After breakfast of roti, eggs and beca beans (like a BBQ butter bean dish) it was off to the dive centre. Finalising the paperwork and getting equipment ready was quick and easy and suddenly the boat was pulling away from the dock on yet another glorious morning.
The first site was Kuda Giri wreck. By my reckoning, it was somewhere between Gulhi and Maafushi island. The wreck lay relatively intact upon the giri (coral formation that rises up from the atoll floor and almost reaches the surface). The bow was about 20m deep with the stern at about 30m and the hull resting at supposedly 37m depth. It seemed a bit unfair to bring you to a dive site such as this when you’re not allowed past 30m (being illegal in the Maldives) and all you want to do is explore the hull, the cabin and stick your head down a hatch. That of course didn’t stop other divers, so I hovered around 25m watching them use up both air and decompression time and watched the anthias dart around the deck. We proceeded to dive around the giri itself – other divers clearly having to surface sooner than planned (Mwah hahahaha). I started to enjoy the dive less and less, having giving away a 1kg block to another diver at the descent I was now effectively underweight. Every breath was taking me slightly higher and the strain of swimming at an angle downwards was beginning to tell on my back. I did however manage to see some massive shoals of Moorish Idol, all together impressive when you normally see a solitary fish in one area, they cut through the water gracefully. Passing through clouds of red tooth triggerfish I managed to glimpse (in passing) some anemones with both the Maldivian Clownfish and the Clarkii variety. But of whom my buddy and dive guide missed, being slightly deeper and looking under the overhangs. One of the last things I saw before we ascended was a starry puffer that must have been the size of a basset hound, with its dopey look and fins flapping comically as it wandered through the coral.
It was a short steam over to Guraidhoo Corner, the second dive site. We proceeded to arrive as slowly as possible as to extend our surface interval between dives, thus giving everyone a longer possible time on the bottom for the second dive. With the current racing between the kandu (sea channel connecting the waters of an atoll to the open sea) the descent was a little more rushed than one would like, but not to be unexpected, as to dilly dally in those conditions can mean separation all too quickly and easily.
SHARKS!!! Sorry, I got ahead of myself. We proceeded to drift with the current for a bit and everyone in the lead started pointing out to the blue and kicking against the current to maintain position. We had glimpsed our first shark. It was strange that we then lined up along the atoll slope holding on to bare bits of rock and waited and watched for a procession of sharks and eagle rays to perform. As we clung on to our respective rock outcrops and our fins dangled behind us with the current, the string of divers looked like ants and certainly seemed insignificant compared to the size and grace of an inquisitive Grey Reef Shark that passed overhead.With divers now reaching their limits of no decompression times (amateurs using it all up on the first dive – tut tut) we jettisoned off the slope and took flight with the current speeding past outcrops, coral gardens and under overhangs. We proceeded past shoals of jack fish whom were unperturbed by the fast flowing water and past two juvenile napoleon wrasse with their beautiful green/purple chevron scales. We even passed some green turtles before having to start our safety stop at 5m.
Earlier caution and experience were now reaping benefits where I had no decompression time to account for and was able and allowed to surface with my buddy. The remaining divers and guides were now in that horrible predicament of trying to count down the time left before it was safe to surface against the air remaining in their tanks, especially from such a strenuous dive. I didn’t envy the professionals in the slightest, but would have been more vigilant in observing their computers and air pressure.
The afternoon/evening was a blur; we walked over to picnic island to chill out and as the sun began to set we sat on the spit of bank to watch the golden-orange rays brighten the sky like a lighthouse. We had dinner at Rip Tide, the hotel and restaurant owned by Mr. Ahmed, whom also owns the dive centre and the place we stay at in Male’. It was a feast! The fish portions were massive and it was so fresh as to flake away like mille feuille. After an awesome day it was a perfect end and crashed back at the guesthouse.
Monday 1st March 2016