That was a dream come true for marine biologist Lisa Bauer who we met at the Hurawalhi eco resort in the Maldives. Lisa is a curious person and has a thirst for knowledge, so after her studies in Vienna she decided to discover a new world under water and found her dream job at Manta Trust, a UK-registered charity focusing on a multidisciplinary approach to the worldwide conservation of manta rays and their habitat.
IRMA: What fascinates you about the sea?
LISA BAUER: I was always extremely curious and I wanted to learn something about a different world, a place almost unknown, a different cosmos. I always wanted to do scuba diving and combine that with my profession.
IRMA: What was your first and most intriguing experience when diving in the open sea?
LISA BAUER: The first time I did bluewater diving was a challenging experience. Everything is blue around you, you are very deep (30 meters) and you must be extremely careful as there is no feeling of space and border. This experience can affect your mind and you have to have an experienced guide.
IRMA: After studying marine biology you focused on your favourite sea animal, the manta ray?
LISA BAUER: Yes, I knew that I wanted to live and work next to the sea and learn as much as I can about the manta ray. They are fascinating, friendly animals but at the same time very little is known about them. At Hurawalhi resort, I work very closely with ProDivers to offer interested guests snorkeling excursions to known manta aggregation sites. I enjoy my work explaining a world that is still very unexplored.
IRMA: How does your typical work day look like here at Hurawalhi Resort?
LISA BAUER: I spend at least three hours in the sea and do my work, which means I am collecting data for the Manta Trust. When I am back in the office I analyze my collected data and record it in the Lhaviyani atoll manta ray sightings database. A main part of my data collection work involves going on excursions with interested guests, to whom I explain the biology and conservation status of manta rays. And of course I have my time off.
IRMA: How does your time off on a Maldives island look like?
LISA BAUER: As I am here on this island for at least a year, you sometimes need to get away, even if it is only on a boat trip along the coast or to a different island. But being underwater for me is also time off. It is like meditation, it feels like a world of my own that is sacred, especially when you live in Asia where space is luxury. Time for myself is very important to me and the sea gives me so much strength and energy.
IRMA: Isn’t it also very tiring to spend so much time in the water?
LISA BAUER: Oh, yes, very much so and going scuba diving or even snorkeling along the coral reef makes you very tired after a couple of hours. It is not something I could do for the rest of my life. But at the same time, it is a place full of life and energy. For example, when I did my internship in the Maldives my supervisor was much older than me but had the body of a twenty-year-old girl. You have to be the adventurous type and enjoy nature a lot to live a life that scientists and explorers used to live back in the old days. But in a more luxurious setting, of course!