Marine Biologist Kirsty arrives in time for a Hurawalhi Christmas

18 Dec 2017

Last month Hurawalhi Maldives and the Prodivers team welcomed their new Resident Marine Biologist – Kirsty Ballard. Kirsty has a keen interest in elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and has previously conducted research in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Maldives.

Kirsty had arrived just in time to join the reef manta rays at Fushivaru, where they certainly gave her a welcoming party. On one particular manta snorkelling excursion, Kirsty and Hurawalhi guests were fortunate to join not one, but 11 manta rays for their breakfast! With their cephalic fins unfurled, the manta rays glided head-to-tail in a spectacular feeding chain. As the Resident Marine Biologist, Kirsty has also accompanied guests for manta dives at Fushivaru cleaning station. During the manta mating season, cleaning stations are important aggregation sites for courtship behaviour. On one very memorable dive, Kirsty and two lucky Hurawalhi guests watched in awe as a young male manta pursued a female around the cleaning station. Kirsty, on behalf of the Manta Trust, uses photo and video identification taken during excursions to recognise and record individual manta rays. Her research helps to estimate the mantas’ movements spatially and temporally, population size and even highlight trends in behaviour. During both snorkel and dive excursions Kirsty teaches guests how to take a useful ID photo, so guests have a chance to contribute to the ongoing research too!

But Kirsty’s research doesn’t just stop with the manta rays; guests can also join Hurawalhi’s Resident Marine Biologist on turtle excursions too. Much like the manta excursions, before entering the water Kirsty educates guests on sea turtles and how guests can contribute to sea turtle conservation. Kirsty’s favourite site to take guests to is Kuredu lagoon, where it is not uncommon for the group to snorkel with 8 individual sea turtles!

When Kirsty isn’t in the water conducting research with guests, she is leading education and outreach initiatives on land. Kirsty’s presentations are an excellent opportunity for guests and staff to learn a little more about the marine environment without getting wet!

Kirsty is currently gearing up for her first Hurawalhi Christmas so if you’re spending the festive season here in paradise be sure to join Kirsty’s dives, snorkel excursions and talks. Pop into the Dive Center to find out more about the program over the festive season including the special Christmas dive and snorkel excursion.

From the whole Prodivers Hurawalhi team ‘We wish you a very Merry Christmas and we hope to see you in the New Year!’

Manta rays Hurawalhi Maldives