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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Scuba Diving in the Maldives

It is a bit strange. I've been scuba diving for fourteen years now, with many diving trips all around the world, and yet I have never been in the Maldives. In the past I either went very far away (like Southeast Asia, South Pacific, South America) or stayed close (Egypt, Sudan) and so the Maldives have fallen through the cracks.

When I went hunting for a diving trip for this year, the Maldives weren't at the top of my list, but a good diving buddy spent last years vacation on the Carpe Novo Liveaboard in the Maldives and had such a great time that he wanted to return again this year. So I decided to trust his opinion and join him :).

I didn't quite now what to expect, so I just decided to let myself be surprised. And surprised I was.

The Carpe Novo is the most spacious liveaboard I have seen so far. With space for twenty divers there was a large common area, a separate open air dining room and cabins with a lot of space. One reason for this, was that all the dive equipment including the compressors were on a Donghi, a smaller boat which accompanied us and from which we drove to the dive sites.

Our first dives were in the North Malé Atoll and the second dive at Lankan Faru was already a highlight. At this Manta cleaning station up to 8 Manta Rays were hanging around, swimming in formation and passing right over us. So even with mediocre visibility we got a good view :)

We headed North to the Baa Atoll, where the price for the most beautiful dive site goes to Yellow Wall. A wall covered from top to bottom in yellow Soft Coral.

Over night we headed South to North Ari Atoll where we did two dives at Rasdhoo Ridge. The first dive was already pretty good with a couple of Grey Reef Sharks cruising back and forth in front of us. The second dive managed to top that with dozens of Grey Reef Sharks turning up! A fantastic experience :)

The next day we did a dive at Fish Head in the North Ari Atoll. There our guides spotted a Giant Guitarfish sleeping on the bottom. A personal first, I was very happy to finally see a Guitarfish :)

Traveling farther South to the South Ari Atoll we did a dive at Mahchafushi Wreck. A former shipping boat that was purposefully sunk for diving. Now it offers an interesting spot with lots of coral growth and fish life. Which is good, because next to the wreck there is nothing to see. The last El Niño together with a Crown of Thornes invasion left the complete reef dead. Even though there were still some small fishes around it was a depressing sight. :(

One of the reasons why we traveled to South Ari Atoll, was the chance to see Whale Sharks. The next morning during breakfast the captain went on the lookout and pretty soon they spotted one. We all immediately donned our snorkeling gear and hit the water. The Whale Shark wasn't in a hurry and so we could swim along for a bit. After a dive on the outer reef we stayed on the Dhongi and went looking for more and after a long search we found another. Again we had the chance to swim with it for a good while. Another fantastic experience!

A longer cruise to Vaavu Atoll meant we had to skip the third dive in the afternoon, but we got the opportunity to do a night dive  at Alimatha Jetty. This place is famous for its "friendly" Nurse Sharks, Rays and Giant Trevallies. And it was as described. The Sharks and Rays showed no reluctance and cruised around us as if we weren't there. Some of them even touched us when they swam by. What a unique experience! The second best night dive of my career (Flashlight Fish in Vanuatu remain the personal highlight).

Since our trip was coming to a close, we headed back North to South Malé Atoll. At Kandooma Thila we had another chance to see many Grey Reef Sharks and a group of five White Spotted Eagle Rays who just hung there in the current.

After ten days our trip came to a close and we used the last afternoon for a short trip to Malé, the capital of the Maldives, which is the ugliest island I had seen in the Maldives ;)

After this experience I can say that a return to the Maldives is definitely an option to consider. And the Carpe Novo very high on the list for liveaboard of choice.

More pictures can be found in my web album.

If you want to know more about the dive sites we visited and what we saw there, you can check out my online dive log.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dubai

On my way to the Maldives I had to change planes in Dubai.

This time I decided to add a short stopover to take a look at what Dubai had to offer and to finally log a Geocache in the United Arab Emirates ;).

My friends who originally sold me on the dive trip were also staying one day and together we visited the Bubbalicious Brunch buffet, probably one of the most decadent Brunches out there. The cheese selection filled a whole room and there were fresh oysters, lobster, tuna, salmon, Sushi, foie gras and much more.

There were so many options, I only tasted a small set of them. And everything was very delicious.
If you happen to visit Dubai on a Friday, then it is worth a consideration. The high price tag is indeed justified.

Afterwards we needed a bit of exercise and headed over to Dubai Mall to get a look at Burj Kalifa, the currently highest building in the world.
Even though it was very impressive, I didn't realize it's full height until we flew out of Dubai past the skyline and I noticed that the Burj Kalifa was twice as high as the next sky scraper!

Since it was almost dark we stayed in the area to wait for the water fountain show. A beautifully orchestrated show of water jets, lights and music. The show is on every 30 minutes once it is dark and it lasts for 2 to 5 minutes. We enjoyed it so much, we decided to stay for a second helping. And the second show was different from the first!


Afterwards we were tired enough to head back to the hotel. On the way we noticed, that Dubai is not designed for pedestrians, with all the construction sites around we had to illegally walk along a street and cross another main road to get where we were headed.

All in all it was an exciting day. But I probably would not want to stay in Dubai for much longer. It's just too big, busy and crowded.

More pictures can be found in my web album.

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