I survived diving South Maldives!
This would be a good way to sum up my one week diving South Maldives on Live Aboard. I bet this is the common feeling, not only of my 21 boat mates, but also the divers of the 2 trips before ours. I know because I have friends on both trips diving South Maldives.
So I just came back from an amazing 2-weeks trip in the wonderful Maldives. 7 days of which I spent on a luxe live-aboard dive boat diving South Maldives. And another week on land basking on the perfect weather, cleanest beach and 50 shades of blue water.
The Raod to diving South Maldives!
This is my 3rd live-aboard diving experience. And with Diving Galapagos in 2012 as precedent, it was a tough order to follow. However, diving South Maldives with my friends was still an amazing experience; was a lot of fun, quite eventful, and definitely memorable.
The phenomenal Maldives is a country comprised of 1190 tiny coral islands, grouped into 26 atolls, with its tail resting on the equator line. Only 1% of its landmass is above water (!) and underwater can go as deep as 3,000m. Just with this information, it’s easy to imagine how rich the marine life would be.
After diving the Galapagos, for reason you could’ve guessed, I went on diving hiatus for a year. But being a creature of underwater, I didn’t stay away longer. After talking to Jerome who dove Maldives in 2012, I proposed to some of my best dive buds the idea of organizing our own boat.
We’ve done this before for Tubbataha liveaboard. Since once my mind is set on a destination, I’m going to dive it anyway, why not take along my friends and negotiate group discount. I actually enjoy organizing.
Because the logistic going to Maldives is easier than the Galapagos (was unsuccessful organizing a group there); by that I mean flight is cheaper, travel time is shorter, and live-aboard cost is half; we easily filled up the boat of 22 divers who were just 3 degrees of separation to each other.
Diving South Maldives – Not Disneyland
“No Mickey Mouse diving in South Maldives“. This was the straight face declaration of Daney during the dive briefing of Viligili Kandu (first channel dive; 2nd dive of the first day). Kandu is the Dhivehi word for channel. Channel will be the typical profile of our succeeding dives in South Maldives.
The brief was to giant stride from one side of the channel and try to cross to the other side, and in the process, we will have our pelagic feast of unlimited sharks, rays, tunas, wrasses. Simple? Not really.
Channel diving generally denotes strong current. We were prepared for that because as experienced divers, we know that strong current brings in the pelagic (big fishes). But the catch was we had to do negative entry, and go down to 40m as fast as we can.
Continue, continue, continue
There were 4 exits in the dhoni (a wooden boat used for transfers in the Maldives) and we had to jump quickly one after another, so nobody gets left behind. The dive master will wait for us at 40m, where current is going to be manageable. Failure to descend fast will lead you to get caught in the strong current (around 30-35m) and get sucked into the lagoon. Your dive will sadly be finished in 5 minutes.
Referring to the photo above, the reason we looked like how we did was, we had the benefit of stories from the 2 previous boats. Although we’ve yet to experience the actual channel dive, we already have fear instilled in us (in me, at least). While I know I’m a strong diver, so were those from the other boats, and if they said it’s challenging, I’m going to take note.
Channel Dive 1
So, true enough, the first channel dive was a mess, to say the least. Everyone took few seconds too long to jump. Some had problem with equalization thus not able to go down fast enough and got caught in the current. Getting caught in the current and trying to fight it can cause mega stress. So some people ran out of air quickly. Some were not able to catch up and had to surface alone. Someone shoot up without doing proper stops causing computer to shut down on first dive day! FUN!
But the major plight was 2 of our divers got separated from the group at the beginning of the dive. Thankfully they still had the presence of mind to do their safety stops, but when they surfaced, they panicked and couldn’t think straight. They ran out of air and claimed they couldn’t inflate their BC, so they had to fin very hard to stay afloat while waiting to be found. I guess they were too stressed to remember that they could inflate their BC by blowing air into their inflator hoses (using mouth). But they did thought of dumping their weights. They also did not deploy their safety balloon which made it harder for boat to find them, not to mention very dangerous in high traffic water.
Deco is just a Number in Your Computer
As far as my own experience goes, I had no problem doing negative entry. I was at 40m within 2′ which would later improve to 1′. I spotted the DM immediately and was on his tail (almost) all the way. But I was very bothered by my computer’s incessant beeping, even if I’ve been warned by Oliver that “deco is just numbers in your computer”.
I saw the DM still pushing forward. I looked around, and didn’t see many divers anymore. When my computer went to 3 minutes deco time, I signaled to Vangie. We stopped finning and let the current sucked us into the channel, then the lagoon where we did our deco and safety stops. When we surfaced, we were met with noisy chatters of everyone telling their stories.
— to be continued, Diving South Maldives Part 2 —