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April 21, 2015

Well, we were up by 4:30 am. The time adjustment has been poor at best for us. We certainly haven’t needed the 6am wake up call! Today our dive briefing was at 6:15 instead of 6:30 so that we could be a few boats into the water.

We dove Hafza Thila in the North Ari Atoll, that is once we found the site. Our group of 6 dropped into deep blue with our dive master and didn’t find the pinnacle so we had to surface, board the boat, and drop again. At first the visibility wasn’t that great, but that seems to be the case where there a slight current. The trade off is usually for a few shark sightings as they like to rest in the current. We also spotted a giant moray as we circled around the reef and other divers but the best part to me was on the top of the pinnacle. Here we found countless seastars and anemones with their clownfish counterparts. The table coral was lovely and large enough for two baby white tip reef sharks to rest beneath its ledge. Overall it was a pretty nice dive though still a bit chaotic with multiple dive groups in the area. Hopefully we won’t be competing with boats on every site.

We motored south to our second site today for a mid-morning dive which was by far the best dive thus far and of course I have already water logged my camera. When we re-entered on the first dive, I had to jump from the bow which was a larger drop and here divers have to jump with their cameras instead of having them handed down, so the force pushed some water into my case. Had I realized what happened when I removed my camera, I probably could have kept water from trickling into the lens, but it appears to be history. Dang it…I will have to rely on photos from others.

Located in the North Ari Atoll, our second dive site, Fish Head Reef, was appropriately named. Fish were everywhere…huge schools. As we dropped in we saw a giant sea turtle and two large morays. In addition, an octopus just sat atop the reef as I shook my noise maker vigorously in an attempt to call my group over. Rootie joined and snapped a great photo! The eel sightings continued the whole dive! I think we saw six morays, two that were just resting on the coral and not tucked in for protection. We also saw a ribbon eel which was a first for me, another shark, giant clams, and two more turtles one of which swam up to the dive master instead of swimming away. I’ve never seen so many batfish in one location. Angelfish are my favorite, and we were blessed to see a variety. The dive was quite spectacular!

We moved a little farther to the west to arrive at Moofushi Kandú in South Ari Atoll for our third dive of the day. Kandu means channel in Dhivehi, the Maldivian language. Depending on the direction of the current in the channel, mantas sometimes come into the feeding station. In order to invite the giant rays into the feeding station, divers have drop down below the reef and look up as to not appear threatening. As soon as we dropped in, a manta passed above the reef. We only got a quick glimpse before it disappeared. Our group remained patient as we sunk to the bottom and held on to a rock. As we waited, I spotted my first mantis shrimp. Oh how I wished I had my camera. It was quite brave with its head popped out of the hole for some time. I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and grabbed Rootie’s fin to get her to look. I didn’t want to take her away from a manta spotting, but mantis shrimp have been rare in my book. As soon as she turned toward it, it ducked back into its long hole.

After our first manta sighting, it didn’t seem to want to return. I’m not sure if that was due to the current changing or the fact that one group was swimming over the top of the feeding station which we weren’t supposed to do. But soon enough, we all gave up on hanging out below and drifted atop the reef, though still remaining relatively stationary. It’s amazing what can be spotted while remaining in a small area. We found another octopus, blennies and gobies galore, schools of snapper, a spidershell but the best to me was a black flatworm with white dots. I managed to stop right by it, and it still took me a while before I noticed it. I love the challenge of finding small critters in the deep blue sea! While I would have liked to get a better glimpse of the manta, at least I saw one. I enjoyed a lot of firsts today! I even saw bait fish, known as Reehi, form a variety of shapes behind the Orion after dinner. ETB

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