MY THEIA Dive Cruise Report
Walking off the plane from cold Vienna and being embraced by the very hot and very humid Maldivian climate in my winter outfit was my first experience. OK, the experienced travelers bring their tropical clothes in their carry on luggage and step out of the restroom in shorts and tank tops before landing, but not me
We got picked up from the airport and headed off to start our liveaboard dive trip for the week on board the MY Theia. The ride to the boat was about 10 minutes, and wow – what a boat!! 15 divers with more than enough space on board, cabins were king size and beautiful. We met on deck for briefing, hanging out with the guests and crew with 2 great bunches of the world´s best bananas – I became an addict.
1st dive, Check gear dive at the outer reef, almost no current but turtles, 2 murray eels and 2 white tip juvenile sharks – my best check dive so far. I like the liveaboard dive system, gear remains on the dive boat where tanks get filled during the trip, no carrying the equipment around.
2nd dive at a manta “cleaning station” where herds of small fish with beaklike snouts provide tweak out parasits-service to big fish like mantas on eastern outer reef of north male atoll. After 5 minutes close to the station 2 medium size mantas turned up out of nowhere and gave us a great show. Perfect photo op for cameras
For the next dive at Rasdhoo, a small atoll between south & north male and ari atoll, we were late but were still able to dive which turned night dive for the 2nd half. The outer reef on Rasdhoo east side is a great location. Dive guide local Mikey found a camouflage colored 2´ leaf fish doddering under an overhang, don’t know how he spotted it, but we were sure glad he did. Divers from another boat took advantage also, we had our very own paparazzi
Next morning, same place but 50 m out into the blue before sunrise – the main hammer head area in the Maldives. We went down about 25-30m… waiting, looking around, down and up – at this time we had about a 50% statistical chance of no encounter. No hammerheads today, maybe another time Up to the dive boat and back to Theia for breakfast. I LOVED the meal schedule – early morning dive at 7am after only coffee and crackers, after the dive a serious breakfast with all egg varieties and fruits tasting great after a good dive.
Next dive same place at the colorful reef with the great fish life and then we proceeded 2hrs to the Maayya Thila inside north Ari Atoll. A “Thila” is a kind of shallow inside atolls raging from 4-6 m. This one is home of greys reef, white tip sharks, big murray eels, sting rays and turtles. We did a night dive here as well, and it was one of best night dives ever – I tend to overlap night dives as they use to be done on good safe but boring sites – but Hussen, the ship manager convinced everybody that it´s not always like that, and he was so right. Descending into a melting pot of white tips, murray eels, barracudas and sting rays hunting the thila mainly for restless fussilier schools which move over the thila top like a kind of liquid, in between an occasional stone fish (undetectable fish finding Mikey again) and sleeping turtles in overhangs on the side of the thila – a most memorable experience.
Next day 1st dive was at Makaruh thila, similar topography as Maayya thila with great coral growth on the top and in the overhangs around at 8-15m. The home of small fish like gobis, blennies and a cute sleeping baby white tip between 2 table coral storeys. At the up current side 2 cruising grey reef sharks, big fish seem to be mainly up current wherever you are if its a “thila” or a channel, a “kandhu” between open see and an atoll.
The next dive, Malhoss Thila, known as Blue Caves was my week´s favorite in respect of UW landscape and colors. 200m deep overhang adjusted with clear blue soft corals, schools of blue stripe snappers hang out in their blue living room. At the top of broken out coral blocks of extreme coral growth diversity of 2 grey reefs. On the sandy bottom a bunch of white tips sleeping and swaying in the smooth current. 3rd dive at the Thila with a swim thru chimney and zillions of glass fish forming different shapes. Who is the boss? Again a busy camera matter.
One main safari issue: whale shark. Cruising along the south side of Ari Atoll was really valuable – the crew watching from atop of the Theia for whale shark shapes and shadows near the outer reefs at some 10m depth were successful. We dropped close to the first whale shark, we had the honor of snorkeling with this 10m giant until my legs failed to move, a condition challenge. After getting picked up by the dive boat we continued to a dive site called Maamigilli Kandhu and were happy to encounter 2 whale sharks coming out of the atoll at slow speed which made it possible to follow even with dive gear. 10 memorable minutes with this gentle beast, a literally breath taking devotional dive.
Next dive which took us to the house reef north west of Dhigurah delivered another manta ray encounter + a king size sting ray hunting on the top reef – seriously productive dive again. Seems rays and shark have all 5 gills. On the way back from dive site to the Theia, some of the fitter divers went snorkeling with 2 further mantas who were cruising the lagoon of Dhigurah island near the night anchorage.
Next days diving an the Kudarah Thila in the middle of Dhigurah Channel showed a stunning landscape with tremendous rich fish life. Herds of trevallies cruising around, school of blue stripes, scorpion fish dwelling in their camouflage in spite of one who probably failed primary camouflage school, so I found it without Mikey. Good models as they hardly move and they have the most characteristic profile.
Famous last dive – Ranveli corner north of Dangheti on the east side of south Ari atoll. Good visibility, school of eagle rays, trevallies, white tips and turtles. I forgot the Raadhigaa Thila north of Raadhigaa island – an unspoilt shallow well exposed to currents in the Mandhu channel on the middle Ari atolls west side. Its like coral bleaching never took place. Pristine hard corals on the top reef, great overhangs with swim throughs on the south side, fantastic UW-landscape.
In summary – one week was not enough, without obligations I would have booked next week. The chefs from sri lanka did a great job, the service, the….ah well, everything!!! I just don’t have anything to complain about.
Jan Bouzon Vienna
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