MalDIVES All Day

Greetings from perhaps the most pretentious country one can visit: the Maldives – the land of picture perfect islands, celebrity escapes, luxury resorts, and two Americans trying to dive on the cheap.

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Spoiler Alert:  We are the two Americans.

Fighting our way through the crowd of trust fund babies and Jimmy Choo stilettos, we picked up the only non-Gucci luggage off the carousel, and headed out into our 12th country.  For the three of you who read the Cambodia blog and remember that Cambodia was our 10th country, fear not, Singapore is #11, and is next on deck for release. Much of this trip has been devoted to seeing things before they disappear or go extinct (coral reefs, orangutans, rhinos, etc.), and since a decent chunk of the Maldives will be underwater perhaps within our lifetimes, it seemed like a good extension of our extinction theme.  Also, the country has the word dive built right into its name; how could we not go??

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Opposite of perhaps every other country in the world, one of the cheapest ways to spend a week in the Maldives is actually on a boat.  Opting to spend a week on land at a resort will cost you close to $1,000 or more… per night.  And as a bonus for being stranded at sea, you tend to leave the hedge-fund manager crowd behind.

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Where the hedge fund managers stay.

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Bank accounts relatively unscathed (but still pretty scathed, let’s be real), we stepped on board the Ari Queen for a one week diving safari!  Joining us on board were a group of divers from Israel, a snorkeler from Denmark, two divers from Russia, and a Polish TV crew there to film a short documentary on the Maldives.  I suspect we will end up breaking even on this trip after the royalties from the documentary start rolling in.

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The MV Ari Queen, our home for the week.
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There may or may not have been a camera measuring competition…

So how does one who hates boats fare on a one week boat trip?  Pretty solid, actually!  Sam made it until day four before she realized she was trapped on a boat without pizza, and luckily they served cake, so she was easily distracted from her pizza withdrawals.  She also worked her way in with the kitchen crew, so that they always let her know first when food was ready allowing her to get a jump start on the line.

Diving in the Maldives works like this – jump in, ride the current, find a rock to grab on to, and hold on!  You know the part in Finding Nemo where they ride the Gulf Stream with some turtles?  It feels a lot like that looks.  Since warmer ocean temperatures in 2015/2016 beached the majority of coral in the Maldives, diving here is all about looking for big stuff.  And in that respect, it is one of the best places we’ve been for big animal encounters.  Manta rays, turtles, nurse sharks, white-tip reef sharks, grey reef sharks, and our first ever leopard shark all made appearances during our time here.

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What happens when you bring your macro lens on a high current drift dive??  You take macro pictures of grey reef sharks!
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We’ve tried to find manta rays 7 separate times on our trip without success.  Lucky #8.
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Manta Fact:  Every manta has a unique pattern on its underside that can be used to identify individuals.  You can currently take a picture of the underside of a manta and upload it to mantamatcher.org to find out where your manta has been!
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Manta Fact:  There are actually two types of mantas – reef mantas and oceanic mantas.  All the mantas photographed here are of the reef variety, which ‘only’ grow up to 18ft.  Oceanic mantas can reach up to 23 feet!
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Tawny Nurse Shark.
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Black Marbled Ray.
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Okay, so not all of the coral was bleached…
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We made 17 dives over our time on the Atolls.  While some of the dive sites were selected via Captain’s choice, most came down to a democratic vote.  Interestingly enough, no matter how we voted, we always ended up diving whichever sites the Russians voted for.

I’ve always said that there are two types of people in the world:  those who love nudibranchs, and those who just don’t know it yet.  So fear not current and future nudibranch lovers, the Maldives has plenty of small critters if you can tear your eyes away from the mantas long enough.  Here are just a handful of the ones we found:

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Fun fact: Octopuses are as intelligent as human toddlers, and can open child-proof pill bottles.
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Is it a sea slug or an Everlasting Gobstopper? Nobody knows…

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Now it’s time to talk about the hairy octopus.  These creatures are incredibly elusive, and so little is known about them that they don’t even have a Wikipedia page!  They are arguably one of the most difficult creatures to spot, as they are covered in ‘hairs’ that resemble algae, can change their colors in an instant, and are only a few centimeters in size.  According to fortypercentofstatisticsaremadeuponthespot.com, only 1 in every 10,000 divers has seen one.  But none of this stopped Sam from finding one in the middle of a fast drift dive!  No photos unfortunately… another thing about the hairy octopus that makes them difficult to spot is that they only come out of cover for moments at a time before retreating back into the rock.  I missed it – I am the 99%.

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Why did I miss the hairy octopus?  Because I was too busy photographing your common everyday sea slug.

After a week underwater looking for big animals, it’s time to take the search on land as we seek out the Asian elephant in Sri Lanka!

Extending Our Honeymoon,

Patrick & Samantha

Updated Travel Stats: 

Days Abroad:  193

Flights Taken: 34 (includes connections)

Miles Traveled:  34,633

Bags Lost:  1

Flights Delayed:  3

Countries Visited:  12 (minimum stay of 48 hours)

Dives Logged on this Trip:  108

Mantas Spotted:  Lots!

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