Back on line, with an update from the Maldives. In Sri Lanka now, so more to come…
So the Maldives at Christmas was, of course, all about the diving. But it was also – in the words of fellow dive buddy Corinne – about ‘Floozies in the Jacuzzi, star fish, star wars, Christmas spirit’ and so much more ..
We stepped on to the dhoni at Male airport (a big improvement on a cab, bus or TukTuk!), a tad nervous about getting back in to the diving after eighteen months, particularly in the intensive diving environment of a liveaboard on the Indian Ocean and also thinking how we would get on with the disparate souls from the diving community who had chosen to be under the water at Christmas.
Our month in India had taught us that our love of travel was undiminished, our time on MV Orion showed us that the wonder beneath the waves and the joy of life is something passionately shared across ages, nationalities and backgrounds. The unbelievable beauty we witnessed on the reefs unleashed a buzz of chatter back on the dive boat, with smiles and excited nods as we relived the best bits. Not every dive was exceptional of course, but some of those dives will stay with us all our lives.
As the days lapped by we got used to the 6.00am wake up calls (with a Star Wars theme) to the contrast between the intensity of diving and the endless sky and sea as we moved from one atol to the next and to the different characters who shared in this adventure. The photos I have here are on the surface, but I may be able to add pictures and video from our new dive buddies in the weeks ahead. What cannot be captured are the feelings experienced as a Mantra Ray passed over Anne’s head or a 3 metre Nurse Shark ran it’s sandpaper skin against my hand. Unforgettable.
The crew and dive guides on the Orion and the dhoni worked flat out to make everything work, fixing Anne’s BCD (thanks Russ) identifying species, but most of all sharing their enthusiasm.
Then there’s the funny bits, the stories shared late into the night, the great craic generated by French, Turkish, Irish, Taiwanese, British and Canadian humour. We laughed and smiled a lot. As I said on one of the videos that is now out there on social media, if someone had told me that on my first Christmas of retirement I would be sitting under the stars in a Jacuzzi on the Indian Ocean with a man from Monaghan and another from Paris, in Santa hats, using Pringles to re-enact the process of transubstantiation to an international audience, courtesy of a newly appointed female French celebrant, I would have questioned your sanity. Now I am questioning theirs.
So we have rediscovered or love of diving and of adventure. We are now in Colombo and in the morning will get aboard a train to Galle where we will celebrate our other, bigger journey, 38 years of marriage. We are indeed lucky to be sharing this time and our love together.
Anne doing a happy, daft dance.
One day the crew set up lights at the back of the boat to attract the plankton, and the bigger stuff that follows.
Soon Mantas were feeding …
The Mantas were performing spectacular loops under the lights, scooping up the plankton. You can see one flipping over here, with attached remora fish, and another coming up from below.
This Manta has broken the surface as it flipped, allowing a clear view of its gills, open to gather the plankton.
Some Nurse Sharks looked by as well.
We had a beach BBQ one evening.
The Orion, from the Dhoni
One dive went to a cleaning station and a grey reef shark turned up. They have to keep moving, but the fish that inhabit the cleaning station attach themselves as he circles. He demonstrated a classic wriggle as he was cleaned. He also got a bit close! I’ll share the video (thanks Jacky) on Facebook, as I can’t do it here.
There’s other things to post about our time in the Maldives, but that will do for now. We have a train to catch.