Best of the Maldives: Largest Arbor – Soneva Jani

Soneva Jani - bat arbor

Holy Foliage Batman!

A number of resorts create arbors for a sheltered tunnel of greenery (or sometimes flowers) to promenade through. At 200 metres, Soneva Jani’s is twice as long as Reethi Faru’s which was the longest we’ve seen to date. But Soneva Jani’s offers not just a flora display, but a popular fauna perch as well for the flying foxes. The fruit bats are one of Lori’s favourite Maldives creatures and she loves watching them fly past of crawl along the tree branches. Unfortunately, most of the food they are foraging for are high up so you can’t get to see their cute little faces that easily. At Soneva Jani, the extended arbor provides the same appealing canopy for these critters so they can be seen closely scampering along it. And when they want to fly away, they just fly through tunnel just past you. It’s like giant bat cave of greenery.

Best of the Maldives: Ornate Eagle Ray – OZEN Maadhoo

The best of the “Best of the Maldives” posts are about discoveries that a rare, exciting and “wow”. And you don’t come any more so than the Ornate Eagle Ray we watched swimming in the water villa lagoon of OZEN Maadhoo. It was a fitting crescendo to a superb 2022 Tour. As Lori went out to the deck of our water villa she spotted this fellow cruising by. She grabbed her phone and followed him to the end of the jetty until she could get a good angle to shoot this footage. This was the first time we had ever seen this spectacularly mottled ray in over two decades of snorkeling, diving and jetty strolling in the Maldives. The Maadhoo Dive Manager Udo Goergen said in his many years there, he had only seen them a few times.


Best of the Maldives: “Camo” Shark – Amilla

Amilla - camo shark 1

International Shark Day today. A time to celebrate those wonderful elasmobranchs. And but Amilla features a particularly distinctive one. It appears to be its own species with a variegated skin patter, but as marine biologists have clarified that it is just an individual with a genetic skin condition. A bit like shark vitiligo.

Amilla - camo shark 2

Best of the Maldives: Leaf Fish – Ayada

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.

Best of the Maldives: Octopus – Jumeirah Dhevanafushi

Jumeirah Dhevanafushi - octopus spot

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”!