Diving Maldives (Amba), March 2015

I’m back dating this post to almost a year ago.  Catching up on all my blogs before my memories fade off completely.  This was a 3 weeks dive trip to Maldives and the previous dives in central Maldives had been amazing.

I had spent a day on land doing a land tour with the staff from Amphibiya and stayed a night at The Beehive.  The hotel was excellent though the location is a bit far from the main street.  The staff was so helpful and one of them brought me to the ferry terminal where he insisted on helping me purchase my ticket and making sure that I board the correct ferry to the airport.  I took a domestic flight to Dharavandhoo Island where I was supposed to be meeting the guys from Amba.

It was a short flight and it wasn’t difficult for the staff to find me.  I guess the usual single female asian diver gave me away pretty easily.  Dharavandhoo island was a quiet little island and there were hardly anyone on the streets.  And it was really quiet.  This was the scene along the beach in the village where we were walking to the dock.

Dharavandhoo, Maldives
arriving into dharavandhoo island

Waiting with me were a father and son diver team from Switzerland.  I had a little problem communicating as they spoke French and only the father could speak a little English.  But they were friendly and it wasn’t that bad a start.  There also a couple of guys from Austria. We all got on the little boat where Captain handed us raincoats.  I was a little puzzled but once the speedboat started moving, mystery solved.  I was getting drenched from the waves.

Dharavandhoo, Maldives
getting to our boat

And finally, Amba was in sight.  And yes, it was a pretty sight.  Much bigger boat and really well decked out.  The bar and dining area looked fantastic.  We had a short briefing and one little cool thing that I really liked was the pouch of shells.  definitely many steps back in time where we will pay for everything using shells instead of cash.  That was pretty cool.

Dharavandhoo, Maldives
Amba

And after getting my luggage in to the room, it was time to get the gears ready again.  I was eager to get my wetsuit out as they were still damp when I packed them in.  A little damp stench when I pulled it out.  They had a nice area at the front just outside the bow of the boat where we could hang stuff out to dry.  Captain of Amba knows Captain of Amphibiya and apparently they had had a phone conversation before I got on.  So nice to know someone on the boat right away.

Dive Maldives
getting ready once again

Left my gears out to air and I took a little tour round the boat on my own.  Off to the upper deck.

Dive Maldives
The upper decks

That was when I saw the dive boat come in.  That’s the actual boat where we would dive from.  There was a group of divers already on board and they had been diving with Amba for the last few days.  They were on a longer trip, I guess.  My room mate, Andy, had also been diving with Amba on their earlier trip.

Dive Maldives
The dive boat

Most of the divers were from Germany and spoke German, so it was a bit tough to go beyond ‘hello’ and a smile.  So I guessed I was going to hang out with the crew again. 🙂

 

This was a non diving day and the crew were busy sending people off and bringing people in.  I manage to get some of my stuff unpacked.  The only issue was the charging points. Most of their guests were from Germany so the boat had catered to that and change the socket outlets to the round 2 pins.  I wasn’t prepare for this as Maldives was supposed to be using a similar socket outlet as Singapore.  Lucky for me, the crew  managed to find a makeshift extension plug for me and I promised I would never leave stuff charging without watching over it.

The last batch of divers only came in during dinner time and they looked really worn out.  Other than the few guys from Austria and a couple from Germany who spoke English, the rest spoke only German.  But I was happy  to be on my own as I had tons of photos to take care of from the previous dives with Amphibiya.

It was off to a good night’s rest and I was looking forward to diving again.

Dive Maldives
check out dives

I woke up refreshed but a little late for sunrise.  Had a morning coffee and some crackers.  Andy was up early too.  We had divided the group into 2 main group with about 8 of us in each group.  I was following Jamin and my buddy was my roommate, Andy.  The first dive was a skill dive too.  This was the first time I had done such a dive and thought the idea wasn’t bad actually.  After all we were really responsible for ourselves.  So we did mask clearing, regulator retrieval and releasing of SMB.

The second dive was my first this dive.  It was like an underwater island.  I had heard that the north of Maldives diving were mainly thila diving and most of them were pretty deep at around 15-20metres.  Our check out thila was of course much shallower.  But definitely more interesting than the first dive. 🙂  I found the side caves very interesting and apparently this was one of a feature of diving a thila.

Dive Maldives
2nd check out dive
Dive Maldives
thila with side caves

Our last dive of the day was at shark nursery and there was supposedly a ‘houseshark’  but I guessed he wasn’t home that day. 🙁  But again, some very interesting reef formations thats I really enjoyed.  The current up north was definitely stronger than what I had experienced the week before.  We were very much sheltered when we were along the reefs and we were hiding out quite a bit. But there were sandy patches that we had to cross that were really opened and we were facing the currents head on.  It was work out time.

Dive Maldives
no sharks at the nursery
Dive Maldives
garden of eels
Dive Maldives
hard corals on the top of the thila

We did our safety stop above the thila that was filled with hard corals.  I thought they looked bleached but was told that that was the colour they had always been.  The occasional swarms of yellow fishes added some life and colour to this hard surroundings.

Dive Maldives
fishes adding colour and life to the surroundings

Quite frankly, the day’s diving had not been too exciting and after a week of exhilarating dives, it was a bit of a anticlimax.  But food on board was excellent so that really made up for quite a bit.

Amba was the only far north boat and even though they had been around the waters here for a while, there were still a lot more uncertainties in comparison to the central areas.  But I guessed that’s what diving or being in nature is all about.  And its after all only the first day.

Well, the other disturbing news is that we actually had a faulty engine and from what I gathered from the other divers who were on board earlier that they had to use the dive boat to pull the LOB boat the last few days.  But things were supposed to get better because they were flying the engineer in with the parts the next day.  Hopefully all worked out and we could move on to other dive sites.

Off to bed and I was determined to get up early for my sunrise shot on board Amba.

Dive Maldives
sunrise on board amba

 

I was looking forward to today’s diving.  By now I thought was pretty comfortable with the currents.  Hopefully today would be an interesting day.

Dive Maldives
more thilas

More thilas.  The top was at 8m so we could dive around the top when we do our safety stop. The edges were lined with caves again.

Dive Maldives
huge hangovers that form caves
Dive Maldives
homeless sucker fishes?

At the end of our first morning dive, these 2 beauties kept following me.  They looked pretty lost with no host to attached to.  Or was I really that filthy they wanted to clean me up?

Our next dive was an interesting one.  The current was strong too but the channel were filled with lives.

Dive Maldives
one of my favourite sites

I was never really comfortable in strong currents but this maldives trip had me diving in currents day after day and it was really good training.  the eagle rays were almost stationary but they were really swimming against current.  Trust me, I was hooked in and literally crawling along the sea floor.

Dive Maldives
fighting the current with us

There were many pretty stuff along the way but I simply was not stable enough to get any good shots.  I was taking a breather from all that finning behind the corals and when I turned around, it was really that close to me.  I simply snapped away quickly while trying to hang on to my hook.

Dive Maldives
first time I had a napoleon right in my face
Dive Maldives
the usuals

And of course there were plenty of moray eels and octopus and a turtle swam by too.

I didn’t expect the turtle to be a little teaser for our next dive.  We were going to a turtle farm!!  Some of the divers had already been to this site and they were still very excited.  I was warned to watch out for turtles coming in and going out and to stay out of their path.  After the dive, I could definitely relate.  These turtles do not check their blind spots prior to turning!

Dive Maldives
turtle farm

The site was really interesting.  I would call it a multi storey turtle park.  There were caves cut into the sides and the turtles were all resting in these crevices.  Trust me, though there weren’t much reference in my photos, these turtles were huge.  I really wouldn’t want to be hit by one.  Pretty sure I would be having a underwater concussion if that happened.

Dive Maldives
teeth cleaning and a resting turtle
Dive Maldives
its all about turtles

Today’s dives were all amazing, really really different from my previous week.  Love the turtles but I was busy watching out for my head and it was not easy taking photos in that condition.

We got back to the boat and it seems that we had sorted out the engine problems which was great.  The weather had been great too for the past few days so I was surprised to see the storm in the distance.  It was bright and sunny on one side and pouring on the other. But a check with the crew put me at ease.  That was not where we were heading to.

Dive Maldives
the great divide

After a great diving day, I was definitely looking forward to the following day.  On board Amba, I had been very disciplined.  Usually a beer at most and it was off to bed.  I wanted to be top form for all my dives.

3rd day of diving with Amba.  I had never been a great fan of channel dives but the channel dive yesterday was so fantastic that I was really falling in love with channel diving.  So I was excited that we were starting the day with one. 🙂

Dive Maldives
another channel dive

It seems that the conditions were not as predicted.  The lack of current also meant no big fishes.  It was a quiet and calm dive but there were some pretty creatures too.  This was like a moray eel gallery.  They were all over the place and all in different colours too.

Dive Maldives
morays everywhere
Dive Maldives
spotty stuff

Talking about spots, marble rays were all over the sand bed too.  One here, one there, waiting to be photographed.

Dive Maldives
marble rays here and there

The next dive was all about sharks.  We were having 2 day dives so we could end earlier for a night dive.  The thila was much deeper which meant that we would be doing our safety stop in the blue.

Definitely a good start to go underwater and see sharks right away.  We had been briefed to stay away so that we do not chase them away.  So we were all hooked in to observe the sharks.

Dive Maldives
sharks watching day
Dive Maldives
sharks and more sharks

I had never been a hooked in diver so shortly after I got a bit fidgety.  Andy did not have a camera so my guess was he must be pretty bored.  I signalled to him and I could tell he was happy to go explore.  Again, more moray eels.  I was beginning to suspect I could probably do a moray eel special just by diving in maldives.

Dive Maldives
unhooking for short shark break

As I looked back at the group it was kind of funny.  While they were intensely concentrating on the sharks in front, there were the occasional one or two sharks that were behind them and they were close.  And hey, I turned around and a baby shark was following me and obviously checking me out.

Dive Maldives
a baby shark checking me out
Dive Maldives
what usually happens when u stay hooked in

And I continued with my little exploration.  This time with our dive guide.

Dive Maldives
fooling around with the little shy guy
Dive Maldives
big and small fishes

I decided to give the night dive a miss.  Never been a big fan of night dives so it was star gazing night for me.  The boat was relatively quiet with most divers on the night dive. I went to the upper deck to enjoy the beautiful night sky.

I woke up to a beautiful day.  Nice clear skies.  The morning dive was one of the prettiest site I had ever dove in.  It was like a walk in a underwater garden. The colours were so pretty.

Dive Maldives
one of the prettiest dive sites

Spotted a marble ray but most of the divers were no longer interested.  We had been seeing quite a number of them in the last few days.  Maldives is spoiling us.

Dive Maldives
and no one seems interested anymore?

And we continue ‘strolling’ through the park.

Dive Maldives
a ‘walk’ through the park

While the edges side walls were covered with soft ferns, the top of the thila were all covered with hard corals.  Again that bleached look… hopefully this was really its natural colour.

Dive Maldives
hard corals covered the thila top

After a hearty breakfast, it was time to dive again.  I had been avoiding the upper decks which was kind of unusual.  In any normal dive trip, I would have been the sun worshipper.  The last time I had a good tan on Amphibiya, I ended up with a terrible headache and Aathy had told me to stay out of the sun as that was usually a sign of dehydration.  With the days of diving ahead, I thought it was good to stick to his advise.

Orange Thila was to be the highlight of my trip. 😉  Definitely a beautiful dive site not to be missed. We descended into a school of batfish and this was the first time I had seen so many of them.  Not sure if it was a good or bad thing but they were totally oblivious to us.  They came pretty close to check us out.

Dive Maldives
descending into a school of bat fishes
Dive Maldives
a whole cluster of lion fishes below and a school of batfish around me
Dive Maldives
guess we are just part of the family

One huge difference in diving way up north is that we practically have the seas to ourselves.  In the past few days, whether on board or in the waters, we had not seen another group of divers.  That was kind of cool.

Before the trip, I had read and saw on their website, sightings of guitar sharks.  Quite frankly, I had never heard of them before I embarked on this trip.  I had googled and was amazed at how unique it looked.  It was actually more of a ray than a shark.  To me it really looked like a cross between the two.  How guitar came about, that I couldn’t tell.  Maybe it was musically inclined? 😉

Dive Maldives
watch out below

And finally we found one… laying there in the sand at 31m.  Initially I had been hesitant in being too close as I didn’t want to scare it away.  It was almost towards the end of our dive so I was pretty low on bottom time.  Lucky for me I had plenty of air left so that was one problem lesser.

When everyone was almost done with their photos, Jamin tapped me on my shoulder and told me to go closer.  Wonder if he saw my smile behind the mask.  I checked my dive com… one minute to go as I edged towards 32m.  I crept up slowly and got closer and closer.

Dive Maldives
there it was , laying quietly at 33.6m
Dive Maldives
my very first guitar shark ray

Took my last shot and my dive com beeped.  Perfect timing… time to head up. Woah!! my first guitar shark ray!! I was one happy diver.

Back on the boat, it was tough to conceal our excitement and I did feel a little bad that the other group missed out on this. The dives really just got better everyday.

Dive Maldives
a little anticlimax after the highlight of the previous dive

We ended the third dive rather eventlessly and I guessed I didn’t have to elaborate what our dinner topic was.  Another beautiful sunset to end the day.

I had a very good room mate and I had several divers asking me if I was alright sharing a room with Andy.  Quite honestly, I was fine and we kind of respected each other’s space.  He didn’t really speak English but gestures were good enough.  He did share some of his dive profile on his laptop with me and we had a good laugh when we compared our info. It was tough communicating out of waters but I thought we made quite a good team underwater.

Time for bed and definitely looking forward to another great day of diving.

Yes, I managed to wake up early for sunrise.  I think it happens to everyone.  As the sun rises above the horizon, when that little red dot becomes a perfect circle and the skies just lit up with colours, I just can’t help but let out a sigh…. An everyday event that I would never get sick of.

Dive Maldives
another amazing sunrise on the boat

We were going on a little land excursion in the evening today, so there was something else to look forward to. 🙂

And it had become a routine. Wake up early, catch sunrise over coffee and a cookie, dive, back for breakfast, dive, lunch, nap, dive, dinner, one beer and straight to bed.  A routine I had no complaints whatsoever.

not easy looking at small stuff with the current

Another beautiful site but the current was unbelievable.  We did see plenty but I had no idea how to focus on those tiny nudis with the current throwing me around.  Really too tough, at least for me.  Oh, and my personal favourite… my spotty little one.

Dive Maldives
hello, spotty one

The 2nd dive was another fun filled one with lots of tiny little stuff.  I did take lots of photos and I was laughing at myself when I went through the photos.  They made me look like a drunk diver. :p

Dive Maldives
another current dive with the little ones
Dive Maldives
pretty little things

We ended the day’s dive with pretty soft corals.  Most of the thilas we had dove the last few days had their top covers with hard corals, so this was a bit different.

Dive Maldives
rich soft corals
Dive Maldives
love the colours and swim throughs

The swim throughs were amazing but once you popped your head above that, the hook better be ready.  I very much prefer to stay low here. 🙂

Dive Maldives
the big and the small

After a day’s diving, we were off on our island tour.  It was a small village and we were told to dress appropriately.  For ladies, covered shoulders and bottoms that cover the knees would be good.

Dive Maldives
leaving the boat for a local island tour
Dive Maldives
jetty view

The island was perfectly clean and there were vast stretches of pristine white beaches.  And for a village, it was surprisingly quiet… silent even.

Dive Maldives
walking along the main street

There was hardly anyone and we did bump into a few groups of children playing but they were not noisy at all.  No screaming kids, only laughters.  A nice village to stay in definitely.

Dive Maldives
local rest area
Dive Maldives
concrete buildings and coral block walls

In the past, the buildings were built using coral blocks but in recent years with the coral conservation, most of the new buildings are all constructed out of concrete blocks.  We visited a local school, simple but otherwise pretty well equipped.

Dive Maldives
visiting the local school
Dive Maldives
classroom and assembly area
Dive Maldives
children playing along the street
Dive Maldives
the foreigners and the locals

The children were initially a little shy but very soon, they got comfortable and were having their photos taken with my fellow divers.

Dive Maldives
village cemetery
Dive Maldives
growing wild in the cemetery

The local cemetery.  It was simple and nothing elaborate.  I always believed the cemetery tells a lot about the locals’ way of life.

Dive Maldives
sunset at the beach

We stayed on for sunset at beach before heading back to Amba. Dinner and it was time for bed.

I woke up a year older.  Yes my last day of diving on my birthday.  I had been ‘running away’ in March for many years now.  I think its a age thing and I just felt that there was no need for any elaborate celebration.  Since it was the last day of diving, I had decided that I could definitely have more than one beer tonight. 😉

Dive Maldives
fighting the current for my shark photo

And this dive, we found the resident sharks.  But currents, currents. currents.  What was new?  I had to struggle so hard to get enough footing for this blurry shot and I was really wondering what I was doing only after a good 5mins.  Yes I should just enjoy the view and move on.

Dive Maldives
taking a walk through the ‘park’

And pretty soft coral walls again as we did a swim through.  It was really a stroll as we were momentarily sheltered from the currents for a while.

Dive Maldives
but u can’t hide forever

Yes, back out in the open again as we proceeded to do our safety stop.

Because of my flight time, I could easily do 2 more dives before calling it a day.  I was really not sure about what I wanted to do.  I could end early and relaxed for the rest of day which really didn’t sound too bad either.  I’ll decide after the next dive.

Dive Maldives
last dive of the trip
Dive Maldives
napoleon, marble ray, plenty of fishes
Dive Maldives
ending on a high
Dive Maldives
and a turtle came to say good bye

I decided I would end on a high.  The last dive had pretty nothing much until the end.  We had pretty much everything at one spot.  Napoleon, marble ray and sharks.. what more could you have asked for?  Wait, yes, I was out of bottom time.  That was the thing with thilas.  With most of them at 15-20m, it simply meant I had to say goodbye much sooner than i would have wanted.  Jamie was laughing as I reluctantly waved goodbye to the turtle and ascended.  So that was my last Maldives dive.

The rest of the day was washing and drying out gear time.  I got myself a beer and relaxed on the upper deck with my book.  I had been out here for close to 3 weeks now and a sudden reality dawned upon me.  I was leaving for home the very next day.  Happy birthday, Panny!

Back to land the next day where I spent the morning to wait out for my afternoon flight back to Male where I would catch a flight back to Singapore.  One last look at that beautiful beach…

Dive Maldives
goodbye maldives

 

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