Maldives Shark Fest
Maldives Shark Fest
On a bright, sunny and typically tropical Maldivian day, our newest group of adventurers boarded the SY Maldives Siren, excited at the prospect of the next 7 days of great diving, sumptuous food and an excellent Maldivian experience. Immediately lifting anchor we set off for Rasdhoo Atoll and enjoyed a lovely smooth crossing on calm seas under a clear and bright sky. Despite just coming off international flights our guests were raring to get going as soon as possible and jump in the water, so in super-quick time dive gear was assembled, briefings done and dinghys at the ready.
Madivaru Thila was a superb location for a first dive with a healthy reef, numerous species of schooling reef fish, not to mention the white tip reef sharks cruising back and forth across the reef. With this dive setting the benchmark for diving over the following days, it could possibly have been a hard act to follow, but this was not to be the case. With another dive early the following morning at Madivaru Thila, we were hoping to see the mysterious hammerhead sharks appear in the depths, but these unique creatures stayed deep and out of sight. When several of the guests jumped in they spotted a school of 12 – 15 manta mobulas just below them, and later on in the dive all guests got to witness and enjoy a larger manta, majestically hanging out, not perturbed by excited divers closeby him. A total of 3 mantas, 2 grey reef sharks, several white tips, large rock cods and a fantastic array of critters crawling along the colourful reef made for an amazing dive.
Jeff and Donna (Boss #1 and #2, or was it Boss #2 and #1 respectively??!), having dived in the Maldives before, had brought along with them an eclectic bunch of underwater enthusiasts, and with most of them having travelled together before, a happy and companionable atmosphere prevailed from the moment they stepped on board the Maldives Siren. As the days continued the banter between the port and starboard divers only got more and more hilarious. No-one escaped a bit of friendly ridicule and teasing. Not only was the teasing between the guests, but with Tom, Russ and Heiko and their distinctly different senses of humour, no one was safe!
Moving the boat the following morning, the next few days dives were then spent in the northern area of the Ari Atoll. A large atoll famous for it’s regular manta and whale shark sightings, Ari Atoll was full of hope and promise for all on board. Diving on Thilas and Giris provided a variety of landscapes and gave much scope for all photographers and videographers alike. For those who were camera-free, the numerous schooling batfish, fusiliers, groupers, turtles, trevallies of every type, hunting tunas and uncountable surgeonfish provided plenty of underwater entertainment to enjoy and savour. Staying close to the reefs allowed all divers to see the myriad varieties of nudibranchs and flatworms going about their business.
The first night dive of the adventure was a dive that no-one could forget. Jumping in at Maaya Thila and descending into the dark, the divers were rewarded with a night time extravaganza of hunting grey and white tip reef sharks alongside many free-swimming moray eels on the hunt for food. Excitement was running at a high when all divers returned to the boat where they were gladly welcomed with warming ginger tea and hot towels. Needless to say, the sharks got bigger and more plentiful and certainly the moray eels grew in length in the stories told over a sumptuous dinner!
As the days continued the sun kept us company for which we were all truly glad. Visibility on the top reefs was good and with the lovely natural light accentuating the colours and marine life in all their glory, shallow diving at times was a lovely option. An announcement was made over dinner on one of the first evenings that Kelly had reached her milestone 300th dive! What a secret to keep under her belt and what a destination to reach such a figure! The following morning, without her knowledge, we organised that we should get a group photo of Donna’s 2000th dive. The look of surprise on her face was priceless when we all gathered in the sand (in a little current too!) to take a few photos. Another dive not to forget! Matt (the ballerina diver) and Charlie (underwater Rocket Man with his fiery shorts!) unwittingly provided much underwater hilarity with their upside down diving antics. Not to be outdone in the entertainment stakes was Frank who kept us laughing and teasing him about his rebreathing apparatus! Congratulations to Frank for completing another level in his technical diving.
Maldives Siren is not all about diving – the experience encompasses chilling out after some great diving by enjoying the pleasures of a Thai massage expertly executed by Mama Noi, our Thai matriarch. Karen particularly enjoyed her time under Noi’s hands, being slightly verbally incoherent for minutes after her massage! Between dives, Darien and Karla made the most of the comfortable salon and relaxed by catching up on their reading and watching movies. For Tom, he got a little more time on board due to a cold (reckons Jeff kindly passed it on?!) so he took the time to enjoy relaxing on the sundeck. Tom created many laughs when telling his shower pants story……tour tales stay on tour! Miriam, who became the on-board pharmacist kindly tended to those with sensitive ears, noses and throats. Bob, our veteran diver put all the youngsters to shame by diving at night, diving in good current and also diving deep on the magnificent Maachafushi Wreck documenting all the drama on video. Ken and Maria had brought the new underwater cover for their iphone, resulting in Russ getting nearly overly excited at the prospect of even more “toys for the boys!” All who dived the wreck agreed it was an excellent site and therefore by popular demand it was dived again that same day. In the search for the (apparently) resident giant frogfish, divers instead came across a ghost pipefish, a resting nurse shark, large lionfish and numerous fusiliers darting across the boat’s deck. For those who preferred a different location Deirdre took some divers for a calm and current-free dive on the closeby reef. Unfortunately Miriam discovered a minor problem with her camera and was unable to capture the large clams and the tiny coral crabs. On a subsequent dive she looked both naked and bereft without her constant companion, Buddy Olympus. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed a dive with excellent hard corals, especially tables and agoraporas in the shallows.
By Sunday the weather gods were not completely behaving and we found ourselves happily rolling off the dinghys to escape the wet stuff falling from the sky. With hardy divers ready to face the elements, all were happy to find the underwater conditions much more pleasant! Giant titan triggers, more sharks, barracudas, morays, and parrotfish were the residents we saw frequently adding lots of colour to an otherwise grey weather day. We skipped over to South Male Atoll with the weather gods at our heels showing us the strength and power of Mother Nature. The crossing allowed for guests (and Dive Crew) to catch up with studying the insides of their eyelids, writing up dive logs and generally chilling out. Ken came round the boat during this restful morning and very kindly handed out the cutest knitted crabs, explaining that Maria always brings some personally handmade gifts for all on the boats on which they travel. (As Russ, Tom and Heiko were in siesta land they missed out on these wonderful surprise gifts!) Thank you to Maria and Ken.
Our first dive of the day found us looking gingerly at a threatening sky and all those who were on the dinghys were happy to get in the water. A nice drift dive along Kandooma Caves site allowed us to see an enormous Napoleon Wrasse, thousands of reef-hugging red tooth triggerfish, surgeonfish, scribbled filefish, groupers, red snappers and clownfish skittering around their territory. As Maria, Ken and Karen were hovering in the blue at 15 feet, they were exhilarated to see a school of manta mobulas swim past, a first for an estatic Karen! (Karen where was your camera??!!) Bob and Deirdre saw an elegant Honeycomb Moray as soon as they descended on the reef and then later saw a gorgeous Chinese grouper in one of the numerous coral-laden caves. Despite not perfect over and underwater conditions, everyone who braved the swells enjoyed this dive.
A quiet night on the boat was had by all, and with promises of staying awake and doing the required sundance for good weather the next day, all on Maldives Siren said goodnight to an interesting day of various and impressive weather types and a good drift dive. Unfortunately the diving on Maldives Siren was coming to an end all too fast, but the last day of diving still held some surprises. Positioning the Mothership close to Embudhoo Resort we dived a lovely reef where redtooth trigger fish ruled supreme. They darted all over and quickly hid in crevices as soon as anyone got close, leaving just their distinctive blue tails in view. Drift diving was the ‘request’ for the next dive and divers loved the rollercoaster ride along the reef! Welcomed into the water by many sharks, the divers then moved along the reef at top speed smiling all the way. The first eagle ray of the trip was the highlight of many diver’s dive and another ‘first’ for Karen. Banana Reef was the final dive spot of the trip, and it was a wonderful last dive. With colours to rival a kaleidoscope, the reef was alive with action of every shape and form. Giant morays sharing a den, schooling oriental sweetlips relaxing under a coral-laden overhang, titan triggerfish decimating coral blocks in the hunt for food, Zen-like yellow lined snappers nonchantly checking out Bob as he swam amongst them, a large resting stingray with a malformed tail, a vibrantly coloured Napoleon Wrasse chilling out on the top reef and a fantastic landscape were just some of the delights we encountered on our final dive. What a way to finish! A wonderful trip with a great variety of dives, superb food (thank goodness that neoprene stretches!), lots of laughs, great naps and of course superb service from all the SY Maldives Siren crew. The best crew in the Maldives!