The pace of life in the Maldives is slow. Hence its popularity as a getaway and relaxation destination. But not all life moves so slowly around these islands. We sometimes have a need for speed that can only be satisfied with fast moving creatures.
Laid back is one way to describe the way of life in the Maldives; sometimes it’s painfully lackadaisical if you want to get something done fast. By boat is the main mode of transportation – also unhurried. I guess since the fastest creatures of the Maldives are hidden deep in the sea, no one realizes how fast things can move.
Super-fast fish, like barracuda, sharks, wahoo and sailfish, make the rest of the Maldives seem like it moves in slow motion. As scuba divers saunter along, or ride the fast moving currents, fish run circles around them.
There are two ways to see the speed – scuba diving and fishing. Here’s more about these remarkably fast Maldives creatures:
Spotted by Scuba Divers
Of the fast creatures in the Maldives, those most commonly encountered by scuba divers are slick sharks and sometimes barracuda. Their swift movements make them a bit intimidating, and it’s an exhilarating experience to dive among them.
While they can swim quickly, you’re more likely to see reef sharks coasting through water. Don’t let this fool you, they can really move if they want to. Their average speed is said to decrease at night, possibly due to colder water or prey that are easier to catch.
Blacktip reef sharks can be recognized by their black-tipped fins; all of their fins have a black tip. The marking is most prominent on the first dorsal fin (main back fin) and the bottom of the tail fin.
Just because they are fast doesn’t mean that they go far, however. Black tip reef sharks like to stay within a relatively small area, keeping to a local area for several years at a time. If you return to the Maldives, you might be able to visit your blacktip reef friend again in the same spot. The younger ones are familiar to non-diving tourists too, as they like to hang around in shallow sandy flats. For those not used to being in the water with sharks this may cause fear at first, but they are basically harmless if unprovoked.
The other two most common sharks of the Indo-Pacific are the grey reef shark and the whitetip reef shark. The grey reef shark looks similar to the blacktip reef kind, with the exception of the lack of black markings on the main dorsal fin. The whitetip exhibits quite different behaviour than the other two, sticking closer to the sea floor rather than staying around the reef. They prefer caves or more sheltered areas.
Another “shark” spotted by divers is the whale shark, which moves much more slowly than their friends by the same name.
A Sight for Fisherman
On the other hand, the dive community rarely encounters wahoos and sailfish. These are game fish that are sought out and more commonly seen by fisherman. Swimming in bursts of 70 mph make the sailfish is the Speedy Gonzales of the Maldives sea, as well as the entire ocean. They can go 100 meters in just 4.8 seconds.
A sailfish is recognized by its high, deep blue and black dorsal fin that stretches the length of its back, which is also its namesake. The long swordfish-like bill is also distinctive. Their size is impressive for their speed, at up to 3 meters (9.8ft) long and up to 90 kg (200 lbs). The act of raising its “sail” is a reaction to feeling threatened or excited; it usually swims with the fin down at its side.
Other than speed, confusing predators is what the sailfish does best. The raising of its sail fin makes it appear larger, and the fish can change its colour too, from iridescent blue and silver to light blue with yellow stripes; an instant disguise of protection.
Speed and size make the sailfish a highly prized game fish, yet it and the marlin are under a catch and release policy in the Maldives. And there are catch limits on other game fish like wahoo, tuna, jackfish and trevally.
Wahoos are grouped in with tuna and mackerel in type. Its long body of shimmering blue and silver, with blue stripes, can go up to 60 mph (97km/h) giving the sailfish a run for its money. To tell it apart from the barracuda, which is similar in appearance, you can look to the wahoo’s tail, which is more blade-like and its teeth are smaller.
Another animal that you can spot getting some speed in the Maldives is the dolphin. You don’t even need to be underwater to see them. In fact, you’re more likely to see them chasing the wake of your boat or swimming alongside it.
So while the Maldives is known for relaxation that doesn’t mean that you can’t find exhilaration within its boundaries.
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