20,000 Leagues Beneath the Maldives

Well, actually only about 20 meters, but that wouldn’t have been near as exciting a title for book would it?

I intentionally left out one important part of my recent vacation in the Maldives, because I was waiting for some pictures to arrive. Now that they’re here, I’m ready to talk about the absolutely amazing experience I had scuba diving in the Maldives.

The movie Jaws made me fall in love with Great White Sharks. Sure the one in the movie was just a man-eating monster, but in reality they’re amazingly powerful and (to me at least) beautiful creatures. There was a period in my teens when I was determined to be a marine biologist and become the next great white shark expert. “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel was like Christmas to me. So back in 1998, in a dirty, muddy Texas lake, I got certified to scuba dive. Unfortunately, being a high school student living in the Texas hill country meant that outside of that particularly dirty lake, there weren’t many opportunities to go scuba diving. And, as with all things, life eventually took me in a different direction, and I found a new career path that didn’t involve sharks.

After getting certified in 1998, I didn’t get to go diving again until 2002, when I stopped in Hawaii on my way back from a semester abroad in Japan. Seeing as the water in Hawaii is about a diametrically opposite to a dirty lake in Texas, I took the opportunity to expand my diving experience and go by advanced open water diving license. This new certification meant that I could now go as deep as 120 ft. Since 2002, I’ve been back to Hawaii once and also had the chance to dive of the coast of Nice in France, but it’s never been something I could do regularly.

The UAE is supposed to have some really good diving, and after my experiences in the Maldives, I’m committed to getting in the water more than once every few years.

So what exactly happened in the Maldives that was so great? Well, I’ll tell you.

The resort requires you to do a check dive with one of their instructors just to make sure you actually know how to dive. It’s a fairly simple test ensure you can properly check and set-up your gear as well as perform some basic underwater safety procedures (eg. take off your mask and put it back on, share air with a buddy). After gearing up, we literally just walked into the ocean off the beach and spent about 45 minutes checking out the house reef around Komandoo.

I did four more dives after that one, spread out over two days. The first day was really beautiful, but it could never compare to the second day.

There were four of us on the boat: me, Sylvia (the dive instructor), and David and Sarah (a couple from the UK). We did our first dive at Kuredu Express. Before we got in the water, Sylvia explained that there was a decent chance we might see a shark as they tend to hang out in this area. Kuredu Express is a long channel that runs along the side of a coral reef. We would follow the channel until we got to a corner and then would follow the reef around and up until we ran out of dive time. The goal was to spend about half of our dive in the channel and the other half along the top reef.

Once we were in the water, we quickly dove down to about 20 meters and started up the channel. After just a couple of minutes, Sylvia pointed off into the distance and 6-foot gray reef shark emerged from out of no where. As we’d discussed on the boat, we dropped down to the sea floor and grabbed on to a rock so that the current wouldn’t pull us away. As we watched, the shark simply glided by without a care in the world. As we watched it start to swim away, another shark appeared. As it swam by, a third joined the party.

We all quickly agreed to ditch the original dive plan in order to just hang out and watch the sharks. For 30 minutes or so, we just sat there on the bottom watching them swim circles in front of us. One a couple of occasions, a shark might venture within 6-10 feet of where we were sitting. There was no menace implied. They weren’t hunting us, or really even interested in us at all. What was equally interesting to me, however, was that all the other fish in the area seemed completely unconcerned about the sharks themselves. There were schools of fish everywhere and they swam along quite happily even right next to the three sharks.

Eventually, the three sharks moved on and we quickly made our way up to the top reef with the little air/time we had remaining. It’s a good thing we did too, because the dive certainly wasn’t over yet. As soon as we crested over the top of the reef we saw this big billow of sand and out of which emerged a large sting ray.

With our air depleted, it was time to get back on the boat and head towards our next dive site. Sylvia said that in all her time diving in the Maldives, she’d never seen three sharks put on a show like they did for us. The story that none of us knew about until we got back on the boat was what almost happened to David. While the sharks were no real threat to us at all, the two moray eels living in the rock that David had grabbed on to were. He said that he didn’t even notice them until we finally were moving away and he looked back to where he’d just been sitting.

As we were all huddled up in the back of boat talking about our dive, none us even noticed the pod of dolphins swimming alongside us until the crew pointed them out. There must have been at least 15-20 in total split up into a couple of groups. We chased them around for a few minutes, but never got much more than a fleeting look at them.

To add a cherry on top of our experiences so far, on our second dive we saw two nurse sharks “sleeping” underneath an small outcropping. Five sharks, a big sting ray, and dolphins all in one day? Magic.

  • Gray Reef Shark
  • Gray Reef Shark
  • Gray Reef Shark
  • Gray Reef Shark
  • Sarah (and Vic's Legs) Watch the Sharks
  • No Wetsuit for Me!
  • Vic on the Left. Sylvia on the Right
  • Sting Ray
  • Napoleon Wrasse
  • Sleeping Nurse Sharks
  • Dolphins Swimming Alongside Us
  • Dolphins Swimming Alongside Us
  • Sea Turtle
  • Eagle Ray
  • Nudibranch
  • Spotted Moray Eels

** Special thanks go out to Sylvia and the Komandoo Dive Center for leading such an amazing dive and to David and Sarah Southern for taking some great pictures and sharing them with me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the Turtle or the Eagle Ray that are pictured here. Those were from another dive that David and Sarah did. I did see a turtle, however, on my own when I was snorkeling along the house reef at Komandoo.

One Response to “20,000 Leagues Beneath the Maldives”

  1. Mom says:

    Thanks for sharing your impressions and photos…definitely “magic”!