A day in the life of Chiara Mascetti, Marine Biologist at LUX* Maldives
For this edition of A Day in the Life Of, Chiara Mascetti shares what a typical day looks like as a marine biologist at LUX* Maldives. Located at the heart of South Ari Marine Protected Area (SAMPA), LUX* is surrounded by incredible marine life. In her role, it is down to Chiara to guide guests as they interact with the atoll’s resident whale sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. Hailing from northern Italy, Chiara spent five years studying marine biology and specialised in conservation and ecology for her Master’s degree. She’s now been at LUX* Maldives for five months.
0730 – I wake up and head to the staff canteen for a small breakfast. I collect my uniform and hop on my bicycle to head to the marine biology centre, which is located in the middle of the island. The centre is a great place for guests to come and learn more about marine creatures, and we have lots of informative displays and books about fish, coral and shells.
0900 – Soon, guests start to arrive, ready for the morning excursion. I lead three different kinds of excursions, looking for either whale sharks, turtles or (if it’s the right season) manta rays. Once all the guests have arrived, I give a 20-minute presentation about the species we hope to encounter that day. I make sure to answer any questions they might have and some guests might need to go to the water sports centre to collect their snorkelling gear.
0930 – I meet the guests at reception and we head to the jetty together – there are normally between 4 and 12 guests on a trip, and if the group is larger, another excursion guide will accompany me. Once we are all on the excursion dhoni, I give a short safety briefing and we set off. If we are heading to find turtles, we stop at LUX*’s house reef and snorkel for about an hour. If we are on a whale shark excursion, we travel a little further and sometimes it takes a little while to find a whale shark! Once we find one, I ask guests to jump and we spend time snorkelling with the shark. I always have to look out for their safety as it can get pretty crowded!
1140 – After snorkelling, we return to the boat and the guests are served drinks and snacks. I chat with the guests and explain the behaviour of the animals and talk about what we’ve seen. On whale shark excursions, guests also complete a short survey. In the region, all the marine biologists are very concerned about the safety of the whale sharks, and we ask the guests to answer a few questions about what they witnessed during the snorkel – did they see any boats getting too close to the sharks, for example. In this way, we record any incidents of recklessness and I share the information with the other marine biologists in the area.
1230 – I’m now back on the island and I cycle back over to the staff area for lunch. I head back to my room and take a rest.
1400 – At 2, I’m back at the marine biology centre and for the next couple of hours, I’m at my computer. Sometimes I sort through the identification shots of the species that I have taken on the morning excursion so that I can share them with the relevant NGOs. This is a great way to monitor the animals and to track their whereabouts. I also use this time to catch up on any emails I might need to send, or work on reports that I am writing.
1530 – Twice a week I hold a half-hour Open Door session, where guests can pop in to learn more about marine wildlife and their habitats. Sometimes they also pop in to share photos and videos and chat about the excursions. Also, once a week I head over to the resort’s kids’ club Play, where children can come and learn through a Touch Tank activity. I collect some items from the sea, such as shells and broken coral, and I teach the kids a bit about conservation and sea life, before returning everything to the sea.
1700 – Twice a week, I attend the resort’s shark feeding to talk to the guests about the sharks and their behaviour. Following that, I attend the stingray feeding as well.
1830 – After the feedings, my work day ends. I head back to my room, take a shower and relax before dinner. Sometimes I’ll go for a walk on the beach and enjoy the sunset, sometimes I’ll do a bit of zumba with my colleagues. There are often things to do here as the HR team are always inviting the staff to join activities, such as ladies’ night. There’s also a staff bar, so I’ll often go to have a catch up with my colleagues.
2200 – By 10, I’m back in my room and ready to sleep!
Chiara says: “Working as a marine biologist in the Maldives is an incredible opportunity. I think what I love most is getting to be part of a network of conservationists, and working alongside other organisations and learning from them. LUX* recently sponsored the Whale Shark Festival in Maamigili, and it was great to be able to take our guests over to the island and join the festivities.”