About this episode:
Dr Guy Stevens is the CEO and co-founder of The Manta Trust. An experienced marine biologist and expert in conservation, he set up the Maldivian Manta Ray Project in 2005. Working closely with the Maldivian government to establish protective measures and educate against targeted fishing, his project eventually grew and now stretches across the oceans. In this episode, Guy explains how his hobby turned into a reality; from breeding tropical fish in his sister’s fish tank to swimming alongside dolphins and sharks in the Maldives. He shares his thoughts on the intelligence of fish, the multiple mysteries of the Manta and highlights his concerns about sustainable tourism driving the Maldivian economy.
Main episode photo © Dr Guy Stevens
I don’t really do holidays. I really like creating. Holidays always seemed to get in the way of finding a new artistic opportunity. I now no longer think that to be the case. Indeed, through making this podcast, “Trees A Crowd” has taken me on adventures across the country – from Cornwall to Northumberland – and across the Globe – from New York to the Maldives. It transpires that cross-pollination of work and play proves extremely fruitful. What am I talking about? Well…
A few years back I had learned to scuba dive. I learned in a quarry in Slough… with next to zero visibility… in water with sheet ice covering it; ice which had to be broken before we descended in our dry-suits… it really wasn’t fun. So, last February, my vocational dance card empty, I set about organising a LONG OVERDUE holiday to try my hand at scuba diving for real – and this time somewhere with fish.
It’s worth saying at this point that I had just returned from my trip down to Dorset, to Kimmeridge, to interview Dr Steve Etches for his episode. Anyway…
A friend of mine had been going on about Manta Rays for some time. She had had an incredible encounter with them a few years back and, knowing my fascination with the Natural World, suggested that I should definitely try to go somewhere where I could witness these majestic marine creatures firsthand.
I found a resort in the Maldives on Laamu Attol – famous for its Manta population and eco-tourism – indeed it hosted a resident Marine Biologist who worked for the Manta Trust. What better place to go in order to see Manta Rays. I started looking up flights, transfers, sorted the logistics. I was psyched. And then the brainwave hit: “What if I could record an episode of ‘Trees A Crowd’ in the f**king Maldives!” Hell, yeah! TAC was going to go global!
So, on to Google… M-A-N-T-A T-R-U-S-T… Website up. I found pages full of information on Manta and Devil Rays, on what the project was setting out to achieve. There too was a page full of headshots and biographies – there was Dr Guy Stevens, the CEO and Founder of the Trust, and there was Nicole and Maeesha, the resident Biologists on Laamu Attol. I was really very excited. This seemed like a perfect fit. Holiday – tick. Episode of TAC (should they be willing) – tick. Over-achieving Oakes – tick!
So, I clicked on the “Contact Details” page desperate to make contact, and what did I see? Where were the headquarters of the Manta Trust? Take a bloody guess! They were based in Dorchester, in DORSET, 15 miles from where I was the day before talking to Steve!! Nonsense.
Anyway, the rest is history. I caught up with Guy in the Manta Trust offices in London a few weeks later, and the fascinating results are here for you all to listen to. And as for what happened when I arrived in the Maldives… well, you’ll just have to wait to find out!
THE MANTA TRUST
MANTA TRUST ON SOCIAL MEDIA
THE MALDIVES – WIKIPEDIA
SIRENIA & STELLAR’S SEA COWS – WIKIPEDIA