trip to the Maldives
by Phil Dewhurst
that in between period, you know, Christmas has gone
and we're all waiting for New Year's Eve. I'm back in
work, selling stamps for late Christmas cards going
to Australia, America and other far flung destinations;
taking bill payments for people who don't like to be
in debt going into the New Year and taxing cars for
people who can't do it online. I suppose you're still
at home, don't go back into work until the New Year.
Lucky you. I'm jealous!
Outside, it's grey and cold and miserable. Typical December
weather. But if I close my eyes I see blue sky, turquoise
sea and tiny islands with white sandy beaches and in
my mind I'm back on board Sea Spirit, or Sea Queen,
wearing shorts and a tee-shirt and scorching my bare
feet on a hot deck. I'm scanning the horizon for dolphins
or jacks chasing fry across the reef top or maybe just
maybe a glimpse of the big 'un. Please God let me see
a whale shark before I go home.
trip had been two years in the planning. There was the
usual drop outs and a panic to find replacements but
on the day we were all prepared. Twenty four members
and friends of Llantrisant Sub-Aqua Club off to enjoy
two weeks live-a-board cruising around the northern
atolls of the beautiful Maldive islands.
Everything went with almost military precision: the
bus taking us to Heathrow was on time, the overnight
stay went without hitch and the flight in an Airbus,
380, well, what can you say? There was enough of everything.
Enough legroom for tall Paul, enough food for Paul the
gas, plenty of choice of films to watch and enough beer
even for me.
We changed planes in Dubai for the short leg through
to Male and arrived on time 9-30am Sunday 25th September
to be met by Matt and Anne Marie our dive guides for
the trip. The luggage was loaded onto a dhoni and we
were off across the harbour to join Sea Spirit and Sea
Queen anchored in a lagoon just around the corner.
on board we were allocated cabins; they were functional
but small...with an even smaller toilet/shower...
I was to share with Peter Swarfield and thankfully he
decided he was going to sleep on the sundeck. I had
a cabin all to myself. Thank you Lord. Our party was
a truly international one and whilst we waited for some
to arrive from Moscow and some from America we did a
check dive to add or remove weights. In my case it was
Our first dive was at Lanakan Corner, a well known cleaning
station frequented by Mantas. We clung on at 25 metres
and waited and waited. Some drifted further down the
reef but three of us decided to stay. And we were rewarded
when three huge mantas came out of the blue; they barrel
rolled, pirouetted and skimmed our heads before pausing
to be swept clean by little blue wrasse. This is what
we had come to see.
You'd think it couldn't get better, but it did. Throughout
the two weeks we visited magical sites with magical
sounding names: at Finger point we saw eagle ray, grey
shark barracuda and sting ray, at Nelivaru Thila we
saw blue striped snapper octopus, even a leaf fish.
And at Hani Faru lagoon we saw manta, lots of manta.
Manta feeding in the bay, manta on the cleaning station
and manta posing for what seemed hundreds of Japanese
tourists, all equipped with Nikons and all screaming
at once. It was without doubt, manta heaven.
a mark known as the Ship yard, a good portion a wreck
was out of the water. But underneath, the structure
was coated in the most fantastic coral growth. It was
a photographer's delight. At Kuredu we swam in and out
of the caves trying hard not to disturb the giant green
turtles resting up with their eyes closed. At Longridge
we hung on as the strong current threatened to rip our
masks off our faces. We used finger ends and reef hooks
to hold our ground as twenty big grey sharks circled
The diving was fantastic as was life on board Sea Spirit.
As I look out of at grey turning to drizzle my mind
drifts to those early mornings, sat watching the sun
rise out of a calm sea. I think about the meals we enjoyed,
all around a big table on the foredeck. It was amazing
the variety of food we were served. But most of all
I remember the camaraderie and the evenings spent with
a cold beer orthree or maybe a rum and coke. We certainly
put the world to rights and we discussed the rugby world
cup and when we ran out of things to say we watched
fantastic video shots of our dives taken by Matt or
Anne Marie, and shown on a wide screen telly. The boat
crew were marvellous, nothing was too much trouble.
They even let me have a go with their fishing gear,
but somehow they always managed to catch more fish than
me. Even the weather played ball allowing us to get
to most marks. It only rained once and that was at night.
too soon it was time to leave. On the last night we
went ashore to enjoy an evening in a local hotel and
say goodbye to our friends from the USA and Russia.
Back in Heathrow the weather was remarkably warm, the
coach turned up on time and just before midnight we
were back in Llantrisant. Thanks to Peter Rees for organising
the trip, collecting the dosh, checking folks passports,
generally looking after everybody and providing us with
the photo shot of the week with his bum showing through
his shorts which were more hole than material. Thanks
to Matt and Anne Marie, they were fantastic guides.
Thanks to the boat crew and finally thanks to God, for
not granting my wish. We didn't see a whale shark. The
crew tried hard but Mr. whale shark wasn't anywhere
to be seen. But hey, what the hell! That's just another
good reason for wanting to go back there again ....