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Maldives Trip Report, October 2012

Maldives Trip Report, October 2012
Our Maldives ‘Full Moon Mantas’ liveaboard began in Male, the capital of the Maldives. Once we were all onboard we set sail for South Male – here dive highlights included the Kuda Giri wreck and a high voltage channel dive at Kandhooma Thila. At Kandhooma some guests spotted up to 25 Grey Reef Sharks and for those of us that missed the big school we were still entertained by a couple of big Grey Reef Sharks, Whitetips, Dogtooth Tuna, schooling Barracuda and a passing Eagle Ray – not bad for what our dive guide termed a ‘warm up dive’! We next set sail for Ari atoll where our guide told us we should expect more Grey Reef Sharks, Mantas and if we were lucky a Whale Shark!

Upon arriving in Ari we were keen to get in the water and our first dive was at a site called Omadhoo Thila. Here we encountered a swarm of Bannerfish in numbers I have never witnessed before! There were also more Grey Reef Sharks, Whitetips and lots of huddling Sweetlips guarding the entrance of swim throughs. With a couple of good morning dives under our belt we weren’t to know that the day’s highlight was still to come! Our final dive of the day started with a Manta encounter as soon as we entered the water, and as we made our way slowly along the wall one of the guests spotted a juvenile Whale Shark approaching. The Whale Shark swam right next to our group eventually disappearing into the blue but not before everyone had got a good look! A great end to a fabulous days diving!

The next day we woke early keen to sample more of Ari atolls exhilarating diving. Our first two dives were on pinnacles where our group found large Napoleon wrasse, friendly Hawksbill turtles, Whitetips, plenty of Sweetlips and big Moray eels! For the final dive of the day we visited the Machafushi wreck which made for excellent photography – of both the vessel itself and the black frogfish hiding in amongst a screen of glassfish. The following morning we headed to one of Ari’s most famous dive sites – Kudarah Thila. Famous for the sheer volume of fish life that lives on this site it was immediately evident why people love Kudarah so much. Huge shoals of Yellow Snapper were found everywhere and bait balls were pursued with incredible energy by hunting Trevally – you cannot fail to be excited diving at Kudarah – absolute fish soup!

After the excitement of Kudarah we headed to a lagoon where Mantas had been sighted and our luck was in – we quickly located 4 Mantas that were happy to hang around for us. We got into the water and enjoyed some special moments with these acrobatic rays. Many guests choose to free dive down with the Mantas allowing them to capture amazing photos. Our Manta encounter was a definite highlight of the trip!

We next moved on to do a couple of pinnacle dives where we encountered Whitetips, free swimming Morays, hunting Trevally and large Dogtooth Tuna. The days diving was finished with an exploratory night dive where we found some of the Maldives smaller critters such as Nudibranchs, Hermits Crabs and the ancient Slipper Lobster! Following our exploratory dive we headed to the beach for an evening BBQ – the perfect end to a great days diving!

Our final full day of diving had arrived but with a legendary night dive at Maaya Thila on the bill there was a feeling this would be no normal day. The reality was just that – it was Shark day! Our first dive was at a pinnacle where we found Grey Reef Sharks, Whitetips and lots and lots of fish! We then moved to the famous dive site called Fish Head where our Grey Reef Shark encounters moved to a whole new level – these sharks were keen to interact with us making for an exhilarating dive and for excellent photography opportunities.

Our third dive of the day would be a day dive at Maaya Thila to act as an orientation for our night dive at the same site later that evening. Whilst Maaya Thila is at it’s best during the hours of darkness our day dive was still absolutely excellent – with lots of Whitetips Sharks swimming in between shoals of Yellow Snapper and a cruising Eagle Ray allowing us to swim right next to it! Returning to Maaya Thila however later that night we saw why this site is so revered – hunting Whitetips were everywhere completely undeterred by divers they swam past and around us again and again – never has an hour dissapeared so fast! And at Maaya thila it is not just hunting Whitetips that provide entertainment, there are also free-swimming Moray Eels and huge (yes huge) Marble Rays sweeping the floor beneath your feet!

On our final day of the trip we would do just one dive at Ari atoll before making the journey back to Male for a city tour. Our final dive would be at Hafta Thila where the Maldives had one more surprise for us – the best Grey Reef Shark encounters of the entire trip! These large sharks swam back and forth right in front of our cameras – absolutely amazing! We watched the sharks at just 10m for almost the entire dive occasionally pealing away to admire the many baby Whitetip Sharks that were hiding under the table corals that adorned the top of the pinnacle!

We combined our liveaboard trip with a stay at a secluded resort and after the exhilaration of our liveaboard trip this was a welcome wind down – highly recommended! The seaplane journeys that take you to many of the resorts in the Maldives are also great and a very unique experience giving you a spectacular view of this stunning island nation!

Maldives Video

Filmed by Jennie Brown on Equator Diving’s 2012 Maldives group trip.