Up Close With Whale Sharks and Manta Rays In The Maldives
A window seat is a must when you fly over the Islands of the Maldives – no Instagram filter does justice to the intensity of the blue waters spread out below you before you touch down at Male Airport. And beneath that blue ocean, I had some memorable encounters swimming with whale sharks and diving with manta rays that impacted the way I appreciated nature.
Maldives from above. Photo by Suissgirl via Pixabay
The Maldives are a perfect paradise destination, and most of the visitors tumbling off the plane in their floppy straw hats and linen shirts make a beeline to their chosen luxury island resort by boat transfer or by sea plane. I hefted my bags along to meet my family for the week – the dive crew that I would be spending a full week eating, sleeping and scuba diving on board a boat cruising through the South Ari Atoll.
The Maldives consists of a vast archipelago of islands that accounts for only 1% of its entire territory, so other than deserted islands and white sand beaches, most of the sights to see are underwater. Renowned as one of the top scuba diving destinations around the world, the Maldives is also known for its diverse marine life which I would encounter up close during my many dives that week.
Photo by 12019 via Pixabay
Swimming with Whale Sharks
Each whale sharks has unique spots and patterns. Photo by Skeeze via Pixabay
The first thing I realised when I saw my first whale shark swim by was how incredibly small and insignificant humans are. The whale shark looked like it was gliding slowly through the water, but I was paddling furiously just to keep up with it. Humans must seem like tiny fruit flies to these giants, noisily splashing around like buzzing annoyances as the whale sharks go about their business.
Face to face with a whale shark. Don’t worry, they mostly eat krill. Photo by Simonesaponetto via Pixabay
Scuba Diving with manta rays
Photo by Julia Wimmerlin via Unsplash
We donned our diving gear and hopped into the water – it was very shallow, around 10m at most. The water shone an eerie green, only lit by that single spotlight, but enough for us to witness the graceful hypnotic dance of the manta rays above us as we quietly kneeled in the sand, circling overhead as they inhaled the plankton through their mouth filters. We were told not to touch the manta rays of course, but there was no stopping the mantas from touching us as they swooped overhead like silent watery ghosts, or inadvertently flicked a fin in your face as they glided past. We stayed underwater for more than an hour, and it was like nothing else I’ve experienced.
Mantas looming overhead. Photo by Tchami via Flickr
Tips for first-time visitors to the Maldives
- Travelling to the Maldives does not require a visa for 30 days, on condition that you have your return ticket and hotel reservation pre-booked or show proof that you can afford a minimum of US$150/day for the duration of your stay.
- It is hot and sunny in the Maldives all year round, but December to April is considered the peak season as it is the dry season and sees a lot of tourists escaping winter in the northern hemisphere. While the monsoon season from May to November tends to be wetter, it does also see more plankton in the water, and thus better odds of wildlife creature sightings
- Not all travel insurance plans cover scuba diving as it can be considered an extreme sport, so if you plan to scuba dive on your holiday, make sure your travel insurance covers recreational scuba diving like Income’s.
- I booked my scuba diving Live-On-Board with Singaporean dive group Scubaddiction and we chartered the Handy Cruise for our journey. If your resort is around the South Ari Atoll, there’s a good chance that they may be able to organise the tours for you, if not there are plenty of tour operators offering half or full day tours to choose from.
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.