Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Diving and Animal Life in the Maldives

Back in High School my family frequently went on vacation to Club Med, and prior to leaving one of the trips my dad "made" me get certified in diving.  He got his certification sometime in the 70's and thought it was something I would enjoy.  I had no desire, but figured I had nothing to lose.  In hindsight it is seriously one of the best things I have been "forced" to do.  Once certified (basic Open Water Diver) it is basically good for life as long as you have a refresher dive when some time has passed between dives.  One of the big draws of the Maldives was sea life they had to see.  Since the area flies so far under the radar, it has stayed relatively untouched by outside influences.  Please pardon the disposable camera images....

Trying to Smile :)
Nick, having had to sit out before on a previous vacation, did not want to miss out this time around and signed up for a PADI certification class with Boston Scuba in East Boston.  The key for us East Coasters is to do all the book and pool work here, but do the ocean certification dives while on vacation via a referral, which is very simple to do.  Then you never have to go diving in the freezing cold Atlantic!  Trust me - it's way easier and nicer!

Nick on his first non certification dive!
If you are at all interested in diving, I would highly recommend going through the course and pool work.  There are short resort courses you can do while on vacation, but you miss a lot of training, and if you want to go anywhere else you will need to do the full blown certification.  Second, there are a lot of skills that you will use and put to good use - getting the proper training is important and once you are done, you are done for life.

Chimney we swam up!
So after some refresher dives and dealing with some equalizing issues (stuffy nose does not make for good diving) Nick and I were off to go diving together.  Whenever I have gone diving, I elect to go with a group of maybe 5 people where you follow an instructor around.  This makes for a much more enjoyable time - they navigate and find all sorts of fun sea life to point out.  Resorts usually offer this right from their own dive shacks (i.e. no extra planning!).

Huge Star Fish and More Coral...
Bottom left - SEA TURTLE!
I have been diving a number of times in the Caribbean as well as in the Great Barrier Reef and this was by far the best diving I have ever done.  The water was so clear and there was just so much to look at.  The coral and the fish was so diverse.  We saw moray eels, honeycomb eels, sea turtles, sharks, grouper, Maldivian lobsters, eagle rays and too many other things to name!  You do not happen upon these fish is most dives.  Nick got very spoiled for his first ocean diving adventure.  Finding Nemo has given me the terrible ability to name all sorts of fish - not by their actual names of course, but by their Nemo character names.

Scar from Nemo
Nick was so happy he got certified and could now officially join me on my journeys under the sea, however I am not sure how we will be able to top this.  The diving was incredible.  If you are a diver and have the opportunity, I would highly recommend heading to the Maldives - you will not be disappointed.

Say Hi!
In addition to the diving, Banyan Tree has its own Marine Biology Lab.  They take amazing care of the marine life around the island.  One of their projects is to rebuild and care for the house reef, which fully surrounds the resort island about 50 yards off shore.  We would just walk out from our villa and head to the reef a quick swim away and have a fantastic experience.  Since I became a diver, I stopped snorkeling - it just was not as much fun anymore.  This house reef was different, and the snorkeling was almost as good the diving I had done in the Caribbean.

Another initiative they have is following the sting rays in the area.  Each night at 5:00pm there is are as many as 9 sting rays that come over the reef for a snack.  During the feeding, the biologists go through many different facts about the rays and answer any questions the guests may have.  I was just amazed at how big they were!

Of course, during each feeding a bird (an egret, maybe?) that the staff affectionately named Mario would take advantage of any extra food the rays don't grab.  Shown below is Mario and his mistress - we were told his wife did not join him that day ;)

Mario and his mistress...

Each of the sting rays have names and the scientists track who comes when, pregnancies, growth etc.  It is fun to watch the rapport that has developed between the rays and scientists over time.  We went a number of times to the feedings - I was fascinated!

5 Rays!
Another project the marine lab is involved with is raising sea turtles!  During the early stages of their life they swim in this tank with friends, but after awhile they are transferred to a much bigger cage that is off the shore of the resort within the house reef.  There they can swim about in the ocean where other fish can swim in and out and just get accustomed to life in the big sea before they are finally released.  While snorkeling we actually went out to see them - they are too cute!  After this and then seeing one while diving, it was fantastic!

Home for a bit...
Tank Cleaning Time!
Close up!
While there are no reported shark attacks in the Maldives (they don't feed them), there are plenty of sharks hanging around.  Nick and I saw a number of them while diving and snorkeling, but also every night at about 9:00 a number of sharks would come to the end of the dock and just swim around.  Most were fairly small, but one night, there was one that was huge!  I think a few of us gasped while standing there!

More Sharks!
So even though there was no TV, there was more than enough to keep us occupied on our Island adventure with the sea creatures alone!

Have you ever been diving?  If so, where's your favorite place to dive?


  1. how amazing. i can not believe the size of that ray. my parents are certified scuba divers, but I never got into it. good for you guys for taking the time to do it!!

  2. oh my gosh, that is so cool!! i would love to get into diving... it's a whole new world under there :)

  3. Awesome pics! I'd love to get certified some day.

  4. The turtles are adorable! Looks like a lot of fun!


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