The Maldives’ first national marine park (NMP) covers over 1,000 hectares in the Noonu Atoll area of the Indian Ocean island chain. This environmentally diverse lagoon is known as Edu Faru. Nine uninhabited islets were granted national park status by the Maldives government in 2017, with the aim of conserving the marine for wildlife protection and future research. Prior to the new classification, Noonu Atoll was a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve as a natural ecosystem boasting eclectic biodiversity in the Northern atolls of the Maldives. However, there were few concrete legal restrictions preventing pollution and human encroachment into the habitats of sea life.
The promoter responsible for the creation of the new national park is Mohamed Hameed. He campaigned for over 20 years to protect his native land. Hameed gained support from both presidents shortly before the vital negotiations on legislation were made. Plans were announced in 2011, but government uncertainty leading up to the presidential election in 2013 proved a stumbling block to getting the proposals passed into law. The new national park sets out to keep largely undamaged and unpolluted land and sea in pristine condition. The environment is diverse, with coconut palm trees growing around mangroves and lakes. Wildlife thrives in the marine areas, including big land crabs and many species of birds, coral and fish – a principle reason for the protection.
The MNP is a non-profit organisation that strives to protect, conserve and preserve the natural setting and rich biodiversity of the Edu Faru and surrounding waters with minimum intrusion for future generations. The MNP is managed as a community project with close links to the atoll community, where the MNP promotes educational activities, sustainable tourism and preservation of cultural traditions.
As well as marine biologists, the marine park is also a popular destination for couples, particularly on honeymoons. There are existing holiday resorts from before national park status. For example, international chain Hilton Hotels offer relaxing Maldives Iru Fushi Resort & Spa excursions around the islets, among a “comprehensive list of activities” that are on offer at the property.
The Hilton Maldives have designed a complete tailored package of various excursions so that guests can experience the beautiful nature of the Maldivian islands. Guests can try their hand at long-established methods of Maldivian fishing and meet the community on their travels around inhabited neighbouring islands, watch the dolphins, dive or snorkel in the Indian Ocean. This is along with exclusive boat trips directly from the resort to carefully selected parts of the marine national park, an area of outstanding natural beauty. These are just a few of the excursions available for a true Robinson Crusoe deserted island experience.
Eight luxury hotels have opened near to the marine park since 2017, but the MNP remains wonderfully unspoilt. Just be sure to keep your tourism as eco-friendly as possible during your visit, so we can together ensure that this tropical paradise will remain thriving for future generations.