Sharktastic on Emperor Virgo (March 2019)

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Itinerary Emperor Virgo (2019)

From March 9-17 2019 we went to the Maldives to enjoy the Sharktastic cruise on the Emperor Virgo. The route took us along North- and South Ari, Vaavu and Male Atoll.
In Ari-Atoll the visibility was a bit limited, this might have been the reason that we saw quite a few mantas.One of the best dives was a night dive with them. The mantas were attracted to the bright lights at the stern of the boat, several dive lights were positioned on the seabed as well. The divers were watching in awe in a semi-circle around the lights when the mantas did their loopings above our heads. Amazing!
After visiting Ari we crossed to Vaavu Atoll in the east. In Vaavu the water was a lot clearer and we hooked-up on rocks in the current to feast on schools of sharks cruising by. After a week we travelled back, via South Male, to North Male.

9-17 March 2019

South Ari on MV Leo (February 2015)

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At the beginning of February, Theo and I went to the Maldives with several friends for a 1-week live aboard to South Ari Atoll in the Maldives. We booked MV Leo, a boat from the Constellation fleet. The boat is beautiful and fully equipped. We could do a maximum of 17 dives. We have seen schools of fish, sharks (white tips and gray reefs), manta rays, turtles, rays and so on.

Truly amazing were the dives at Maaya Thila. Enormous schools of small baitfish were swirling around, circled by grey reef- and whitetip sharks. We had a crazy night diving when the hunting on the small fish began in earnest. Sharks, trevallies, rays and moray eels were having a feeding frenzy on the school.

We spotted some manta-cleaning on Moofushi Kandu, and had a great dive on Machafushi wreck

February 2015

Maavahi (Werner Lau) Live aboard (March 2012)

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We intended to travel with MY Sheena on the Felidhoo and the Meemu Atoll. However, the Sheena had some technical problems. We were lucky that a replacement boat was available, the Maavahi, so we were able to do the planned route.

After arrival on Male, and a wait of 5-hours, we finally left without luggage on a seaplane towards Medhufushi. Finally at around 22:00 our luggage was present and we could finally go to sleep. It was a very long journey.

The diving  started the next morning. At 6 am a knock on the door of our cabin indicated the start of the day. After a cookie and some tea or coffee it was time to embark on the dhoni. Soon we were in the water for the first dive. There was little current. A relaxing first dive of the holiday followed.

We have seen a lot of nice things again: a leopard shark at Shark Tongue; various whitetip reef sharks; eagle rays; sting rays on the sandy bottom; Mantas at Vattaru Kandu; hammerhead sharks and beautiful soft corals at Fotheyo in the Felidhoo atoll.

We did a very special night dive. On the island of Alimatha, every evening at a quarter to seven the waste from the kitchen is thrown into the water. It was a true “feeding frenzy” in which large trevallies, black tip sharks, and 2 types of rays were speeding through the water. When we climbed into the dhoni at the end of the dive, large numbers of nursesharks circled around the stern. It very spectacular!

18-25 March 2012

Dream Catcher 2 Live aboard (October 2010)

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At the beginning of 2010 we got together with 9 diving friends to find a new diving destination. The date was set quickly: October 2010; and a boat was quickly found: a luxurious boat with great food, or the “Dream Catcher 2”. Well, luxurious, there was nothing wrong with the boat and the food, but the superlatives in the brochure were somewhat exaggerated. When arriving on our first dive site, the crew of the boat saw manta rays swimming. This meant an immediate change of plans, the new dive-location would be a manta cleaning station. There was a nice current, but unfortunately no manta rays. After another dive on North Male, we finally made the crossing to Ari Atoll on Tuesday. Ari has some amazing dive sites: Fish head, Kuda Rah Thila, and of course the southern tip of Ari where whale sharks can be found in the season. We have seen many sharks (white tips and gray reefs). Sharks effortlessly move around in the current. It was not easy for us to stay in 1 place and be able to watch the spectacle in the depth. We even saw a shark that visited a cleaning station.

On Wednesday, 2 days after the start of the cruise, it was time for the expected highlight of the trip! We reached South Ari and went looking for whale sharks. The boat slowed down, and the crew was on the lookout to spot the sharks. Above expectations, after fifteen minutes the signal came from the bridge that a shark was in sight. Everyone hurried to the deck to get ready for the snorkeling trip. In minutes we were all equipped with our snorkeling gear and had cameras ready. It wasn’t long before the boat was in the right position relative to the fish and we could go overboard. It was a small whale shark of around 4 meters. He cruised quietly along the coast in shallow water. It was not easy to keep up with it, but we managed to approach it on some occasions under water. After more than fifteen minutes of swimming we were no longer able to keep up, we had to let it go. Once on board the dhoni we immediately went diving. The intention was to dive immediately and look for another shark,. It wasn’t long before we were all geared up, and there was the next whale shark. Unfortunately, we could not keep up with it with our equipment. At the end of the dive we were extremely lucky to see another one. This one stayed around a bit longer. This was about 8 meters and we could enjoy it’s full beauty.

The rest of the week we have seen many more sharks, but also turtles, moray eels and smaller fish. It was a spectacular week of diving, due to the large amounts of schools of fish and the large fish that we saw. The coral is not so pretty, in fact there is almost nothing left of it. As a result, the dive sites are not that colorful, although in some places living coral is growing back again.

We ended the cruise with an excursion to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. It is very busy, especially with all the mopeds, which are loved by the locals. 

October 2010

Vilamendhoo – South Ari (September 2006)

We have chosen Vilamendhoo Island Resort as our homebase in the Maldives. Vilamendhoo is a real diving resort island with a beautiful house reef ……, according to the books then. The diving school of Werner Lau is led by a German couple. Everything is arranged to perfection, you don’t have to do anything yourself. To them only 2 things are important: your safety and the smile on your face. To achieve this, the entire staff, from tank boys to managers, is ready to support the guests in any way.

Unfortunately, the diving school will be closing in January 2007. The hotel will start to run the diving school itself. This is much regretted by the diving staff, who do not want to leave at all.

One of the nicest house reefs in the Maldives ……, say the brochures. Well, after our first entry….. we discovered 5 meters visibility. Nice and warm, though. Few scattered bits of coral in the sand. It was a bit disappointing in the beginning. But after a few dives it becomes apparent that the house reef is very large compared to other islands. And easy to reach too! You step into the water, 3 with fin strokes, and you’re at 15 meters depth.

There are 10 entry and exit spots around the island. The exits are well marked with ropes that extend up to 20 meters depth, so these are impossible to miss. A small passage has been cut through the coral so that all divers use the same corridor, leaving the rest of the reef undamaged.

There is a steep wall on the north side of the island, the south side is a slope. In the wall at about 10 meters a cave can be found that is full of glass fish. The inhabitants of the house reef are numerous and various: a school of 20 cm yellow snappers, 2 larger schools of jacks, many emperor fish, a few turtles, a few mantis shrimps, a few stingrays, garden eels, moray eels, anemone fish, pennant fish, doctor fish; baby blacktips swim in the lagoon.
In short, nothing wrong with that if you just take the time to take it all in. Night dives are also possible

Daily boat trips take the divers to dive sites further away. Usually there is a supply of 4 boats that all go to other places. 8 different dive sites were offered per day. Locations varied for beginners and advanced, inner or outer reef, coral or large fish, morning, afternoon or day trips. There was a rich variety of options, to please everybody. A maximum of 12 people go on a boat, and full is full.

During the boat trips you can browse on corals while being surrounded by the larger sharks or admire hunting whitetips and cruising gray reef sharks to your heart’s content. In the meantime, you might spot a gigantic marbled ray under an overhang that takes of silently next to you. Or, there might be mobulas or eagle rays swimming near the surface or along the drop-off.

Oh dear! Mantas! Quick! …… Everyone is urged to get in the water to snorkel with them. The boat crew tracks the mantas from the dhoni. “There it is!” The whole group is swimming in that direction, just to catch a glimpse of the foraging manta rays. Moments later, 180 degrees in the other direction, “One more, now they are there!”. After half an hour everyone is exhausted. We climb, somewhat panting, but satisfied, back in the boat.

2006 cannot be called a top year for whale sharks. In the usual places on the south side of the atoll, the water was already crystal clear. No whale sharks. Last year there was almost a guarantee, they were spotted in enormous quantities, usually 5 per trip. During our trip we have seen one; unfortunately, we did not swim with it. The shark immediately disappeared into the deep. However, it wasn’t manta time yet, and they were there.

September 2006

Nautilus One: Diving cruise (May 2002)

On Friday May 3, we left via Düsseldorf and Dubai to Male for a one-week cruise in the Maldives. After the cruise we booked 4 days extension on the island of Asdu.
After a long journey we finally arrived on the Nautilus. It is a beautiful ship, spacious cabins, large lounge, very large sun decks. There were 15 people on board, all Dutch, and it was certainly not crowded on the boat. Diving is done from a dhoni, the typical boats of the Maldives. All diving gear is left on the dhoni, so there was no mess on board. The noisy process of refilling the tanks, was simply done in a little distance away from the main ship.  So the guests were not bothered by the sounds of the compressor during their morning / afternoon nap.

The planned route started in Male, then from north to south through the Ari Atoll and then to the South Male Atoll. We were a bit in between the 2 monsoons. The visibility on the dive sites in Ari Atol was therefore very poor, in South Male it was a little better. Due to the change in monsoons, it was also not known exactly where the manta rays were. We unfortunately did not see them during diving.

In the beginning the weather wasn’t great. While anchoring in the lagoon of a small atoll for the night, at about 1 o’clock at night we were suddenly startled by a lot of shouting and running back and forth above our huts. Heavy rain and wind hit our skylight window. Soon we could hear the anchor being lifted. We were not feeling very safe in our lower deck cabin at that time, so, we went upstairs to the lounge. We were not the first to arrive there. It turned out that the anchor had started to drift, the wind was pushing the boat towards the rocks and we dragged the anchor behind us. We were moving backwards towards the reef and a large rock. Fortunately, a number of fellow divers had large dive lights on board. This prevented us from crashing on the rocks. 

Then the diving, that’s what we come for.
Almost all corals have been destroyed by “El Niño”. The result is that you actually only see bare rocks, which were once beautiful coral formations. In some places there is a glimmer of hope, and the coral starts to grow a little again.

This apparently does not really matter for the fish, because they were still present in large numbers. As always in the Indian Ocean, there were sharks (gray reef sharks and whitetip sharks), eagle rays, turtles, beautiful reef fish, moray eels, large hunting jacks and trevallies, bat fish, and friendly napoleons.

Have you ever been in a ripping current? Well, we did a dive in one!
After jumping in the first divers could only reach the reef with great difficulty. We had to swim against the current, so as not to be swept away completely. Hanging on to a rock, was all we could do to stay on the reef. Our bubbles had an almost horizontal path upwards, the masks almost blew from our face, looking back was not an option. Theo gestured that we had to move to the rock wall to find a sheltered place near a cave.

Unfortunately, the current was still the same. Then… a small tap on the mask, mask half full of water (in one hand a camera, with the other clinging to a rock, panic, NOT ENOUGH HANDS!). There was no alternative, we just let the current take us away along the reef. Clear mask. Everything under control again, we move fast along the reef. The general feeling was that this was no longer fun. For us “end of dive” after 6 minutes.

Final damage: 1 diver with flesh wounds of a few centimeters on inside fingers; various legs with scraped skin (in people with shorty); 1x eye squeeze on both eyes (this doesn’t improve the looks); 1 diver bitten by a moray eel (be careful which rock you grab). Fortunately, no further more serious consequences, our group had come up fairly undamaged.

May 2002