When you first start diving, the big bold animals are the most alluring – sleek sharks, hovering turtles, soaring mantas. Over time, you start to get more enchanted by the more elusive creatures – tiny nudibranchs, camouflaged stone fish, hidden octopi. The dive becomes more of a treasure hunt than a safari.
One of the classic, masters of disguise is the leaf fish. If your bucket list includes one of these elusive creatures, then one treasure map is provide by Alexander Von Mende who points us to Mafzoo Giri in the Gaafu Alifu atoll: “You will find a large coral block at around 15m that hosts no less than six residing leaf fish behind a dizzying wall of glass fish.” And if you want the most convenient access, the closest resort is Ayada.
Probably the most elusive of the Snorkel Safari Big 5 to bag is the master disguise, the Octopus. My wife’s and my favourite sightings are octopus. We had spotted several on our dives, but hadn’t seen one on a resort house reef for over a decade when we one played hide-and-seek with us in the shallow lagoon of Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu. So we were a bit sceptical when the Jumeirah Dhevanafushi staff were boasting about their ‘resident’ octopus. But they didn’t just say that some octopus could be regularly sighted around the island. They insisted that he could be reliably found at his favourite hovel just under the spa jetty (see photo). Mind you, don’t think you can just walk on the jetty and hope to see him. When we went looking for him on our snorkel outing, we swam right over him without seeing him. It wasn’t until we had turned around that we saw him peeking out of his rocky crevice.
And like the song, thanks to the jetty, his “garden” is indeed “in the shade”!