The Maldives have beckoned us ever since we completed our PADI dive course earlier this year. The lure of colorful fish and warm waters drew us to plan a spring break vacation to the coral atolls. From Abu Dhabi, it was a short 4- hour trip and we knew that from the US, it was a place we might never have visited.
At about 3 degrees north of the equator, the water and air were a wonderful 29 C/ 84 F. It also meant that the sun set fast around 6:30pm followed by brilliant stars lighting up the night sky.
The diving was everything we hoped for. The dive boat was equipped with many people to help prep our equipment, serve us fruit snacks between dives, provide cold fragrant towels after the diving was finished and even be our personal photographer. We are forever spoiled.
Our PADI dive instructor, Giorgia, was knowledgable about the fish and gave us the right amount of help and information. Since we had her to ourselves, we could swim and watch fish at our own, very slow pace. We got NITROX certified while there, which means we can use air with a higher concentration of oxygen and less nitrogen resulting in more potential diving time.
And then the fish and the coral! The coral looked like pillars of crayon shavings with every color in the 128-Crayola crayon box. We don’t have an underwater camera, so we downloaded images of a few of our favorite fish and experiences.
The clown fish swimming in the sea anemones were endlessly fascinating. Sea anemones come in all colors – purple (no wonder I liked them!), blue, or pink bases that attach to the rock or coral and finger-like tentacles coming from the body with bulbs or bubbles at the end.
The clown fish and anemones have a symbiotic relationship. The clown fish is an active and defensive fish which keeps predators from coming too close to the sea anemone and its’ stinging tentacles. Because the clown fish has mucus on its body, it is protected from the stings. The clown fish is able to eat smaller fish and other organisms that are caught within the body of the sea anemone and therefore helps to keep the anemone clean. At one point one anemone was closed and about 5 clown fish were rubbing and swimming against the opening, trying to get it to open.
Another great experience was seeing 11 eagle rays swim in formation over our heads at the surface.
We were holding on to rocks at the bottom at about 45 feet keeping ourselves in place against a very strong current. Our location was a depression in the ocean floor where the currents were less strong and a good place for big fish like the rays and sharks to come rest. We watched as these huge rays glided in the currents, and then all of a sudden, they started to dive underwater and play together. They rolled and bumped into each other and then pulsed back into their places above. A bit later we saw several five foot white tipped sharks hover in the area and I wished I were an invisible tiny fish.
The resort was beautiful. Each ”villa” sat on pilings over the water. From the rear porches, you could jump immediately into the water and swim to adjacent islands and spits of land. The clear water over white sand and coral produced every hue of blue imaginable. The complex was really 4 islands linked by pontoon boats which made it easy to go to one of the other islands to play tennis, meet the dive boat or eat at a different restaurant.
We feel lucky to have experienced such a place.