This is unusual for me, but I feel compelled to write something to go with our experiences in the Maldives February 2006...
This is a land of extremes, from the hustle and bustle of Male's old town and markets to plush new buildings, move out into the Atoll's and there are the remote villages some of which are still recovering for the Tsunami of December 2004. People are still living under canvas with a building site going on around them, other islands were hit so badly they are still uninhabited or undergoing total redevelopment and this isn't on the eastern side of the Maldives. Then there's the resort islands again following the Tsunami some have been reduced to rubble while others are unaffected, these islands are like tropical paradises, cleaned preened and manicured for the tourists.
Now lets look beneath the water line - The coral reefs have have been hit hard twice now in the past eight years, the obvious physical affects on some reefs as the Tsunami wave hit the east side of the islands causing massive rock and or coral formations to be broken form there foundations and smashed to rubble on the sea bed leaving avalanche trails down the reef walls. But even more devastating to the reefs was the effects of the El Nino of 1998 (when the sea temperature is in excess of 30 deg C for more than 6 weeks corals die along with the species that live on them) some reefs were protected by deep ocean currents providing them with a cooler water temperature whereas other reefs bore the full effects of the raised temperatures and are slowly making their recovery. We noted that on some of the effected reefs that species like the table top and stag horn hard corals had survived with little else left around them.
The final blow to the coral reefs is on going, I, no we, were ashamed to part of the diving community on the day we dived a reef known for being a Manta Ray cleaning station, we first saw one couple of divers wearing gloves grabbing hold of the coral while laying across the reef taking photos, now I love taking photos above and below the water line but that's not the way to do it, furthermore, about 25 M along the reef it looked like a rugby scrum going on on the reef top, about 12 so called divers all wearing gloves grabbing hold of the coral crawling across the reef trying to get close to the Mantas.
Now don't get me wrong we are not a pair of ecco warriors who can't hold their hands up for getting it wrong on occasions, for instance, the Maldives is new to us so before our trip we did some home work and researched the areas we planned to visit. Most articles we read described the use of "reef hooks" which all sounds fine until you try to deploy one in a fast current... First you need to identify a suitable piece of rock to attach it to and then deploy it without touching the coral, almost impossible in a fast current, as we found out which leaves us questioning their use yet alone the wisdom of whether we should we be there if the currents are that powerful - On reflection I think not despite their use being advised by our guide who has weekly practice using them.
Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles, take nothing but memories, touch nothing at all!
Diving in the Maldives is not for the faint hearted, some of the currents are more like diving in a washing machine than the sea, so be prepared for it to go into the spin cycle at any time, pay attention to the fish life ahead of you swimming into the current they are a good indicator to the changes in direction you are getting into, it will change at any moment from pushing you up the reef, down, into the reef or out into the blue and that's on a wall dive, what until you catch a current coming off the top of a Thila - come fly with me!
We take our diving very seriously and are proud to be apart of earthdive and implore all divers to adopt there code of practice.
eCORD - Code of responsible diving