Travel Reporter: Amy Everett
Arabella Willing is a resident Marine Biologist in the Maldives, based at the Park Hyatt Hadadaa. She told FashionBite how she got her dream job, after growing up in the Middle East and studying in Edinburgh.
For Arabella Willing, life really is a beach. When she isn’t organising excursions or snorkeling with guests of the Park Hyatt Hadahaa hotel in The Maldives, she kicks back with friends and a cold Corona. We asked her what she gets up to in a typical day…
“My job has a lot of different facets, which means that I will rarely have two days the same. My primary role is to provide Park Hyatt Maldives guests and the team with information about marine life and the environment – I’m here to answer any questions about the environment and offer advice such as where to go and what to look out for.
I accompany guests on guided snorkeling sessions, which begin with an introductory presentation about the biology of our house reef, and helps our guests to understand more about what they see on a snorkel or dive.”
Arabella is passionate about our environment, and feels it’s her job to educate people about how to preserve it. She said:
“It’s important for me that the employees also have knowledge and awareness of the environment, not only so they can share that knowledge with the guests, but so that we are all working together to protect our greatest asset- our stunning house reef.
Not everyone is initially aware of the abundance and rarity of natural wonders in this area, so I like to encourage them to make the most of their time with us. Often I will take guests on trips to see dolphins or to snorkel in truly remote and incredible locations.”
We asked her if she always dreamed of being a Marine Biologist. She told us:
“I’m very fortunate to have been raised by an extremely adventurous family; we all love the sea and to travel. I’m so privileged to have always been surrounded by people who inspire and indulged my love for nature. My childhood was spent roaming around the world, exploring different countries and cultures alongside my parents and two older brothers.
I was a snorkeler by the age of 6 and a diver at 16. When we were living in the Middle East my parents were friends with a group of Marine Biologists working for the Sultan of Oman, I was 16 and starting to make decisions about which career to pursue, we used to spend the school holidays watching baby turtles and dolphins. Unsurprisingly I thought that Marine biology might suit me too.”
Arabella studied in Edinburgh, at the University of St. Andrews, one of the best places in Britain to learn about Marine Biology and home to a special Sea Mammal Research Unit. So what brought her to the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa?
“The Maldives is a bit like the Holy Grail for divers and Marine Biologists. When I was offered the opportunity to volunteer as a biology teacher in 2010 there wasn’t much hanging around. I lived and worked amongst the local people and loved every minute of it. During the year I got in contact with other marine biologists in the Maldives, and it was through them that I landed my current (dream) job”
Her favourite thing about the job is inspiring a love of nature in other people. She told us:
“I find the look of wonder on the face of first time snorkelers irresistible, sharing my passion with our hotel guests and leaving them with lifelong memories is incredibly satisfying. The more people I can enthuse to care for the environment the better. I love what happens underwater, it’s incredibly beautiful and completely awe-inspiring.”
It’s not just the wildlife that keeps Arabella going when she misses friends and family back home, she’s fallen for the warmth of the locals, too.
“When I first came to the Maldives I lived for a year in a local village, and it’s the people who keep me here. They are so generous and kind hearted whist bristling with fun and mischief, it’s a great combination. I live on the Hadahaa island with all of my colleagues and our guests. We’re like one enormous family.”
Arabella’s job isn’t without its challenges. She explains that it can be tough to make people understand the impact their actions can have on the environment, and admits that it is much easier to convince children to treat the world carefully than adults.
So, what does a Marine Biologist do with her spare time?
“Kick back with a cold Corona and Skype my friends and family. I can’t imagine a world without Skype…..or Corona.”
If it hadn’t all gone to plan, what would she be doing now?
“I’d have been an actress. When I was younger people used to tell me I could be the next Dawn French, but that may have had more to do with my stature than my comedic talents!”
Take a look at Arabella’s ‘office’, the Park Hyatt Hadahaa, here. It’s beautiful, and we can’t wait to pay her a visit!