On Global Recycling Day, Sunday 18th March 2018, a team of our best watermen and women from Gili Lankanfushi completed a 14km Stand Up Paddle to raise awareness about the overuse of single-use plastic. During the endurance event, the team collected all floating litter they encountered along the three-hour paddle. The majority of the haul was plastic, so our message is clear: If we can SUP 14km around our island; you can give up using single-use plastic in 2018.
At Gili Lankanfushi, we encounter a large amount of ocean plastic arriving with the tide every day. Some arrives with the current from distant countries, but a lot appears from neighboring islands and the capital Male. Despite Gili’s No Plastic Policy and the plastic recycling program we have in place with Parley, we still face a tidal wave of plastic over the year. Our team wanted to tackle this problem head on.
The event began at day break as we hit the water at 7:15am stocked up with high energy food, water and cameras. The conditions were extremely favourable with low wind, little swell and high cloud cover. The first quarter of our paddle took us against the current, so it was slow going but this allowed us to collect as much floating plastic as possible. We found the majority of marine litter in the corners of Himmafushi Harbour so we set about collecting as much as we could carry. Those working at the harbor watched us approach and a few men jumped into action and helped us collect plastic from the water. They gave us a few extra bags when we ran low. These positive reactions made our hard work feel extremely valuable.
As we turned the corner behind Himmafushi Island, we had the wind and current with us, so we completed almost six kilometres in just over an hour. Being out on the open ocean and looking down to see the fish and coral beneath our feet was a real highlight. The final paddle back to Gili was the hardest, but we were met with the smiling faces of the rest of our team.
The seven-man paddling crew was made up of Beau, Tropicsurf Manager and SUP surf champion; Naseef, Ocean Paradise Dive Instructor and marine mammal magnet; Emma, Assistant Marine Biologist and official team photographer; Tula, Head of Security and pretty much the toughest guy I know; Ibrahim, Ocean Paradise Boat Captain and life saver; Clare, Marine Biologist and event organiser and Jinah, Hotelier journalist and newly inspired sustainability supporter.
The entire experience was a great example of perseverance and team work. It was a great success and we were able to recycle a lot of litter, yet the overwhelming feeling was that we need to do even more next time. In just three hours we collected 200 items which included 90 plastic bottles, 20 bottle tops and 5 plastic bags and this was just the plastic we happened to paddle close to; a lot has been waterlogged or broken down and is found just below the surface or on the ocean floor.
Despite the obvious challenges of reducing ocean plastic, we have seen such positive reactions to our war on plastic at Gili Lankanfushi. After visiting in November 2017, the inspirational Merle Campbell kindly shared:
“For many years now, I have daily walked the beach and never picked up any litter. Since visiting Gili Lankanfushi Maldives and listening about the importance of keeping plastics out of the waterways, I now walk the beach solely for the purpose of collecting rubbish to contribute to saving our sea life.”
We hope our Paddle against Plastic will inspire others to reduce their plastic dependence by taking small steps to reduce plastic use at home or at work. If we all participate, there will be a huge reduction in the amount of plastic that enters our oceans.
Well done to Gili’s Paddle Against Plastic Team and Happy Global Recycling Day to Everyone.
A special thank you to everyone who assisted us in the Paddle Against Plastic! Thanks to Ocean Paradise for the boat, equipment and crew, the culinary department for the amazing food, the Sales and Marketing department for sharing our work and getting up early to see us off, the gardening team for recycling our plastic, Shifzan for the awesome photos, and the Gili Lankanfushi Management team for their amazing support!
This article was first published on Gili Lankanfushi Maldives’ marine biology blog.