April 22, 2015
This morning, we went back to the same dive site as yesterday afternoon, Moofushi Kandu, to try our luck with the mantas again. This time they were slightly more cooperative. One came in from the left and a little while later another came in from the right. They glided around elegantly for a few minutes before they decided that was enough. We were not in the best place for viewing. A huge school of blue striped snapper were right in front of us.
As we patiently rested on the reef waiting for them to return, we heard several boats pass overhead. As such, I started inspecting the reef around me. It was pretty amazing to see the amount of creatures that were moving around as we stayed idle in one location. Blennies rested on the sand next to my hand as a small hermit crab inched nearby. As I turned to check on Rootie to my left, I spotted a much larger (yet still small) crab creeping by my leg. Cleaner fish were swimming in and out of the gills of a grouper hiding beneath the table coral.
Finally we got the signal that the wait was over. The mantas weren’t going to join us for more, but it didn’t stop us from spotting a nudibranch, sweetlips, a moray, white tip reef sharks and more. We spent an hour hanging out below before we returned to the Dhoni and took the ten minute ride back to Orion for breakfast.
After breakfast, we motored to Panettone Beyru occasionally passing resorts, each on its own small island. We entertained ourselves on the upper deck until we reached the dive site. This dive was supposed to offer nice coral. All things considered, the Maldives isn’t the best diving for coral, and this site looked more like the surface of the moon! I’m not sure where the coral was, but it didn’t really matter. We saw several sharks, a napoleon, a mantis shrimp, two nudibranch, and had a close encounter with three mantas!! One of them would slowly glide toward us and turn its massive body to get a look at us with its large eyes as we hung beneath the coral ledge. Then it would circle away from us, glide over the reef, flap its wings a few times real fast as it bolted toward us again and slowed for another look as fish swarmed around it.
We slowly inched up to better locations to watch it float effortlessly through the light current. We carefully found our holding spot or so I thought until a small eel came shooting out of its home at me with its teethy mouth wide open. It was not happy for me to be nearby, but it had to live with it for almost a half hour while the manta put on show. I suppose the manta finally got bored with us as it glided off, so we continued on our dive when out of the deep blue another manta swam right at us. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, since there was no place to “get down” and invite it in. As it neared, it just decided to turn to the left and swim off to another place on the reef. Based on the excitement when we surfaced, everyone enjoyed the encounters!
We motored south, remaining in the South Ari Atoll, to our third dive site, Reehi Thila. Reehi are the little bait fish that the fishermen use to catch tuna. They spray water off the stern of their boat, attract the tuna with the noise of the spray hitting the ocean surface, and chum the water with the little fish. Then they use poles with barbless hooks to pull the tuna out of the water. They say a good fisherman has three fish at a time. One tuna on the boat deck, one flinging in the air off the hook, and one on the hook.
Anyway, that was the dive briefing before we heard about the dive site. We followed the wall and spotted a variety of marine life…beautiful clams, a scorpion fish, a mantis shrimp, eels galore, angelfish and more. As we swam over the top of the reef we found quite a few little fish including a juvenile Indian sand wrasse.
After our dive and showers, we took the dinghy over to Rah Dhiga for a BBQ dinner. Rah means island in Dhivehi, the Maldivian language. Thila means pinnacle, Kandu means channel, and Beyru means outside. Anyway, we landed on the white sand island just in time to watch the sunset, which was glorious. Lots of people got a photo that would work well as an advertisement for a matchmaking site!
It only took a few minutes to walk around the island. The four boats in the area all set up a BBQ for their guests. We had rice, noodles, potato, salad, fish, chicken, beef, shrimp and tiramisu. The meal was quite good! The staff also made a whale shark and manta out of the sand and covered it in charcoal. It was quite creative and artistic in my opinion. I went back to the boat early, and it turns out I missed some shananigans. A few folks decided to skinny dip and the English boys, Lee and his dad Davie, decided to hide their clothes. What a classic English prank! Tomorrow we are headed south to look for whale sharks. ETB