CANDICE Gunning grew up on her parent’s farm and always dreamed of becoming a vet. She changed career paths after falling in love with diving when travelling.

She has now swapped Somerset for the tropical shores of the Indian Ocean, where she works as a marine biologist.

She spoke to Somerset Life magazine about landing her dream job.

I grew up in Barton, a farming community near Winscombe and went to Churchill Academy. I have always loved animals and grew up on a farm.

My aunt and uncle have an organic farm nearby, and I spent a lot of time helping with lambing and generally on the farm.

I’m a country girl at heart and love wildlife and nature. 

I have been a member of Somerset Wildlife Trust since I was a child and have followed their conservation projects. Over the years, I have enjoyed visiting Avalon marshlands and watching the starling murmuration.

It was never my plan to become a marine biologist but, after finishing school, I took a year out and decided to go travelling.

I was lucky enough to travel to the Maldives and learnt to dive. From that moment I fell in love with the ocean and knew this was calling in life.

I just wanted to learn more about the different organisms and how the beautiful ecosystems worked.

Weston Mercury: Le Meridien where Candice works. Photo: Plus AlphaLe Meridien where Candice works. Photo: Plus Alpha

That’s when I decided to pursue a career in marine biology. I completed my degree and looked about embarking on my new journey.

I heard about a role at the stunning Le Meridien Maldives - they were looking for someone passionate about the ocean and who who likes to interact with people.

It sounded perfect and I was thrilled when I landed the role. Since moving to the island, I can honestly say it’s the dream job. 

I feel incredibly privileged to be here and it really has been probably the greatest experience in my life to date.

No day is ever the same, some days I have a marine programme in the morning; often, these involve teaching people about turtles and stingrays, how they live, their diets and how to distinguish between different species and genders, then we go on a snorkelling trip to see them.

I also teach guests about mangroves and seagrass and the importance of these habitats and then show them these ecosystems too.

I also often take and teach people diving. One of the highlights for guests is the evening dolphin cruise we host here at Le Meridien.

I educate the guests about the dolphins and its fascinating to watch them play alongside the boat.

The resort is an eco-conscious haven abundant with verdant flora and fauna and is enveloped by a shimmering lagoon and coral reefs bursting with marine life.

Total paradise! Marine conservation is such a key part of the role.

I like to involve guests and some days I make coral frames with them to help to restore the reef here whilst also giving information about how we can protect these ecosystems and what has caused the damage.

One highlight of my week is on Saturday afternoon when the kids club come to the marine centre and I talk to them about the marine life around the island.

The kids' facilities at the resort are amazing and the children are generally super interested and have lots of questions.

I am also always available for the guests to come and ask questions about the marine life here and what they have seen passing by their villas.

I support the commitment to sustainability and marine protection in several different ways. Firstly I monitor the sea turtle populations here.

The scales on the side of the turtles' faces are individual to each one so I gather ID images and send them off to an organisation which helps to protect turtles by tracking individuals and finding out the areas they spend a lot of time and that we therefore need to protect.

We also track and monitor the manta ray population nearby. Another key role I play is planting coral frames around the island to help to restore the coral reefs which have been bleached throughout the world due to global warming.

I educate the guests about the importance of coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves as we are lucky enough to have all three ecosystems here at Le Meridien.

Finally, I help to teach the guests how to protect these vulnerable environments and how to be more environmentally friendly to prevent further damage.

I think helping the guests see these ecosystems during snorkelling and diving trips encourages the guests to want to help more.

After they see how much life these eco-systems support and how beautiful they are, often guests want to find out how to protect them.

Weston Mercury: A seaplane arrival at the resort. Photo: Justin Nicholas/ seaplane arrival at the resort. Photo: Justin Nicholas/

On the island itself one of the best things is that the majority of the natural plants and trees have been kept which means it has kept the natural feeling – it’s a tropical paradise and really like being on a desert island.

We have a lot of bats and herons. If you’re sitting on the beach you can watch the hermit crabs bustling around in their shells, sometimes you can even watch them changing their shell for a more comfortable one.

Of course, because it is a small island, most of the fauna is in the ocean. In the ocean around the resort there are three main areas, the mangrove area which at high tide provides protection for many juvenile fish and at low tide is home for lots of crabs and insects.

Then there is the seagrass which has actually become my favourite place to spend my time. 

It is full of little and large surprises from tiny, beautiful nudibranch to stunning ornate eagle rays and hungry green turtles (we have a large population of green sea turtles here).

The seagrass areas also acts like a nursery for all the baby reef fish! Then finally - and probably most importantly - there are the coral reefs which provide homes for millions of species and really are bustling and like underwater cities.

I really can never get bored of spending time in the ocean here, everyday I see new amazing things.

Because of these habitats being so close by people often see rays and reef fish passing by their villas.

You can often see baby black tip reef sharks near the shore. We are very lucky with the vast amount of life we have… the highlights being our green sea turtles, many different species of rays (feathertail stingrays, porcupine stingray and eagle rays being the most common), spinner dolphins and baby blacktip reef sharks.

My new island home is certainly very different to my life on at the family farm in Somerset but it’s been a wonderful experience for me to live here.

Really, it is a completely different lifestyle to anything else. I spend all my time on this tiny island which is about 1km long, but I think being in such a remote location where I can’t access anything easily has been a great way to learn what is really important.

I have met staff and guests from all around the world, and I love hearing about other people's lives and learning from them.

One of the highlights has been getting to know the local people and how they live; they are all so friendly and kind, it’s like another family out here.

Of course I miss home and my family as I have a very big close family but I definitely think that having such an amazing job and spending my days in the ocean and on the boats has made it so great - it’s like one big adventure!

I’m not sure about my future plans. There are a lot more places I would like to go in the world and I want to explore the ocean elsewhere but I would also like to study more.

I think eventually I would love to become a university lecturer as I enjoy teaching others. For now, I am just enjoying it while I am here and eventually my time will come to move on.

This article first appeared in Somerset Life magazine. For more information or to subscribe, visit