Shark Whispering in the Southern Maldives
Shark Whispering in the Southern Maldives
Joining us aboard the Maldives Siren was Erich Ritter, world renowned expert on sharks and their behaviour around humans. Every day throughout our cruise he gave presentations on his research ; some of which is ground breaking in shark and human interactions. For our Southern Maldives liveaboard safari we were rewarded with many of shark sightings whilst diving complimenting all the fascinating facts being taught on-board. Our check dive at Thinadhoo Giri got our shark tally off to a great start with a white tip gliding over the hard coral reef. A marbled ray, octopus and schooling chevron barracuda were also amongst the welcoming committee on this first dive of the trip. Grey reefs and white tips were also spotted at later in the day at Kureedhoo Kandu.
Day two was also a shark spectacular! After the three nurse sharks caught napping at Koodoo Kandu we headed north to one of my favourite dive sites in Gaafu Alife, the Vilingilli Kandu. Right here, looking out over 1400 nautical miles to North Sumatra, is where grey reef sharks like to gather. Letting the oxygen rich water rush over their gills in the current these majestic animals pose for pictures and swim as close as about five meters. Close enough for many within the crystal clear waters! But it wasn’t until after lights out that night that something really magical happened. As the guests began drifting off to bed the call went out. Whale shark! Everyone found a new lease of alertness as we rushed to the portside platform. At first nothing….. but then surfacing from the gloom we saw the outline of the large white mouth rising up towards us. The gaping maw of this 8 meter beast sucked in water rich with Plankton, that had been attracted by our lights. Incredible! Hard to top that but we still had 7 more days to go!
Day three started early even for me. An incessant knocking and my name being called brought me round to see Shaff, our instructor, dripping wet, shirtless, grinning from ear to ear and clutching a camera – this was a rather unusual wake up, even for a liveaboard cruise director! “Two huge whale sharks” was all Shaff needed to say….I leapt out of bed and woke the guests. We slipped into the water to watch these incredible animals greedily gulping down the thick plankton soup off our portside. Without touching them, we then spent the next two hours swimming within inches of these giants. As you can imagine the day was off to a slow start with nobody getting much sleep but dolphin sightings on our morning dive at Wahid Point quickly got people back up to speed! The rest of day three and day four were spent hitting the channels hard. Napoleon wrasse, Grey reefs, green & hawksbill turtles and barracuda were all spotted while enjoying Nilandhoo, Vodumula and Kondey Kandu’s.
The following morning we were set to visit Maarehaa Kandu, a beautiful channel with incredible topography. Healthy hard corals reach to the precipice that drops away vertically to several hundred meters and then again to over 2000 meters! The sense of scale as you peer into the blue through the schooling jacks, grey reef sharks, eagle rays and trevally is simply incredible. From experience I knew how popular this site would be so without a second thought we dropped anchor to dive here throughout the day! Just next to Maarehaa Kandu is a shallow reef where we have spotted leopard sharks before. With strong currents expected in the channel the groups split with half of us opting to dive and snorkel the reef and what an even it turned out to be! The snorkellers not only spotted a nurse shark in the shallows but also three leopard sharks… two of which were mating! The female was lying upside down in a state on Tonic immobility with the male gently nibbling on her fin. Leopard Shark foreplay in progress! When we consulted our guest expert Erich he said that he has theorised that this sort of behaviour goes on but the pictures and video made by our guest Christian is the first documented proof! Evidence gathered to increase our knowledge of the natural world by the Maldives Siren plus one voyeuristic camera man! Well done Christian! The nameless reef, once largely ignored, now has a place in the annals of natural science and also a name; “Leopard Shark Love Nest”! The perfect day’s diving ended with a trip to the deserted Maarehaa Island for a relaxing evening listening to wind rustled coconut palms, waves lapping lazily on the virgin white sand and watching a brilliantly red sun sinking slowly into the ocean.
Days 6 and 7 were spent in the south of the Atoll diving Mazfoo Giri and Gadhdhoo Kandu. After which we ventured to a previously undiscovered thilaa. Hulla Thilla was a great surprise with glassfish, tuna, trevallys, rainbow runners, bonitos, long nose hawk fish and harlequin filefish. Our divers enjoyed this dive so much we doubled straight up and did it twice! Then on our last day of diving we returned to the east coast, having reserved one of our favourites sites for a grand finale and of course we weren’t disappointed. Grey Reef sharks, giant barracudas, leaf fish, tunas, trevallies, green turtles and white tip reef sharks were all spotted at Dhaandhoo Kandu.
Our 10-night liveaboard safari ended with a visit to one of the beautiful deserted tropical islands, Dhevamagala Island. With its pristine hard coral house reef, brilliantly white beaches and lush green island interior this provided the perfect place to relax and recount the details of another superb trip on board the Maldives Siren, with thanks to all the great guests and hardworking crew.
Photo by Christian HOLTHAUS & Reiner DIEDRICHS.