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So then… I tried to crawl on top of my scuba instructor.

June 20, 2011

Being a certified scuba diver is not just a hobby; it’s a certain lifestyle. No matter what they do for a living or how hectic their lives may be, genuine members of the scuba-diving community are in constant search for their next greatest adventure.

I have been lucky enough to scuba dive in different parts of the world. From the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans, I’ve explored popular dive sites in Egypt, Thailand, Seychelles, Canary Islands, California and Malaysia, but never in my life have I been so impressed while scuba diving in the Maldives.

The Maldives is an island nation that counts hundreds of volcanic islands vertically scattered in the Indian Ocean not far from Sri Lanka. All the islands are surrounded by coral barrier reefs that form turquoise lagoons with clear, warm water. These famous reefs are the reason why the Maldives is eye candy for hardcore scuba divers all over the world.

I was certified at one of the Maldives resorts in 2002, and since then I’ve been coming back to this marine paradise in the Indian Ocean more than once. My most memorable trip was in June 2007, when I encountered the most spectacular dive site I had ever seen—Fish Head, also known as Mushi Mas Mingili, a protected marine area located in the North Ari Atoll.

The site received its informal nickname from the shape of the rock that bears a remote resemblance to a human head surrounded by a myriad of exotic fish. After an hour-long bumpy sea journey and some difficulties in identifying the right coordinates, we finally dropped anchor and got ready for another underwater adventure. When I slowly started to descend, I simply couldn’t believe my eyes. I was dumbfounded by the number of unique species of fish and incredible marine creatures that were following their own mysterious routine. I thought I was inside of an enlarged aquarium, trying to stay still so as not to frighten away the life around me.

Fish Head used to be a White Tip Reef Shark feeding site. Had I known that before, I might have been more prepared when I saw a couple of sharks circling in close proximity to me. Being the novice that I was, I instead started to panic and crawled on top of my scuba instructor. All my training suddenly flashed through my head, as I desperately tried to control my breathing and regulate my buoyancy while trying to forget about the rows of razor sharp teeth effortlessly gliding through the water below me. Fortunately for us divers, all good scuba instructors possess almost hypnotic skills to calm down panicking rookies by looking in their eyes and wordlessly reassuring them. Luckily, mine was an excellent one and in about ten seconds, I felt more relaxed and was eager to explore the dive site.

We were fortunate enough to avoid the current and were able to go around the rock in one dive. At some point, I looked back and suddenly faced a giant Napoleon Wrasse. This particular species of fish is famous for its startling visage, which features a giant hump atop its enormous forehead. The first time encountering it can be a little alarming, and not only because of its unsettling appearance. Unlike other fish, it doesn’t shy away from divers.  In fact, it followed us like a loyal dog throughout the entire dive. I have to tell you, it is the one of the friendliest and most curious sea creature I’ve ever met. And if you happen to have a raw egg—their favorite delicacy, crack it under the water, and you’ll make a new lifelong friend.

While drifting around the rock and contemplating bright, colorful corals, I had a chance to watch a large family of gorgeous manta rays gliding above our heads in synchronized, smooth movements. Schools of shimmering tuna were slicing through the water with vicious speed, chasing their prey to attack it in a matter of seconds. Sea turtles were slowly swimming by, indifferent to everything around them. Moray eels with their creepy heads sticking out of coral caves, lionfish demonstrating their beautiful but venomous fins, and other sea wonders made my Fish Head experience unforgettable.

There, at 80 feet under the water, I realized how mysterious and unknown the world remains. It allows you to observe its endless beauty if you respect it and not interfere with it. And it’s really worth it!

Links:
PADI – Professional Association of Diving Instructors
Scuba Diving Maldives
Dive the World – Fish Head site
Maldives Dive Travel – Fish Head Info
Visit Maldives – Info about the country

This post was originally written for Life Out of a Suitcase

From → Asia, Exotic Travel

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