The Maldives is an area of outstanding marine life and for the vast majority of holidaymakers, this underwater spectacle is what draws them to this part of the world.   Because of the close proximity of many reefs to the shore and the shallow lagoons that separate them from the beach, even those with little or no swimming experience are able to snorkel and enjoy the amazing sights.  However, the ecological system is delicately balanced and in danger of being lost to future generations, not just as a result of natural circumstances but also because of the actions of visitors. 

The main things that are placing the health of the reefs at risk are:

Coral damage:  Corals are actually tiny animals and are very susceptible to changes in the temperature of the water.  Most people have heard of the bleaching of corals caused by El Nino.  However, coral can be seriously damaged or killed by snorkellers and/or divers inadvertantly standing on or touching the coral, or even deliberately breaking off pieces for souvenirs.  Not only is the latter illegal in the Maldives, it puts the whole ecosystem at risk as the habitats of many fish and other marine life are destroyed.  Swimmers/snorkellers and divers should take great care to avoid contact with all corals.  Also worth noting is that coral is extremely sharp and coral cuts and scrapes easily become infected in the hot and humid conditions of the Maldives. DON'T TOUCH OR STAND ON THE CORAL.

Fish feeding:   Whilst the Maldives might seem like a giant aquarium, it isn't and the fish do not need feeding.  In fact throwing table scraps to fish in order to watch the feeding frenzy that results will actually hasten their death.  As an example, marine fish cannot digest bread which swells in the stomach and causes a slow and painful death.  Feeding of fish either by hand in the water or from the jetty can encourage aggressive behaviour in normally shy and docile species as they come to associate humans with food.  As a result of this practice, there have been numerous reported examples of visitors being 'butted' or 'nipped' by fish expecting to be fed.  Even more distressing is the fish feeding laid on as entertainment by some islands.  Many visitors now write to the management of islands where they have observed this happening, expressing their concern.  DON'T FEED THE FISH.

Inappropriate disposal of rubbish:  As an island nation, the Maldives do not have the same level of facilities for the disposal of rubbish as elsewhere in the world.  Rubbish from tourist islands is transported by boat to Thilafushi - known to many as 'Rubbish Island,'  - near Male, but there is now so much produced that boats bringing foods from India return home full of rubbish for disposal of there, as well.  Often, rubbish blows into the sea from the boats, or indeed is disposed of in the lagoon of Rubbish Island, polluting the surrounding waters.   A walk along the resort beach at first light will almost invariably involve stepping over (and ideally picking up!) plastic bags and bottles that have washed up overnight.  From the depths, plastic bags can look remarkably like jelly fish - the staple food of Turtles.  They try to eat these items, but cannot regurgitate them and can die a painful death as a result.  DO TAKE YOUR RUBBISH HOME.

Touching/holding fish/marine life:   All of the marine life in the waters of the Maldives is wild.  Like any wild creature, they do not take kindly to contact with humans.  Touching, catching, holding and stroking of any living creature in the ocean causes distress and can result in its' death.  DON'T TOUCH ANY MARINE LIFE.

Help look after the Maldives by challenging people observed breaking these guidelines and informing management of your concerns.  Expressing your views can work!  See: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopi...  and http://www.protectthemaldives.de/PTM_...