Diving In The South Ari Atoll, Maldives
Diving In The South Ari Atoll, Maldives
The south Ari Atoll is a favorite diving destination in the Maldives.
With over 56 dive sites within an easy boat ride, this area attracts many experienced divers.
The current is almost always strong, and the visibility is medium to low, despite the fact that the dive shop operators will tell you that visibility is “very good.”
But there is a lot to see with arches, overhanging coral cliffs, grooved channels, underwater mountains and a great array of fish and marine life.
If you love live coral, it is best to bring a flashlight and always take the time to explore the coral overhangs and caves.
The walls of these dark caves are usually covered in multicolored coral, and you might even see some nursing sharks.
If you are lucky like me, the huge caves might reveal almost prehistoric size giant eels, which stretch almost twenty feet from head to tail.
I really wish that my small camera could take better photos.
I am diving with a new camera with an underwater case, but on one of my deep dives, the dial mode stopped working and now it is stuck on its manual mode.
This means that I have to manually adjust all the settings, the white-balance and the exposure, which is a bit of a bummer.
But it will have to do until I return home and can send the camera back to Olympus for a repair.
We arrived at our second resort and situated ourselves in the adults only section of the resort, which feels more exclusive and much quieter.
The overwater villa we got is really lovely, with an open air bathroom and a deck with daybeds, facing the bright pink and crimson sunsets.
We can go snorkeling or swim right from the villas to the house reef, which encircles the whole island.
Every room in the resort is a beachfront villa with direct access to snorkeling and swimming.
The place seem to attract mainly European and Eastern European people.
Most of the divers I have met were from Germany, with a few Russians and Bulgarians.
The busy dive shop is the heart of the Vilamendhoo resort.
They take out three boats daily, with about fifty divers.
When I checked into the dive center, I got an assigned box where I put all of my diving gear.
Every day they put up on the bulletin board the signup sheets, with the dive sites for the next few days.
You can add your name and box number to the signup sheets and the next day your gear will be waiting for you on the correct boat.
For those of us who dive with Nitrox, they will analyze the tanks for their oxygen content on the day of the dive, right in the boat.
They offer two morning dives, and an afternoon dive, as well as full day three dive excursions, to see whale sharks and manta rays.
I dove two times every day in the mornings.
Divers are allowed to come for an early breakfast, before the restaurant opens, so they can get ready for the boat ride in time.
I made it a habit to eat a small breakfast, so I would not be too full for the dives.
My breakfast was either a hot oatmeal with fruit, or a Chinese Congee, which is a hot diluted rice gruel with toppings of fresh ginger, scallions, green herbs and a splash of soy sauce.
At lunchtime, after waking up at sunrise and diving twice in the strong currents, I usually eat a big salad with some roasted potato or sweet potatoes, steamed vegetables or any other vegan cooked vegetables that they offer, and fruit.
I did eat once or twice the beautiful mini desserts that they offer that look like jewels and are very tempting.
So when I wanted to stay on my diet, I simply did not walk by the dessert display and went straight to the fruit bar.
The diving in the Maldives is challenging, with strong currents which change direction a few times during each dive.
Most divers bring a hook and a rope, in order to anchor themselves to the rocks and not drift away from the group.
Divers also bring long and hard fins, which make swimming against the current easier.
My fins are soft and short, and I do not have a hook and a rope, or a stick.
In fact, initially I did not even bring my diving gloves, which would have allowed me to hold onto a rock in order to stay in place.
Going deep and swimming against the strong currents also consumes more air, and I had to resort to yogic breathing of counting my inhales and exhales, in order to conserve air.
Some of the dive sites were so beautiful, that it was all worth it.
In a protected area, I encountered thousands of fish.
It was so nice to be surrounded by fish who are not afraid of people.
We dove through dense clouds of fish, barely able to keep an eye on one another, for we disappeared between the fish.
The next time I plan to go diving in an area of the world that has strong currents, I plan to bring suitable equipment for the conditions.
I feel so blessed to be able to be here after many months of no international travels.
Everyone who comes here has tested negative for Covid and all the staff have been vaccinated, which creates a safe bubble around these resorts.
Unlike our first resort, here they check our body temperatures every morning at the breakfast table, and we are required to do a doctor visit before we depart to the next island.
Beside boat diving, the Vilamendhoo resort offers shore diving, around the house reef.
The same house reef that most guests snorkel around, drops deeper to almost ninety feet in depth, which offers divers an opportunity to dive more.
For me, two boat dives a day is plenty.
After a good lunch, I am content to sit with a cup of tea and read, relax or go for a walk around the island, stopping at the dive center to examine the dive sites offered for the next day.
It is so relaxing to be on a small island with no cars or scooters, no traffic lights and not even a floor in the lobby, bars or restaurants. The floor is just the white sand they brought in from the beach.
The only walkway on the island, is the wooden boardwalk leading to the overwater villas and the Spa.
The Spa offers excellent massages, and we gladly submitted to their expert kneading of our stressed muscles, a few times during our stay.
At night in our bed, I feel the ocean currents like a vibrational lullaby, and see the colors and patterns of the fish and corals, flooding my mind’s eye.
I wish to disappear into the turquoise and blues that I see around me.
The blue sky, the blue clouds, the blue ocean with the tiny golden sharks that swim surrounded by clouds of tiny sardines….
I wish my ego and personality self to disappear and to become one with everything…..
Wishing you a blessed day or night,