Habitat loss from human development is taking a toll on migratory shorebirds around the world, with nearly half of the known populations in decline. While many of these birds have been finding refuge in man-made salt pans—long, muddy depressions of shallow seawater used in salt farming—this habitat is also disappearing.
Over a dozen motorbike riders have pulled over on the side of Boduthakurufaanu Magu, Malé’s main road, to stare out on the Varunulaa Raalhugandu surf points. In the high wind, strong waves are breaking against the shore, misting their faces with spray. The waves are heavy with memory: local surfers have ridden them for generations. In recent years, foreigners too have flocked here, to the southeast coast of Malé, the uber-congested capital of the Maldives, to share in the waves’ tubular splendor.