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Manta Madness in the Maldives

Sean Chinn

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Just as it was on my previous trip four years ago, it was a case of starting the week as you mean to go on.

On the first and second dive after our arrival in Male, we visited a dive site close to the city called Lankan Paradise: a cleaning station known for good Manta Ray sightings. Just the week before our dive boat had a dive there with around 10 Manta Rays so our hopes were high. The current on the first dive wasn’t running in the ideal direction for Manta sightings and we flew across the reef with no luck. We decided to try the site again to give as much chance as possible for a good Manta Ray sighting.

The dive started slow and we passed the cleaning station without luck. It was starting to get a little disappointing as the main reason to visit the dive site is for the Mantas. We turned around to head back as we were coming up to around 30 minutes into the dive. As we got closer to the cleaning station we saw a large aggregation of divers and got excited our luck was about to change. Sure enough when we arrived at the cleaning station we saw what was probably the biggest Reef Manta Ray I’d ever seen!

I’ve been lucky enough to dive with both Oceanic and Reef Mantas on a few occasions and this reminded me more of an Oceanic due to it’s sheer size. A great way to start our week in the Maldives, and great to see my fellow divers who had never done tropical sea diving before get a real buzz. The dive boat was rocking with the excitement after the dive and this gave me a great feeling as I had helped to organise the trip.

A couple of days diving had passed with only a fleeting glimpse of another Manta Ray by a portion of the boat (not me). Then came the second dive on day four to Moofushi Corner and wow, what a dive. Literally from the first minute of the dive there was action.

We plummeted straight down to around 35 minutes into the channel where we saw a school of 20 or more Eagle Rays gliding along in the current. We fought really hard to try keep up and I was in awe of such beauty and grace underwater. I managed to get a snapshot of the scene that greeted us butit was difficult to keep up and at 35 metres. We hovered over the channel marvelling at the many Grey Reef Sharks for a little longer until our computers were getting close to Deco and it was time to shallow up to the cleaning station to see if there were Mantas.

Can this dive really get any better. AMAZING!!!! As we got to around 24 metres we spotted the two Manta Rays on the cleaning station a little further above us on the sloping station. The current was really strong and threatening to take us off the reef and fly us away from the Manta show. However we fought hard and managed to work our way to a sheltered area at the top of the cleaning station around 15 minutes. It was nice to get a short respite from the current but where was the Manta?

I couldn’t see over the lip of the reef and started to get a little anxious. Then suddenly the adrenalin started pumping as this Manta came up over the top of the reef right above my head. It literally pinned me to the reef it got that close. What an amazing interaction with such a graceful marine animal. It continued to circle the cleaning station right above us and a couple of more Mantas came into view at times. I would definitely regard this dive as up there with some of my best ever.

The day didn’t end there and this is probably why it has become one of my best day’s underwater ever. We moored up in Fesdhoo Lagoon for the night where Manta Rays are known to come to feed on blooms of plankton. To increase our chances of seeing them, and possibly getting to do an extra night dive with them, the boat attached a large halogen light to the steps at the back of the boat. This attracted blooms of plankton up to the surface and below our boat to hopefully attract Mantas to the back of the boat to feed.

We started at night fall around 6pm and there was a huge anticipation on the boat for what might soon happen. Everyone waiting patiently on the back of the boat. 2-3 hours went by with the odd call of excitement – “NURSE SHARK”. A fairly large curious Nurse Shark went by on a couple of occasions intrigued by what was happening at the back of the boat. Then, “MANTA” was the call and sure enough a Manta made a quick bypass beneath the boat under the light full of plankton.

It was gone quicker than it arrived and we started to worry that our time in the water wouldn’t come. Slowly as the time approached 10pm most of the boat had succumbed to their disappointment and headed to bed. There were only three of us left committed to the cause. Then as the time worked it’s way to 10.30pm my excitement was plain to see as I screamed “MANTA” and quickly grabbed my camera, mask, snorkel and fins. Diving was not an option at this point and I just wanted to get in and get some photos. The bell rang and most got out their beds to come enjoy the show.

What a show it turned out to be as we had around three or four different Mantas dancing for us at the back of the boat, barrel rolling as they gorged on the plankton bloom created under the boat. This lasted for at least two hours until we eventually had to leave one Manta in there to continue feeding. Most the guests managed to get in with them at some point and a couple of other guests and I stayed in for 2-2.5 hours marvelling at the show. I was reluctant to get out of the water but knew I had enough photos to keep me happy for a lifetime and it was time to get to sleep ready for another day of diving the next day. With the high I was feeling I didn’t get to sleep until around 2am and was up at 6am to go diving. It was well worth every minute though and these memories will last a lifetime.

Sean’s trip was organised by The Scuba Place aboard www.topclasscruising.com. For more information and to book call +44 (0)207 644 8252, email reservations@thescubaplace.co.uk or visit www.comedivewithus.co.uk.

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Safe, Sustainable Travel – How will the new travel normal work for our environment?

Ruth Franklin

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The past year has definitely been a strange one for us all. Life as we know it has changed for good. Our daily lives, future plans, travel and holiday dreams have all changed in ways we never imagined. For some of us, it was a time of reflection, some sadness, some fear, but we all managed at some stage to find some peace and happiness too.

Reflection about our well-being, seeing how the environment has been positively impacted by the lock downs, connecting with family and friends, even if only virtually and perhaps uniting as a global community, we can’t say it’s been all bad. But moving forward, re-opening our countries and allowing freedom of movement once again – with the ‘new normal’ needs plenty of careful thought and consideration.

PPE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT 

We need to consider our health, especially now that many of us are returning to work. We need to make sure we are looking after our well-being and we also need to consider our environment. There are new requirements and expectations set in place, but if we are not careful, we will simply create whole new areas of issue, transferring what we have ‘undone’ during lock down to new environmental issues.

The internet is already awash with images of discarded face masks impacting wildlife and marine life. Even as early as February 2020, 70 masks along 100 meters of shoreline were found on a beach clean in Hong Kong and more recently in the Mediterranean, masks have reportedly been seen floating like jellyfish.

Discarded masks may also risk spreading the virus to waste collectors, litter pickers or members of the public who first come across the litter. Let alone the fact that as a mask breaks down over time into millions of particles, the potential is there for those particles to carry chemicals and bacteria up the food chain.

At Secret Paradise Maldives we are firm believers in sustainable travel and also believe that if each one of us takes individual responsibility and educates just one person, messages such as these will filter through to many people.

Picking up a couple of plastic bottles or bags on the beach may seem a tiny gesture given the global plastic crisis but what if every single person on this planet just picked up two pieces of plastic rubbish? Or better still, we individually stopped and considered our actions and disposed of rubbish and waste appropriately in the first place? The problem would pretty much be solved, or very close to it!

However, we are also realists and understand that this is easier said than done. So, we urge our followers, guests and partners to educate just one person about the new normal. Highlight how their actions can protect the environment and also achieve safe, sustainable travel, be that domestic travel or international travel. Ask them to pass their new knowledge on to another person and let the education and results filter through.

HOW TO TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY WITH THE NEW SAFETY REQUIREMENTS 

Sustainable travel is not just about considering your carbon footprint and who or what will benefit from your tourist dollar, it is also about making considered decisions and green choices when it comes to packing the necessities of travel in the post COVID world.

Face Masks:

Choose reusable masks. They are actually becoming quite a trend with many different designs to choose from. Why not make a fashion statement with them! Let kids wear fun looking masks, like a friend’s daughter who has a big smiley face on hers – it makes her less conscious about wearing it and she remembers to wear it because of the fun reactions she gets.

Keep a few fresh spare masks in different key places, like one in your handbag, one in the car, one at your place of work – this way you are less likely to forget them and need to buy disposable ones.

When travelling consider if you will be able to wash your mask after use. Packing a mask per day may now be like considering how much underwear to pack!

There is also the opportunity to support local businesses and purchase masks locally. Maybe they will become the new holiday gift for family and friends!

Hand Sanitizer:

Washing your hands with soap and water should always be your first option but when you are travelling this may not always be possible.

Many shops are selling handbag size hand sanitizers and once again this means more single use plastic being disposed of.  Consider purchasing industrial size hand sanitizer and refill your handy, on the go bottles.

We’ve successfully changed our mind set with water bottles and refilling them so there is no reason we can’t do it with hand sanitizer.

Disinfectant Surface Cleaning Wipes:

Disinfectant wipes are perfect to clean door handles, bathroom taps, AC remote control, toilet handles and more and it’s worth having a pack in your hand luggage.

Ensure to seek out eco-friendly biodegradable wipes and dispose of them responsibly.

Go Digital:

Never has there been a better time to go paperless.  Ask for electronic travel documents be they transport related, hotel confirmations or tour and activity bookings. Certainly, if the accommodation provider or tour operator are sustainably minded they will not blink at your request.

Not only will you be helping the environment it will also assist you in maintaining social distancing.

Bring Your Own Toiletries:

We may find that hotel properties find that they need to return to the old practice of single-use toiletries instead of multi-use bottles/containers to minimize the spread of germs.

Therefore rather than rely on hotel-provided toiletries bear the small inconvenience of packing your own or decant from larger size containers you use at home into re-usable travel containers. Or check out the now popular natural, soap/shampoo bars that are available which also have less impact on the environment as they wash away.

TRAVEL SUSTAINABLY AND SAFELY WITH SECRET PARADISE 

COVID-19 may have given us many new challenges and considerations to make, even before we leave the comfort of our homes. But this does not mean that you need to compromise on either your safety or on protecting the environment.

It remains about making the right choices and assisting others to do the same. If we all work together sustainable travel and safe travel can work hand in hand, albeit socially distanced!

As with travel in general at this moment in time, regulations and recommendations are constantly changing and evolving so make sure to check out local travel guidelines and listen to the medical experts.

At Secret Paradise we have reviewed all our operational practices to ensure all aspects of guest’s comfort and safety have been accounted for, but without losing the memorable aspects of our experiences and service.


Discover more of The Maldives with www.secretparadise.mv

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Diving holidays in The Maldives

Ruth Franklin

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We are delighted to welcome Ruth Franklin of Secret Paradise Maldives as a Guest Blogger. Over the coming weeks she will be sharing her personal, expert knowledge of this leading dive destination…

Life beneath the surface in the Maldives is an underwater Disneyland, perfect for dive enthusiasts. The Maldives is renowned as being one of the very best diving holiday locations in the world. There’s not only an abundance of reef life here but also spectacular coloured coral and crystal clear water.

WHY CHOOSE THE MALDIVES FOR YOUR DIVING HOLIDAY?

The Maldives ticks all of the boxes when it comes to diving holidays. This tropical location boasts visibility levels of up to 40 metres, making it a great destination for advanced divers. However diving holidays in the Maldives are not just for the experienced. The shallow lagoons and channels make it the perfect location to try SCUBA diving for the very first time. Plus what better destination in the world is there to gain your SCUBA diving certifications?

The Maldives is also home to a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. The presence of currents in this island nation means that open water channels are perfect for drift diving and it’s also possible to swim with gentle ocean giants like manta rays and whale sharks. Don’t forget the Maldives has year round water temperatures of 26 – 29 degrees Celsius meaning you can leave your dry suit at home!

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR FOR DIVING IN THE MALDIVES?

Fortunately, the diving season in the Maldives is open all year round with the calmest conditions from December through to June. As the Maldives is located in the tropics, it is susceptible to both wet and dry seasons. June to November is the south-west monsoon season, bringing with it with overcast and wet conditions, especially in June and July. During these months expect slightly less visibility and different currents, although there is still plenty of marine life on offer, as well as sunny spells. Generally reef life is more varied and visibility is better on the western side of any atoll from May to November and on the eastern side from December to April. Reef sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads and whale sharks are found in the Maldives year round, along with manta rays and sea turtles, you just need to know where to head at the time of year you plan to dive!

MALDIVES DIVING HOLIDAY OPTIONS

There are a number of diving holiday options when it comes to Maldives. Here at Secret Paradise, we offer value for money diving holidays and tours that you will remember for a lifetime. Enjoy an all-inclusive guesthouse stay and be transferred by boat to incredible nearby dive sites, the same sites that you would dive from a resort but at half the cost! Our diving holidays are an affordable alternative to a resort stay and also allow you the flexibility of island hopping or if your budget is larger, atoll hopping to benefit from the best dive locations during your time of travel.

Liveaboards are a popular dive holiday option, allowing you to scour the waters for the ultimate dive spot each day. These days most liveaboards operate a year round schedule offering 7 night, 10 night and 14 night cruises, not only in the central atolls but to the deep south and deep north offering opportunities to discover less dived sites and pristine coral reefs.

OUR SECRET PARADISE DIVING HOLIDAYS

Here at Secret Paradise, we offer diving holiday packages in different atolls from the deep north to the Deep South and everything in between, allowing you access to what are some of the best dive sites in the world. Our diving holiday packages include Dharavandhoo, perfect if you want to encounter 100s of manta rays in Baa Atoll, Hulhumale if you need to stay close to the capital, Fuvahmulah for tiger shark encounters, Dhigurah home of the whale shark in Ari Atoll, Rasdhoo, the ideal location to spot a hammerhead and Gan in Laamu atoll, to mention just a few of our personal favourite dive locations.

Our island hopping itineraries in Male Atoll and Ari Atoll allow you to discover a range of dive sites and marine life whilst at the same time experiencing Maldives local life, tradition and culture, with or without a private dive guide.

All our dive partners are PADI affiliated dive centres and are operated by both local and European dive professionals. A personal interest is taken in promoting scuba diving in the Maldives, through education and awareness about the underwater environment here. Their objective is to encourage underwater conservation and safe diving practices.

Dives are generally conducted from the beach within an island’s inner reef for beginners or from a local dive boat, called a ‘dhoni’, for certified divers. Dive sites are chosen daily based on both the weather and current conditions as well as diver ability.

The dive teams will take you to the best dive spots and willingly introduce you to the characteristics of the underwater world of the Maldives. All offer boat dives, NITROX, night dives and a full range of PADI courses and will always ensure you get the best out of your dive. If you are learning to dive, you can do anything from completing a try dive or just the open water dive section of your PADI Open Water certification to completing the full PADI Open Water certification and more. Whatever you choose to do you can be assured of fun and safe diving with us and our partners.


Discover more of The Maldives with www.secretparadise.mv

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