Maldives – Not just Mantas!!
Hopefully by now you would have read my previous blog – “Manta Madness in the Maldives”. If not then you can find the article here:
The Maldives is truly Manta heaven and reason enough for anyone to book a dive holiday here. What about all the other wonders that greet you on a dive there though? Unfortunately after a pretty severe El Nino a couple of years back the reefs took a bit of a battering and the coral isn’t as healthy as it was when I travelled here back in 2014. You can see where it is starting to recover with areas of amazing reef and hopefully it has time to really blossom again over a greater area. This however didn’t mean that it was void of life underwater, in fact far from it as schools of blue striped snapper and triggerfish would circle the reefs. There was still a lot of amazing unique marine life that would make an appearance along our dives and many anemone and clownfish toughing it out amongst the reefs providing beautiful splashes of colour.
Tawny Nurse Sharks on an unforgettable night dive at Alimatha Jetty!!
One of the major highlights for our group was on our 1st diving day diving the famous night dive at Alimatha Jetty with the Nurse Sharks and Stingrays. A shallow dive on the house reef of Alimatha Resort surrounded by friendly Nurse Sharks and Stingrays. For a lot of our group we were travelling with it was a completely new experience as a lot had only done UK diving in quarries. To see the buzz it created amongst the boat after the dive was a great feeling knowing I helped to organise it. I’d done this dive 4 years ago and it was incredible then but this time it completely blew me away as I moved away from the reef and was greeted with a wall of sharks that was at least 30 strong. Something I wasn’t as fortunate to see 4 years back. It was funny watching some video back that I got of the dive and you can here me shouting with joy underwater as the wall of sharks came in view.
We done a number of channel dives where we were able to watch Grey Reef Sharks cruising up and down the channel. Always exciting to see a healthy shark population as you know that although the coral maybe in recovery mode, at least the reef life is supporting a healthy shark population. Again for many of my group it was their 1st time diving with sharks and it reminded me of that amazing buzz the 1st time you see a shark underwater. I mentioned in length on my previous blog about my best dive of the trip at Moofushi Corner. I can’t reiterate enough how good this dive was and how special the school of Eagle Rays were to see. The cruising Grey Reef Sharks and Whitetip Reef Sharks just added to what was a truly incredible dive.
A Grey Reef Shark swimming peacefully in low visibility.
Most of our dive boat also got to see the biggest fish in the ocean the Whale Shark. My dive group was a little further ahead when we heard the commotion underwater on it’s arrival. There was a mad rush to see it but unfortunately for a few of us stuck behind other groups it was a little too far. We were kicking like mad and I certainly needed a rest once we realised the hope had gone. I’m still debating with myself whether I saw the tail end before it swam off or was it my eyes deceiving me in the hope I could join in the enjoyment of the rest of the boats encounter. I’m really happy for them though as it was their 1st encounter with this majestic animal.
It’s funny as for me personally one of the major highlights with marine life interaction on the trip was the Octopus encounters where they were out of the reef and in full view. One dive in particular was starting to become a bit forgetful as we waited and circled a cleaning station in the hope of a Manta turning up. As the time went by I was thinking surely something can happen to make this dive at least a little worthwhile. Then out the corner of my eye I spotted this Octopus going for a stroll along the reef. It was a decent size and watching it crawl along the reef using it’s tentacles was amazing to witness. The week continued to have more encounters of Octopus and finished up with 2 mating on the second from last dive of the trip. I think everyone has a little soft spot for Octopus especially when you get lucky and see them cruising the reef and watch the unusual way they move along.
A stunning Octopus goes for a walk amongst the reef and really made the dive special!
The dives continued to deliver throughout the week as we were able to get right next to Hawksbill Turtles as they grazed on the reef, completely unmoved by our presence. Marbled Rays were particularly friendly on numerous dives and weren’t shy in swimming directly at you. Playing chicken with a Ray was rather interesting and I found myself losing all the time against these bold and curious Rays. Even more so on the night dive at Maaya Thila as we watched them hunt alongside Moray Eels, Lionfish, Giant Trevally and a lone Whitetip Reef Shark. I remember having one view where I could see Trevally, a Marbled Ray, Moray Eel, Stonefish and Whitetip Reef Shark in one small area that only required a small turn of my head to see all together. Another memorable dive in the Maldives.
A Marbled Ray hunting on a special night dive at Maaya Thila!!
For the macro enthusiasts of the world there is still possibilities for interesting critter encounters even in the wide angle heaven that is the Maldives. Peacock Mantis Shrimp were particularly frequent throughout the dives and I ended up getting my favourite photo I’ve ever taken of one while there. I didn’t use my macro lens much but was happy with some of the encounters along the way with Blenny’s, Nudibranch, pipefish and Mantis Shrimp. If you’re really lucky as well the guides have found Harlequin Shrimp and Frogfish at a couple of the dive sites on numerous occasions. Unfortunately I wasn’t one of the lucky ones this time but adds to the diversity of a trip to the Maldives.
Peacock Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) in it’s burrow.
The trip finished with a bang as we got back to Male and entered the water for the famous Fish Tank dive site. On the outside of a working Tuna factory it is like jumping into a wild aquarium as numerous fish species come to feed on the scraps of Tuna discarded from the factory. While the schools of fish are amazing to witness the large numbers of Stingrays and Moray Eels also at the site is what makes it truly unique. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the Guitarfish that sometimes frequents the dive site as well. For any Moray lover like one of my buddies onboard it was heaven as every nook and cranny had a head poking out revealing dagger like teeth. I found myself at 3-5 metres for pretty much the whole dive marvelling at the Stingrays as they would make a path through the abundance of fish. The colour was spectacular being so shallow. The saturation slider had been turned up to 100 for this dive. Being so close to the factory at one point a pool of fish blood was released into the water and it became manic. I decided to back up at this point as I didn’t fancy a face full of fish blood and guts. A great dive to end the trip even though it came at a big price. Unfortunately for our boat we were unable to get as lucky as the sister boat Ocean Sapphire as they managed to come across a school of around 20 Sperm Whales on their way back to Male. They were around 30 minutes ahead of us and got to snorkel with them but we weren’t as lucky. It put a little dampener on my trip knowing how close but yet so far I was. It would have really put the icing on what was an already special cake. I can’t dwell too much though as altogether the trip was hugely successful. And missing out on the whales just gives me more reason to return and hope I’m the lucky one next time. :).
Honeycomb Moray Eels can be seen in abundance at the Fish Tank dive site close to Male.
For more information about booking a trip or if you would like to join me in October 2020 on the same trip. Drop my friend John a message: