The diversity of the Maldivian marine fauna and flora is amazing. Yet, apart from a few exceptions, you can find almost all species of marine life native to Maldives regardless of the area you are vacationing in.
Migrating species, such as the leatherback turtle, used to linger close to all islands in years gone past, but recently they have been attracted to more isolated areas of the rapidly developing archipelago.
One of the most famous area-specific creatures that divers are most keen on spotting are the whale sharks, the biggest species of fish on record in the world, that placidly go on with their lives mainly in Baa Atoll.
But all other sea creatures aren’t so picky; the abundant coral reefs that deck the fringes of all islands in the country support a large part of the oceanic life in the region. There are creatures that limit to certain depths of the coral reef that slopes downwards as the lagoon gives way into the sea, but most fish seem to have no qualms as to which depth they populate.
Where the coral reef tapers off toward the sea is probably where a diver can enjoy the most of the dense growth of corals and wide variety of fishes the Maldivian waters have to offer. Here the visibility is clear, lit by the sun to an extent as to emulate a cerulean glow.
If you want to watch the rays feeding, you should be aware that these birds of the sea are most active in the afternoon. They should be left at a distance, though, as rays take their lunch time very seriously and may get annoyed if you venture too close. The same rule applies to turtles, though in a different way. Turtles are uncannily like rabbits in their tendency to panic and suffer from traumatizing fear. If you jolt towards them, or suddenly grab them, they’d be so scared they may never return to that spot, or that reef, for a long time.
Gray reefsharks and white tip sharks frequent the drop-offs of coral reefs as well, and contrary to their ferocious appearance and notorious reputation, are quite friendly with a healthy dose of curiosity. Their annoyance does not result in sudden burst of aggressiveness that rays display, but rather, they give obvious hints that they’ve had enough attention. Gray sharks are well known for this useful gesture; you will notice that their pectoral fins droops a bit, and they take on a sort of hunched posture, also exaggerating their side to side swimming movements. The moment they do this, you should leave them alone, because after all, the situation is akin to someone barging into your house with no invitation. On a general note, the coral reef is a very welcoming place to most intrusion such as random divers.
You will find moray eels at a deeper level in abundance. They would sit still, head sticking out of a cozy hole in the corals and their enormous mouth gaping. The razor sharp teeth that are revealed seem to send a warning message, but in truth the eel is intending no such thing; eels need to keep their mouth open in order to breath. However, do not get too close to their hidey hole, because they are aggressively territorial and will get hostile I fits privacy is invaded.
Trevallies and barracudas, cornetfish, fusiliers, triggerfish and large groupers will begin to be more common below twenty meters. The fish you may see in one dive alone will be too many to list down here. Moorish idols, emperor fish, parrot fish and surgeon fish are a granted sight, being the most common.
The corals, shells and niches in the coral overhang and natural terraces are themselves equally interesting, and to some doubly so, and hold in them wonders that nature reserves for those who visit these depths.
In caves, coral still grows, and climbs up the wall and clings from the ceiling. Small fish that swim in groups, like the squirrel fish, tirelessly explore the nooks and crannies, darting this way and that, as if beckoning you to join in. The harmless sharks of the reef often find these caves excellent for relaxing.
It is easy to get lost in the glory of the reef, but one thing a diver must always keep in mind is the pull of currents. If there are strong outgoing current, it is best not to swim down the exterior of the reef to witness the sights described here, but either remain in shallower waters or refrain from going deeper, exploring instead the shallower part of the exterior reef. It is best that you always keep an eye on your diving instructor, never darting away on a quest of your own.
Diving is best experienced with all the best sights seen when everyone sticks together, and keep swimming around to a minimum. Keeping still and calm would produce wonderful results; the fish may decide you are just an oddly shaped bunch of corals and go about its normal jobs, like cleaning mantas and shark skin. Turtles will sleepily nibble on the coral and peer at you. Lobsters begin marching and octopuses barge into a fight with the moray eel over the tasty morsel of an unfortunate crab. The longer you take care to keep your movements slow and smooth, the more such scenes unfold before your goggled eyes.
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