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Charter yacht helps manta ray research in the Maldives through Yachts for Science

8 June 2022 • Written by Richard Madden

Now that the disruptions of the pandemic are receding, BOAT International’s Yachts for Science (YFS) initiative is finally bearing fruit. The concept behind this innovative idea is for marine scientists conducting research projects in locations all around the world to be able to make use of spare berths when a yacht is being chartered, or when it would otherwise be lying idle.

“I was listening to a BOAT International podcast about YFS,” says Jill Zwaans, founder of yacht charter company, Yacht Story. “I just loved this idea. Knowing we have a fleet of five yachts based in the Maldives, I felt I needed to reach out and see where we could assist.”


The lucky recipient was Simon Hilbourne and his team from the Manta Trust. “I'm studying a population of endangered oceanic mantas which pass through the south of the Maldives every year for a couple of weeks in March or April. Up to 200 pass through during this finite window every year and we try to collect as much data as we can and then they are gone for another year.”

Simon Hilbourne

So how did this unique opportunity work out? “A family was chartering the boat and they wanted to learn about the research we were doing,” reports Simon. “As researchers we want to spend hours under the water making a sequence of dives throughout the day to collect the data we need and it's often quite repetitive work. Very understandably, given that we were being hosted, we spent time talking with the clients teaching them all about our research.

“It was still extremely useful for my project and I was given access to areas that I wouldn't normally be able to reach. In an ideal world, I would have spent more time researching, but at the same time it enabled us to spread the word about the importance of our project. Unfortunately, the timing didn't quite line up and we didn't get any of the oceanic mantas, but we still had some incredible dives with the guests and saw lots of tiger sharks and thresher sharks which you very rarely see anywhere else. These sightings are also very useful for our overall database.”

Fuvahmulah Island
Simon Hilbourne

If your boat ever has spare berths or downtime between private use or charter that could be deployed to support marine scientists – and you have an interest in helping scientists conduct their invaluable research – then please contact us. Better still, if you’d be happy to welcome a scientist or two along on your own personal expeditions, we would be delighted to hear from you.

To find out more about Yachts For Science, click here.