A year ago I had to work on a surprise for my wife, Lisa’s, 40th. She loves the Maldives, so I thought it apt to think on that idea, luckily her birthday was in August, and I had only recently found out about the world’s unique, Manta Feeding Frenzy at Hanifaru; Lisa being a non diver, a liveaboard was a bit too selfish as a surprise, so a good resort was found to visit it from. Not before too long I had it all booked, even more good news I found that BA now fly to Male every other day so we could go for as many nights as we wanted, and choose just 9, 2 weekends and one week off work.
Once onboard the plane we were happy to find the plane was only a third full, we had 3 seats each to sleep on , a change for a Maldives flight, the drink was all free too, with no extra to pay for all the movies.
BA has the best option for extra luggage, you can pay £30 for an extra 20kg, and their hand baggage rules are one laptop bag to stow behind your feet and an overnight bag that you are able to lift into the overhead locker, they both have the usual size stipulations but that’s all. Despite this you still have to pay $2 per kilo extra if you choose to fly on a seaplane for anything over 55 pounds each, funny to see them mixing imperial and metric up on their own rules…whatever!
As the seaplane drifted over the islands, it wasn’t too long before we “landed”, as it was Lisa’s 40th they gave us a free upgrade to a luxury bungalow facing the beach, and a bottle of red wine with our meal, sweet.
The day after my check dive I was straight into the thick of it at Hanifaru bay, about 2 dozen mantas partying on plankton, I swear I’m never gonna moan about plankton blooms again! Mantas to the left of me, mantas to the right; here I am! Stuck in the middle of Hanifaru bay, oh boy, what a rush! Mantas rolling round and round, greedy devils these are, I’ve never seen Mantas so active in the 5 or 6 times I have seen them in the past. We only dived Hanifaru Bay maybe 3 times as it wasn’t always active, and if there aren’t any mantas then there isn’t much else there to see, on the 20m white sandy bottom, there are a couple of small bommies with pulse coral around them, a leaf fish was found there, plenty of humbugs and green chromis, once we only saw one Manta there, a strong westerly brings them in , but the dive guide said a few days after the full and half moon works well. The day before I got here they had about 70 mantas and 2 whale sharks!! Shucks!! There are other dive sites dotted around Hanifaru where Mantas play, turtle reef was a good one, I dived there one day and was so frustrated to have a macro lens on (apparently for small turtles!) when I saw a huge (inflatable!) turtle feeding in front of a circling Manta, what a picture that would have been. We went there the day after and the Mantas were out in the blue in their dozens again. Just before we had jumped in, a whale shark passed underneath us, it didn’t hang around for long. It was good on this dive to see a huge shoal of fusiliers all lined up vertically measuring about half a metre wide by 5 high. The day after I decided to go to Hanifaru on a snorkelling trip. Luckily we weren’t required to wear life vests, I snook in a kilo weight into my wetsuit to help me get down quicker, in we went, Legs and arms everywhere! I tried to keep outside of the group for obvious reasons. I got down ok and got very close to the Mantas, the guide (he swims round the island in 48 minutes!) at one point asked everyone to get back on the boat…he then said to me…”lets go for the whale shark!” and before we knew it we were back in again for a fast swim over to the big boy…wow! What luck we had I was right on top of him, I dove down about 3-4 metres and he opened his huge mouth, I was so close and worried I might fall in!!! In all the panic, I only had time to take a couple of shots, one with his mouth open and one with it shut! Next time I was over him as he passed under me, wow he was huge, when we were done I got back on the boat and saw the size of his fins out of the water! Flipping heck!!
They have sting ray feeding on the island by the dive jetty every night at 6pm, the best we have seen, they don’t allow snorkelers in while they feed them but I got in just prior to them starting and got very close…they also have a guitar ray/shark that’s about 6 foot long which visits most evenings, the rays were around 4 foot wide and obviously on steroids.. or was it just the daily feed of fresh fish that did it!?