From the book "Straight to the South", part 2 "Shark archipelago", episode 7.
|0°43'56.46"N 73°26'3.55"E – Koodoo Island airport
We spent the first four days of our seven-day stay onboard of safari boat Emperor Leo at the Huvadhu Atoll.
Well, in order to tell. Maldives is a chain of 26 atolls, consisting of 1,192 coral islands which rise above sea level by only 1-2 meters.
The climate is monsoon, rains come from June to August, the temperature does not fall below +17 degrees Celsius in January-February and does not rise above +32 degrees in April-May. Despite the favorable climate, agriculture is underdeveloped because there is no land for it. The main local crop is coconut palm.
Locals grow somewhat vegetables and fruits for themselves near their houses, but mostly food is imported. The main occupation is fishing and mostly tourism - it is the main sector of local economy. So we have also replenished the welfare of the country.. :)
About our ship: the diving boat Emperor Leo is a serious vessel 35 meters long, speed up to 12 knots.
Comfortable cabins are located on two levels and designed for 24 passengers, the saloon is cozy and spacious, there are sunbeds on the upper deck, you can take sunbathe or just enjoy the breeze under the awning.. There is even jacuzzi there, but during all the time no one ask to fill it – it was not time for it, we were busy. Doing what? The first dive starts at 7 am, then we had breakfast quickly, the second dive at 11 am, followed by lunch, when food digested a little – we dived under the water again, and then (if there is no night dive) we rested talking at the bar. We are tired hard after a day in the struggle with the currents, our power came to end to the end of the day and after a dinner we had the only one wish - to sleep, because tomorrow diving will starts again at the crack of dawn. Something like this..
The auxiliary boat 'doni' - quite independent sea vessel, it follows behind a big ship not only in atolls, but also on transitions in the open ocean. Team of it is 3 persons, capacity is 24 divers. There is a compressor station on it - cylinders are charged directly onboard, also it has the upper deck and (what's nice) a shower where you can wash off the salt after diving. All made for people pleasure! :)
Most of dives on Huvadhu we made in the straits between individual islands the components of ring-shaped coral reef, in Polynesia such islands called 'motu'. The level of water in the ocean and inside the atoll is constantly different, it depends on the tides caused by changes in the positions of the moon and the Sun relative to the Earth, so the channels connecting these pools have constantly strong currents, the dynamic and direction of which change periodically. Powerful jets carry a food that attracts shoals of fish, predators come for fish, we come for them. The scheme of these dives looks like this: we start in the open ocean near the edge of the strait and fall in depth, straits carry us gradually and bring us the edge of the barrier reef, where we have to hook up and dangle on a strings like a balloons - we could do anything else because it is very hard to fight currents.
There is marine life comes in front of our eyes - there are schools of fish over the reef..
Large predators walk a little further in blue, looking for someone to grab. The most widespread here – gray reef shark. They hunt as companies and singly in open water and do not come close to us – they fear us - unfamiliar air bubbles erupting creatures.
White tip reef shark are usually a little smaller in size and their habits are different, they do not depart from the reef..
We also saw a black tip reef shark here, but only once. Maybe because the day time is not their trime for hunting, the second is their name 'Malagasy night shark'. Prey smaller fish are in abundance here. There were flocks of large sea pike (Barracuda) in blue there, huge Maori wrasse walked past us - Napoleon Wrasse named for a large growth on his forehead, similar to the famous cocked hat of the Emperor.. And, of course, it was a lot of tuna and scads, no feast under water is not complete without them. Some time we saw very large specimens, but they were far away. Only smaller alone jackfish or company of them sometimes approaching within range of our cameras..
Watching an interesting movie about the sea ends with the air in the cylinder and you have to go out. It was enough for it just unhook and float up a little, then the current took us over and rush us on high speed inside the lagoon. This flight usually tooks 5-10 minutes, the feeling of free floating in the water is unforgettable.
The corals in the lagoon is quite stunted, there are not many fish there but someone. Sometimes it was possible to interrupt the flight for a little, hook up the bottom and see the nurse shark or marble stingray..
And also a colony of sea turtles lives here. They're guarded around the Maldives, so they're not scared. During one of the dives, when I stood at the safety stop before finish, a small turtle swam around me for a long time, looking at so large creature unfamiliar to it..
We stepped on our welcoming 'doni' with pleasure, we were somersaulted over, it was very nice to pull off our wet suits and feel fresh water from the shower. Once, when we were already onboard, a large flock of dolphins approached our boat. But we already removed our cylinders and flippers and masks and we couldn't jump to the water to look at them closer.. Pity, but you can't keep up with all the inhabitants of the sea - they swim faster than we do :)
Our movie about diving in the straits: