Monday, December 14, 2015

Diving from Gan, Addu Atoll, Maldives, Dec 2015

My logged dives #1394-1405

Dolphins often played with the boat transporting us to dive sites in Gan Lagoon, Maldives

Day 1 Dec 12, 2015, my dives #1394-95, Hairaan Fara and Kuda Kandu Corner

Our first day diving in Gan Atoll, Maldives. One memory is while videoing some interesting fish life, I forget what exactly, I pan to our dive guide Umar who is making the shark sign and pointing ahead. I swing the GoPro around and follow his point onto a grey white tipped reef shark whom I am able to close quarters with as he moves up the reef. It should have been an excellent video but my GoPro casing is wearing and not engaging always when I press to activate video. So that one is in cranial memory, but others can be seen on YouTube. 

Day 2 Dec 13, 2015, my dives #1396- 97, attempted Mudakan and dived Bushy East

Today we started out with an odd concatenation of events. We are going to Mudhakan which Umar the guide says is a reef with sharks, but he always goes in first and then gets back on the boat and then re-positions it, then enters the water, and if all is good, he calls us in. We comprises Bobbi and I and a team of 3 Germans, two guys and a lady. Today, Umar announces there is "medium" current, enters the water, and calls us to join him. I have gone to the bow and jump when he calls but everyone else including Bobbi opts to use the amidship entry, which means they go one after another, and they crowd Bobbi, so she enters last. Meanwhile Umar is anxious to descend and he begins the dive. I don't see Bobbi so I call out to her, no response. I call again, but the Germans are descending. I assume Bobbi has descended already.

When I go down Umar is a bit ahead and I don't see Bobbi. I see the three Germans and perhaps someone at the surface. In 15 seconds it is apparent that Bobbi is with the Germans and I find later that the lady German had trouble ascending and was still at the surface. When I see that Bobbi is with the Germans I kick to catch up with Umar. But I, we in fact, have delayed too long. There is a furious current preventing forward movement. I can't catch Umar in mid-water, the only chance is to drop to the coral and hope for less current there, and pull myself forward using my reef hook.

I drop to the coral bed in 20 meters of water. Bobbi I find later employs the same strategy and drops to coral in 12 meters. We are now both in a cabbage coral bed that crumbles as we try to claw forward, like trying to pull yourself forward on potato chips. But I find a few solid chunks to sink my reef hook onto. But now I am too low to see anyone else. Bobbi can see me, she says later, but I soon drop over the edge and out of site to 27 meters. Bobbi is alone and I am too. I can see no one else.

I can however see a parade of sharks just below me in the blue.  I pull forward. The current is buffeting me but I try to get pictures with my GoPro. It's pretty difficult with the current throwing me around, I'm breathing more than usual, and 11 min into the dive I'm down to half a tank 100 bar. I can't stay like this, alone at this depth. I decide to turn and let the current ride me up and out of there. I careen over the plateau at 12 meters, safe now, I'm just thinking to maybe do a safety stop, maybe ascend and find out what's going on with the others.

At the surface the boat picks me up. Bobbi is aboard. She did pretty much what I did, didn't see anyone else, couldn't go forward in the current, decided to let go and safely ascend wherever the current would pitch her out. At the surface she blew her whistle, and the boat came and got her.

So Bobbi and I were on the boat, our dives pretty much aborted, and no sign of the others. Later we found that Umar had seen the German lady was having problems, he saw Bobbi and I in the coral bed but prioritized the Germans, and returned to help the lady descend. By now for Umar and the Germans, going forward to where Bobbi and I were still trying to inch our way against the current to the corner was out of the question, but Umar knew that to ride the current in a certain direction would take you back to Manta Point which is where he took the Germans. So we collected them half an hour later, all chuffed that they had seen Mantas.

I included my film clips taken while struggling with current in the video that follows, when we managed to dive Mudhakan successfully the following day.

Day 3 Dec 14, 2015, my dives #1398- 99, successfully dived Mudhakan to Manta Point
and finished the day at Banana Thila

On day 3 of our diving, the Germans were no longer with us so it was just Bobbi and I. I suggested to Umar that as long as it was just us, we should go back to Mudakan corner and try to dive it properly. Bobbi and I had worked out that our not being together at the start of the dive had resulted in hesitation that had made it impossible for us to reach the corner, but if it was just Umar and the two of us, we could do a straight down descent and stay close to Umar. He agreed and we descended to the reef despite current that tried its best to sweep us off it. Bobbi landed furthest back but gamely did her best to join us, using her reef hook to claw against the current over the coral. I had landed at 29 meters and positioned my reef hook to move up a couple meters to 27. Umar was at that depth and indicating sharks ahead, though it took us a while to see them.

We watched them patrol until I was down to half a tank with just 10 minutes no deco and Umar suggested we move off, which we did, letting the current buffet us up the reef. I was gasping at air trying to stay on the plateau as the current was trying to move me down to 14 and then sweep me over the edge. Eventually Umar stopped as we had arrived at Manta Point and half a dozen mantas were at play here.

My personal consideration was that the mantas were at 18 meters and I was by now down to 50 bar, but of course with mantas around, you need to prioritize.

Day 4 Dec 15, 2015, my dives #1400- 01, Buda Hoholha and Manta Point with Axel and Umar

Axel, the dive center manager, was taking some German divers under his wing so he and Umar let us go on our own at Buda Hoholha, and then we all went to Manta Point together. 

The only thing about doing Manta Point after a deep dive was it was easy to slip into deco. Between us Bobbi and I have three computers, my Aladdin which is the one that went into deco, and a Zoop, which got bricked because it goes onto a tables algorithm if you stay down below 10 meters at the end of the second dive, and Bobbi's computer, which didn't register that she was in deco. We've ignored the Zoop before and survived it - I think it's algorithm is too simplistic for deep diving. We dived the Aladdin and did the deco stops. The mantas were great.

Day 5 Dec 16, 2015, my dives #1402-03, Manta Point and Bushy West with Axel

Umar took a day off so it was just Axel and two Germans Heinz and Pia, plus Bobbi and I. We did our first dive this time on Manta Point. Strange things happened. Bobbi got lost on the descent. I thought one of the divers who were with Axel was Bobbi, but it wasn't. The four of us were hanging on in the current and Axel was telling me emphatically, thumbs up, get up there and find your buddy. It was an order and I was preparing to comply, but thinking what could I do at the surface? The current would sweep me off the site. There was nothing I could do for Bobbi up there, and if she had a problem she would have ascended, I'm sure of that, and the boat.would have picked her up. If she was carried by the current, she would have been swept over the edge of the reef into blue water and the worst would be she might go down, but I didn't think she would have done that (and if she had, my going to the surface would not have helped her there).  

Axel was emphatic, I was to abort my dive, but then I saw what I thought might be bubbles, so I hooked onto the reef to hold my position in the current. Sure enough it was Bobbi. She said later she had seen our bubbles. She knew to stay at the edge of the reef drop off. She knew the site, she did exactly what she should have done, she tried to join us in a calm and measured way, and I'm glad I had hesitated and waited. I was so happy to see her. She's my favorite dive buddy.

We hung out with mantas as usual there but Axel and the German couple had moved down from us. When we decided we needed to go up we found them hanging out above us. But apparently the couple surfaced prematurely and so we joined Axel on his safety stop. He seemed in a funk. We completed our 3 min at 5 meters and climbed back on the boat. Axel banned the couple from further diving that morning since they had not done a safety stop (they had been to only 18 meters and had dived only 45 min). He was upset with Bobbi as well but got over it and took us on a second dive to Bushy Island West. It turned out to be a great dive, lots of current, and my Aladdin kept wanting me to go higher. I think we were back in Axel's good graces by the end of it.

Day 6 Dec 17, 2015, my dives #1404-05, Kuda Hoholha and Fihali Fara with Umar (more dolphins, sharks and eagle rays)

and finally, our last dive of this trip, on Kuda Hoholha

This is diving in Addu Atoll, extreme south Maldives

We stayed at Equator Village

  • $1900 for two people sharing room for 8 nights
  • All inclusive 3 meals, bottomless beverages, free  use of bicycles, a/c rooms
  • Plus $800 two airfares from Male to Gan, return
  • Plus airfare from Abu Dhabi to Male, half price about $500 each when going through Muscat
  • Plus "unlimited" diving charges plus a bill at the end for the tanks we used

Dive sites around Gan