Dive Day 2, trip day 4 (Tuesday):
The morning began at 6.15am with a lovely brew being brought to the cabin before the 6.30 1st dive briefing (Rasdhdo Madivaru repeated). What a day they had in store for us today. The briefing gave us all a quick lesson on ‘reef hooks’ and how to use them. A particularly handy class for those that were a bit rusty on their use and there were also a lot that hadn’t used them before. Focus being on safety but also respect for where they were to be hooked onto. Dropping down we were soon onto the edge of the channel, hooking on it was supposed to be a waiting game but it certainly didn’t prove to be a long wait. It was like a shark super highway! Right in front of us there were silver tip sharks, white tip sharks, grey sharks amongst many thousands of variety of fish and fauna. All going about their regular business completely oblivious to the 20 or so sets of eyes gazing at them in complete awe. We spent nearly 40 minutes just watching them drift along then gradually as air began getting low our fellow divers began to depart heading to the surface for the safety stops and excited discussions to be had once surfaced. Roger had his first dive of the cruise watching out for his former friends and foes! Luckily he managed to avoid any potential dangers and had great fun with Paul and the rest of us. He even got his picture snapped with Thithi the dive guide! Then came a delicious breakfast of omelettes, sausages and beans plus loads of fruit! More fruit than I have seen in an awfully long time anyway!
Following nap time came dive 2 (Gangehi Pass) briefing and back into the Dhoni. A short ride out to the reef and we were soon plunging into the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Dropping down to around 25m we were met by a beautiful coral face with quite literally thousands of sea creatures, some swimming, some crawling and some doing, I don’t know what! A huge sea cucumber was spotted, square in profile, about 20cm across and thick and it must have been 3 feet long! There was a rather unfortunate happening on this dive at the start when Ian’s high pressure hose literally exploded just as he dropped in off the Dhoni, very unfortunate as he had to sit out the dive, even more unfortunate for his hose though (RIP HP hose, you will be fondly remembered for all your faithful service over the years – a quote from Ian!) I really went with a huge bang under the water, we all thought it was when Richard had done his giant stride entry! (hee hee only joking Mr Dennis ?).
Dive 3 (Maaya Thila) briefing was again a fascinating and accurate insight into what we were all about to experience. The descent as always passed without incident and we were soon enveloped in the warm waters spewing with life. Even on our descent we were subjected to the amazing sights of sharks swimming around preparing themselves for their evening of hunting. As we progressed along the reef we saw many examples of clown fish (Nemo for those Pixar fans) all going about their cleaning business darting in and out of their soft coral homes. We then came across our first little swim through, irresistible fun for most of us and it was Hayleys first, off she went into the cavernous opening and straight out the other side. One for the bucket list me thinks! As we bumbled along the beautiful coral life there were countless examples of macro life including a startling display of Nudibranch, amazingly different, each and every one.
At the beginning of the day we were promised a surprise for the evenings night dive so as the briefing time approached tensions and excitement was running high with anticipation. Little did we know just what they had in store for us………………………………
We sat in the briefing eagerly awaiting our ‘surprise’. In came Albert, the cruise director, bearing an enormous grin. ‘’Well’’, he began, ‘’You have all been good today so it is now time for your surprise……………’’ Tonights dive (Fesdhoo Lagoon) was going to be the experience of a lifetime. Under torchlight we were going to be exposed to what can only be described as a ‘phenomenon’ as it only occurs here and in Hawaii. No-one really knows the reasons why but this particular part of the indian oceans gives rise to an extraordinary experience of Manta Rays feeding whilst we observe under torch light. To begin the crew dangle huge floodlights at the back of the main boat to encourage them in. Basically what this does is draws plankton and krill in toward the boat, like moths to a lightbulb, and begins a stunning display of Mantas swooping in and gorging themselves on this plentiful supply of their favourite tasty treats. As they have their fill they literally barrel roll over and dive back into the depths in order to line up another approach. As fascinating as this was we were now told we were to get kitted up and join them. Leaping into the dark depths we dropped to around 15m all holding as many torches as we could possibly handle. Once on the smooth sandy bottom we were to hold the torches above our heads, shining them straight up, then just sit still and enjoy the show. Almost immediately the food particles were gathering in our torch light streams and the Mantas began swooping in form the cloudy darkness. I even got ‘b1tch slapped’(thanks Hayley for the synonym) as one swooped in and clipped me with her enormous powerful and yet extraordinarily graceful wings. Time and time again they swooped in over our heads for their fill. The time passed by too quickly but after 45 minutes we had to leave, still the show continued, one after another. It was sad to leave but it was an eerily strange safety stop in the near darkness, illuminated only by the torch light, as we tried to take in what had just happened. The excitement that was evident over a much welcomed hot chocolate when we returned to the main boat was hard to describe. We had all truly just had a life changing experience with these amazing creatures of the deep. As enormous as they were, you never once felt in any way intimidated or threatened by their huge presence. It seems insulting to say but it was like meeting your biggest idol for real, in the flesh, except better. These beautiful ‘sea angels’ almost appeared to appreciate us for drawing in this food supply for them to pick off. What a life changing experience we had all just shared. Strangers, many of us, a few days previous and now had such an incredible lifelong memory to keep in our minds for ever.