Meet the New Marine Biologist at Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort

Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort has appointed Joan Li as the new resident marine biologist to take forward the OZONE (Outrigger’s ZONE) conservation initiative. A Chinese national from near the North Korean border, Joan says her new job is a dream posting. Here she shares a little of her backstory and tells us what resort guests can expect when they visit Konotta

What is your background? 
I was born in a small city in northeast China called Dandong. It’s across the river from North Korea. But we moved to Shenzhen in southeast China near Hong Kong when I was six.

Being born and raised in China, what made you want to become a marine biologist?
I’ve always stayed in cities near the sea. The mystery of underwater life has always intrigued me, especially after I started diving. With a mask on, the beauty of the underwater world is revealed. Nothing can compare to the feeling of seeing marine life alive in its natural habitat.

Where did you study in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. I studied general biology, including cell biology, molecular biology – and marine biology.

What made you decide to take up scuba diving and take your career in a whole new direction?
My first diving experience was a birthday retreat with my friend. After seeing how marine life exists in the 70% of the planet that we usually don’t have access to, I just wanted to dive as much as possible. When I started diving in 2016, the underwater world completely changed me. It made me realise the possibility of having another life – rather than one in a laboratory or office.

Tell us about your experience in Malaysia and Philippines
I passed my first three levels of scuba diving at courses in Sipadan in Malaysia, one of the top dive spots in the world. After seeing countless jackfish, barracuda, turtles and sharks swimming freely around me, I felt spoiled. I wanted to find a place that I could stay longer to explore below the sea. In 2017, I got the opportunity to become an intern at a marine conservation group in the Philippines. I was diving twice a day, learning about coral reef monitoring, seagrass and mangrove ecosystems. I conducted my own research. I carried out more than 200 underwater surveys, which taught me a lot – more than any textbook.

What attracted you to working at Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort?
The internship I had in the Philippines was voluntary. In order to further pursue a career in marine biology and the diving industry, I found opportunities online. Outrigger had a position for a resident marine biologist. Working in the paradise of the Maldives was a very attractive proposition.

How is the Outrigger OZONE coral conservation program going at Konotta?
The total number of restored coral is now around 400 branches. Outrigger had already established its coral restoration project for three years through previous marine biologist Caterina. We’re now looking to involve more guests to join our coral restoration activities as well as showing them the wonderful underwater world. Right now, we have 19 coral frames restored underwater as well as stone piles with new coral growing on them.

How can guests join in the conservation program?
Guest can join the Outrigger’s monthly coral restoration workshop and marine talk to find out more about the mysterious underwater environment. Every Wednesday and Saturday I give free marine educational talks. In fact, these can be arranged anytime.

What educational activities do you have for kids at Outrigger Konotta?
Kids can join a marine biology semi-submarine so that even for youngsters that don’t know how to swim, they have a chance to see the marine creatures around Konotta.

For guests who can scuba dive, what experiences do you like to show them at Outrigger Konotta?
In particular, I’d like to take them for a night dive and have a look at the fluorescence corals under UV light.

If they can only snorkel, what can you show them?
If they can only snorkel, we have a group of stingrays always hanging out near the jetty. Sometimes when there’s a group of sardines and mackerels around, baby reef sharks will be there too. I’d love to take the chance and show them how friendly and curious these beautiful reef sharks are. They really are portrayed in a wrong way in movies and TV shows.

What advice do you have for guests who love nature who are coming to stay at Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort?
Just grab your mask, snorkel and fins and enjoy the blue!

ABOUT THE OUTRIGGER KONOTTA MALDIVES RESORT
A truly unspoiled paradise, the Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort is your own private world surrounded by pristine natural beauty and unmatched luxury. Outrigger Konotta Maldives Resort offers a sense of complete privacy and remote luxury, surrounded by natural beauty. Set on a private island in the azure Indian Ocean, the resort features spacious stunning villas, all with private pools. Guests can enjoy a range of activities including, innovative dining experiences, rejuvenating spa treatments, and world-class water sports and scuba diving at our reef centre. The private island of Konotta is located 211 miles (340 kilometers) to the south of Malé and is conveniently accessible via a 55-minute flight from Malé to Kaadedhdhoo Airport followed by a scenic 30-minute journey on a luxurious private yacht. Visit the property on Outrigger.com.

ABOUT OUTRIGGER HOTELS AND RESORTS
For more than 70 years, Outrigger Hotels and Resorts has charted a journey of discovery – expanding from Hawaii to premier resort destinations in Fiji, Thailand, Guam, Mauritius and the Maldives. The privately held hospitality company currently operates and/or has in development 37 properties with approximately 6,500 rooms – inviting guests to ‘Escape Ordinary’ with authentic Signature Experiences and the Outrigger DISCOVERY loyalty program. Outrigger’s multi-branded portfolio includes Outrigger® Resorts, OHANA Hotels by Outrigger® and Hawaii Vacation Condos by Outrigger® while also managing select properties from top international hotel brands including Embassy Suites®, Best Western®, Wyndham Vacation Ownership® and Hilton Grand VacationsTM. Find out more atOutrigger.com or visit @OutriggerResorts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter

Coco Collection Partners With Olive Ridley Project

Coco Collection is pleased to announce the official partnership with the Olive Ridley Project to setup turtle rescue centers and jointly reduce the effect of ghost nets on marine life. During a ceremony held at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu on 18th January, guests and associates joined Martin Stelfox, Founder and Chief Executive of the Olive Ridley Project and Dr. Jillian Amy Hudgins, the Project Scientist of the Olive Ridley Project as well as Chiara Fumagalli, Coco Collection’s Resident Marine Biologist, to officially kick off this partnership.

This partnership will see the construction of the first Olive Ridley Project Turtle Rescue Center at Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu with a dedicated team member of the Project at the Center to oversee the operations. Guests of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu will be able to support the project and donate funds for the construction of this Center by purchasing a signature Olive Ridley Turtle toy available for USD 28, or by direct donations either at time of booking or on the resort. Proceeds will go towards the construction phase of the project, and once the center is established, educational presentations, tailored snorkeling sessions and ghost net research excursions will be available as guest experiences. Similar initiatives will take place at Coco Bodu Hithi in a later stage of this collaboration.

“Since its establishment in 2013, the Olive Ridley Project has been working actively with dedicated individuals who are keen to support the project by removing ghost nets that have been abandoned or lost in the ocean, continuing to entangle vulnerable marine animals. Coco Collection has been on board with us from the beginning and today, we are extremely happy to sign this partnership, declaring Coco Collection as the official Olive Ridley Project Partner for Turtle Rescue Centers in Maldives. This is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership and I would like to thank all the guests and associates of Coco Collection for their continuous support and passion.” comments Martin Stelfox, Founder and Chief Executive of the Olive Ridley Project.

Chiara Fumagalli, Resident Marine Biologist
Chiara Fumagalli, Resident Marine Biologist

From 16th – 21st January, Martin was accompanied by Dr. Jillian Amy Hudgins at Coco Bodu Hithi and Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu where they joined Chiara Fumagalli for interactive guest presentations and excursions. With the overwhelming support of the associates, Martin & Jillian also conducted trainings on how to safely remove ghost nets from entangled marine life.

“I am beyond excited that Coco Collection is now an official partner of the Olive Ridley Project! With the continuous support of our eager guests and hardworking associates, this is a great opportunity for us to get more exposure for the detrimental effects of ghost nets on marine life and continue raising awareness to actively fight against it. We have received tremendous support from both guests and associates who have donated to the cause by purchasing the turtle toys and I am positively looking forward for the next step in this journey.” comments Chiara Fumagalli, Coco Collection’s resident Marine Biologist.

Keeping in line with its brand promise to care for the environment and recognize the need for sustainability, Coco Collection is proud to enrich their support for the Olive Ridley Project with this partnership.

About Olive Ridley Project 

The Olive Ridley Project was set up by a group of Marine biologists situated within the Maldives working towards preventing entanglement of Olive Ridley’s and other marine organisms. Apart from actively removing nets and helping any entangled marine life, the Olive Ridley Project compiles data identifying types of nets, fishing methods being used, and entanglements in order to figure out why so many nets are drifting in the Indian Ocean. With an aim to educate school children, local communities and all those whose depend on the Indian Ocean about the detrimental effects of ghost nets, the Olive Ridley Project hopes to work together with dedicated individuals to protect this ecologically important area. www.oliveridleyproject.org