Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009
We awoke this morning to the most gorgeous sunrise…we took it as a GOOD omen that today would be a whale shark day! Dives on the Manthiri start early….briefing is at 6:30 a.m. and the winds and seas were calm. Off we went to the dhoni to get geared up. We were only just out of the harbor and one of the dhoni crew spoke excitedly….Moosa and Hassan translated…”they’ve seen a whale shark”! Everyone got their gear on and we cruised along the reef wall for a bit. Apparently the whale shark had surfaced and then headed into the deep. After 5-10 minutes of cruising, the guys decided it was time to get into the water in the same general area where the shark had been sighted…..

No sooner did my body break the surface of the water and I started descending, Hassan looked at me and told me to turn around….the whale shark was slightly above us and heading right towards us! It was a juvenile…probably 20 feet long…it stayed on a steady course towards us for a few moments and then started heading out into the blue, descending slightly. We swam hard but it’s difficult to keep up with an animal of that size…they look like they’re barely moving but we’re huffing & puffing to try and catch up! It wasn’t a long encounter, time for a shot or two, but we finally had a close-up encounter! They are gorgeous animals…so giant and gentle in the water….what a beautiful start to the 2nd week of our trip!

During our surface interval between dives #1 & #2 the Manthiri was cruising along the reef in about 40’ of water and everyone was watching over the rails and all of a sudden the crew gave out a shout and a good-sized whale shark appeared just off our port side! It cruised along next to us for a few minutes just below the surface and then turned and headed out towards the blue….TWO whale shark sightings in less than 3 hours made us very, very happy!

Dive #3 was delayed because the seaplane schedule got off track and Andrea and Yinnie were arriving to join us for the 2nd week. Since it was so late in the day, we switched to macro lenses and hopped in again. This time we looked for small stuff and were rewarded with a beautiful deep blue snail sponge and then a less than 2-foot long baby whitetip shark under a coral head. Lots of butterflyfish and trigger fish and even an adult whitetip shark cruising in the distance. Soon it was almost a night dive so up we came!

This will be our last night near the wireless tower so internet access will be limited again for at least a few days…..I’ll start the log again and update when I can!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

DAY 7 - South Ari Atoll

Hello from the South end of the Maldives! We did three dives here again today - the first one looking for whale luck; the second one at the manta cleaning luck; and the 3rd one off a beautiful little island with lots of schooling fish!
Although we got skunked on both whale sharks and manta today, we had 3 beautiful dives! Eagle rays, mobula rays, large stingrays, white tip reef sharks, blacktip reef sharks, thousands of blue-lined yellow snapper and loads of other beautiful creatures. The first dive site was covered in fantastic table corals...some of the largest we've seen anywhere in the world.....
We'll try again tomorrow looking for whale sharks. Actually, while we were off on the first dive off the dhoni, the Manthiri was out along the reef as well and found a small one not too far behind us! It's the luck of the draw, of course, nothing is guaranteed in Nature and it's a darn big ocean...that whale shark could have been 100 yards behind us the whole dive and we might not have even seen it anyway....cross our fingers and hope for better luck tomorrow.....
And we had the prettiest sunset we've seen in a long time so enjoy the photos from today's adventures everyone.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Okay - the connection is really crummy but I've been keeping a log & will try and upload it and then see if I can add some pictures's hoping!
SUNDAY, December 20
SOUTH MALE - Dive #1….a bommie (pinnacle) with a purposely sunken fishing boat near it that is covered in hard corals and a “fish haven”. Water temp ranged between 84-86 beautiful degrees and visibility was about 60’. This dive site is used as a “check-out” dive so everyone can check their weighting and make sure all gear is functioning properly. There were lots of fish and corals so it makes for a beautiful first dive!Second dive was at 4:00 and as dive time approached, more and more of us were crashing! Jet lag has a tendency to do that to you and as most of you know, diving when tired is not a good idea so only Bob, Mark & Mike, along with Moosa and Hassan did the 2nd and final dive of the day. They made it a good long one….just about 90 minutes and it ended as pretty much a night dive by the time they were done! There were Napoleon wrasse, a purple frogfish, robust ghost pipefish and cleaner shrimp tidying up an eel!
After a delicious dinner with incredibly delicious fresh mango for dessert, everyone “hit the hay” for a good night’s rest!

MONDAY, December 21
Today’s first dive was at 6:30 a.m.! We dropped into the most beautiful deep blue ocean imaginable. Today’s visibility was in excess of 100 feet. It started out as a quick drift along the reef edge with schooling anthias, flasher wrasse and some beautiful anemones with their anemonefish guarding them. Out in the blue we spotted several whitetip sharks and a good-sized blacktip, but they all kept their distance and we admired them from afar. Much too far away for any photos! As the current slowed down we were greeted by a HUGE school of fusiliers – beautiful blue with a silver horizontal stripe. We also had a few giant trevally cruise by us, more Napoleon wrasse, some honeycombed eels tucked into the coral and Moosa found a very large stingray resting in the sand under a ledge.

We’re now completing our first open ocean crossing and chairs have been tipping over and books falling off the shelves! Thank goodness we have good sea legs! Next dive is around 11:00 so time to get ready and see what King Neptune has in store for us……

Dives #2 & #3 were cruising along an outer reef wall into the channel leading back into the atoll. Schooling fish, sharks at the perimeter, lots of red-lipped triggerfish and UMS…”usual Maldivian stuff” as Moosa calls it! Five eagle rays in formation cruised just off the reef in the blue.

TUESDAY, December 22
Obviously we aren’t in wireless range yet, so I’ll just jot down bits and pieces from the dives and when the opportunity comes, upload the whole thing at once!

We’ve moved on to the Felidhe Atoll for today’s dives. Most of the dives this week in the south will be along the outer reef walls and into the channels. All so far have featured many varieties of schooling fish, triggers and unicorn fish in the hundreds, schooling bannerfish, anthias and some swift drift dives. The last dive on Tuesday was at a “signature” dive site called “Cherry Caves”. There are spectacular reef structures and overhangs dripping with soft corals. The wall is a sheer, spectacular structure with loads of life on it. No current on this dive so everyone “puttered along” enjoying the sights. A school of 7 eagle rays flew overhead and a large school of jacks swirled below the divers…at about 150 feet! Visibility was excellent but they were too deep for good photographs.

WEDNESDAY, December 23, 2009
Everyone loved Cherry Caves so much, it was the 6:30 a.m. dive this morning. We spotted two huge Napoleon wrasse cruising along the reef but they are extremely shy and difficult to photograph. Sharks cruising in the blue, swirls of schooling fish around us, more jacks below us, beautiful corals along the reef wall and then we ended up on top of the reef with lots of beautiful anemones with the indigenous Maldivian anemonefish in them. They’re a golden orange with a single stripe on the sides of their faces with a black underside and black fins….very beautiful!

Dive #2 was Cherry Caves again, by popular acclaim…this time the current had picked up considerably so we cruised by the soft coral overhangs and tucked into the reef to watch the swirling jacks below us while a beautiful white tip reef shark cruised along side of us. After drifting up over the top of the reef for a while, we settled down again over a large patch of hard corals that were totally covered by schooling bright yellow snappers and brim. Then a baby turtle decided to pay us a visit! The reef top was covered by many other varieties of fish as well…it was a pretty, pretty dive.

THURSDAY, December 24, 2009
Early morning dive was beautiful as was the 2nd dive – both with virtually no current and lots of chances to stop to photograph the marine life. Then we had a 2-hour sail to the next dive site. In the Maldives, transits are done during daylight hours because of all the shallow atolls between the main atolls. The water is at least a dozen shades of blue while we’re transiting!

On our 2nd dive we were paced along the reef by a HUGE Napoleon wrasse! They are magnificent creatures but extremely shy and hard to photograph. Luckily he swam from the reef top towards the blue right in front of me so I was able to get a couple of good images! These reefs in this atoll are teeming with eels of all shapes, varieties and sizes. On our 3rd dive we found TWO together in one hole and then a bit farther along the reef came across one with two giant coral-banded shrimp and a peppermint shrimp doing some cleaning on him!

Tonight is our big Christmas dinner. We got back from the 2nd dive and the salon was decorated with bunting and balloons. When we came in from our 3rd dive, more tinsel was decorating the ceilings, the rubber tree was decorated with icicles and strings of lights had been added! Our camera room counter has been turned into the buffet table and the gang is in there right now putting together a fabulous fruit & vegetable centerpiece! I can’t wait until it’s dark outside so we can turn on all the lights and see how beautiful it becomes! Photos to follow!

Dinner was FABULOUS! The buffet set-up was gorgeous as well…they did a fantastic fruit/vegetable sculpture centerpiece and had various salads, smoked salmon, sauted eggplant, a wonderful beet salad along with roast turkey and roast duck. At the vegetable end were these lovely looking pears…only to find out that they were sculptured mashed potatoes….these chefs are amazingly talented! Other yummy vegetables were served, giant prawns and fish….the dessert end was loaded with goodies galore and we were all stuffed! It was a memorable Christmas dinner, that’s for sure…..OH, and to boot, Santa paid us a visit too! We thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas celebration and the crew LOVED having Santa visit!

Friday, December 25 – MERRY CHRISTMAS, everyone!
We awoke to pouring rain and dark, dark, dark grey skies. All of us opted to skip the 6:30 a.m. dive and just sit and drink tea or coffee and relax, so we headed south for our 3-hour transit to South Ari Atoll. It was a very smooth crossing and everyone absorbed themselves in their various novels. Once we arrived at S. Ari, Moosa did our dive briefing…..we have now arrived in the WHALE SHARK area! The area that the whale sharks frequent runs parallel to the outer reef so we swam between 40-50’ over huge table corals and other hard corals. We saw several turtles and lots of carpet anemones filled with anemonefish but our focus was in the blue….hoping, hoping, hoping for a gentle giant to swim our way! Well, after 60 minutes of watching, tanks were starting to get low on air so we ended that dive. We have another one later this afternoon and then again in the morning. We’ll be down here in S. Ari for a few days and will alternate between the whale shark area and the giant manta areas so we’re greatly looking forward to more dives “hunting big creatures”!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

MALE, Maldives

Good Sunday morning, from Male!
It's a quick 3-1/2 hour flight from Dubai to the middle of the night so you get to watch sunrise at landing through the plane's nose COOL was that?
The airport is on a separate island and Male itself it a 25-minute ferry ride away. We stayed in a small local b&b hotel on Hulhumale which is connected to the airport island with a coral roadway!
We took the ferry into Male late in the afternoon on Friday after it had cooled down some. We visited the fish market, saw the local fishing boats (who do NOT long-line fish by the way). All fishing in the Maldives is done with a single line & a single hook. The record catch on ONE boat was 40 men fishing and they took in 80 TONS of fish in ONE day!
We toured the town, saw the gardens, beautiful mosques and the huge President's palace which the previous president had built. When the new president was elected, he opted to live in the much more modest "old" Presidental home and has closed the "big" palace and they will be turning it into a school!
I'm going to TRY and upload a few photos from's a busy little town.
There are over 1,000 islands in the Maldivian country, only a few over 100 are inhabited.
We're off to the boat in a few minutes and our diving journey will begin...I'll be trying to update and upload when we near inhabited islands with cell towers...wish me luck!
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 18, 2009

WOW, what an exciting city Dubai is! We had a great day here..enjoyed the beautiful hotel, walked around a bit and then did the 4-WD Dune Sundowner trip! From camels walking on the beaches to brand-new Chevy Tahoe 4-WD vehicles to take us up & down the dunes, it was a fantastic trip. We also managed to see a group oryx grazing in the desert as well. Then we ended the trip with camel rides for all who wanted one as well as a wonderful dinner in a Bedouin setting....time to rest for a bit and then head to the airport for the LAST leg of our journey...our four-hour flight from Dubai to Male.....stay tuned!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Our flight early this morning from Kennedy to Dubai was seamless and smooth! Three movies, two meals & a snack and a short nap and it was time to land in Dubai. Cool for Dubai (low 60's at 8:30 a.m.) and sunny greeted us. Our Arabian Adventures guides met us at Passport Control and escorted us out of the beautiful new Terminal 3 expressly built for Emirates Air. It's a gorgeous terminal.

After a short drive through the city we arrived at our stopover hotel, the LeMeridien Beach Hotel right on the Arabian Sea. Beautifully decorated and upgraded rooms were swiftly provided. The only down side to our short Dubai stopover is that today is a Holiday celebrating the Islamic New Year so the historical venues are not open for us to visit. We'll have a relaxing lunch and enjoy the Resort until later this afternoon when we'll be picked up in 4-wheel drive dune buggys to be taken out into the desert for our sundowner dinner!

An update with photos will follow later tonight!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Merry Christmas from Rockefeller Center in NYC! Our flight into JFK today was smooth and sunny and uneventful...all bags arrived safely as well...LEG 1 of our journey is complete! After a quick hotel check-in and dinner, Marian, Bob & I got a taxi and Louis, our taxi driver "sped" us into the city...if you count rush-hour traffic on the freeway at 7:30 p.m. as speeding! Anyway, he dropped us off right next to the giant Christmas tree, gave us his cell number and told us to call him 10 minutes before we wanted to get picked up! How cool is that....anyway, it's a bit chilly in New York in mid-December but the crowds in the Center were very manageable. The policeman we spoke with told us, "Don't come down on a can't even MOVE around here and they divert traffic like crazy." After admiring the beautiful tree and the city lights, we headed a bit east along the concourse between the buildings admiring all the beautiful Holiday decorations. At the opposite end of the Center is the Saks Building with electric snowflakes that blink along with the appropriate music. It was a quick and satisfying taste of the Christmas Spirit in New to Dubai first thing in the for the next installment coming in a day or so!


Whew, where did the last two weeks go? We just got home from Bonaire and now it's time to leave again! Well, this afternoon we're off to New York and then leave early tomorrow morning for Dubai and then onwards to Male, Maldives. We have a less than 24-hour stopover in Dubai on Friday but we're going to make the most of it and cover as much ground as is humanly possible! We board the Manthiri on Sunday the 20th so I'm going to try and post as often as I can get near a wireless tower near the inhabited islands.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all....more pictures and adventures to follow!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's a blue skies, blue water and blue hearts because we have to leave beautiful Bonaire early tomorrow morning! Diving is done; all the gear is drying outside on the patios and most everyone is enjoying our last afternoon around the pool....a little birdie told me there's snow flurries in Michigan so that's REALLY making us blue today!
Here's a few images from our early morning sightseeing to the south end of the island....soon our Bonaire Holiday will be just a fond memory!

Friday, November 27, 2009

After a Turkey Day of rest from the blog, here's some shots from yesterday's dives over at Klein Bonaire. Instead of turkey buffet dinner here at the Resort, we all went to Casablanca for a fantastic seafood dinner...we had fresh mahi mahi with Casablanca sauce (lobster and shrimp) was yummy!
Also, ask us to tell you about the wayward tree frog when we get home...hysterical!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gosh, it's Wednesday night already! Where is the week going? Another great night dive tonight as well as 3 wonderful boat dives...whew, we're tired so this will be short! Bob found us a 6 foot long grouper sleeping at the top of the reef was the biggest marble grouper we've ever seen...and we spent a bit of time watching him and he never budged...guess he was settled in for his long night's sleep!
Here's a few from earlier today...enjoy! HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE.....
Camera & operator are working well today; e-mails MAY not be! Danny, I've sent you two...let me know if you've received them....more pictures later tonight after the night dive!

We saw a marvelous eagle ray off Klein earlier today...will get the pictures off the card and post them later!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What do you do when your shutter locks at the beginning of the twilight/night dive? You just dive and enjoy the sights! We saw lots of shrimp, sharp-tail eels, 2 tarpon as big as the guys who kept crossing in front of our lights looking for THEIR dinner, a very nice colorful octopus and a beautiful slipper lobster.....our brain memory cards have the images stored permanently but the camera memory card came up empty!
It was another beautiful day on Bonaire...only one boat dive today but several high quality shore's a few shots from earlier today when the camera/operating WERE functioning properly!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gosh, I hate to say it but....another typical day on Bonaire.....warm, sunny, breezy & GREAT diving! Water temp is 82-83 and air temp in the low 80's as well...visibility today was 100+ feet so all is well here!

Three dives today for everyone...1st one this morning over at Klein Bonaire was Rockpile, 2nd was Munk's Haven and then 3rd was Petrie's Pillar. Beautiful hard and soft corals are typical over at Klein Bonaire with schools of blue chromis skimming the top of the reefs. Someone saw a turtle, lots of trunkfish and angelfish, a small barracuda was spotted and some snapper swimming through the group. All in all, fabulous Bonaire diving....keep tuned for tomorrow's update...the bulk of the group is diving the Hilma Hooker first thing tomorrow. Since Bob & I dove it this past February, we're sleeping in and then doing a shore dive in front of the resort to look for the resident turtle!