Ari-Meemu-Male – 10 days Diving the Maldives
Ari-Meemu-Male – 10 days Diving the Maldives
Our latest trip on the Maldives Siren started with everyone a little out of sync, group leader Carl suffered from a sudden lapse of memory, forgetting where he put his passport and subsequently he missed his flight but despite the late arrival of Carl in Male, everyone boarded the Siren together so after a quick briefing and lunch we headed off to do our check dive at Fenu Finolu.
The morning of our second day started with a dive at Lankan Manta Point, North Male. Unfortunately it did not live up to its name but a gentle drift along reef supplied sightings of octopus, honeycomb morays and juvenile oriental sweetlips. Our second dive at Nassimo proved to be a great hit. Nassimo’s North east corner is covered in brilliant blue soft corals. Its overhangs hide away large dense schools of snapper and squirrel fish. The first thing one diver asked on surfacing was whether we could do it again, this being an organised group charter of friends made it no problem at all to ‘double dip’ the beautiful Nassimo Reef.
Day three got underway with one of my personal favourites: Okobe Thila. Here there is an incredibly diverse amount of fish life. Even in the worst conditions the Thila can be identified from its resident schools of surgeon fish and neon fusiliers feeding right up to the surface. Descending through this ‘fish soup’ and watching the school part like curtains unveiling the soft coral topped reef below. Predating on the neon fusiliers and red tooth triggers are blue fin trevally’s and dog tooth tunas, often the only sign of their presence being the whoosh of displaced water as they hurtle into the throng, greedily snapping away at anything unlucky enough to get caught. The swim through here is packed with four striped snapper and guest Kelly got some great footage while pushing through this blockade of fish with her camera. With no one opting to do the offered night dive, beers and chit chat finished the day. A late evening wasn’t going to hinder us as all being well the next day would provide a sleep in!
An early start for crew unveiled a drop in the winds and as promised a sleep in for guests as we started our crossing to Rasdhoo Atoll. The sun was shining and making excellent progress did our first dive at the beautiful Rasdhoo Madivaru at 10am. As soon as we dropped in we disturbed 3 eagle rays which swam away over the reef only to return minutes later to make a slow fly by, checking us out. Moving on to Ari Atoll we made our second dive at Hafza Thila was a good time to demonstrate SMB deployment. Being a good safety conscious diver Collin ascended to his safety stop and proceeded to inflate his SMB a wonderful demonstration involving the line becoming entangled in his regulator before eventually snapping and the Sausage shooting at considerable speed to the surface! Class act Collin! The day finished off with one of our favourite night dives at Maaya Thilla to watch scores of white tip reef sharks and giant trevallies darting around in our torch light.
On day five of our cruise I was up very early to watch the sun struggling through the blanket of clouds. By the time it was time to wake the guests there was a full sunrise! The wind had dropped to a gentle breeze and the sea calm and inviting. Diving Hafza Thila once again proved things were clearing up under water too with 25m vis. We spent the first 15 minutes of the dive idling in the current watching baby white tips and a grey reef shark swim to and fro enjoying the flow of water over their gills. By day 6 the sunshine had finally arrived. Starting out with clear blue skies, our first dive, for me a highlight of the whole trip, was at Maalos Thila. The southern edge of this beautiful submerged reef is completely covered in the orange, yellow and the lightest blue soft corals. Pushing through giant schools of yellow and blue striped snapper exposed this wondrous collage of colours. Then a perfect end to what had been a near enough perfect day’s diving was spent at the island of Rhadhigaa. After an afternoon of fun and games the crew provided a beach barbeque and local islanders played acoustic guitar as we ate by candlelight. It was a truly magical evening.
After the evening festivities it wasn’t all who were up bright and early for our first dive on day 7 or the second dive for that matter…. however by our third scheduled dive of the day at Machafushi Wreck all were certainly up for it! A Japanese fishing vessel sank purposefully for divers, it’s intact crane and jib house nudibranchs, pipe fish and flatworms… a great spot for some macro critter spotting. Everyone was then ready for a good night’s sleep and to ready themselves for day 8 – which turned out to one of the best days of the trip! After a little shock at Kuda Ra Thila where strong currents almost washed us off this little gem of a dive site we headed to the outside of South Ari to look or whale sharks. We were not disappointed!! Within an hour the shout went out and it was the quickest dinghy entry I have ever seen, scraping at least 30 minutes off what I’d seen so far this trip!! After their first taste of whale shark snorkeling the guests agreed to skip a dive in attempt to see another one. Good choice, within 30 minutes another giant came to the surface and was happy to potter along at a gentle speed for over 15 minutes as our snorkelers swam alongside.
The day was not over however as that night we had a special surprise waiting. After a 5 hour crossing to Vaavu Atoll we made our night dive at our favourite night diving spot. This totally unique site provides close encounters (and I mean bumping into you) with 3 meter nurse sharks, 50kg giant trevally’s, marbled rays and many more. It’s a delight to me to watch our divers stare in stunned disbelief as these large animals swim all around!
A great day was followed with an even better evening and we didn’t think it possible to top the bill, however the following day during our second dive of the day at Kandooma Thila one lucky group managed sightings of up to 40 grey reef sharks… sadly I messed up the drop so it wasn;t my group that had this awesome experience – A fact I was reminded of several times during the rest of the trip. Cheers guys! The last day finished with an extra special celebration for Melinda, with her birthday being just a day away we organized a special underwater photo shoot and partied with cake to celebrate! Melinda also got to take the MKVI CCR for a test dive – what a natural!
Throughout the trip I had a running battle over my beloved bell. This beautifully crafted brass bell, which I lovingly ring every morning at 6 am, kept going missing… Day in, day out my bell would be missing from its stand and I’d have to resort to shouting and eventually pan lids to raise lazy divers from their beds. After thinking I’d won on the last day by Heiko hiding the bell in our own secret place I was presented with photographic evidence of where my poor bell had been missing to and abused in such dreadful ways…. Thankfully the bell is now safe and well and is prepped for more ringing next trip!!
The trip had been truly fantastic for both guests and staff. Thanks to everyone from Abyss Scuba and to all the incredible things we got to see. Another top hit and top trip aboard the Maldives Siren.Cheers Tom