Northern Maldives ; Midnight Mantas
Northern Maldives ; Midnight Mantas
Fresh back from holiday it was a pleasure to see the beautiful Maldives Siren at rest ready for our cruise. With staggered arrivals on day one our 7 German and one Australian guests spent a lazy afternoon setting up kit, catching some sun rays, listening to briefings and catching up on some well-deserved rest! We made an early start on day two for our first check dive at Fedu Finolu. The visibility had really cleared in my absence and we had a great first dive, spotting three green turtles and one hawksbill! Cleaner pipe fish and banded boxer shrimp were also on the menu, tucked into the deep overhangs. Dive two was done at one of my personal favourites in North Male. Despite the visibility being a little disappointing the medium current really had the beautiful soft corals blossoming to their fullest. Eagle eyed Martin spotted a Torpedo ray swimming way into the gloom. Even after several hundred dives here in the Maldives I have never seen one and he had to produce his photographs as documented evidence to make me believe!
Day three started with a dive on the outside wall of Giraavaru Kandu. Steep ocean drop off, mild current, good vis and very ambient early morning light made this a really relaxing one to start the day before we cruised over to Ari Atoll. We finished off with a great twilight dive at Maarga Reef. The setting sun lighting up the impressive swim trough’s packed with glass fish. Ari diving was just getting better and better. Fish Head Thila topped the trip thus far with some amazing interactions with grey reef sharks, at one point, while bent low getting a better look at a peacock mantis shrimp, I glanced up to see the look of amazement on guest Monika’s face. I turned to see what her wide eyes and hand was pointing at only to find myself face to face with a 2M grey reef shark who was in turn getting a better look at my rump!
The trip was certainly hotting up but frankly nothing compared to what happened on the evening of day five. Fesdu Lagoon is a very special place. At certain times of the year it is a magnet for one of our most treasured and admired sea creatures. Like our southern trips at dusk we put our powerful flood lights out over the sea. Instead of hoping to attract whale sharks however at Fesdu we want Manta! We were not disappointed, a night dive with four manta followed by snorkelling till past midnight with these graceful, twirling feeding creatures was truly incredible.
Day six started with another optimistic Manta hunt, after a night of gorging inside the Lagoon, Manta sometimes move outside to have a spruce up on the cleaning station right on top of Fesdu Thila. The evening’s festivities had obviously taken its toll however as today the manta had slept in…. A pair of mating octopus was to be found there shamelessly performing in front of our captivated divers… We’d had our fill of mantas by this point and were ready for a Shark day! Hafza didn’t disappoint as usual with its meaty grey reefs cruising past for photos. Maaya Thila was a joyous surprise for me also. South Rock just off the main Thila is often visited by two or three mature grey reefs. Today however there were ten juveniles! They stuck around for a while yawning in the current before sauntering away. Maaya’s night dive was as spectacular as usual with photographer Lars Peters ‘Unsure where to look first there was so much action’. He did however make his mind up producing some fabulous photographs of the feeding white tips, trevally and marbled rays!
We woke on day seven in Baa Atoll home of the famous Hanifaru Lagoon after our 10hour night crossing. Luckily we had already had our fill of manta action as dives at Dharavandhoo, Hanifaru Reef and Nelivaru Thila proved fruitless in terms of manta but special congratulations go to Birgit Elaesser who today completed her 500th dive!!! Day 8 saw us cross to Lhaviyani Atoll. This was very exciting for me as I hadn’t dived here for a year and I was desperate to see how some of my favourite sites were getting along. The Shipyard as always failed to disappoint. This completely individual site with the wreck of the Skipjack II standing vertical, proud of the water, is a spectacle to behold. Timing it just right for the current we drifted along the bottom before working our way up the deck. Still resident were our nesting Sargent major fish, ferociously defending their eggs against the hungry wrasse darting around. Once disturbed by divers however the wrasse got their chance and darted in to scoff as many nutritious eggs as quickly as possible!
Day 9 was a reason for me to become even more excited. On the cards were three of my all-time favorites Kuredu Express, Christmas tree Thila and Miyaru Kandu! Kuredu Expres started the day off with a bang, providing sightings of marbled rays, dog tooth tuna, shovel nosed rays, green turtles, hawksbill turtles and bumphead parrot fish!! We enjoyed a fantastic safety stop on the reeftop, watching an old scarred bumphead taking a time out on a cleaning station. Martin was able to get very close for some video when the large fish turned, eyed him up obviously considered him for a head butting and then made his retreat. Clearly met his match.
The trip ended on two of the best dive sites here in the Maldives. Miyaru Thila bore fruit with tens of meandering grey reef sharks, inquisitive eagle rays and schooling barracuda. Words cannot describe the quality of the diving at Christmas Tree however. As always a highlight on our northern trips, this time around the whole sight was packed with glass fish and silver sides. Being surrounded by these densely packed fish at points became quite disorientating especially when the tuna and trevally rushed in to hunt, scattering the schools everywhere! Truly incredible. Thanks to all for the great welcome back on board the Maldives Siren! Tom
Photos by Dr. Lars Peters