The Maldives Siren’s first trip in June was another full charter by Australian dive operator Abyss Scuba. Carl Fallon, the group leader, stayed on to welcome his second set of guests with this trip starting smoother than his first – with little time to lose anything between the hotel and boat! We welcomed the guests on board by taking them on a check dive a Fedu Finolu. The steep wall and overhangs giving sightings of banded boxer shrimp, commensal shrimps, cleaner pipe fish and a big green turtle that’d settled in early for a sleep. The group were close friends and much hilarity was to be had over dinner.
Day two started with clouds and rain but it wasn’t going to dampen our spirits. Our dive at Nassimo Thila was as incredible as always. A first for me and a favourite of the guests was the third dive of the day that we did at HP Reef. This small Thila is nestled into a channel at the eastern most edge of North Male. The currents flowing over and around it supply nutrients for the glorious pale yellow and orange soft corals. With a medium current flowing we hooked in to watch giant schools of red and midnight snapper drifting in the current. Hiding behind the back end of the Thila we surprised a large green turtle nestled under a ledge. He lazily came out and swam away…
We got day three off to a cracking start with Okobe Thila. This is one of my favourite sites in north male and for good reason. Dense schools of fish cover this Thila. Today was a special day however, as we swam through the coral encrusted boulders a manta gracefully swam by! Divers stopped in stunned silence as this beautiful creature glided past us. Sightings were not over for large pelagics but continued with white tip reef sharks and eagle rays at Maas Thila and Kudahithi Reef; where Neil gave one of our Poseidon MK6 rebreathers a try. A natural at CCR diver as it turned out Neil gracefully swam loops around me with hardly a bubble in sight (well almost no bubbles!!)
Waking up on the 2nd of June exposed, as feared, a lousy day of weather…. Not being able to start our planned crossing we had to think on our feet and change itinerary. After a quick vote it was decided to re-dive the gorgeous Okobe Thila (sorry no manta this time!) and dive a new site for me, the Maldives Victory. This large cargo boat sank in the 80’s very close to Male City. Its huge holds have now been thoroughly pillaged but leave a dramatic experience for divers while descending through the waters into the heart of this goliath. Some worthless cargo was left behind by the salvagers and radio players, books, cassette tape boxes and stacks of cement bags make interesting viewing. Preparing for the following day we anchored right on the eastern edge of South Male at Vellasaru. Our night dive here provided a surprise for our guest Andrea who being a self-confessed shark magnet attracted a nurse shark! The poor beast dazzled by dive lamps almost swam straight into her before veering off to dodge between her legs, hilarious!
Waking early on day 5 to a clear sky and little wind we made our delayed crossing to North Ari Atoll where we dived at the famous Maaya Thilla; known for some years as a hotspot for white tip sharks. This site dived in the day and then at night provides two very different dives. Our second dive there in daylight hours showed its resident white tips lazily swimming around or taking a nap, grey ref sharks were also spotted along with an ornate ghost pipe fish. During our night dive here the activity had picked up in intensity somewhat. The now wide awake white tips were darting around, competing with the giant trevallies hunting in our torchlight. The sight of a neon fusilier being hunted in torchlight by these impressive predators either brings feelings of guilt or excitement to the diver holding the lamp. The audible crunch however as the poor victim is caught always brings a wince! An exciting dive all round.
The following day we dived another one of our Ari favourtes; Hafza Thila. Famous for its Grey reef sharks this small Thila attracts such dense schools of fish it’s worth the dive without the almost guaranteed shark sightings! The cheeky bubble loving blue surgeon fish were also waiting to see us. The pleasure they derive from swimming through our bubbles wiggling their tails is almost obscene! The day ended with an all-round favourite on our central itinerary…. For a small fee the owners of Radhiga Island will let you take over their beautiful tropical beach. This picture postcard deserted island comes equipped with barbecue facilities that our chef’s Alibe and Saman make fabulous use of! Whole grilled jumbo prawns, steaks and chillied chicken breast were all served at our dining table on the beach along with one of Alibe’s famous mixed salads! Yum.
Machafushi wreck was our first dive for day 7, sunk purposefully for divers its now a fantastic playground, housing multitudes of pipe fish, nudibranchs, flatworms and the grumpiest stone fish I’ve ever seen! After our third dive our resident champion snorkeler, Michelle Cameron, and I went for a swim over the gorgeous corals on Machafushi House Reef. We were joined by Helen and all three of us got to see a large marbled ray swimming along the reef only 2 meters below us!
The following day started with a fantastic dive and a very special one indeed for Helen Leggett. Under the overhangs creating a ceiling for the vibrant soft corals to cling to on Kud Rah Thilla is where Helen celebrated her 100th dive! The dive was fantastic with sightings of giant trevally and an eagle ray. Congratulations Helen! Our night dive on day 8 was as spectacular as always. The Jetty at Alimata is a winner every trip with tens of nurse sharks, marbled rays, black tips and giant trevallies swimming to and fro were a sight to behold. Not wanting her to be left out we organized a special night snorkel for Michelle our non-diver. Guided by me we drifted over the orgy of sharks lit up by dive torches.
When considering our last dive of the trip we were requested by the hardened Aussi wreck divers to do the Maldives Victory again! A superb last dive followed by a late night party for many as we celebrated Neil and Michelle’s 12th wedding anniversary!! Some great games like the “penny head slap” and “get the penny in the cup” were played. A really fun night with such laid back, fun loving people. Overcoming all difficulties with the weather, this had been a great trip and a good time was had by all. Another winner on board the Maldives Siren! Tom