Sunday, November 1, 2009

Diving in the Maldives on the Aggressor liveaboard

We have just completed a week of diving on the Maldives Aggressor based in Male, Maldives  (pronounced Mahlee!)  After a grueling 36-hour flight that included a 5 hour layover at JFK and a 6 hour layover in Dubai airports, by the time we landed in Male, we were definitely ready for some R&R!  Flying coach on Emirates airlines was quite an experience especially with a very large Arab man who oozed into my seat the entire trip from JFK to Dubai! 

Gwen and I arrived one day early and checked into the Bandos resort, just a 20 min. boat ride from the dock at the airport.  The resort was beautiful and we took advantage of a much needed day to catch our breath! 

The next evening, we met the rest of the Dive Addicts crew at the airport and hooked up with the Aggressor staff and went by Doni (the dive boat) to the Aggressor.  The boat is brand new, about 110 feet long and is a motor schooner.  As far as liveaboards go, it is one of the nicer boats we have been on.  The crew was all Maldivian except the “Co-Captain John” who is from Florida.  The crew was a little shy but worked very hard and were very accommodating. 

The food was all right, not fantastic, but better than our food in Indonesia last year!  The cabins were fairly large and the ensuite bathrooms were huge by liveaboard standards.  

Now to the diving!  We had a slow start and after the first day I was starting to wonder if we had really wasted our time and money coming all the way to Maldives.  However, I was absolutely wrong!  By the end of the 2nd day I was saying this is really, really great diving!  We saw Mantas on several dives, Mobula Rays, Marbled Sting Rays, White Tip Sharks, Gray Reef Sharks, Hawksbill Turtles, Green Turtles, and one Whale Shark!  We also saw some fish and critters that are unique to the Maldives including the infamous Maldivian Sponge Snail! 

Probably the most notable thing about the diving in Maldives is the schooling fish.  Once we sailed to the Southern Atols called “Thilas” in Maldivian, we started having really great dives, with enormous schools of various types of fish including Bat Fish, Blue Stripped Snapper, Oriental Sweet Lips, Red Snapper, Jacks, Tuna, Dog Toothed Tuna, Blue Trigger Fish, Banner Fish, Black Pyramid Butterfly Fish,  Cornet Fish, Unicorn Fish, Powdered Blue Sturgeon Fish, Big Nose Unicorn Fish,  Glass-eye Big Eyes, and Moorish Idols.  When I say schooling fish, I don’t just mean a few here or there, but I mean schools of literally hundreds!  It was absolutely amazing! 

We also saw several different types of puffer fish – Guineafowl Pufferfish, Black-spotted Pufferfish, Yellow-eye Pufferfish and the Starry Pufferfish.  Really a wide variety!  In addition, we also saw several blotched Porcupinefish. 

We saw several different types of eels – Black Cheek Moray, Honeycomb Moray, Yellow-margin Moray and the Giant Moray.  I have never witnessed so many eels on the reef at the same time, sometimes two or three eels in the same holes!  You had to be quite careful that you didn’t bump into one or touch one.  They would also quite often be seen free swimming, even during the daytime.  We also saw quite a few Lion Fish mainly the Spotfin Lionfish but also the Common Lionfish.  We saw lots of Stone Fish and on one dive we saw a very large Frog Fish as well as a Leaf Fish.  Both were VERY cool!  Saw a few Mandarin Fish.

We saw more large Groupers than I have ever seen anywhere in the world.  And of course, the several large Napoleon Wrasse, including one called Freddy that was very friendly!  He hung around for 10 mins. or more and was very photogenic! 

We saw lots of Anemonefish and Clark’s Anemonefish as well as 3 different types of of anemones. 

The coral and sponges were not prolific, but the fish life more than made up for it! 

The Dive Addicts group included the following divers:

Randy Thornton
Gwen Thornton
Mike Robinson
Laura Robinson
Mark Robinson
Candice Caulkins
Jeff Matson
Craig Ramon
Doug Smith
Amy Smith

We had a little mishap on the second dive day.  Jeff Matson unhooked his tank from the bungie that holds the scuba units in place on the boat and it fell on his foot ripping off his toenail and fracturing his toe.  It was bleeding pretty badly and Jeff had to fly back to Male to the hospital via seaplane and have it x-rayed.  It turned out that he did not need surgery and was able to rejoin us on the boat the next day, but unable to continue diving.  Craig Ramon came down with some kind of a upper respiratory infection and was unable to dive more than a couple of times during the week, so the Madivian diving didn’t work out for those two, but they did get some diving in while visiting Thailand on the way over there. 

Overall the week was a blast, the diving was superb and the boat and crew were very good.  I would highly recommend the Maldives Aggressor to anyone who is interested in a unique diving experience.   The flights getting there are a bit of a nightmare – 36 hours in total from SLC, but none the less, a great week of diving! 

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