From a snorkel enhancement to a wreck, to a wreck enhancement to a snorkel. The Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo extensive house includes its own wreck. A small inter-island cargo ship just off the main jetty. Usually such wrecks are the province of dive trips or excursions, but at Ellaidhoo, it’s just another handy feature of their extensively equipped house reef.
What do you get an astronaut for Christmas? A space snorkel.
As Maldives Complete is sort of the hub of Maldives resort snorkelling, (the best snorkelling in the world), I do tend to venture into other extremes of the activity around the world. Or, this week, out of the world. The Maldives is renowned for its low altitude, but NASA today brings it to a record altitude. Snorkelling in Space.
It turns out that the astronauts faced a bit of a problem with leaky space suits which almost drowned one of them. The “snorkel” is an improvised fix to work around the problem.
Maldives snorkelling/diving and space walking have a bit more in common. Diving is about the closest one will get to the sensation of being in space and being in “another world”. Complete with anti-gravity as one of your first scuba skills is neutral buoyancy.
One of the things I have “now seen” is a li-lo for snorkelling. I called this out last year and now Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo finally has one. It is called a “Microsub” and you can rent it for $20 per hour from the dive centre. It is a great device for weak swimmers who want to enjoy the spectacle of snorkelling in the Maldives. In some respects, it is better than a life jacket because it keeps the legs elevated at the top of the water. One of the problems with weaker swimmers using life jackets for snorkelling is that they let their legs dangle underwater and often kick coral inadvertently.
Just another way that the Maldives makes the undersea extravaganza accessible to just about everyone.
If you are looking for a snorkel floatation aid that is a bit sportier, consider Kurumba’s “Vu Board”. Available from their sports centre for $20/day. Kurumba is quickly becoming one of my favourite house reefs to snorkel (I’m more of a fish guy than a coral guy and Kurumba’s is more of a fish reef than a coral one), and Vu Board brings it to life to even more people.
I don’t do Guest Houses, but I do do Snorkeling.
I’ve shied away from adding the new Guest Houses in the Maldives to the Maldives Complete database for a few reasons. First, I’ve neverstayed in one so I have no real first-hand experience to understand the key characteristics to profile. Second, there is less information on them on the web for me to research. They are often small mom-and-pop operations and comprehensive websites are not often provided.
But I have been a big advocate of Maldives being the best place to Snorkel in the world. And from that perspective (and in the spirit of ‘Best of the Maldives’ distinctives and uniques) I just had to add a post about the Keyodhoo guest house’s new ‘Power Snorkeling’ activity…
“Power Snorkeling – Only available at Keyodhoo. If you like snorkelling, you’ll just love Power Diving! With Power Dive’s free-floating Power Snorkel, you can dive to 6 metres with a friend for more than an hour on the 35 a/h battery. There are no tanks to carry, wear or refill and, after your dive, simply recharge or exchange the battery and do it all again! You don’t need a dive ticket to use it. View video in sidebar. $35 per couple, or $20 per person.”
World Book Day! An apropos time to showcase the top books on snorkelling (and diving) in the Maldives. There are 3 main books on snorkelling (and diving) in the Maldives…
- Dive Maldives by Tim Godfrey – The original. More focused on scuba diving, but it does highlight which sites are great for snorkelling too.
- Complete Guide to Diving and Snorkeling the Maldives by Sam Harwood and Rob Bryning – No dive charts like Godfrey features, but Harwood and Bryning do have more information specifically on snorkelling. For example, for every site they indicate not just a star-rating for diving, but also one for snorkelling.
- Diving & Snorkeling Maldives by Lonely Planet – A relatively recent find, though also out of print. Thinner and less comprehensive that the other two, but a handy guide for the most prominent sites.
All three cover the atolls with the most resorts…
- North and South Male
Lonely Planet and Harwood/Bryning also both cover…
But only Harwood/Bryning cover the following atolls…
- Gaafu (Alifu amd Dhaalu)
No election is needed to anoint wildlife presenter David Attenborough more than Commentator in Chief of all thing nature. More of an exhaulted grandmaster. His infamous series including ‘Life of Birds’, ‘Frozen Planet’ and of course, ‘The Blue Planet’.
The Blue Planet is as fine a cinematic exploration of the undersea world as you will ever watch. After 60 years of delving into every exotic nook and cranny of our vibrant planet, he shared (thanks Karla) what experience strikes him the most…
“So which spot on the planet would he recommend to give people a chance to enjoy living creatures at their best? The Galápagos with their iguanas? The Amazon rainforest? His answer comes as a surprise. “People say you cannot beat the rainforest. But that is simply not true. You go there and the first thing you think is: where the hell are the birds? Where are the animals? They are hiding in the trees, of course. No, if you want beauty and wildlife, you want a coral reef. Put on a mask and stick your head under the water. The sight is mind-blowing. ‘And that, actually, is still a mystery: why are coral reefs so beautiful and colourful? It is not immediately obvious, though the wildlife is wonderful: shell-less molluscs, crustaceans and shoals of fish that do not give a damn whether you are there or not. Your first trip to a coral reef will be one of the most transforming moments of your life.’ There is, of course, a downside. Coral reefs are now being destroyed at a staggering rate. Some estimates suggest around 600 square miles are lost every year, a rate double that of rainforest destruction. Reefs are dying because ocean waters are being acidified as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere as a result of human industrial activity.’”
So the best nature experience you can do is a snorkel on the coral reef. And the best place for snorkelling in the world is the Maldives. Simply the best experience in the world.
The votes are in! And, standing on a platform of dazzling views and enchanting creatures, the winner is ‘Snorkelling’.
In a recent “Maldives Visitor Survey 2011”, Snorkelling was listed as the ‘Activity Most Enjoyed’ by a landslide with 40% of the votes. People often think of the Maldives as a dive haven, and certainly the two are related, but Snorkeling was cited nearly twice a highly as Diving (17%…which was the #2 activity).
A landslide vote of confidence for the greatest snorkelling on Earth.
Lions and Tigers and Bears…oh my!
Rare (for snorkelling) Big 5…
- Cuttle fish
Mini Big 5
- Anemone Fish
- Christmas Tree Worm
- Sand Eels
- Cleaner Shrimp
Camouflage Big 5 (for the eagle-eyed Where’s Wally fans)
- Stone Fish
- Leaf Fish
- Scorpion Fish
- Frog Fish
One I thought of since would be a ‘Namesake Safari’. Not the biggest nor most prominent sea creatures, but the ones who by name most evoke a ‘safari’…
- Lion Fish
- Leopard Moray
- Tiger Shark
- Zebra Shark
- Elephant Ear Mushroom Coral
And in a safari, one of the most prized events you can catch is a ‘kill’. Some predator like a lion or leopard catching a gazelle or water buffalo. I would say that in Snorkel Safaris spotting such an occurrence is even rarer, but the YouTube video (see above) of ‘Scorpion Fish Eats Octopus’ is an epic example of what might be dubbed the ‘Battle of the Camouflage.’
No matter how good you are at something, a local expert and guide is always a sound move.
My wife and I do most of our skiing (I snow board) with our best friends who happened to meet as ski instructors. We tag along to which ever of their favourite European slopes catches their fancy this season. Having such experts along transforms the experience. The stress is halved and the excitement is doubled. The stress is cut because you don’t have to worry about getting lost, or going somewhere over your capability. The excitement is doubled because they introduce you to places literally of the beaten path and point out things that you probably would have missed focusing on where you were going.
Those same slope benefits are the reason to grab a snorkel guide at a resort whenever you have the opportunity. My wife and I are advanced divers and have snorkelled over 100 times, but we still benefit from having a local expert show us around. In and among all those guided outings, the guides have all been superb. But we have never come across a guide quite so enthusiastic and proactive as Tania Gae Militello, the marine biologist at Vakaufalhi.
The fact that she holds daily routine guided excursions on the house reef is a key and relatively uncommon at resorts. Other resorts either have the marine biologist on demand or else they have periodic guided excursions. Her regular excursions mean that you can simply work it into your daily routine. You don’t have to feel self-conscious about asking for a guide as she is going anyway. She will also do special excursions to suit you for free as well (schedule permitting).
We took advantage of this ad hoc offer to do a sunrise snorkel (on the wise advice of TripAdvisor Destination Expert ActiveGirl) where we saw tons of sights. Lots of stuff we would have missed if it wasn’t for her trained eye as well as knowledge of the local seascape and knowing where the interesting critters tend to congregate.
One of the best examples is a loggerhead sea turtle named Camilla. She has a favourite resting space on the house reef drop-off ledge about 3 metres deep. Tania showed her to us. More importantly, without any provocation or disturbing her, Camilla popped out and came for a swim with our group when she saw that Tania had arrived. Camilla seemed to recognize Tania and seemed very comfortable around her (no, Camilla does not do any feeding of marine life whatsoever). As close to a guaranteed turtle sighting as you wil get.
As I mentioned at the top, a guide also allows you to push yourself further than you might. When we did our morning snorkel, Tania took us around the further house reef side…and a storm squall came in about 30 minutes into our venture. Normally, I would have been quite spooked being a good distance from shore with a dark, windy sky. But, Tania knew that we were strong swimmers and we were going with the current towards the jetty and reassured us that everything would be fine. When the squall (aka mini-monsoon) hit us, aside from some swells in the ocean and the tickle of rain on our back, the snorkel was as delightful as any. As a result, we were rewarded with some memorable sights we would have missed without her support.
She also took a number of videos and pictures on both of outings with us and loaded them onto a USB stick for us so we could have them.
Tania is passionate not just about the undersea world, but also about the snorkelling itself and makes it even more accessible and thrilling at Vakarufalhi.