This was my last trip on board the Maldives Siren before taking a month’s leave to return to England; it turned out to be one to remember! Our beautiful liveaboard yacht, fresh from dry dock and a thorough make over, was met a day early by our guests in Male. Videographer extraordinaire Inge Holtrop and husband Rian came on board a day early in order to shoot an in house information video for the Siren Fleet. With a late arrival of our own Susie Erbe from head office the evening turned into a late one with dry dock completion drinks!
The rest of our group rocked up the following day right on time and as we were all itching to get back into the water after a long and tiring maintenance break we did our check dive a day early at Fedu-Finolu. The steep walls here are always a hideaway for all sorts of exciting macro along with the larger resident green and hawksbill turtles. This day however we didn’t just see one but 5 green turtles along with a hawksbill, all settling down for an evening siesta.
Day two of diving took us to one of my firm favourites. The vibrant light blue soft corals covering Nassimo Thila are a spectacle even when conditions aren’t ideal. Seeing the blooming corals emerge through the milky incoming current is a site to behold and a relief to me as I had a little difficulty finding the drop point this day! Along with the schools of four striped snapper, midnight snapper and Jacks congregating here Paul Chesterman and I saw at close range, startling us as they emerged from the gloom two Eagle Rays! Paul Hurriedly followed them with his Go-pro camera!
Madivaru in Rasdhoo Atoll is by far one of my favourite dives on this itinerary. The wide channel is comprised of some unique topography. A thin ridge of hard corals divides a shallow sandy basin and the deep open ocean on the outside of the Atoll. On days when we have in current, large congregations of fish, sharks and rays appear on the outside of the ridge enjoying the clear oxygenated water flowing in. Day three was no exception while on our morning dive we got the perfect conditions. Hanging on the ridge we looked through the dense schools of red tooth triggers and anthea’s to watch grey ref’s white tips and eagle rays posing for photographs. Incredible diving!
Eight hand shake
After a stunning dive at Madivaru Kandu we cruised southwards into Ari Atoll for our second dive of the day at Hafza Thila. It was a great opening to what was to be as usual some great Ari dives! Descending through thick schools of neon fusiliers, unicorn fish and redtooth triggerfish we dropped straight into more shark action with the usual nursery of baby white tips and then the big boys playground past the drop off patrolled by the mature whites and grey reefs, batfish come in close to divers giving us the eye-ball treatment and an eagle ray was also sighted. A highlight of the dive was a friendly octopus out to play on the top of the Thila, who after posing for photographs, changing his colours and textures extended his rubbery limbs to wrap around my extended hand.. Hello Mr Octo!
Grey Reef beef
Our second dive on day four also gave numerous sightings of grey reef sharks. In the past Fish Head has been famous for its schooling grey reefs. Since I’ve been diving here however we have not seen many; today certainly changed that! After dropping onto the site to see a green turtle hungrily eating his lunch of soft corals we hooked into the reef and with a mild current running watched the fattest grey reef shark cruising past again and again! According to Paul he was at least two and a half metres long, I’ll hedge my bets at 180cm but still a big animal! Accompanying the grey reef sharks was a lone silver tip shark, found cruising along the edge of the reef, free swimming moray eels, large schools of batfish, clouds of fusiliers, snappers and triggerfish all made for an exciting dive and a definite trip highlight.
New bubbles and no bubbles
After a great dive on Fesdu wreck, where keen eyed Thomas found a small family of 3 ghost pipefish, Sue and Adam hopped back into the dinghy for their try dives with us on Fesdu Reef. Sue absolutely loving her DSD with instructor Brett and Adam (already MSDT) made his first ever no-bubbles dive on one of our Poseidon MK6 re-breather units.
On day six of our central itinerary we try to get the guests off the boat and onto a deserted island. Even with the run of overcast skies and rain showers we’d been experiencing we we’re optimistic. The dive team planned a slightly earlier set of dives to make time for our beach barbeque! Amazingly all the preparation wasn’t for nothing, the evening brought with it a gap in the clouds and while the hard-core divers amongst us went to squeeze in a fourth day dive the rest of the group headed out to set up for a wonderful evening. Chef Alibe pulled out all the stops for a wonderful feast of king prawns, beef filet, jackfish, squid and plenty of delicious salads. Eating, chatting and drinking lit by candles and a bright completely unspoiled sky of stars- a superb treat for all aboard!
Our 7th Day of diving was at the incredible Raaddiga Thila. I say it a lot but this really is one of my favourite sites! Today it was that bit more special, with Instructor Russ’s group witnessing the rare sight of a white tip feeding and then a juvenile grey reef shark swooping in to clean up what was left! The wall full of soft corals and overhangs is simply stunning whilst the shallow reef top holds numerous healthy hard corals. The purposefully sunk Japanese fishing boat at Machafushi Island was further highlight of the day. Always a great dive however today it was extra special for along with the resident stone fish on the bow, under the hull itself was hiding a mature nurse shark!
Snorkelling with Giants
Despite the whale sharks being a little shy on our hunt on day eight, the diving on day 8 was still a huge hit. After the cruise from South Ari to Vaavu we finished the day off in spectacular fashion. By now just about all our divers have heard about the Jetty from our previous trip reports but the reality of being in the middle of a writhing mass of nurse sharks, marbled rays, black tips and giant trevally’s is a sight (and sensation) to behold! A special experience for Sue who snorkelled above the action and punctuated every shark and ray sight with a squeal of delight! Well done Sue for getting in amongst all these beasties. As the divers ascended whoops of delight could be heard all round- or maybe that was just Susie!
Our final day of diving took us back home to North Male, taking in the sites of the Kuda Giri wreck – also great for macro critters, the Maldives Victory and a welcome repeat at Banana Reef. A fantastic trip ended with sails up, cocktails on the sundeck and a birthday surprise for Paul! Thanks for all the fun and laughter. I’m off to enjoy the delights of the UK! Cheers Tom.
Photo by Susie Erbe