I arrived at 7:55 in the morning dressed in my Lulu lemons and a Mercy Corps t-shirt, it was incredibly humid. The Maldives is Muslim and a lot of the women wear the hijab so they said to dress conservatively on the islands, but some of the arriving women didn’t heed that message. I picked up my minimal luggage and headed out to look for my ride. They said there would be someone to meet with a sign that said the Black Pearl, at first he wasn’t there, then I saw a man about 5’8 super dark with curly dark hair holding a Black Pearl sign his name was Ismail, nickname Esay. We walked about 50 ft to a dock where I was picked up by what looked like a water Taxi, but it was actually a dive boat or a Doni as they call it. The Doni crew are Ali, Mohammad and Cheddi. Ali and Mohammad or Moad as they call him, are 19 and Cheddi is 23. Cheddi speaks very little English. For once in my life I was the first to arrive, so I went to my room and took a nap. The rooms were beautiful dark wood, a double bed on the bottom, single on the top each with their own head. I slept until about 11:30 when the arrival of the next guests awoke me. The next guests to arrive were an English couple, Tom and Jen and a German man traveling by himself Thomas. We hung out waiting for the rest of the guests and finally five Austrians arrived, Franz, Heinz, Rudy, Alex and Uber, all at least over 40. Finally the last couple who were French arrived. They are from France, but they actually live in the Maldives and work on a resort, she does sales and I can’t remember what he does. After everyone got on board, we headed out to do our check dive. Every dive started with a briefing from Esay, he would talk about where we were going to dive, what to look for, how strong the currents would be.
Both Thomas and I were solo travelers, but since there were only five Austrians, Thomas was paired with one of the Austrians and my dive partner was Esay.
The Republic of the Maldives is an island country made up of a double chain of 26 atolls, a ring-shaped coral reef or a string of closely spaced small coral islands, enclosing or nearly enclosing a shallow lagoon, in the Indian Ocean spread over 90,000 square kilometers. With 1,192 islets, of which only two hundred are inhabited, the Maldives has a population of 309,000. The water is crystal clear dark blue abutting against the sky blue of the lagoons. It truly looks like you have arrived in paradise. But the majority of things to see lay below the water.
Our check dive took place at aroudn 2:00 p.m. on the first day in the Beyru Atoll not far from the main island of Male. We mainly did drift diving and although we lived on the Pearl, we always dove from the Doni a boat specifically designed for diving with four jump out points and seats along the side where you can gear up and put on your tank. The last time I had dove was in 2000 in the Red Sea with my Mom, so I was a little bit apprehensive about my first dive. In addition, they have changed the regulations and now in addition to an Open Water Dive certification they have an Advanced Open Water Dive Certification. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do everything because I didn’t have my Advanced, but I was worrying as usual needlessly. I was also always rushing to get my equipment on, because I didn’t want to be left behind.
We would get out to the dive site, Esay would jump off with his fins and mask to check the current and then get back on and tell us how the current was and whether or not we were good to go. We usually had a Plan A and Plan B, but I don’t think we ever fell back to Plan B. After Esay climbed back on the boat and got his gear on we would all giant step off the boat and descend. I didn’t expect much from the first dive because it was the check dive, but I was pleasantly surprised. I saw four Honeycomb Moray Eels, yellow and black, one big, huge fat one, two Giant Morays, two Green Turtles and then all the beautiful fish, Maldives Anemone Fish, Nemo minus one strip, Moorish Idols, like Gil from Nemo, a giant Titan Triggerfish and then box and pufferfish and two beautiful Clown Triggerfish with black and white spots on their bottom halves. The reef seemed to go on forever, but in that first dive I discovered I needed to work on my breathing and buoancy. Esay and I were usually the second team up and the French were always the last group.
I couldn’t wait for the next dive, but it wouldn’t take place until the next day. Our first dive was to be Manta Point. We spent the rest of the afternoon, hanging out and identifying fish, which became one of my favorite things to do. Since none of the Austrians or the German really spoke English I started getting to know Tom and Jen, the British couple. They are in their late 20s and have been dating for four years, she is in fashion and has been diving forever, her father is a diver and has retired to Florida to pursue his passion. They were lovely a lot of fun easy going and interesting. They had spent a week at a resort, a French resort, where Tom had gotten his advanced open water certificate. They were also very kind and helpful to me, always ready to lend a hand.