Team Coral Conservation Project - Planhotel


Marine Biologists Team

Discover all the experts that with passion and dedication supported this project in our Diamonds Resorts.

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Our Resident Marine Biologists are involved in the conservation, education and scientific researches focused on the maldivian coral reef. Every year, we also have Marine Biologsts from the University of Milano-Bicocca joining the team at Diamonds Resorts to contribute to the research and conservation of the maldivian coral reef.

A team that makes a worldwide change!


From 2014

Luca Saponari

I first arrived in Maldives in 2014. Here, I started working for Diamonds Thudufushi, where I met Mario Passoni, a creative and enthusisat marine biologist, with whom we founded the “Coral Conservation Project”.

I am graduated in Marine Biology at the University of Pisa and currently I am doing a PhD at the University of Milano-Bicocca with a scholarship funded by Planhotel.

My studies are focused on the role of common corallivores in tropical reefs. In particular, two seastars (Acanthaster planci and Culcita spp.) and a mollusk (Drupella spp.).

I am looking at their impact on coral reefs related to the coral cover. I am also following and developping projects focused on the coral gardening and coral rehabilitation technique, with the help of the Resident Marine Biologists and students from Bicocca. Specifically, the Coral Conservation Project, in Thudufushi, which aims at the education about corals by using the coral gardening technique, and the Athuruga Rehabilitation Project, which aims at the partial recover of the housereef using a floating ropes nursery technique.


From Aug 2018

Larize Nel

She finished her PhD in Zoology at the Nelson Mandela University in South Africa in December 2017 with the focus on juvenile fish and how they are using estuaries for refuge and feeding.
After this she was fortunate to join the Marine Megafauna Foundation in Mozambique as a research diver for six months with the focus on taking identification photos of manta rays, whalesharks, turtles and other marine megafauna to assist with their ongoing database.

She started in this position as the resident marine biologist at Thudufushi in August 2018 and she is now working on the coral conservation project. It is amazing to see how much they can recover in a short period of time, and I really hope to have more guest involved in this amazing project where we aim to recover our dying reefs.


From Spring 2018

Sara Vencato

Sara is a marine biologist graduated at the University of Padova (Italy) and her work is dedicated to marine ecology and conservation.

During her studies she has developed a particular curiosity about the benthic species and my internship inside the IAMC-CNR ( National Research Centre ) in Sardinia, Italy, and inside the CReS, rescue centre for marine turtles and marine mammals, helped me to focus my attention on protected species and to the study and management of them from an ecological point of view.

The working experience in Diamonds Athuruga is providing her the opportunity to improve her background skills and when she got involved in the Coral Rehabilitation Project she had the chance to learn new techniques in order to rehabilitate damaged coral reefs, and increase her knowledge about tropical ecosystem ecology.


From Jul 2018

Valerio Isa

I am currently studying Marine Science at the University of Milano-Bicocca. Thanks to the partnership between my University and Planhotel Group, I had the possibility to attend an internship at the Diamonds Thudufushi, from July to October 2017. Here, I got involved in their Coral Conservation Project. I found this activity really important to increase the awareness about coral reef and its ecological importance. Despite the educational purpose, I really enjoyed every part of the project and I happily noticed that most people appreciated our work.
I really hope the number of frames keeps growing and to be involved in the project again.


From 9 Apr 2018 to 19 Aug 2018

Cinzia Alessi

Cinzia is the Resident Marine Biologist of Thudufushi island. She obtained her graduation at the University of Palermo, in Sicily (Italy). During her studies/research experiences, she has been focused on how Temperature and Ocean Acidification can actually affect calcifying organisms, such as mollusks, corals, and coralline algae. Cinzia did a few international experiences that helped her to build her self-confidence on climate change. In particular, she worked in collaboration with Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota (Florida), CoralEye Indonesian Reef Research Outpost in the Coral Triangle (Indonesia) and the University of Western Australia (Australia).

Cinzia is really passionate about her job, in fact, she decided to become a marine researcher when she was 14 years old, and she never changed her mind about it. From diving in the Pacific and in the Atlantic Oceans for recreational and science reasons, she saw first-hand how coral reefs are being damaged. Having been fortunate to admire some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, she is now eager to combat its decline through research efforts.


From 1 Feb 2016 to 31 Jul 2016

Gabriele Scarinzi

I am a Marine Biologist, Scuba Divemaster & Photography Enthusiast, from Milano (Italy).

After graduation at the University of Milan Bicocca in Biology, I attended a master course for specializing in Marine science, and what is possibly the best place where you can do that, but of course the Maldives!!
6 months away from home in a magical place between Magoodhoo (Faafu Atoll), a local island where an outpost of the University of Milano-Bicocca is open to anyone interested in studying the tropical life, and Bandos Island Resort where I have put into practice my studies.
My second experience in this amazing Archipelago was in Thudufushi Resort, a diamond in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Here, beside leading snorkeling excursions and running biology presentations for our guests, I was also involved in the Coral Conservation Project. The dramatic increase in water temperature is always a putting at risk the health of our coral reef and the target is this project is to help corals to grow back in time.
A little help that everyone can give, for a much bigger result in the future we want to achieve!

For sure, the best part was having our guest involved, working alongside with them and seeing the gratification on their face!
So what are you waiting for?!  Come and join us people!!! =)


From 11 Oct 2015 to 10 Apr 2016

Chiara Gambini

Hi there ☺

I’m Chiara from Bologna. I’ve dreamt to become a marine biologist since I was five and… here I am, pursuing my greatest passion, the love for the ocean and its creatures!

My job allowed me to visit awesome places around the globe, such as South Africa, California, Maldives… and I know that many more have to come! Maldivian islands have been definitely my home for long time, 1 year and a half. Blessed to say that I worked at Thudufushi, working alongside Luca and other amazing people.

The Coral Conservation Project is really cool. Making frames and training all those ones who sponsored the project was so rewarding to me. Nothing would have been possible without your help guys… thank you so much!

Currently I’m working for a diving center in Sharm el Sheikh. Nowadays, being surrounded by such an healthy reef is so heartwarming!

Well… what else! Fingers crossed for our reefs then ☺


From 25 May 2015 to 02 Nov 2015

Amedeo Ciccocioppo

Amedeo Ciccocioppo was born on the 24th of July 1987 in Legnano (VR). He attended the University of Pisa where he obtained the Bachelor’s degree in “Ecological and Biodiversity Science” with a thesis on the identification of an alternative method for the restoration of Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria) Ascherson meadows. He continued his studies at University of Pisa to achieve the Master’s Degree in “Marine Biology” with the internship at the “WWF Lampedusa Turtle Rescue Center” in Lampedusa (Italy), which was followed by the thesis entitled “Space-time distribution of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) in the Pelagie Islands archipelago”.

Thanks to this writing, Amedeo won the travel grant for the “35th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtles” in Turkey. After the master’s degree, from May 2015 to November 2015, he worked as marine biologist at the “Diamonds Athuruga Beach and Water Villas” in Athuruga, Maldives. During this working experience, he contributed to the “Coral Conservation Project” and actively collaborated with the “Manta Trust” and “The Maldives Whale Shark Research Program (MWSRP)”. In April 2017 he published the scientific paper entitled “Geometric morphometry, shield models and biometry of the loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) in the central Mediterranean” in the scientific journal Amphibia-Reptilia (Volume 38, Number 2, 2017). Finally, from July 2016 to April 2017 he worked for the “MECR – Marine Environmental Consultancy & Research” company based in Doha as Relocation Officer and Team Leader of all projects concerning the seagrass, among the most recent we mention the “CP12 -E: additional dredging of the southern port channel” and the “New Port Project: excavation of the QEZ3 channel, walls of the quay and dredging of the canal”.


From 7 Oct 2014 to 7 Oct 2015

Mario Passoni

Hi guys,

I’m Mario Passoni from Italy.
I’m a PADI rescue diver, graduated in natural science, naturopathy and I have a master of medicine in nutrition. I travelled and worked around the world for more than 10 years, focusing on tourism and research activities in paradise places such as Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Madagascar and many others.

In the Maldives, I’ve met Luca Saponari, a Top Player in marine biology and with him I have created partnerships with research centres such as Manta Trust, Maldives Whale Shark Research and others.

We also opened a Marine Lab and we started The Coral Conservation Project in Thudufushi, a very important initiative that helps the Maldivian reef and involves guests in discovering the beauty of the underwater life.

After this amazing experience I’ve created and managed an ecotourism project called Diviac Eco Travel (known now as Padi Eco Travel) and now I’m working as Scientific Officer at Friend of the Sea.