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Published: April 29th 2013
March 24… I left Kochi today, headed for the Maldives. The drive to the airport was very uneventful, probably because it was only 5:30 am on a Sunday morning, so it was too early for traffic chaos. I flew to Male via Colombo, arriving mid-afternoon. My dive buddy Shelley had arrived shortly before I did – it was nice to see a friendly face from home after 3 months away. She hauled my dive gear and underwater camera to the Maldives for me. We had originally planned to stay in Male overnight, but because we cleared immigration more quickly than anticipated, we decided to see if heading to Kuredu Resort (on Lhaviyani Atoll) was feasible. After confirming with the resort that they had a room, off we headed to TransMaldivian Airways to catch the last seaplane to the resort.
The seaplanes are Canadian Twin Otter aircraft, seating 15 with the luggage packed in the back. One of our pilots was from Banff – apparently many Canadian pilots come here to work to get flight hours in. They fly the aircraft over from Canada and then exchange the wheels for the float pontoons. I wouldn’t want to make that long journey
this might be my favourite photo
in such a tiny plane! It’s the only flight where I can recall seeing the pilots fly barefoot! The flight from Male to Kuredu was about 40 minutes – very pretty to fly over the various islands and atolls, but noisy (that would be why they gave us earplugs in the waiting room I guess!)
We landed at Kuredu near sunset. Not surprisingly, Shelley was suffering the effects of her 30+ hours of flying and the change of 11 time zones. For me, it was the better part of a day’s travel but only a 1.5 hour time difference from India. After dinner at the restaurant, it was time for an early night.
March 25… We boarded the Monsoon, which moors at the resort, shortly after noon. I think I’m spoiled now for future liveaboards, as this one was very nicely appointed – lots of woodwork and good use of space, both indoor and out. Our cabin was roomy enough (really, it’s just a place to sleep) and the common areas were spacious. There were 12 guests on board, 11 divers and 1 non-diver, which was a very manageable size. The boat can take 22 divers, so I’m
this is what happens when you don't check the camera settings! All pictures from the first dive had a red filter (ugly!) so I made them black and white!
glad we had a smaller group. 22 on the dive deck would have chaotic. Our two divemasters were from the UK (Chris) and Germany (Jan). The other divers were from South Africa (3 couples, 2 friends), a honeymoon couple (expats from the UK and US living in Singapore) and Shelley and myself. There were more crew on board than divers!
Before leaving the dock, we did a checkout dive on the house reef at Kuredu – we just had to jump off the deck of the Monsoon, swim a few hundred meters and there it was was. It was great to get back in the water since the last time I had been diving was in Roatan, Honduras in March 2012. I took my underwater camera along to make sure it was working. I must have been playing with the settings after Honduras and managed to screw one of the filters up, so the images from this dive all had red tones. I’ve salvaged them by converting to black and white and am calling them my ‘arty’ pics! Lesson learned – check the camera settings before leaving the dive deck!
After the checkout dive, we departed from Kuredu
to start our diving journey through Lhaviyani, Baa, Raa and Noonu atolls.
March 26 to 31…. Here’s what a typical dive day looked like:
- Wake-up call – 7 am
- Dive site briefing – 7:30 am; 1 hour dive – 8 am; Breakfast – 10 am; Morning rest
- Dive site briefing – 11:30 am; 1 hour dive - noon; Lunch – 2 pm; Afternoon nap
- Dive site briefing – 3:30 pm;1 hour dive – 4 pm; Snack – 5:30 pm-ish; rest
- Dinner – 8 pm-ish
- Bed – 10 pm
There were two night dives during the week (I did the first one), where we were back in the water just around sunset. Dinner was later on those evenings. As you can see, it’s a rigorous schedule to maintain! The South Africans had shirts that said it best – “Dive, Eat, Sleep”, which is pretty much what we did!
We were very well taken care of on the Monsoon by a great crew. The chefs provided tasty meals and snacks, there was a bar for those post-dive evening drinks, the cabins were tidied daily and the zodiac
drivers and deck crew took care of us getting ready and out to the dive sites. All of the dives, aside from the initial checkout, were done from zodiacs, which was something I wasn’t used to. However, zodiacs allowed us to get closer to the dive sites than the Monsoon could venture. It would have been great to get a photo of everyone rolling over the side of the zodiac in unison, fins flailing in the air. I only banged my head on my tank once, which was one time too many. The entry back into the zodiac after the dive was over was more amusing – think beached whale landing and you get the picture! Not pretty or graceful by any stretch of the imagination! By the end of the week, it wasn’t quite as awkward.
It was great to see some different fish life from that in the Caribbean, where Shelley and I have spent most of our time diving. The water clarity was generally pretty good on most dives, though there was a lot more current to deal with than we’re used to on a few of the dives. It was a chance to improve those
dive skills, but uncomfortable and sometimes not much fun. You know when you have to use a reef hook to attach yourself to the reef that the water is moving pretty quickly.
We had a special moment on April 26… manta rays were spotted in the water, so off we went to snorkel with them. OMG, what amazing creatures to watch – so elegant, graceful and otherworldly. We were so fortunate and it was one of the highlights of the trip, right up there with seeing the blue whales in Sri Lanka. I didn’t have a camera in the water (see below), but it was magical to watch.
I owe a huge thank you to Jan, one of the divemasters. After the checkout dive, not only did I discover all my photos were red, but my camera subsequently refused to work. I don’t know if water got into the camera body, but it refused to stay on. So, no more pictures from my SeaLife during the stay on the Monsoon. Jan saved the week by allowing me to use his Canon D20 in an underwater housing, beginning after our snorkel with the mantas. I am so grateful to
Leopard Spotted Eel
He was very aggravated!
him for trusting me enough to loan me his camera!
Shelley and I have finally found another dive team that is as slow underwater as we are. Matt and Susan (the honeymoon couple) may be even slower! It was refreshing to be at the back of the pack with a few others, poking along seeing all sorts of cool stuff. I’ve tried to identify the photos accurately but don’t hold it against me if I got a few wrong – fish identification can be a tricky business!
Altogether, I got in 19 dives, so it was a full week but very enjoyable! I loved the variety of sea life we saw but have to say that most of the coral, excluding a few reefs, is in pretty rough shape due to bleaching and the residual effects from the 2004 tsunami.
April 1 – 9…. The Monsoon docked back at Kuredu on Sunday. Rather than sleeping onboard where the crew was busy restocking the boat, Shelley and I opted to get into our cabin a day early. After some aggravation, it was arranged and we disembarked.
Our cabin was on the beach (if you want to be
picky, there was a hedge of trees in front of us so we couldn’t see the beach and water directly but it was mere steps to get there). The room was nicely appointed and had an outdoor toilet and shower area. We really didn’t spend a lot of time there as there were other things to do.
Meals were served buffet-style at your assigned restaurant. The food was pretty good and there were daily themed dinners to change things up. I learned quickly that it was cheaper to order beer vs pop – seriously, US$ 6.50 for a regular-sized pop – the beer was US$ 6! On the first morning, much to Shelley’s aggravation, she couldn’t get coffee before the restaurant opened, and even then, couldn’t remove the cup to take it to the beach or back to the room. Then she figured out there was a coffee maker in the room but she had to buy the individual filters (for purchase in the gift shop), which made a whooping half cup of coffee each. By the end of the week, she had her morning coffee routine down though!
I thought I might dive while at the resort
The current is very strong!
but ended up not going out again. I did, however, sign up for two separate snorkel trips off the island. The first was a full day trip specifically to go in search of manta rays, the second trip visited a couple of other islands in the atoll that had lovely house reefs to explore. The manta trip didn’t get off to great start, as they were being quite elusive. We ended up finally snorkelling at a reef site, and then having lunch. Our luck changed as we were finishing lunch and we were able to snorkel with the rays twice after we finally found them. The experience of snorkelling with these graceful creatures was magical! During the first snorkel, there were five of them and they were feeding. During the second snorkel, at least four were playing near the surface of the water. So cool! For more facts about the manta ray, visit http://www.mantaray-world.com/facts-about-manta-rays.html
The very good news was that my underwater camera was again functional (very weird but I wasn't complaining) so I was able to get some good photos of the snorkelling experience.
Other than snorkelling, I spent some time at the spa and lazed at the
beach. It was very relaxing and a good way to chill out after the busyness of India.
Shelley and I flew home in opposite directions the evening of April 8. The journey home was long, though not quite as long as the flight over. Thank goodness for airport lounges – the shower at Tokyo Narita was blissful! Just after midnight on April 10, approximately 44 hours after leaving Kuredu, I was back at home, saying hello to Tom the Cat.
I apologize for the delay between blogs... It was a busy few days in Calgary followed by travel to the Galapagos, where there was no internet access on the boat. All of a sudden, it's the end of April and I'm in Bogota, Colombia starting Spanish school tomorrow!
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