I have already written a more general post about our holiday in the Maldives for the lovely Monika over at MumontheBrink, (please go and read it here) so here I have broken the trip down into more detail ...
Last year in Mustique was my first ever attempt at snorkeling. The house reef was really very good considering how small it was, and probably the perfect introduction to a novice like me.
The Maldives is a must-go destination for snorkelers and divers. Indeed it was pretty much all you could do on our very small island and we soon fell into a pattern of “Eat Sleep Snorkel Repeat”.
Before we went away we made the decision to buy our own masks and snorkels, having had some issues with the quality of the stuff on loan last year. Once in the resort we borrowed our fins from the dive shop and actually not only was the equipment was really good quality and in good repair, it was also free to hire. Having our own masks meant that the fit was always correct so there was no fiddling around each time we went out, which was usually twice a day.
For our first trip out we went off the steps on our villa and I was surprised to find how shallow the water was above the coral, we couldn’t swim over it, just around it. It was very similar to what we had seen last year in the Caribbean.
The island itself had channels through the reef (manmade and natural) that guests could swim through to get safely to the edge of the reef without having to go over the coral, which would be detrimental to both naked flesh and coral should you collide with it. We would assess the direction of the wind each time and pick which ever section of the reef happened to be the calmest that day. Between channels could take you up to an hour to explore if you didn’t thrash your way through it. We were amazed by the number of people who just thought the idea was to swim from a-b as soon as possible. What’s best is to swim slowly, and even stop in one place for a while – the longer you stay still the more fish appear.
I’d never been to the “edge of the reef” before. All MrS had told me was that there was a drop off.
This is pretty much how I felt the first time I saw the drop…
There I was, swimming along checking out the fish and coral either side of us, when suddenly there was NOTHING UNDERNEATH ME! Back up back up!
I’m not entirely sure what I thought was going to happen to be honest. Those first few times out I didn’t let go of MrS’s hand. By the end of the fortnight, however, I was fearless. Well, nearly, I kept an eye out on the drop to our right for any undiscovered sea monster that might appear.
The reef was incredible. At the edge there are shoals and shoals of fish, swimming through them was like encountering confetti in a church yard on a windy day. So many I can’t list them all here so I’m just going to show you the photos.
I had no idea that clams were so beautiful - or so big! I was even lucky enough to see one close. The standouts for me though were the baby reef sharks that just swim around in the shallows, sometimes in groups of 5 or 6, the stingray and of course the turtles. We went on an excursion to see turtles during the second week. We laughed to each other at the sight of one of the other guests setting his Go-Pro up on a selfie stick, but by the end of the excursion I wanted to shove his selfie stick where the water didn’t go.
We took a boat to a small sandbank about 30 minutes away. The previous week we’d been on a similar excursion and the marine biologist had expressly said not to chase the wildlife or to swim over the coral. Whilst we were swimming along the reef we were lucky enough to see a turtle (this was our first sighting of one). Really, though, it was just a glimpse because the minute Go-Pro-Prick saw him he swam right over the coral, shoved the camera in his face and of course the poor terrified turtle turned shell and swam off where we couldn’t see him and more importantly couldn’t get to him. I was furious and so upset and also indignant on behalf of the turtle! If that had turned out to be our only opportunity to see the turtles by the end of our holiday I think I’d have found him and snapped his selfie stick over his head!
After the trip, when we were discussing the turtle the resort’s Marine Biologist assured us that there were turtles on our resort reef, we just weren’t looking in the right places. Or, actually, as it turned out, at the right time. Having bemoaned the lack of turtles on twitter, my lovely friend Sarah, who had been instrumental in us being in the Maldives in the first place, tweeted back that they had always seen them around 4pm in the afternoon.
So later that day we returned to the spot that we’d been told they had been seen previously and amazingly enough we spotted our first turtle. We hung back and just watched him, not wanting to scare him away. He didn’t mind us though, he just carried on truffling through the coral and finding things to eat, closely followed by several small fish picking up his leftovers. I actually cried in my snorkel mask, which is no mean feat I can tell you. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people on the shore had heard my squeals of delight. We just floated and watched him for 10 fascinating minutes. After that we saw them each time we went out. It never gets dull I can tell you.
I’m a complete snorkeling addict now. I even jumped off a boat twice, I can’t say I found it totally relaxing at times, especially the day we actually got dropped in the middle of the ocean and the only thing to go back to was a boat that seemed to get further away every time I looked up. But it’s worth a little fear to see this amazing underwater world. It’s not worth it enough for me to take up scuba diving though.
MrS has scuba’d dozens of times, in some of the most amazing places in the world – The Caymans, The Great Barrier Reef, Bora Bora – but is unable to scuba now due to having had a blown out ear drum. But having snorkelled in the Maldives he said he doesn’t think he’ll mind not diving again.