the waves, and as you will see from her blog she had an amazing time! Read Khristine's story here!
Read all about the gentle giants of the sea the Whale Shark on International Whale Shark Day 2015!
Did you know that this Saturday, August the 30th, was International Whale Shark Day?
Is this trip for you?
Your time here will be spent living on a local island called Dhigurah – literally meaning ‘long island’ in Dhivehi. Accommodation is in a guest house and rooms are on a shared basis of two people. There are 4 rooms so the project can have up to 8 volunteers at any one time. Dhigurah will be your home and being a local island you can get involved with the community. There may be opportunities for you to go to a local house for some traditional food, go on a fishing trip or have a look at some local arts and crafts in the gift shops. There’s also a café and a dive centre on the island, so if you’re a keen diver and are wanting to go diving in the Maldives you can book onto some trips with them on your day off. Please be aware that this will not be included within the overall project price.
Three meals per day will be provided for you for the entirety of your time on the project. The food provided will be a mixture of traditional Maldivian cuisine – with delicious fish, curries, cassava and coconut - as well as western choices. All food, apart from packed lunches (which will be eaten on the Dhoni), will be served in a buffet style.
Please note that there is a NO ALCOHOL policy anywhere on the island, and you will not be able to purchase any alcohol during your time here. This is important to remember, and you will not be able to bring any alcohol with you to the Maldives either. Please be aware that penalties for this are extremely harsh - up to 2 years in prison - so it pays to be aware!
The project involves a lot of open ocean swimming, so you will have to be fit enough (and a strong enough swimmer) to cope with this! Those that struggle with swimming are not advised to join this project - we advise that you must be able to swim around 200 metres comfortably in order to join this project. You will also be diving with whale sharks on this project so you must be comfortable holding your breath underwater.
No specific skills or experience are required, only a positive attitude, an ability to work in a team, and a strong set of swimming skills!
The vaccinations required will depend on the medical history of each volunteer. We recommend that you consult your GP regarding your own immunisation needs. In conjunction with this, we would recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website.
When is the best time to volunteer?
Whale sharks can be seen all year round where this project is based in the Maldives but the different monsoon seasons can have an effect.
The dry season(also known as the north-east monsoon) is from January to March and is often favoured by holiday makers to the Maldives due to the beautiful weather, however, whale sharks can tend to favour the east side of the islands in this time.
Before and after the dry season (December and April) is the transition period between monsoons and this can bring strong winds and thunderstorms and so these months are not often favoured.
The wet season (also known as the south-west monsoon) is from May to November. Visibility is generally better during this season and so it is often preferred by divers, plus, whilst it is called the wet season you can often enjoy 8 hours of sunshine a day and most rain storms only last about an hour. The added bonus of travelling during these months is that manta rays may also be seen. This makes this season the best for joining the project.
Getting to the island is relatively simple. You will need to book a flight out to the capital of the Maldives, Male. Many airlines (including charter airlines) fly here so you should be able to find yourself a relatively cheap flight. It is better to arrive on either a morning or early afternoon flight. Once in Male, you will need to catch a domestic flight (on FlyMe Airways - the only carrier plying this route) to Maamigili Island where you will meet up with a member of staff from your accommodation. Prices for this are forever changing - please check for up to date prices! Once in Maamigili, you will then be transferred via speedboat to Dhigurah Island - the site where the project is based.
Please note that domestic flights will cost extra (around £180 return though this is subject to change), and you will be billed for these through The Great Projects and TME Resorts.
you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team
will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
A thirty day free visa is issued on arrival to all nationalities, provided that they:
- Possess a valid passport
- Have a valid onward flight ticket to leave the Maldives
- Have enough funds to cover expenses for the duration of the stay or a confirmation of accommodation reservations.
If you are staying for longer than thirty days, a tourist visa may be renewed (up to a maximum of 90 days) if you apply to immigration before the expiration of the visa already granted. An extension can only be applied through the Visa Extension Application Form at the head office in the capital Male during official working hours. A visa fee of 750 Rufiyaa (around £30) will be charged for the full extension (30 days free + 60 days chargeable). No visa fee will be charged if the extension does not exceed 30 days.
Currency and Exchange Rates
The currency used the Maldives is the US dollar. 1 USD is approximately 1.25 EUR, GPB 1.58. For up-to-date exchange rates click here.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Three Meals Per Day
- Daily Return Boat Transfers to and from the project site
- All project activities
- Maldives Green Tax
What's not included?
- International and Domestic Flights
- Travel Insurance
- Soft Drinks and Extra Snacks
- Any extra activities undertaken on your days off (for example scuba diving which is around U$100 per dive).