Heart & Brain Underwater

2010 Apr Maldives – Biyadhoo Resort & MV Princess Lara

Took the Malaysian Airlines to the Maldives. Airfare was S$780+ (inclusive of the booking fee for Zuji website). We had to transit in KL for 2-3hrs each way, we took the opportunity to enjoy the reasonably-priced, nice food & coffee at the Old Town  White Coffee  outlet at the KL airport.

We reached the Maldivian airport island Hulhule before 10pm, on 31st Mar and the baggage claim took quite awhile. It was good to see that the Biyadhoo Resort had the speed boat waiting for us. We booked our 3 nights at Biyadhoo Resort on the Vermillion website. Each night is US$250  (inclusive of 3 meals a day) & the transfer was US$80 per person. The speed boat transferred us to Biyadhoo Resort (~35km from Male) in about 45mins, under the  silvery light of the beautiful full moon.

The Biyadhoo Resort has 96 rooms, in blocks of 2 storey buildings and it has a fully equipped spa. Although the deco of the room was a little tired, it was functional & the king size bed was very comfortable.  We spent the days snorkelling, watching the lovely sunsets. and eating.  We had 7 very wonderful meals at the restaurant, the chef made lovely lemon cheese cakes, which I still miss… Biyahdoo’s house-reef was very healthy, other than the usual reef fish like parrotfish, butterflyfish and surgeon fish, large blue-fin trevallies also came into the lagoon to hunt., we also saw small black-tip reef sharks, 2 turtles and 2 large moray eels. 1 of the moray eels was out hunting & came very close to Terence’s ankle!  At the drop-off, there we saw giant travellies and even a napolean wrasse!

On 3rd Apr, we left Biyadhoo for the aiport in the morning and spent a couple of hours in the Movenpick cafe & enjoyed some the lovely ice cream. We met up with another 20 divers to take the internal flight on Maldivian Air (~US$140), bound for Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll (the most southern atoll in Maldives) to board MV Princess Lara.  It was about 4pm when we boarded the beautiful MV Princess Lara. MV Princess Lara was launched in late 2009, it was still smelling new & my favourite feature was the roof top jacuzzi! We were supposed to do a check dive but as we lusted after hammerhead sharks, so it was decided that we would move northwards to Laamu Atoll. The overnight crossing was a rough one, most of us skipped dinner and stayed in our cabins (to be near the toilet. :-))

4th Apr – 1st dive at Fushi Kandu, Laamu Atoll and 2nd dive at Dhiyamigili Kandu, Thaa Atoll. As there was a change of current, the DMs felt that we would have a better chance to see the pelagic at Ari Atoll, so we made a long crossing to Ari Atoll. 5th Apr – 3rd & 4th dives at Maamigili Faru, South Ari Atoll. The 3rd dive was forgettable, however, we got to snorkel with whalesharks! When we got back to Princess Lara, it started to rain quite heavily & the sea was rough, so the dive was postponed & somehow, Bee & Bok, in the next room & us didn’t get called for the next dive. Anyway, the captain was arranged to lead us for the 4th dive. & we managed to dive with 2 whalesharks! We had a close encounter with the 1st whaleshark, it was really amazing! After diving, we also snorkelled with several whalesharks. Diving & snorkelling with whalesharks was really tiring, we really had to finned very hard to keep up with them! 5th & 6th (on 6th Apr) dives at  Rangali , we were “hunting” for hammerhead sharks  without success but on the 5th dive, we had a short encounter with a manta and during our surface intervals, we got to admire the luxurious Rangali Hilton Resort from afar… 😉

Next we headed for North Ari Atoll. Our 7th & 8th dives were at Donkalo. These 2 dives were magical, although the viz was not very good. Donkalo was the cleaning station favoured by the manta rays, during these 2 dives, we spent the entire dives at the bottom (around 18m-20m), watching the manta rays getting cleaned by cleaner wrasses. They came very close to us & passed over our heads several times. In the evening, we had a fabulous bbq at an inhabited island, before the bbq, we had a nice swim & enjoyed watching the gorgeous sunset. The crew of Princess Lara also put together a surprise birthday party for Bok, the pastry chef baked a delicious cake.

On 7th Apr, we did 4 dives, including the night dive. The 9th dive at Fish Head (south of Mushimasmigili Island) was gorgeous, the thila (pinnacle) was very colourful, there were thousands of fusiliers, a friendly turtle, hunting trevallies & tunas. The 10th dive at Kan Thila was really exciting. We stayed on top of the ridge (~21m), hang onto the rocks and watched many large whitetip reef sharks, which came very close & several magnificient grey reef sharks patrolling their ocean & a couple of napolean wrasses were also spotted at the reef top. The 11th dive was at Hafusa Thila, there were schools  various fish – bluestripe snappers, crescent-tail bigeyes and the 12th dive, the night dive was at Maaya Thila. The night dive was really wonderful, at first we saw a large resting turtle &  it was action packed at the reef-top, the bait fish were attracted by the video lights, thus attracted the predators – trevallies, a small whitetip reef shark & a large marbled ray to hunt.

It was lucky 13th for us, on 8th Apr, we finally saw hammerhead sharks at Rasdhoo Atoll! For most parts of the dive, it was dark & gloomy, we couldn’t see the bottom & was just following the DM. The 1st hammerhead shark was on our right at about 30m, it gave us a quick look & left. Soon, the DM clinked & descended quickly, we followed as quickly as we could, there were 2 scalloped hammerhead sharks which came very close to the DM but as soon as the video lights were switched on, they turned & quickly “disappeared”! Everything happened so quickly that I didn’t even bothered to get any photos… The 14th dive was also at Rasdhoo Atoll, Madivaru, it was a good dive, we saw a large school of bigeye trevallies, mixed with black snappers, garden eels, eagle ray, napolean wrasses etc. We then moved to the North Male and the 15th dive was at Kuda Haa. 9th Apr was our last dive day, the 16th dive was at the very pretty Banana Reef where we saw a turtle & honeycomb moray eel & 17th dive was a drift dive at Furana South where we encountered several napolean wrasses. The LOB package was US$1350, tips US$70.

We spent the rest of the day washing & drying the gear. I enjoyed watching a beautiful rainbow and the amazing evening sunset over Male from the Jacuzzi. We toured Male on 10th Apr, visited the main sights like the Presidential Office, Royal Burial Grounds, the Mosque, the vegetable market and the fish market. After having an expensive lunch at the recommended restaurant, walked around a little bit more, some of us bagged some discounted dive gear, then Kulen, Bee, Bok, Terence & I retreated into a very nice cafe for some drinks & the air-con. We had a very nice dinner at the Sala Thai Restaurant, which is owned by a German ex-hotelier, who flies in all the fresh & authentic ingredients from Thailand a couple of times a week.

This was a wonderful dive trip, the 1st time we came face-to-face with whalesharks, the 1st time I have seen hammerhead sharks, having manta rays coming so close to us was an amazing experience! MV Princess Lara is a beautiful, comfortable & stable boat. Maldives was as beautiful & charming as we 1st visited 7 years ago, although tourism is a lot bigger and more developed now (there were a lot more ships at Ari & Male Atolls than the southern
atolls) and the reefs didn’t seemed as colorful…

We hope to be able to go back to Maldives in a couple of years’ time, to see the manta feeding “frenzy” at Hani Faru…

Snorkelling at Biyadhoo

Gorgeous Sunset At Biyadhoo

Manta at Donkalo 6th Apr

Whale Shark - 5th Apr

http://www.facebook.com/v/401109598051
http://www.facebook.com/v/401091838051

More photos at  2010 Apr – Maldives @ Facebook
Another video at Diving at North Ari Atoll 07 Apr 2010 @ Facebook

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