50 things we’ve learnt during our 29 days in the Maldives. 

1. Male’ has one of the coolest airports ever… you come out of the building and have to get a ferry straight away. 

2. The waters around the jetty are cleaner than most tropical beaches I’ve ever seen, even with water bottles floating around and tyres on the sea bed. 

3. They sell Milo by the can (big cans) – Katherine is very excited. 

4. There is a public swimming pool on the west side of the island where the sea tops up the lagoon. It gets used!

5. There is a full outdoor gym opposite said swimming ‘lagoon’ that would put any gym back home to shame. 

6. We have no idea when you would ever plan to use the equipment in this heat. 

7. We had to turn the air conditioning off during the night – we were too cold with it set at 24*C. 

8. There are no public buses or trains. Although there seems to be bus stops!?

8a. Errata: The buses are pick-up trucks and masquerade as buses. 

8b. Further Errata: There are posh buses and 3 regular bus routes on Hulhumalé. 

9. There is not a single TukTuk driver in sight. Bliss!

10. There seems far too many motorbikes for islands you can walk around in less than an hour. 

11. Nobody beeps their horn, even when you deem it necessary. 

11a. In retrospect and in amendment, if they start beeping their horn, they sit on it until the blockade has been moved. 

12. We saw a shop that sells fleece blankets – how on earth is anyone cold in this weather?!?

13. The park behind the presidents office is full of fake plants and light-up trees as to create some colour and life to the area. 

14. There is mud in the Maldives, contrary to what some would say. 

15. Pedestrians are away with the fairies or glued to their phone, oblivious to their surroundings while walking. 

16. Some tourists walk around like they are in a resort. Shame on them!

17. The women tie their head scarfs in a beautiful fashion. 

18. There is near enough to no shade during the midday sun. Avoid open areas. 

19. They have a ridiculously long lunch break. Coincidence?

20. The only idiots who power walk are tourists trying to get out of said midday heat – we weren’t the only ones. 

21. Some of the locals totally look like video game gangsta’s with their haircuts and aviator glasses, especially driving around on a moped. They are, however, constantly smiling. 

22. They drink more power drinks than water. 

23. Ferries run on time. To the second. 

24. Resort islands look glamorous, we can’t afford looking at them, don’t mind visiting them. 

25. There is such a thing as a prison boat. 

26. It breaks your heart seeing the locals and staff throw litter out the windows of the ferry. 

27. Nappies are called WeeWeeDry. Sanitary towels are washable, reusable and come with a free gift. 

28. Milo doesn’t taste the same in a can. 

29. Bread has a best before date 14months after production???

30. Maldivian women are speed demons on a jet ski. 

31. Some ferry drivers dream of being models in a boxing ring – carrying the destination up and down the boat on a card when approaching the island. 

32. The bikini beach is normally located down wind of the garbage site. Plus, they burn their rubbish just before sunset just to annoy the tourists a little more. 

33. The only hill in the Maldives is the man made one at the driving test centre to teach people how to navigate them… Which seems slightly pointless as its the only hill. 

34. Sometimes the current is just too strong. 

35. Building works in Male’ start at an unsavoury hour (around the same time as the daily tsunami warning siren).

36. You can’t have a comb-over with three strands of greasy hair. Only Homer Simpson can pull that off. 

37. A sarong is not acceptable as a cover up – you can be arrested and/or fined. 

38. “Is this the only shade on the beach?”… is code for, get up off the sunbed and give it to me so that I can sunbathe. 

39. There is a cheap alternative to MoguMogu where the coconut pieces are like chewing rubber tyres. 

40. You should always buy your ticket for the ferry as early as possible, the day before if available. Sold out ferries are not uncommon. 

41. It is better to cook for half an hour on a boat not moving, in the sunshine, than to have a breeze for three hours but the sun blazing on your arm. The wise and experienced will tell which side to sit on, that’s not necessarily the locals. 

42. The woman whom sells the ferry tickets in Malé will remind you of ‘Rose’, the slug lady from Monsters Inc. Rose’ mannerisms, facial expression and drawling accent are based entirely upon this woman. 

43. Berths at the jetty are numbered on 3D Tetris concrete blocks. They are also the wave breakers. The structure would remind the geeks amongst us as a methane molecule. 

44. Trying to tip a Maldivian in seashells is like trying to tip an Innuet in ice cubes. It is however greatly amusing to us to watch the conversation. 

45. Maldivian men are kind of sexy… Especially when they are in board shorts and flip flops.

46. Diving (or snorkelling) within reaching distance of a shark is better than a laxative!!

47. When Katherine says she was directing the Captain’s tiller with her foot, it is not a euphemism, it means she was driving the boat (with a bit of flirting). 🙂

48. Stage props are an acceptable device to use as skate-board ramps, jumps and grinds. 

49. Katherine has the ability to throw away a pair of flip-flops. But only when they’ve melted in the heat. 

50. One should always have a formal outfit in your backpack for that PhD/Job Interview in paradise!

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Male’ & travelling – day 167

And so it’s over… A whole month in the Maldives – finished. Know I shouldn’t moan but why did it have to fly past so ridiculously fast?!?   Absolutely brilliant visiting 6 different islands – each one was so different from the others, especially with regards to how the locals interact with the tourists. This morning was spent lounging around in our PJ’s, uploading blogs and checking out travel insurance terms and conditions for trekking in Nepal (our current policy won’t cover us past 3,000m so we have to get a second policy to cover our trek – good job we checked!!). Packed our bags and headed out, organising a late check out with the hotel owner so we didn’t have to drag our stuff around in the heat. Headed to the local cafe for some lunch and milkshakes – Jayne ordered the ‘special’ (having no idea what it was). Turned out to be a khottu roshi but with smoked meat (I want to say beef but it might have been something else…). She also ordered a ‘karumba’ shake (again, no idea). Turned out to be a coconut type drink that constantly needed to be stirred as it kept separating. I opted for the safe option of tuna khottu roshi and milo milkshake!! Decided to get some passport photos done ready for our Nepal visas and cause we needed to get rid of our last bit of Maldivian Rufiyaa. Found a shop with an incredibly efficient passport photo service. Went in after a little girl who kept bursting into tears as soon as they tried to take her photo but then would smile and laugh when she saw us – if only we were allowed in the photo studio with her and dad. With photos in hand (Jayne looking like a convict – me looking like an odd version of the Cheshire Cat), we headed back to the hotel to pick up our stuff and head to the airport. A significantly less giddy and excitable ferry crossing over to the airport although Jayne did literally bounce up and down when she spotted Burger King in the airport terminal. Saw the news of the Belgium terrorist attacks in the arrivals hall so passed through to departures with feelings of dread and sadness. Check in and through passport control before hitting security. Having been told we could take our water through, we were then told to drink it or throw it away. Since we are both stubborn, we sat down and drank the 1.5ltr bottle and watched other passengers come through. One Indian family had a whole suitcase of chilled coffee drinks which they proceeded to share out amongst them whilst spraying themselves sporadically with the deodorant that they were also being forced to leave behind as it was bigger than 100ml. Got something to eat and was boarded onto the plane. A painful hour flight (my ears are really not happy with me) and we landed in Colombo. We visited the Europcar desk (bunch of bastards!!) to enquiry about our supposed refund. Managed to get the head of Sri Lankan Europcar on the phone and we are slightly closer to sorting all this mess out. Out of the arrivals terminal with our luggage and straight into the departures terminal (with an offer for a taxi ride!), waiting to be able to check in for our 4am flight to Doha. 

Tuesday 22nd March 2016

Male’ – day 166

Woke up early, feeling just a little bit nervous. Had a meeting organised today with the Maldives Autism Association to discuss my PhD proposal. Picked through both of our backpacks to find a. an item of clothing that actually fitted me properly and b. something suitable for a professional meeting. Ended up going with Jayne’s hiking dress with leggings, weirdly knowing that I’d worn the exact same outfit recently to go night fishing… Ate breakfast and then left Jayne to wash clothes as I walked to their office. The office is actually the school – set over two floors on the busy main street which accommodates 90 children and 30 teaching staff. Had a quick tour (the children are on holidays) before sitting down with the managing director. Turns out, they are opening a new school in Hulhumalé (the man-made island created to ease the strain on the capital) in January 2017 and she offered me a job!! I would be the first international teacher that she has ever employed and it seems like an amazing opportunity to be part of shaping the education for children with autism as it will be the first school in the country of its kind. Went back to the hotel to fill Jayne in on the details before heading over to the island of Hulhumalé itself to see if we could see ourselves living and working there full time. Got the ferry over and started wandering away from the ferry terminal in no direction in particular (although we headed towards the guy flying around on his aqua pack thing – it looked amazing!!). Jayne says I can have one if I take the teaching job but I know she really just wants it for herself!! Spent time walking around the perimeter of the island, seeing where it is going to be expanded in the future and looking at the number of guesthouses and block of flats being constructed (as well as deciding which ones we’d want to live in… Not getting ahead of ourselves at all!!).  Popped into a few dive shops to see if there was potential for Jayne to find work – one wasn’t interested at all, one seemed to specialise in wedding dresses more than scuba diving (we didn’t get it either…) and one that was really interested in having her work there! Sat on the beach for ages weighing up all the options – obviously the thought of living out here with the white sandy beaches and crystal clear blue water needs serious consideration – let’s face it, who would bother visiting us and could I really live in flip flops 24/7?!  As we sat by the sea, we saw a massive porcupine fish swim right up to the shore line – beautifully camouflaged against the rocks and sand, we got a few good photos before he got scared and swam off.  Headed back to Male’ just as the sun was setting and headed out for dinner. Went to a slightly posh restaurant (for us!) and ate our last proper Maldivian meal (for a few months 😉).  Suitably stuffed, we wandered down to the only cinema on the island and watched the new Divergent film. Completely different from the book, I didn’t really enjoy it. Jayne was in an air conditioned cinema – she was the human equivalent of a dog with its head out of the window in a moving car!!

Monday 21st March 2016

Male’ – day 165

So, we were up early and getting ourselves ready for the meeting at 10:30. What meeting? Well,  some of you may recall all the way back in Guraidhoo I was diving with a gentleman called Kuday, the owner of the dive centre. The semi-retired local legend is looking to expand his operation and needed people to make it happen. It just so happened that Katherine and I were on the island at the time of his instructor packing it in for a resort island job and he is desperate to see the place take off so he can visit his son for 3months at a time in the Czech Republic. We were there at the right time, right place. But, we wouldn’t be prepared to start until September. That coincides with the start of the high season so we kicked a few ideas around and he wanted to have a meeting back in Malé away from business distractions. The meeting – to burst a bubble for anyone already looking at SkyScanner flights – was a disaster. The B&B owner turned up with the gentleman whom collects and shepherds people back and forth between airport and ferry terminals. Kuday was indisposed and none of the questions we had asked were being answered with any conviction or authority. Ah well, so close!

After the long, boring, tiring meeting Katherine had a snooze and I watched a film. Someone woke up full of beans, Face Time’d Tracey in Oz and still had energy for a walk. Thus, we meandered down more random streets ending up at the Tsunami Memorial Park which has only recently been relocated. The structure is simple and nice, especially arriving by ferry when, as passing, the sun makes the monument shimmer in greys and silvers.Continuing along the south side of the capital island we drooled at the speed boats, yachts and military rigid hull inflatable boats. We also passed quite a few JCB’s repairing and extending the breaker wall – creating their own little island to go further along – and generally just marvelling at how they work in such a haphazard fashion. We spent a long time on the wall by the public swimming pool. The lads on the breaker were fishing away merrily, the workers from up the road (constructing the bridge to the airport) were finishing work and passing by exhausted, and kids and adults alike were pushing each other in to the water off the pontoon and generally have a whale of a time. We couldn’t help but laugh at a few of the instances and it was a very chilled out evening with the sun setting quietly behind the clouds. Trying to be somewhat repentative for being over budget (curse you awesome diving sites) we went shopping for dinner. A very humble meal of luncheon meat wraps with garlic sauce, cheese and a side salad of sweet corn and kidney beans, washed down with cranberry fruit beer (non-alcoholic) and we were…stuffed.    Early to bed for Katherine, coz’ we may have had a dive meeting this morning, but she has other plans for paradise…

Sunday 20th March 2016

Travelling & Male’ – day 164

A lazy morning as we reluctantly packed up our bags to prepare to return to Male’. Had our usual breakfast of egg, sausage and toast before grabbing our bags and headed to the dock to get one last Milo milkshake before leaving. Jayne fancied a piece of cake but the only one they had was a strangely odd semolina type flan thing with, what tasted like, caramelised onion on top. I was pleased we only ordered one piece – I could barely swallow my bite!!!  
Chatted for a bit about nothing in particular before heading over to the ferry dock. The ferry turned up and was already jammed packed… So much so that there was a scary moment where we didn’t think we’d get on and we’d be stuck on the island (although it was not the worst thing in the world!!!). We were let on to the boat but ended having to sit up on the roof of the ferry for the journey back to Male’ as there was no seats left. Fortunately, there was a shady section up there although it was still ridiculously hot! Spent the ferry ride listening to music and reading books.Got back to Male’, bumping into Nashid again, and made our way to the hotel. Dumped our bags and decided to chill out for a bit in the air conditioning having cooked ourselves up on the ferry roof! After a couple of hours of doing not very much, we went for a walk to the fish and fruit & vegetable markets. Found the only cinema on the island and decided to watch ‘Kungfu Panda 3’ since we weren’t very motivated to do much else! Was slightly strange being in a room with air conditioning running full blast and it still being hot! I went back to the hotel after the film and Jayne went to get us some chicken wraps for dinner. Ate them whilst watching ‘X-Men Origins: The Wolverine’ and then headed to bed.

Saturday 19th March 2016

Rasdhoo – day 163

So, I was now employed in the Maldives. I didn’t have a uniform or a wage or even a work visa, but I had free diving. Pretty much the same thing. Almost!

The divers I was to look after were the same two we were diving with yesterday. It’s not so much that they needed a guide or babysitter, but more an experienced person to monitor air, depth, deploy the surface marker buoy and point out stuff during the dive.

The first site was the little visited ‘Beyru Kandu’ or ‘Caves’ as they are now calling it. At the north side of the atoll it’s an hour steam away and untouched by pollution or fishing. With the briefing describing all these caves and overhangs it promised to be an amazing site. It wasn’t…

Uninspiring, too deep to visit any of the caves and devoid of any pelagic or macro life the two highlights of the dive for my divers were a spotted moray in the reef that was all too photogenic and loved the camera and a shoal of tuna that must have been 3 or 4 bus loads passing by above and behind all the other divers. They were content watching a big octopus deeper down and were inattentive to my banging on the tank to get their attention. Their loss – Ha!

Katherine was snorkelling on the top of the reef. Equally disappointing, at least she didn’t pay for the excursion unlike the other two on the boat. The highlight was a few fusiliers, a barracuda and seeing the divers ascend meaning we’d leave soon.IMG_0766El Capitain (he’s not Spanish, just liked that we called him that) and Katherine got on really well from the first day on the boat. Thus, he started to show her how to drive the boat. It was at the same time that Dirk decided to be superman, hanging off the back of the boat in the wake of the engine. With no pressure on her whatsoever, she steered us true and brought us back to Rasdhoo. I kept my eyes open for dolphins, mantas and the like when I saw a Mobular Ray leap from the water. I was told that they do it inside the lagoon but to actually see on doing it was fab.IMG_0754Being Friday, a holy day in a Muslim country, there was no second morning dive and the afternoon dive was a little later than usual. But, that gave us plenty of time to chill out, let our bodies get rid of the excess nitrogen gas in the tissues (and have an ice cream lunch). Before ya know it, a few Friends episodes have passed and I’m back at the dive centre (oh the horror), analysing nitrox tanks, setting computers to the analysed percentage of oxygen and briefing the dive – we were off to do Rasdhoo Channel. IMG_0751Scuba Rex went snorkelling again and looked after a girl who’s about to go to India (poor thing). She clung on to Katherine for dear life when the black tip sharks passed them. Kat pointed out all kinds of things to her and managed to get a lovely shot of some cuttlefish. I was down in Davie Jones Locker and was watching not just the usual three sharks (I love how blacktips, whitetips and grey reef have already became so blazé regular) but also Silver Tip Reef Sharks. Bigger than all the others, they put much less effort in to their swimming and look more torpedo and deadly than the others. They stayed down a bit deeper, so we only had them for a while before searching the slopes for more octopus, big groupers, massive anemones and clownfish families and a couple of big morays. We should have done both dives here, being spoilt for things to engage us and pass the time away.IMG_0782We had found out that the dive centre ran night fishing trips, and at considerably less price than our own guesthouse. Earlier at lunch time we cancelled the trip with them and said we were going out night diving (oops!!). The sun was setting and the crew were preparing spools of line, hooks, bait and positioning us around the boat to cover a nice big area on the sea bed. With the sun giving a spectacular display we were all set and waiting to cast out.IMG_0815IMG_0818It was a slow start. Nobody telling us what to do, just being given the line and hoping that we were doing the right thing. Of course that meant we were all copying each other and slowly pretending we were experts in it. The captain moved me from the bow to over the railing on the port side – which proved more claustrophobic and not at all comfortable (notice how I’m getting in excuses early).IMG_0831Captain helped both myself and Katherine out a lot (thanks to all Katherine’s previous flirting… hussy!). He added more weight to the line so that the current wouldn’t take the bait away and he snagged the first ones for us both and all we had to do was haul up the catch.
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Around the boat the crew had found their few people that were in need of help and everyone was in their element having photos, enjoying the peace and quiet and generally relaxing. With a few hours under the belt and the bucket full of a selection of fish we headed home. Tallying up the scores Katherine did significantly better than anyone else on the boat. Favouritism!
Katherine and I left them to take the catch to the restaurant for dinner, while we headed back to our cosy lil’ café for ours and milkshakes. What a fab day! We were on cloud 9 and didn’t realise how tired we were until back at the inn where we passed out. Packing could wait until the morning.

Friday 18th March 2016

 

Rasdhoo – day 162

It was another early start, but certainly not as painful with a good nights sleep and less problems with the boats. We (Mifdad and I) headed over to Rasdhoo Channel and descended down to 30m out in the blue before the sun had even rise. With no unicornfish, batfish or plankton to discern direction and water movement we were out in the deep navy blue waters for about 20mins when we saw shadows…

No, we didn’t stumble across the hammerheads but had been sucked back in towards the atoll island on the far side of the channel and came from the seaside in to a small shoal of tuna. We continued along the reef with a few sharks lazily swimming by, also in need of a bit of coffee and energy.  We had run down both air supplies and deco time but we enjoyed a leisurely dive finding some big groupers, a shoal of pennant fish, an octopus and a blue angelfish. We surfaced and were all alone…

Yep, the sheer depth we had gone to so quickly before the sun had risen meant the boat crew weren’t able to see our bubbles on the surface, breaking up in to a small fizzy solution before silently popping on the surface. Thus, they were hoping and waiting for us on the other side of the channel where the current should have brought us based on how it was going earlier. A distant blur of a hull finally appeared bouncing over wave crests. There was no real panic, I would have swam on to the resort island and become a shipwrecked hobo, lived off coconuts and had a volleyball as a friend.

Breakfast was late, as is now expected/anticipated and allowed for in our schedule. Although, someone got blueberry jam with theirs so she was incredibly happy! Back at the dive centre Nica gave a briefing for the next two dive sites. Madivaru Corner again for the first dive and Holhi Faru for the second. The first dive was awesome. Rex and I hovered above the other two divers and Nica, not doing any yo-yo diving or hanging on to coral/rock outcrops constantly for a better photo. We saw a grey reef try to attack a sting ray and watched it become stiff and stick out its sting in anticipation of using it. A small white tip came over the bridge of the reef lip to pass a metre away, too close for the camera to focus so quickly but proof is available if needed! We gently drifted in to the channel itself, between Rasdhoo and the Picnic island. The other two divers had used up so much air in their activities to have to start their safety stop and ascent. We continued on for another 10mins or so, most of which was spent gently kicking against the current to remain in line with a large eagle ray. Being at the back of the group taking photos I was able to start my counter-finning sooner and got in to a fabulous position to be about 2m away when it got curious. Apparently they are inquisitive to anything horizontal and big that aren’t themselves. Thus, my buoyancy skills have finally paid off for a close encounter of the ray kind.   We moored up to wreck for our surface interval, it being the original plan if the current had died down. My computer was a bit cranky for me going in for the third dive – everyone else being only on dive two of the day – so I was punished and had to stay shallow for the duration of the dive. A rather uninspiring site at the back of the resort island it was incredibly murky and clearly very damaged from all the works they’ve done on the shoreline, projecting the little huts out over the reef. We did manage to spot 2 grey reef shark and a white tip reef shark, all of which were up above us in the shallows (giving further credence to the idea that there’s a lot of rubbish up there, bringing in the parrotfish and cleaning crew). There were also 9 nice sized lobsters (that had never heard of garlic butter in their lives). 

  

 A nice relaxed afternoon and we were set for the night dive. The briefing involved a lot of promises to have areas to kneel down on, nothing scary and yet there was still a lot of whimpering and nail biting. It was horrific. The projected fears of others meant the darkness behind the reef, where the torch light couldn’t penetrate, was an ominous abyss of things lurking to come and get you. The fact that the dive site, same as the second morning dive, was on a wall, was a drift and didn’t have any single area to knell upon meant it was an exercise in fear rather than diving. Couple in the fact that the torch battery died and you’ve just pretty much summed up Katherine’s worst fears in a single instance: potential of sharks creeping up, the deep blue being behind and below, now shrouded in darkness casting shadows on the smallest creatures, drifting at a ridiculous speed so as to potentially separate even the most experience of divers, and the torch battery dying leaving you with no reference of up/down, reef/sea. 

I called off the dive when Nica passed Katherine a back-up torch. It wasn’t acceptable to have so many things like that happen on the dive and then expect to carry on with a piddly lill’ torch. We were already shallow enough to have already completed a safety stop and let’s face it, it had become increasingly difficult to navigate the dive while holding someone’s hand for parts of it, controlling buoyancy and avoiding the rocks and corals. 

A Milo milkshake, tuna toasty, chips, two hours of solid sand beneath her feet and bright lights in the cafe and streets and Katherine was starting to calm down, breathe normally again and let the adrenaline rush come down. I’m very proud of her and think it may be the last night dive ever for Scuba Rex!   I, however, was glutton for punishment. Just before dinner I had returned to the dive centre to settle the bill and thank Dirk for the fab diving. He had a group of 19Danish arrive and were all doing DSD’s the next day. I know all too well the headache involved and returned when it calmed down to offer my help. Graciously accepted, I was now a dive leader for the morning and afternoon dive and had myself a job in the Maldives. A bucket list tick if you don’t mind! 😀 Better get to bed and rest up!

Thursday 17th March 2016

Rasdhoo – day 161

Another perfectly lazy day. Started off with a traditional Maldivian breakfast of tuna, coconut, red onion and roshi washed down with coffee and fresh fruit juice followed by more fruit than we could wave a stick at!!!   Headed over to the beach (the long way – if that’s even possible on an island this size!) and saw a couple of grey moray eels swimming around in the shallows as well as a few fish. Resumed our positions on the semi-broken beach chairs in the shade. Went for a snorkel straight away to cool down after our walk to the beach – it was that hot!!!  Stayed inside the breakers and swam around avoiding the giant trigger fish before heading in when we felt we were slightly cooking in the sun. Sat in the shade, reading our books, and I was revelling in the fact that I don’t have to read LOTR!! I finished 2 books whilst sat in the shade – clearly absorbing then so quickly since they weren’t ridiculously long winded and heavy. Went back into the water for a second snorkel, heading over to the over side of the breakers.   Slightly strange current that made the water uncomfortably warm in some sections and freezing cold in others! Headed back to the hotel for a lunch of peanut butter and jam sandwiches before heading back out to the beach for more laziness and snorkelling. Back at the hotel for a shower before going to the dive centre to organise some diving for tomorrow. Had planned to go somewhere different for dinner but, after walking around the island, we ended up back at the hotel… Mainly cause neither of us could make a conscious decision about what we wanted to eat. A power cut in the hotel meant we had dinner by candlelight… So romantic!! Two very spicy tuna kotthu roshi later, with enough fruit for pudding to sink a ship, and we headed for bed. 

Wednesday 16th March 2016

Rasdhoo – day 160

Decided to have a lazy day today, especially as Jayne had clearly shattered herself doing four dives yesterday (and probably gave herself nightmares from the night dive – I was scared just watching the video footage!!). Had breakfast at the hotel before heading back to our room to watch an episode of ‘Friends’ before heading to the beach. Found a couple of semi broken beach chairs in the shade which we plonked ourselves down on and read our books.   I finally finished LOTR – The Fellowship of the Ring – don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to finish a book!! Have a feeling that this New Years resolution to read Jayne’s favourite book is going to be painful… Should definitely have chosen a harder (and longer) book for her!! Headed into the water for a quick cool off and a long snorkel around the house reef – the tide was too low for us to get over the breaker so we swam around inside the lagoon, looking at the tiny fish and stag horn coral.   Headed back to the hotel for a peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwich before heading back out to our shady reading spot. Jayne is already flying through LOTR – The Two Towers but I can’t bring myself to start it yet so entertained myself with some trashy book instead!   Spent the last two hours of daylight snorkelling the other side of the breaker – spent ages following a turtle along the reef and we saw two black tipped reef sharks – absolutely stunning, if not a little bit TOO big.   Went for a stroll around the island, sitting on the dock for a while watching boats come into the harbour. We saw a boat leave and return having only headed out about a kilometre out to sea and then unloading empty wheelie bins… Jayne has imagined the worst but I can’t quite believe that they are allowed to dump rubbish in the ocean like that. Headed back to the hotel via the beach, where Jayne stood in the water trying to get the phosphorescent plankton to shine but there was too much light from the moon to see it clearly (Ah… First world problems!!!). Ate dinner and then climbed into bed to watch ‘Mission Impossible 3’. 

Tuesday 15th March 2016

Rasdhoo – day 159

‘Twas an early start, 2 o’clock being the first time I awoke. Again at 3, another at 4, alarm at 04:50. The excitement must have been playing havoc on me and I was tired walking down the streets to be at the dive centre for 05:15. Katherine was out for the count back at the hotel and content with rising at a respectable hour. I was off to try and find hammerheads and hoped that we would be lucky enough to see these elusive creatures.
The morning was thwart with mishaps and wasn’t at all shaping up to be a good day. Two guests that had been diving with them all week were commandeering the speed boat to get them to the resort island where a ferry was leaving for Malé. The captain arrived late to explain that the boat wouldn’t start and there followed some abrupt words about why the other boat hadn’t yet been serviced and the speed boat being used. Thus, we crawled to the mouth of the jetty whereby I did the silent head shake and twisty finger thing ya do when you’re saying to someone give up and turn back. Hopped in to the now returned speed boat, fully kitted and trying to make up speed, all too similar to a scene from a Bond film and we were descending just as the sun was cresting on the horizon.
No hammerheads, but still a fab dive. There are some overly enthusiastic bubble fish (a type of unicorn-fish) that dart in and attack your bubbles. They followed us (myself and Dirk, the co-owner) out and down to the dark blue waters, with the slight flicker of green and blue phosphorescent plankton much like a snow globe in slow motion. We did have large grey reef sharks, and the white tip reef sharks were not only swimming past us, but skimming the shallows of the reef when we returned from the blue.
The reef itself was spectacular. Truly! There were every fish species possible in these waters darting up and down the atoll slopes with soft and hard corals of every shape, size and colour to match their energy.

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Grinning like the Cheshire Cat from one of the best dive sites I’ve ever been to, I returned to the guest house for breakfast and to get Katherine motivated. Our first dive was at Madi Garu (literal translation being Manta Rock). Having sat on the seabed with the fishies nibbling at tidbits raised by our fins and watching the garden eels pop up and down like ‘Whack A Mole’, we gave up waiting after 10mins of patience and dived around the reef.
We avoided the triggerfish that were nesting. They had an area east of the main rock and the sand looked like a few grenades had been set off with the pits being filled with rabid, blood thirsty fish, itching to have a go at you if you swam within the zone or conical area above the nest. Our guide, the lovely Nica, checked our air twice and was content that we knew what we were doing, our air consumption was good and we were looking out for each other. It was such that Rexy (Katherine is a T-Rex… She only spots things when it moves) saw an octopus on an outcrop of coral.
We bimbled around in a circle hoping for a visitor of 4m in length to swim by, but had no luck. We did however spot colourful displays of Christmas Tree Worms, lobsters, anemones and clownfish, starfish that looked decidedly phalic in their appendages and some giant clams. We passed the 60min dive time law of the Maldives by accident, completing our safety stop as we drifted over some coral boulders.

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The second dive for Rexy was at the same place I was at this morning – Madivaru Corner (or something along those lines) – but not in to the blue. We again witnessed the ice cream scoop shaped depression out of the reef filled with thousands of garden eels, the unicorn-fish darted between Kat and Nica chasing/attacking their bubbles, the reef was alive with the sound of parrotfish (sounds very musical, don’t ya think) and the dive was just full of interesting things to see.Katherine with Bubblefish There was a white tip reef shark asleep under a table coral, there was a stone fish doing a very good impression of a rock, there was a ghost pipefish hiding behind the oriental sweet lips trying to pretend it was one of the trumpetfish.
And then, while Nica was checking our air and nearing the end time of the dive I had to draw her attention to the eagle ray just above and behind her. We followed it easily with the current to then see it ‘dance’ with another up and down the slope turning somersaults and feeding off the plankton in the water. They then joined another three slightly in to the blue. I finned out slightly just to try and get a better view of the beautiful starry pattern on their backs and admire their grace and elegance, when, like a murmuration of starlings, they turned in unison and swam towards me and passed only a few metres away. It was spectacular.IMG_0294 It was in fact more memorable than the baby manta ray that we saw at the start of the dive. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that. Oops!
An afternoon of charging camera batteries, downloading photos and generally resting up before I was ready again for dive 4 of the day. The wonders of Nitrox; giving not only longer bottom time on a dive due to the less nitrogen in the gas mixture, but the extra energy from the increased percentage of oxygen in the blend.
Torches on, GoPro strapped to my forehead, camera in hand, reg and mask held in place with the other hand, I was jumping off the boat, looking very much like a human Christmas tree with my lights and accessories, while Katherine chatted to the crew on the boat and chilled out.

Myself and Matt (he drew the short straw for the night dive) descended in to the murk while the last rays of the sunset still held a glow and phantom present over the wreck and surrounding reef.
We headed up past the bow to a sandy area where a shovel has been dropped over board by some workmen and is now a prop for divers to play with, desperately trying to make the dive site a bit deeper. We swam to an outcrop that had a leaf fish and the very shy and timid family of Clarkii clownfish nestled in a shrivelled up carpet anemone. Then we returned to the wreck and down to business.
The keel of the boat by the bow section at 16m is swarmed in glass fish. And where you find them, you can bet money that you will find a lionfish hunting. He just glided through their ranks and waited for his evening snack. We passed by leaving him to his quarry and passed an octopus crawling along the reef, feather stars unfurling for the night current that was coming, a large star pufferfish munching coral on the hull, and before you know it we were at the other end of the boat, going around the propellers, through a tangle of metal debris and around to the west side of the boat… and darkness.

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The suns last warmth was left on the other side and the hatches, portholes and railings of the deck, lying perpendicular to the sea bed were alive with shoals of hawkish and squirrelfish, their big eyes catching the light and turning aside, vanishing in to the framework. The larger parrotfish had yet to create their bubble cocoons for the night, or maybe these ones were so big as to not need to hide the electrical signals and smells that their younger signals would typically send out to sharks?
The first pass around the boat was much of a muchness, just looking for the obvious and enjoying the site for what it was. The second pass was, without need for comment or suggestion, an opportunity to stick your torch under the outcrops, though the rusty frameworks and down the pipes and vents.
Well, I love my night diving, but this almost had me. Looking down the steam pipe, clearly leading to the engine room we were admiring a type of porcelain crab at the rim. Curiosity had me line up and hover in a fashion to shine the torch down the length of the chimney stack and either it was incredibly bad timing, sheer coincidence or an upset and vengeful beast, but the mother of all black cheek morays came swimming down the pipe, raising a cloud of silt in its wake and make a slithering bee line for my mask. A rather sharp intake of breath, a rise up and over the pipe with the extra air and buoyancy in my body and I was clear of the danger. But wow, did it give my heart a race. So, I went back to take a video of him siting at the edge of the pipe smiling his victorious wicked grin.Moray in Wreck on Night Dive
This slippery creature was not however what made Katherine squeamish later that night when watching video footage. Oh no, for it was the leviathan at the bow hatch that did that job. A napoleon wrasse that easily was the size of a bumper car was face down and looking out at us and with apparent ease and little effort he turned and sunk further in to the bowels of the ship, the size of him only becoming fully apparent when you saw how many scales passed by the torch light and the size of the fins. They’re totally harmless, but he had the air and presence of an evil villain at the window that sent a shiver up your spine.
Back to the hotel after a busy day, it was a wonderful thing to have a hot shower and hot food. So many amazing things, all in one day having started so early and finishing so late. It was incredible. Need to do it again!!!
Monday 14th March 2016