Tom’s Swan Song
Tom’s Swan Song
For the past year I’ve been lucky enough to live and work on board Worldwide Dive and Sail’s flagship the Maldives Siren. This was to be my last trip and I was hoping it would be a great one. Trainee Cruise directors Krista, Varis and new member Lars were taking the reins which left me to take a back seat and enjoy the cruise with a special guest for me, my mum! Arriving a day early Mrs Scuba Booth joined us from her domestic flight to Laamu ready to have a look at what I’d been up to for the last year or so….
On our first full day of diving we had a gentle introduction, exploring Laamu’s fantastic hard coral giri’s and thila’s for two dives before crossing to Thaa Atoll. The weather was great and we finished day one with a fantastic sunset dive at Fahala Thila. Day two’s diving really set the standard for the rest of the trip. After a short crossing to Meemu Atoll we dived at a spot that is very special to me. The Maldives has the highest number of manta rays in the world, I have been fortunate to see my fair share of them and at Kurali Corner there was a very high probability of seeing lots more! Jumping into the narrow channel is not the most inspiring start to a dive. The cloudy water running over a shallow sandy rubble strewn bottom hardly inspires awe with its beauty. However after a while you start to notice little things about this channel which makes it quite special. Octopus peek out at you from behind corals, their shy round eye’s a tiny dot in the ever changing colour and texture of their rubbery skin. Shapes drift in and out of the cloudy waters, marbled rays, Napoleon Wrasse and Eagle rays all make an impressive silhouette but nothing makes the breath catch in your throat or sets off a melody of tank banging like when a Manta drifts into view!! The channel itself is littered with cleaning stations, many spotted sweetlips, grouper and black snapper all take their turn at a spruce up but they all make way when the 4 metre 1.5 tonne manta comes for its daily valeting! Our dive consisted of hanging around these coral blocks as gentle giants soared above us. As planned we returned to the same dive site the following morning for more manta action.
Meemu doesn’t just offer great channel diving, the hard Coral Giri’s inside the Atoll are pristine. We dived onto Assa Giri for our second dive. The visibility on this dive was by far the best of the trip and the midday sun lit up the reef like something from a holiday advertisement. Hiding among thick shoals of two spot snapper eagle eyed Swiss diver Christian spotted a small chromodoris Nudibranch, right next to its spiral of recently laid eggs. Fantastic! Heading north from here we stopped off at our compulsory night dive, Alimata Jetty. This is by far the best and most popular night dive in the country. An incredible array of sharks and rays turn up for the feeding! 3m (10ft) nurse sharks brush you as they pass and black tip reef sharks dart straight into your torch light before veering off. My mother’s eyes were the size of dustbin lids and I have only now recovered full circulation in my hand from being squeezed. (A hypnotherapist was consulted before the trip from a fear of sharks!)
Alimatta Jetty is often the pinnacle to our trips with almost everything paling in comparison. Not on my last trip though! Maximizing our chances of whale shark sightings we took our time and stuck around in South Ari. After a full day’s diving we anchored at Digura Arches where, after putting out our powerful spot lights, we attracted two manta rays! Hours were spent free diving with them, we gave in before they did however as our beds called and they we’re certainly not getting tired of the easy plankton pickings!! The following two days we broke a few more cherries on board the Siren! Not many guests had seen mantas before our cruise but the next two days we also broke them in with our whale shark sightings. The first was see as we snorkelledg outside Maamagili and the second whilst diving at Rangali Manta Point; the 8metre goliath cruising straight towards guest Ian on his safety stop! Ian gave in to overwhelming odds on the aquatic game of chicken with a brisk portside manoeuvre!
The last year has certainly been an experience for me, culminating in one of the best cruises I’ve had the pleasure of being on. A fantastic group of guests and a crew I am very sad to be leaving behind. Thank you Maldives Siren!! Tom