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MV Stingray--Maldives 24th thru 31st Oct 2011

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MV Stingray--Maldives 24th thru 31st Oct 2011

Post Number:#1  Postby decimal86 » Sun Nov 13, 2011 5:59 pm

Met the rest of the group at24 th Oct MALE airport 1245 hrs. (no they don't have a female airport...) Total 18 divers. Very humid. Before I forget, buy yr SIM card for talk or data before the boat (Dhoni) takes you to the mother ship. They say there is reception where ever the boat sails.

Starter kit plus 400 MB data is US$13/-.

As u come out of ARRIVAL it's on your left. No names mentioned but it's the only one here. Bags were loaded and we set off on our dive safari!

MV Stingray was moored a short distance. Honestly there were far better looking boats in the harbour but hey are you here to dive or what?

3 main decks--from the bunks, dining hall (briefing area) , smoking deck and the sun deck. Non air-con except the bunks. Which were spacious and had  ensuite bath. Bigger than the one we went on in the Similans (Enams) and double bed plus a single bed on top. So effectively all the rooms are there's a thought! Kinky eh?

Lunch was served and it was good. Basmati rice bro' alright! No expense spared eh?
But it is the only kind of rice avail in this region.

House rules, the layout of the boat, the diving boat is the Dhoni, so all equipment has to be unpacked and put in large baskets to be transferred to the Dhoni.

All diving starts and ends from the Dhoni. The compressor is on the Dhoni. What a brilliant idea!

First dive in Maldives!!

Back Faru, was our check-out dive. Drift dive, visi was good, slight current, warm waters. Plenty of leopard morays, honeycomb morays, corals were not really that great. Fishes looked healthy and usual juvenile triggers.
No nudis...sigh.
Confidence restored, we surfaced and hopped back on the mother ship and prepared this report and looked fwd to another meal on board.

A quick poll on whether to go to Hanifaru tomo or not. Since our DM s say that the sightings of Mantas has not been good of late. And yes the Maldivian Govt is going to close the site next year.

They employed a Sri Lankan just to handle alcohol. In the room, there was only 1 elec charging point. But more avail next to the 'library'. No dry area to disassemble yr DSLR.

Dinner was equally good. The chef has definitely got the hang of lemak curry. And fruits were aplenty.  Pizza was delicious. And so was the various pasta and the sauces. One of the guys celeb his b day and the chef baked a cake with all the trimmings, also delicious.

The dining hall has a smart TV so all kinds of devices boleh "cucuk dan main". And an amplifier for sensurround sound. 18 pax just nice. Coffee, tea and water is avail round the clock. No Wi Fi.

Day 2 25th Oct 2011

Lankan Manta point 2 X
Trick Caves

Next to Paradise Resort, apparently Lankan means Paradise. Mild currents, good visibility, but the Mantas we saw were far away and very skittish. Although my darling wife shot one big fella that came close to her. It is good if you equalize very slowly ......... We did not!

Unfortunately, the hard corals here were all gone but soft corals were slowly growing. No nudis. One solitary frogfish.

Plenty of divers though.

I must say the briefings were a serious matter to our DM's ( as it should be). And they ask that everybody be present by ringing a brass bell. Which also signal meal times. Good idea if u asked me, every diver is hungry all the time, so on heaing the bell, everybody thinks it's makan time!

So I told you the diving is from the Dhoni ? It really worked out well. It is very spacious...enough for 18 divers. Your wetsuit hangs on homemade hangers. And all other dive gear goes in a big basket. No soaking tub for your cameras though. Sigh! Must have a word with the kapitan. Only tub is on the mother ship and it is good only for 3 cameras. No drinking water on board either. U have to refill yr water bottle before u leave the mother ship. Lo and behold! Nitrox is avail!

Fresh water is reverse osmosis and rain water. Only enough for a rinse for yourself. The equipments were never rinsed.

Air conditioning on a boat depends greatly on outside air temp. When it was raining, it was sufficient. At the end of a blazing hot day it was barely able to cool anything. Some of the guys slept in the dining hall, the cabins were too humid.

Maldives is not re known for macro so I was not looking for any. But a couple of frog fishes and mantis shrimp were in attendance. A flatworm that I have not seen before. Pipefish.

Then the announcement came that tonight we sail for Hanifaru Atoll!

What we have been waiting for....

As in all things in life, it has it's tinge of bitter, sour and mostly foul.

A storm hit us whilst we were sailing north and cups, utensils and coffee tables were flung like tissue. We tried our best to remain calm and cheerful but then my stomach started to churn and I had to excuse myself and do the inevitable. Feed the fishes.

The journey took about 5 hrs. And when we finally moored next to Best Western, what a relief. The storm took out their jetty as well.

We tried to compose our green faces as best we could and prepared to meet Hanifaru Thila face to face. Thila means pinnacles.

Folks if ever I felt scuba was the right hobby for me and wifey, the moment was NOW!

Even from the Dhoni, we could see 4 big fellas swimming on on side of the boat. And when we finally dived, it was a moment of epiphany. Everything that I read about from books, blogs, MUW, my hopes, all came together in one silent moment. Where all my worries, finances, job ambitions, striking 4D, seemed minuscule when we came face to face with these sentinels of the deep. They came to feed, dance, acquaint themselves with total strangers and fully trusting us not to harm nor threaten their existence nor habitat, oh what innocence and purity.

I resisted from touching them when they were just a palm away. I could see deep into their eyes and it was dark and a strange calm exudes. Their mandibles folded and unfolded to some silent music as they danced in front of us, sometimes turning complete circles to feed and impress us. And I was impressed ! And then some.

I have been an avid fan of the micro and weird/wonderful animals but these big fellas really touched my heart and took my breath away. In spite of the dozens of divers, strobes going off, getting into their way, they kept up their ballet and show and seemed to thrive on our presence.  my video was 7 mins but would have been longer if not for the DM calling us to come up. With a promise that we could dive here tomo.

Well if I ended my report here u could not blame me cuz I sat on the Dhoni back to the mother ship with a big grin on my face. I slept that night dreaming of the those fluid dancers with deep black eyes and a trusting nature. Kept going round and round in my dreams.

Day 3 26th Oct 2011

Ting Ting Ting a bell went off. In the the distance, I did not want to disturb this euphoria I was in but my wifey said get up, we diving Hanifaru again! I was up and jumped into my neoprene.

There is a back to Hanifaru Thila called Beru? And it was just as magical. This time we met 7 different Mantas ( their markings)  and they were celebrating some festival from the looks of things. Yes I am sure there was plankton aplenty but one would think it was more than a case of food . In any case I was happy they were happy! With their size I would hate to see them angry! They went from 0 m to 13 m and looped back at will.

If it were my choice, I would just park myself here for the next 5 days and just listen intently for their silent melody that must come from somewhere that keeps these aqua acrobats performing their loop the loops.

About 4 boats were moored here, Blue Lagoon, Blue shark II, Southern Cross, Stingray. So we had about 50 divers in there?

Hmm funny thing about humans and their moments of spiritual/emotional  epiphany? There was this guy at the base of a pile of dead corals trying to woo the Mantas with some hand gestures and perhaps bubblelogy? And when we came by to see/ video the Mantas, he got angry and tried to shoo us off? WTF?

But since he was outnumbered, he left in a huff and a puff. Some ppl ar...

Day 3 27 th Oct 2011

Hanifaru Bay again. Followed by Kakani Thila

If I may comment on human behavior again, there were comments of ' huh Mantas again?' so we had to submit to the majority and do some other sites. Saw a pair of eels mating. One Nudi. Lots of dead corals. Swam against the current ( I thought you said drift ?)

In the afternoon, a small boat of villagers came to ask us if we wanted to buy lobsters. Good price. We bought 12 and had sashimi, lobster broth and baked lobster. All for USD 14 each.

The crew of Stingray took us on an uninhabited island to play volleyball! Good idea ! Playing against the crew bad idea! They were semi pro STD. Setting and spiking was part of their game. It was good fun interacting with the crew and dive guides.

It was drizzling when we started the game. And when we went back to the boat it was starting to pour. Well I suppose it's good for the islands.

Day 4 28 th Oct 2011

There is a 3 hour time diff between Malaysia/Singapore and the Maldives. So an early morn call of 0600 hrs means 0900 in Malaysia so most of us were awake anyway. But today was diff cuz the sun was shining and a light breeze was blowing. It was time to hang our washings out to dry! The sun deck is also the drying deck. Oh it is always good to bring clothes peg with you on a dive trip. plenty of lines but very few pegs. If u brought the HDB bamboo pegs lagi best, u can hang on the railings!

There were 2 huge combs of banana hanging at the stern that we helped ourselves to. The camera soaking bin is not secured to the boat so if there is a storm, it will fall overboard!

There is a huge freezer on board, plenty of room for your frozen food except pork products. Speaking of which, the chef on board is very versatile, it was the first time he tried his hand at seafood porridge and it turned out better than we had hoped for.

After 4 nights of beer drinking, I must say the draught beer is a little weak in alcohol content. I would have pengsan ed if I drank that much in KL. Hmm the other guys drank their whiskey with hot water, supposedly gives a quicker kick. Kinky.

Maldives customs will confiscate all forms of alcoholic beverage. And a big sign on the baggage belt says so.Learned a new trick. Bring 2 quantities of alcohol, one to be declared to customs and the the bigger to be consumed. Brilliant!

The group brought a lot of snacks to be shared, we contributed some nuts and choco. It's a good social habit I think, helps to break the ice when u are new to each other. And as we sat at the stern of Stingray, eating ice cream, we saw the law of nature live. There was a huge floodlight that attracted sea insects which smaller fishes jumped at, and then the cornet attacked the smaller fishes. And all this while, the remoras did nothing but waited for hand outs from us..well not completely nature-lah. They say the remoras travel with the Stingray thinking it is some big whaleshark.

A thot occurred to me whilst I was lying in my bunk watching Poseidon  Adventure . They did not brief us of emergency procedures in case of a capsizing. I think it would be a good idea to highlight any emergency porthole ( which there was ) to evacuate as many as possible as quick as possible. A quick check showed that there was a fire extinguisher on every floor. Although there were emer lights in every room, when the generator failed twice, the one in my room did not come on, neither did the dining hall. Life-vest were aplenty and on the Dhoni as well.

We did 3 dives today. The minority won! And we went back to Hanifaru . And 2 other forgetful drift dives. Please don't get me wrong, I am happy that they want to show us the  best of the Maldives-drift dives. But the corals are nowhere as plentiful as Gorontalo, Sipadan, Bunaken or Anilao. But if want to pay thousands of ringgit to do drift dives then this is the place for you !

For my wife and I, all we ask is for twin tanks and just sit at the sandy bottom and let the Mantas do their magic on us. Everyday.....

Whilst we did our surface interval, I saw a National Geographic special shot 2 yrs ago that showed Whalesharks and Mantas in Hanifaru in the month of July. But looks like if I come back it will be snorkeling. And it's not cheap either 80-100 US from the hotel next door.

Day 5 29 th  Oct 2011

The M V Stingray set sail at around 4 am to head back to Male for more diving. Sadly we had to bid adieu to the Mantas.

Thanfully the sea was calm and when b fast was served it stayed in. B fast just  keeps getting better and betterer (as I always say). The chef as we found out has worked in Colombo for 3 years before coming to join the Stingray. That would explain the standard of cuisine served everyday.

Funny thing about these motion sickness pills. It says take one hour before motion sickness comes on ? How would we know?? Why not say, 'not sure? take anyway it won't do you harm.' ? Reminds me of a joke-eddy Murphy in his hey days, " why do they give us all these stupid signs? Road winds for the next 3 miles. Slippery when wet. Uphill gradient. We can see...dam it. Why don't they give us a sign that says stranger with gun around the next block ?"

The captain navigates solely on GPS, and with a map of the Maldives, he can take you anywhere you want. But he would prefer daylight sailings. The Dhoni has a hand held GPS.  And hey, it happened again! I asked the MUW guys whether they noticed fingernails grew faster when you are on a dive trip? Well I made sure I cut mine down to the barest and true enough it grew fast than normal.

Finger Point
Boduhithi Thila
Okobe Thila

These sites are just next to Lankan Manta Point so we have done a loop.

Day 6 30 th Oct 2011

H P Reef
Nassimo Thila

Drift dives with moments of macro magic. Saw a cave full of lobsters. Huge fellas. Sweetlips hiding in an overhang. Not skittish at all.

The currents here are the strongest ever experienced. At Finger Point, you could almost hear the banshee howl as we clinged on watching black tips hunt in aquamarine blue crystal clear waters.

At the end of our second dive, we realized it was time to pack up. But hey bonus....the boat boys were going to clean our gear and hang them to dry. Ok lah not pristine clean but saved us a lot of elbow grease and also there was not much fresh water to go round. Then it started to rain, so fresh water at last.

Day 7 31 st Oct 2011

As we said our goodbyes to the DM s , Captain, Chef, Waiter and the Mantas, i have to add that if you crave for mind blowing strong current, at times crystal clear blue waters, lots of dead corals, very little macro, drift dives, and love to get up close and personal with the Mantas ( better do it this year) then Maldives is the place for you!
alamak, the tank goes at the back??
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