Maldives Trip Report – Feb 2020
This past February Dive Ninjas headed down south! Exploring the remote southern hemisphere of the Maldives, we went looking for the impressive and elusive pelagics that call this area home. So did we find them? Read on and find out!
Words & Images by Sze Wei
Southern Hemisphere Ninjas
You know you’re onto something special when on the flight down to Gan (our trip meeting point in the Maldives), there is a sudden fanfare in the plane and the Captain announces we’ve just crossed the equator!! We even got personalised crossing certificates! The southern hemisphere of the Maldives, somewhat off the beaten tourist trail, can only be visited by liveaboards a couple of weeks each year, when the conditions are just right. And with an itinerary with promises of mantas and lots of sharkie encounters, spirits were high! The 22 ninja expedition members, literally from all over the world, assembled on the beautiful Maldives Aggressor, our floating home for the week. Let the week of southern living commence!
Kicking it off at Addu Atoll
We were all up bright and early the next day, eager to get in the water! After a chilled check out dive, we dropped in at Manta Point, and were immediately rewarded with two huge nurse sharks! Then, just as we were distracted, a beautiful manta cruise by us, flapping as if to say what’s up? And that’s not all! At the end of the dive, we had 3 mantas circling around each other in endless loops! Yes, the pelagics are definitely around!
Our final dive of the day was something different, as we checked out the British Royalty Wreck – a huge tanker that was torpedoed during WWII. It was a beautiful right royal wreck of a dive – with the tanker coral encrusted and largely intact, with lots of nooks, crannies and artefacts to explore.
The next day, most of our time was spent at the manta cleaning stations at Maa Corner – and there was a literally a queue of mantas stopping by to get cleaned! It was just beautiful to see them swoop in one after another, hovering gracefully in the current. They got super close to some of the lucky ninjas who managed to get hooked in at just the right spot! But a definite highlight for me was when a little torpedo ray appeared trailing after his manta cousins! He was super cute as he wiggled after them, like he was off to the ray rave too! And then an eagle ray swooped over! It was just a day of magnificent rays all round!
Secret Batfish Hideaway
Next up was a dive at Maa Thila Kandu – a beautiful reef just teeming with life. Partway through the dive though, I saw a shimmering mass of silver in front of me… it slowly starts to resolve as I got closer – it was a massive school of batfish! And when I say massive – they totally blanketed out the reef and blocked out the sky above – it was batfish as far as the eye can see! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger school of fish! What a day of amazing encounters!
That evening, Jay gave us a talk, introducing us to the biology and ecology of sharks, as well as setting us up to know and recognise the different species of sharks we expect to see in the days ahead. Can’t wait!
Sharks & Fuvahmulah
The next day we had arrived at Fuvahmulah atoll, which marks the start of the super sharkie part of the trip! Dropping into a couple of blue water drift dives, we spotted some silver tips, and then unbelievably, way down deep below us, a thresher shark lackadaisically whipped its tail around as it cruised along the sand! Wow! And Ben, Lianne and Lisa came back with tales of tiger sharks sneaking up behind them! Sharkies are definitely around! And we saw even more that afternoon, at a baited shark dive at Tiger Zoo! We were surrounded by lots of boisterous silvertips. And deep down below along the wall, we spotted a tiger shark making a couple of curious passes. Definitely a sharkie day!
Next up we motored up further north to Huvadhoo Atoll. We hooked into a couple of nice channel dives, with big schools of silvertips and grey reef sharks giving us an awesome show! And it just feels that the deeper and longer you stay, the closer the sharks get to you! Then, to prove that it’s not just about sharks, a couple of eagle rays dropped by as well to check us out! All that, with a really pretty fishie reef, and a couple of turtles and Napolean wrasses, kept me happy all day!
BBQ with Pride
After an amazing day’s diving, we had another treat in store for us! A beautifully deserted island, with a pristine white sandy beach, and the most amazing pink and purple sunset – yes please! The crew did an amazing job of setting up a whale shark sand carving, which we happily sat round while enjoying the most delicious BBQ dinner. We also hosted the inaugural shark pride event in the Maldives – Dive Ninjas, breaking down barriers everywhere we go! Good diving, good friends, good food, good causes, and most amazing starlight sky – just the kind of holiday I dream about!
Then it was time for another baited dive – with oceanic blacktips! What beautifully awesome sharks! With their distinctive black lined fins and slender witchy snouts, they were astounding to behold! We kept to a tight group, as probably a dozen oceanic blacktips very efficiently tackled the bait – I couldn’t believe how quick they moved, and how incredible agile they were! And to cap it all off, right at the start of the dive, a giant guitar shark mosied up to us to say hello! We were seeing sharks of all shapes and sizes on this expedition, and I was loving it.
Biggest Shark School Ever
Sadly it was soon our last day of diving – but the Maldives saved one of best spectacles for last! Hooking in at our dive at Kodoo Kandu, we were greeted by the biggest school of grey reef sharks that I’ve ever seen! It was spectacular, and they just kept coming in closer and closer! And the further you peered out into the blue, it was just layers and layers of even more sharks! Some groups saw shark vortexes and tornadoes as they surfed the currents! What a fitting end to our fantastic pelagic adventures!
Crap Photos and Goodbyes
As the crew helpfully washed and hung out our gear to dry, there was a buzz going round the ninjas – it was time for the crap photography contest! Hosted by the super talented David Shattenborough (aka alter ego Ben), it was a hilarious session as we laughed, clapped and cheered over everyone’s crap photo – critically evaluating each against the crap criteria to find the worthy winners! Big congratulations to winners – Joe & Sozib, Ashley and Amber D!
I had a great time crossing the equator and appreciating pelagics with a super fun bunch of ninjas! Big thank you to all for being such an awesome group to hang out with – Cheri, Amber P, Greg, Charlie, Adrienne, Joe, Dawn, Bryan (the New Yorkers), Ashley, Amber D, Ben, Lianne, Lisa (the Dive Family), Tanya, Ayesha (their adopted colonial nieces), Alena, Jamie, Mary, Camilo (sarong loving birthday boy) and Sabina. And of course huge kudos to Ninja Leader Jay for pulling off another bucket list trip! And there’s no way I can get away without saying huge thank yous to the dive guides and crew – Tony, Ripon, Robbie, Dori, Audrey and the rest of the crew took amazing care of us, and made sure we were super comfortable and extremely well fed!
Interested in joining Dive Ninjas for our next amazing expedition? Or finding out what other Ninja adventures are planned? Send us a message today!
Ninja Family Guest Writer:
Lover of all marine animals big and small – and ok, yes, I like diving a lot! When not underwater, I can be found in London with my goldfish.
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