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In the first part of her conversation with Beybe, from Save the Beach, Elisa Spampinato from Traveller Storyteller explored where his passion for the environment and Maldives coral reefs began. In this second installment, Elisa delves into why Save the Beach was founded, the projects they are involved with and how tourists to the Maldives can get involved.

Enjoy their conversation!

The first word Beybe used to describe the work carried by Save the Beach (STB) was education. By understanding more about their activities and projects, I came to really like their educational approach.


In the early days, the first initiative consisted of regular beach cleaning days. They involved the local community members who participated every other month in this collective action. With external support, they were also able to install the first bins on those beaches. This was the beginning of a shift in local awareness about the major problems of waste and pollution. Nowadays, the tones of garbage collected – thanks also to the support of visitors – stand out from the homepage, as one of the two main tangible results achieved over the years. The over 30,000 tones (31,416 to be precise) of waste, and the almost 12,000 corals planted (11,652) show the difference that their work makes.

But there is another fundamental achievement that is hard to share in numeric form, but which is equally, if not more important, than the restoration projects themselves. This is the third pillar of the Save the Beach approach: community engagement.

This first-hand approach is also used here and with magnificent results, especially when the children are involved in entertaining and recreational events. Like the two-day ‘One nation coral revival’ festival organised in 2015 with the full support of local ministers, tourism and Maldives-based environmental organisations; this event marked their presence in a solid way.

Raising awareness of the issues in the local environment that are caused by climate change or man-made expansion is more effective in a playful context, through which the parallel monitoring and training activities acquire more significance. Discovering the dynamics of the layers and connectivity between the natural elements can simply start with a walk on the sandy beach and realising that the sea hosts more living beings than we might expect.


Who would purposefully step on something alive? No one, of course. However, this might happen when we don’t recognise those ‘things’ as being full of life. For as tiny as they might be, corals are not rocks but animals.

The moment you hold a coral in your hands, you can see the little polyps inside the fissures and feel that there is life in there. If you know something is alive you will protect it from dying, you will nourish it and respect its existence. So you won’t touch them, you won’t play with them, because ‘they are not toys’.

Beybe explains that hands-on interaction has been essential in their educational mission.
Protecting nature starts with getting close enough to be able to see things that might look different from afar. Seeing more but also listening more. Protecting nature starts with reconnecting with the natural environment on the empirical level and understanding how it functions.

Scientific data and applied knowledge are more globally available today, and therefore can
better support the journey towards conservation and restoration. Allying with science has been an important milestone in the climate change discussion in the tourism industry, for example, as the pioneering initiative of the Glasgow declaration (of which Secret Paradise is a signatory with an ongoing Climate Action Plan) shows. ‘Today we go with data’, Beybe shared, talking about the three scientific papers Save the Beach has contributed to producing.

However, it hasn’t always been this way. The natural erosion of the islands, or the connection between the tides and the monsoons, and the ways the corals live and reproduce, are all phenomena whose scientific information is not often widely spread.

Beybe himself, once his interest and mission revealed themselves, struggled to deepen his knowledge through formal education and university courses because of their absence in the Maldives. It took him a lot of determination and patience to find courses and training opportunities, as well as field work and in-depth workshops on aspects of local biodiversity.

It must be said that when he finally had those opportunities, he fully embraced them and turned them into new opportunities for many other people.


‘This site is ready for studies’, he informed me. Over time, after suffering from a lack of data, STB has now become a producer of new data and research. Strengthened by regular collaborations with universities – such as the one with Genoa that started in 2015, for example – plus international centres and other local and global organisations, this Maldivian NGO keeps its doors constantly open to volunteers. Beybe was one of them in the past. Eager as he was to acquire more knowledge, and having waited some time for the opportunity that was given to him by the Marine Research Centre’s Director himself, he didn’t waste a second of it.

For two months he attended the centre every day collecting data, supporting ongoing studies and doing research. Our conservationist never waited for things to happen to him, but created opportunities whenever he spotted the potential for it. The volunteers that join Save the Beach today arrive from the local islands as well as from abroad. They are fully trained in coral restoration, and they also receive financial remuneration when they accompany the tourists on any of their tours.

Nowadays, STB’s centre offers scientific research expeditions and opportunities to visit its coral nurseries and coral restoration sites. Tourism certainly represents an important source of income which supports the work of the NGO to continue its crucial activities. Tourists also have access to a series of adventurous and hands-on experiences, such as snorkelling a seagrass bed, visiting a coral rehab site, conducting waste audits and even gathering whale shark data. Through the years the tourism activities offered have changed and today the list is visibly longer. Secret Paradise is proud to have prompted the birth of their first-ever conservation tour in 2014. ‘Ruth approached us with the idea to offer an eco-tour. At the time, we had no idea what an eco-tour was (eheheh)’. Beybe went on to tell me how valued this partnership is to them for being built on a shared vision. ‘Honestly, this is one of the best relationships we have locally.’

When I started enquiring about change, Beybe reflected that tourists don’t seem the same as ten years ago. ‘Today they are much more aware of the climate crisis – probably because they have started seeing its effects impacting their own lives.’ But another interesting observation is that they want to contribute, and they are willing to ‘get their hands dirty’ and leave a positive impact when they travel.

The Marine Life Identification Programme 2023 is an example of how to perfectly combine education and recreation while improving data collection for scientific purposes at the same time.

Tourism in the Maldives clearly can be an opportunity to support sustainable development, conservation and even restoration. A first step for a visitor, perhaps, might be to take part in the Insight into Maldives Marine Conservation tour, which Secret Paradise organises with STB. During the five-hour tour, they can learn about the challenges that the Maldives islands face in maintaining their fragile ecosystem, and they can dive or snorkel the coral nursery maintained by STB. They end the tour by tasting local sweets and sipping black tea, while taking in all the new information and the first-hand experiences of the day.

A guide shows a guest images on a laptop

To conclude our conversation, I asked Beybe to leave us with a message for tourists. Reinforcing his characteristic hands-on and proactive attitude, instead he presented me with a question: What can you do every day back home to protect the environment?

I’ll leave you with Beybe’s action-oriented reflection, gladly admiring how many more achievements could be celebrated if we mix a strong vision with perseverance and determination.

Happy diving and snorkeling in the Maldives, among more thriving reefs!

Meet Beybe and the Save the Beach team by booking our daily Villimale Eco Walking Tour here!