Saturday, March 2, 2013

Maldives Day 6 - last diving day

I woke up on the upper deck around 6am, with the sky lighting up. I soon heard activities below, and realized that everyone was up. By now I was well versed in bundling my stuff in the bed sheet and in two minutes had everything back to the cabin. We saw the sunrise, and then sat down for morning briefing.

Dive 14 Miyaru kandu, Start 200, end 20

This was a channel dive. Unlike yesterday we were supposed to cross the channel from one shoulder and rest on the bottom in the middle of the channel mouth. We jumped in with negative entry. By now I was proficient at jumping in, taking the camera from the crewman and immediately descend. By now I would then connect with Ayelet who jumps next after me.

Friendly reception on the way down

The current was not as strong as yesterday's dive, and we swam across the channel mouth with ease. 

The downside of this, was the much smaller number of sharks.

A bit after we decided to unhook and start drifting in the channel we run across a large Napoleon fish. I managed one or two shots, and was getting close to a third, when Alex came out of the left and tried to get close to it. The fish bolted and swam away. 

We slowly drifted up with the current. Saar and Mor (who rejoined forces today) tried a new way of keeping contact in a buddy team.

Saar and Mor keeping in touch. Dhous watches somewhat amused

Dive 15 Mata Kandu, Start 200, end 20

We returned to the site of yesterday's afternoon dive. Unlike yesterday, today we aimed to get to "shelve" in the middle of the channel mouth. 

We jumped to the north of the channel, and then crossed most of its width until we settled about 2/3 of the way across. At some point three eagle-rays passed across our path in a graceful formation. (They were too far into the blue to take a picture of them.)

A shark, and barely visible a pair of eagle rays

Similar to yesterday, we saw many sharks moving in the blue. I thought that down here we will get a closer look.

I am not sure if we didn't have as good a dive as yesterday, or maybe we have grown used to seeing sharks and its not such a big deal.

After unhooking, we came across the big Napoleon, probably the same one we saw here yesterday. This time I got a chance for a nice picture of it.

As was the routine by now, we went up while drifting with the current.

Saar and Mor with a variant on the buddy hold
Anat and David doing the more traditional version

Ayelet decided she wants a picture with Dhous.

He instead wanted to stretch his legs, leading to an interesting situation...

We returned to the boat, and started the journey from the Vaavu atoll to the Male atoll. We ate lunch while the boat was going through mild waves, and it was rocking a bit. Few people lost their appetite. I went to sleep.

Dive 16 Loshfushi Kandu. Start 200, end 20

This was the next to last dive of the safari. The plan was to go on a drift dive along an outer reef, and end with the current taking us into a wide channel.

We started a bit off in the blue parallel to the reef wall. We saw several sharks above the reef and also some below us. We crossed the mouth of a relatively narrow channel. 

Right about this area we saw a small turtle that passed overhead.

One small turtle, four divers, and very dimly a shark in the background

We run into schools of coral fish, including snappers and bannerfish.

As we continued we passed a Napoleon fish in the blue, sharks, and coral outgrowths. We were picked by the current heading into the channel. We started "flying" over the reef. Ayelet spotted a turtle eat some soft corals. I held onto a rock and managed few pictures.

Notice how Saar barely holds on while the turtle calmly goes against it...

We picked up the speed and started ascending while drifting over the reef. I went up with David, and sadly finished the last day dive of the safari.

David minding the depth at the safety stop

We were resting waiting for the evening dive. I was sitting on the middle deck in the shade reading a book. A small colorful boat approached us and there was some discussion between its crew and ours.

I looked down, and saw that the boat had a huge Merlin (sailfish) on its deck. Few back and forth discussions, and the crew threw a rope to the small boat, the merlin was tied to it, and unceremoniously dropped it to the sea. Dhous pulled the line and dragged the huge fish toward our boat. He couldn't lift it by himself and needed another hand to get it on board.

Line caught Merlin

It turns out that the boat was not a fishing boat as initially I thought, but a water supply boat. They did drag a line during their trip, and caught the Merlin. Our crew bought the fish of their hands. They claimed it was 80kg fish, and they bought it for 30$.

By now everyone was gawking on the fish and examining what is going on. Dhous and the kitchen aid brought two knifes and set to work on cleaning the fish. 

Ready for action

They worked for quite a while, first filleting it, then cutting large chunks, removing the skin from each, washing, and packing in bags. I guess the bags went into the freezer/cooler. Dhous said that this will give them fish supply for about a week. [I spared you the pictures of the process here]

Dive 17 Villivarn giri: night dive Start 200, end 70

The site of the night dive was around a small pinnacle, called in the local language giri. The dive plan was similar to what I am used to in night dives in Sinai. We went in in pairs and each pair did their own exploration of the site. Initially we were surrendered by quite a few people, but slowly Ayelet and I managed to disengage and find the space for exploration and photography.

The night reef life here was similar to that of the red sea, with many shrimps and crab showing up at night, and bigger reef fish resting in every nook and cranny.

There were few odd animnals. Some kind of anemone like creature but without the tentacle. It closed up like anemone after a bit of time in the light.

There was also a smallish coral or sponge that reminded me of clusters of pomegranate seeds. 

We did get our share of morays of different sizes, some of them friendlier than others.

And as usual, I cannot avoid the clownfish.

We found a small cave like structure, and snuggled at the end was a sleeping turtle, who seemed oblivious to our presence.

All by all it was a very nice dive. We were the last emerge from the water ("first in, last out" is my moto for night dives :-) 

Once on the Dhoni the guides climbed onto the roof. We followed up. They were sitting on a bench facing each other with two large drums between them. They were drumming and singing. The noise and light from below were hidden by the upper, and so the small group of us was separated from   the world. Above we could see the stars in the pre-moon night. It was a very surrealistic moment to end this last dive with.

No comments: