Volunteering, Working, and Living in the Maldives

Last updated: February 2024

How do I find a Marine Biology job in the Maldives?

Here at Reefscapers, we have a full-time permanent team of marine biologists, resident on various Resorts around the Maldives. We also hire people for short-term contracts and for projects based on local islands. Most of our vacancies are for qualified marine biologists with work experience, and we hire qualified divers and confident swimmers for all of our roles.

Be sure to check out our past (and present) career opportunities here at Reefscapers. On that page, you can submit your CV for our file, and sign-up to our occasional newsletter for job vacancy alerts. We also advertise additional vacancies over on our Marine Savers site, where you will find details of our marine biology internships in the Maldives.

Our internships are very competitive, and the standard is very high. All our interns are graduates (BSc Marine Biology, or similar), qualified divers, confident swimmers, and free divers. Previous work/volunteer experience is a bonus, but not essential.

We occasionally offer Reefscapers internships, usually for recently graduated marine biologists, experienced in social media and science communications. We started to advertise marine internships due to the large demand generated by our full-time employment vacancies. We offer recent marine graduates the opportunity to work alongside our experienced team members in roles that are hands-on, working both above and below the waves.
Unfortunately, we are unable to offer an internship salary, but there is no fee to pay, and your full board and accommodation is provided (in shared same-sex quarters) along with all internal/domestic travel. Additionally, many of our marine interns have been subsequently offered a permanent role at Reefscapers, or go on to work with other marine projects in the Maldives.

Please note that we no longer offer volunteer positions, although you might find some historical references and reports of our old projects, working for both Reefscapers and at Marine Savers.

What is the connection between Reefscapers and Marine Savers?

Reefscapers is a marine consultancy company that works mainly with luxury resorts in the Maldives. Our long-term pioneering collaboration with Four Seasons Resorts Maldives is known as Marine Savers, where we work at two Marine Centres at Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru.

We manage both marine centres, promoting education and awareness in marine conservation to the Resort guests and local communities. We work to restore the coral reefs around the islands, as well as rehabilitating rescued sea turtles, and experimenting with marine aquaculture in a dedicated Fish Lab.

What Skills & Experience do I need to Work as a Marine Biologist?

For details of specific job requirements, you can browse through our previous vacancies at Reefscapers and Marine Savers (which we keep online for this purpose). You can also read about the varied career journeys and educational qualifications of our current team members at About Reefscapers and then meet our resident Marine Savers team.

Basically, you need to be a graduate in marine science (or similar), preferably with some work/volunteer experience under your belt, with a passion for the ocean, a commitment to conservation, and be a confident swimmer/diver. Additionally, as social media plays increasing roles in our lives, skills in science communications, content production, and photo/video editing are becoming more important to promote conservation awareness and build educational programs … let’s get the message out there!

Our Ideal Marine Biology Candidates

  • BSc/MSc in Marine Sciences (Marine Biology, Environmental Science, or similar).
  • Experience in marine conservation, including coral ID and propagation.
  • Confident swimmer and freediver; minimum Advanced PADI diver; boat-driver preferred.
  • Physically fit non-smoker, able to carry 20kg weight and work long hours in the ocean in all weathers.
  • Comfortable in guest-facing roles working at remote locations, with sturdy sea legs!
  • Numerate and computer literate; experience of data collection and analysis.
  • Good written/spoken English (extra languages desirable); sociable, creative, adaptable.
  • Photographer, video editor, content creator, experience managing social media accounts.

But… I don’t have a marine biology degree!

Are you a keen diver, passionate about reefs and conservation, with some hands-on volunteer experience, but with a degree in a non-marine subject? Then consider a (part-time) Master’s degree in marine science. Check your local colleges/universities, or enrol for a recognised online-learning qualification.

What is it like to work as a Marine Biologist in the Maldives?

📑 You are in luck! You can read the diaries of our marine interns and team colleagues, past and present, over at Marine Savers: Maldives Marine Biologists … In Our Own Words! Here, you will find more than 100 diary entries dating back to 2014, enabling you to re-live the experiences of a marine biologist during their first three months living and working in the Maldives. At times, it can be difficult and stressful, and there is a steep learning curve as all our roles are completely hands-on and customer-facing. Very soon, our new recruits are giving marine presentations, leading guided snorkel excursions with guests, and learning how to propagate our precious Reefscapers coral colonies.

🗓️ Depending on the season, you might be lucky and experience such events as: coral spawning, green turtle nesting and hatching, rescuing an Olive Ridley turtle, cruising with pods of spinner dolphins and pilot whales, snorkelling with mantas and whale sharks, diving with tiger sharks and hammerheads, beach biofluorescence… and so much more! 💙

🤿 Life in the Maldives is a unique experience for a marine biologist, working alongside a multi-disciplinary, multi-national hospitality team at all levels. As the sole marine scientist for miles around (or part of a very small team), the experience will be completely different from your science student days and your previous research roles. This creates an important opportunity to educate your resort colleagues in all aspects of marine science, conservation, and the global challenges of climate change.
Another huge bonus of resort-living is that your day-to-day work load will be varied, ranging from data entry and video editing, to snorkel trips & dive excursions, with regular megafauna encounters. This also makes your tropical island home much larger – you have the whole island, as well as all the water around it! 🌊🌴

🪸 Working in coral restoration can be challenging, as your work is never complete – there will always be more corals to propagate, and more maintenance tasks over time. But it can also be immensely satisfying to see how quickly the fragments branch and grow into colonies, and fluorish into true coral gardens replete with a rich biodiversity of marine species. In a small way, you are effectively ‘rewilding’ degraded reefs and introducing life to barren sandy lagoons. Within just a few years, the ultimate reward is seeing our propagated colonies participating in mass coral spawning events, perfectly timed along with the natural reefs. 🧡

How Can I Find Volunteer Work in the Maldives?

If we don’t have any employment vacancies at Reefscapers or Marine Savers, you can still send us your CV for our file (be sure to read and follow all the instructions).

When you arrive as a guest at our partner resorts, you can sponsor your very own coral frame, and spend every day with our marine teams. You can help with coral propagation, enjoy snorkel excursions and dolphin-spotting trips, and meet our turtle rescue patients (at Four Seasons).

Most resorts in the Maldives have a resident marine biologist these days, as well as a fully equipped Dive Centre, and a separate Watersports team. Very few Maldivian resorts have dedicated marine centres and a Fish Lab for marine research – you need Marine Savers for that!

You might wish to explore the available opportunities with other organisations around the Maldives, as a marine volunteer or a biology intern, or in a full-time role as a marine biologist.
Note: these organisations are not connected with Reefscapers/Marine Savers, and may be pay-to-join.

Where can I look for Paid Employment in the Maldives?

Most of the employment in the Maldives is in the hospitality industry, specifically at the island resorts (often managed by large international companies). Note that many hotels occupy the entire island, so everyone living and working there will be employees of the resort. This is in contrast to guest houses located on local islands within the community, with a completely different lifestyle.

You can browse through hundreds of full-time paid jobs in the Maldives, at local job listings pages:

List of Environmental Organisations in the Maldives

What can I expect, Living and Working in the Maldives?

Living and working conditions on resorts in the Maldives can vary a lot. Here are some things to consider that you might not have expected, as life can be significantly different to your home country!

🛂 Maldivian Work Visa is arranged by the hotel, who will also cover the costs of your international and domestic travel, and for each annual holiday. There can be delays in processing work visas, especially during the busy period up to high season, so be aware that your employer is likely doing everything it can to expedite the process. Delays can also be experienced for new hotels (large number of staff) and can vary between different skill/career categories.

💵 Your salary will be paid in USD into your bank account, and supplemented with a monthly service charge (which varies widely between resorts and throughout the season). Note that (much) lower rates of service charge are available to staff employed by third-party companies operating on the resort (such as Spa, Dive, Watersports, Marine), so ensure this is clear in your contract. The income tax threshold is high (MIRA), and you will likely not pay any income tax at all (0% tax on MVR 720k annually, equivalent to USD 3800/month). As all your food and accommodation is paid for, it’s perfectly possible to save 90%+ of your income if you wish.

🛌 Accommodation & Food – You will live in shared same-sex accommodation, and eat at the canteen. Note that you will not share the guest restaurants, but the buffet-style staff meals are generally good and varied (you cannot cook your own foods). There will be a staff ‘tuck shop’ to buy snacks (and toiletries), and there may be a café to buy meals. As a marine biologist, your active lifestyle will keep you fit but also give you a large appetite!
On all island resorts, there is a strict management hierarchy for food, accommodation and benefits, that rewards managers with private quarters, regular meals in the guest restaurants, and more off-day perks. 

🗓️ Working Week is 6-days, and your scheduled off-day can be used to do laundry and catch up with sleep! You may be able to join guest excursions and dive classes. There is flexibility if you need to visit local islands for banking or medical services. You can expect 30-40 days annual leave, usually taken as 1 or 2 holidays.
Some work days will be so busy that you can barely catch time for lunch, and will crash early to bed completely exhausted. Other days will be slow-paced, so you will need to be creative and proactive, pushing the boundaries and scope of your role to keep productive and feel fulfilled.

🌴 Island Life – The Maldives is a beautiful country, and every day you wake up to white sand and turquoise waters. Living on a small island, you will quickly build a fascinating community of new friends from all over the world, but your social life can be limited. Seeing the same faces every day can be fun, or… occasionally awkward!  It’s almost impossible to be physically alone, so you will enjoy moments on a deserted beach, become lost to time on a solo snorkel, and treasure an afternoon watching your favourite boxset.
The diverse array of staff cultures means there will be numerous birthdays and celebrations, especially during Xmas and Easter, when peak season brings peak activities and peak levels of fun!

⚽ Staff Facilities can include: beach, football/futsal, gym, volleyball, snorkelling, rec rooms, etc. Some resorts have badminton, tennis, swimming pool, paddle boards, etc. In addition, there can be dive lessons, language classes, dance sessions, movie screenings, karaoke, games nights … things can become very competitive!
Resorts vary widely regarding staff socialising with guests, from strict rules and guest-only zones, to more freedom to mingle. On smaller islands, you can expect more rules to respect guest privacy, and at newly opened hotels there can be some frustrating operational issues.

🥋 Dress Code is a modest uniform (provided), with covered shoulders, covered tattoos, and below-knee shorts. As the vast majority of resort employees are male, female staff may receive good-humoured attention, or encounter clumsy flirting at mealtimes! On off-days, a strappy top and short skirt might attract uncomfortable stares, and you might prefer to wear board shorts and a rash guard rather than a bikini.

💟 Relationships are common, as many employees are living away from home and are young & single (or pretending to be!) Discretion is essential, as extra-marital relationships are officially frowned upon in the Maldives (yet remain very common). Homosexuality is actually illegal in the country (but rarely prosecuted), prompting same-sex relationships to stay completely hidden (although all couples are welcomed as resort guests). For anyone seeking a serious long-term relationship, be aware that the Maldives has the highest divorce rate rate in the world!
Working-couple teams are rare, as both partners would need to be given jobs independently on the same resort at the same time (very difficult). Even then, only married partners at senior management level would be allocated a ‘couples’ room (unmarried couples sleep separately in shared same-sex quarters). TIP: When applying for employment or internship, do so independently and do not ask for any kind of couple placement (this will actually hinder your prospects in most situations).

🍷 Alcohol is not available on local islands, but is permitted on island resorts (and safari boats). Only a few resorts have an actual staff bar, so foreign employees have a channel to buy drinks directly from the store (with monthly purchase limits) for provate consumption. Honestly though, if you live to party, then choose a different country (Sri Lanka, India, Thailand). Note: it is officially forbidden for Maldivians to consume alcohol.

🚤 Travel – Many islands are remote, even from each other, and you can’t simply ‘island hop’ from one to another. Transfers can be via slow local ferry (dhoni), speed launch, seaplane, or domestic flight. Practically speaking, you should allow half a day to travel from the resort, and staff will often share the scheduled guest transfers (which might be at inconvenient times). If freedom to travel locally is an important part of your life experience, be sure to choose an island close to the capital Malé (Google maps).
Although saving most of your salary is very achievable, you could easily spend most of your income by travelling extensively around the Maldivian atolls (staying in guest houses or on a safari boat), and exploring the wider SE Asia region, from Sri Lanka to Malaysia and beyond …

☀️ Weather – it’s hot! Straddling the equator, the Maldives is a hot tropical country, and the sun can easily burn your skin, even on cloudy days or under shade. Bring sunglasses and sunhat, along with your shorts, rashguard,  sandals/flipflops/Crocs and sunscreen (v.expensive in Maldives). If you have very fair skin, then wear long sleeves and long trousers (loose-fitting cotton or linen) and carry an umbrella/parasol. (UV Index is rated 12+ ‘extreme’, see here and download the SunSmart app.) Avoid direct sun during the hottest time of day (11am-2pm) and regularly reapply your SPF50 (sun safety advice video) especially when swimming & snorkelling.
Despite all the photos to the contrary, it does rain a lot in the Maldives, although half the rain falls at night of course. Tropical downpours can cause localised floods that usually subside within a few hours. But rainstorms can disrupt travel plans, so don’t leave essential travel till the last minute.
During these last few years, climate change has certainly been affecting local weather patterns, and the monsoon rains are not as predictable or well-defined as they were just a decade ago.

🏥 Medical – most islands have a resident resort doctor/nurse, or will have relatively easy access to a local island clinic. If you have particular requirements or concerns, consider bringing your own medications and First Aid Kit (along with mosquito spray and sunscreen). The staff shop will sell sanitary products and condoms, as well as a wide range of toiletries, but your preferred brand/s may not be available. For any specific essentials, you may need to travel to the regional atoll hospital, or even to the capital island of Malé.
You will almost certainly receive comprehensive medical insurance, but do check your contract, and do not travel without it! (eg: a simple knee injury could mean a $10k long-haul flight home in a wheelchair).

 

👂How can I treat an ear infection after snorkelling? 🤿

Living in and around the ocean, ear infections are common for swimmers, divers, marine biologists and watersports teams alike. Some people are more susceptible than others.

What is Swimmers’ Ear?

Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa) is inflammation of the outer ear canal (external auditory meatus) connecting the outer ear (pinna) to the eardrum. Commonly caused by water remaining in the canal after swimming. The condition is more likely if there is impacted ear wax (cerumen).
Symptoms include: muffled hearing, itchiness, tenderness, pain; feeling as if your ear is blocked or full of water.

Lifestyle Prevention Tips

✅ Ear wax is naturally hydrophobic to prevent moisture retention, and acidic to prevent bacterial growth.
❌ Never use cotton buds, or any kind of mechanical wax-removal devices.
❌ Do not let water or soap/shampoo get inside your ears.

If You Are Susceptible to Swimmers’ Ear

✅ Visit your doctor for advice, a few weeks before coming to the Maldives.
✅ Consider occasionally using wax-dissolving ear drops.
✅ Old adage: Never put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear! (Don’t Remove Earwax)
✅ Consider using 1:1 white vinegar/rubbing alcohol (surgical spirit). Pour one teaspoon into each ear before and after snorkelling (to dry your ear canals and prevent bacteria from growing).
❌ Avoid using ear buds (switch to on-ear headphones instead).

Prevention Methods for Swimmers’ Ear

✅ Before snorkelling, use swim earplugs (held in place with a swim cap or headband).
✅ After snorkelling, gently wash your outer ear canal with drinking water. To drain, tilt your head and pull your earlobe in different directions while your ear is facing downwards.
✅ After snorkelling, dry your outer ear with a towel. Do not put anything inside your ear canal (it can push earwax and increase infection risk). Consider using a hair dryer on the lowest cool setting, held one foot away.

Treatment Methods for Swimmers’ Ear

✅ Consult a doctor – ear infections should be assessed and treated by a medical professional.
✅ Mild cases should improve on their own, but monitor closely for worsening symptoms.
✅ Keep ears dry at all times while bathing.
✅ Anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory ear drops can treat mild infections.
✅ Antibiotic tablets prescribed for significant infections, maybe alongside corticosteroid ear drops.
✅ Pain relief – paracetamol; warm or cold compress.
❌ Stay out of the water – best stick to dry land till your ear has recovered.
❌ Do not insert anything into the ear, as the delicate skin lining the canal is easily damaged.
❌ Decongestants or antihistamines usually do NOT help