After an enormous breakfast and a spectacular sunrise, I was keen to finally get under the sea and explore the Maldives in a different way.
Maalifushi run several different snorkelling tours throughout each week, but the one I had my eye on was the turtle expedition. I had seen turtles in zoos and the smaller ones people keep as pets, but I had seen never seen a real sea turtle in the wild.
After gearing myself up with a snorkel, mask and fins, it was time for the 15 minute boat ride to the outer edge of the isolated Thaa atoll, located deep in the Indian Ocean. As soon as the boat had stopped, I wasted no time and jumped right on in!
Due to the specific site and location of this snorkel, access to the reef is somewhat limited. This particular snorkel site is located on the outer edge of the reef, which means that ocean currents can have a large impact. This particular reef ascends up to the surface quite steeply; this combined with the strong ocean currents mean that the only safe place to snorkel is right along the outer edge. Getting closer to the reef could be hazardous, as with the strong currents you risk getting caught on a bank of suddenly shallow coral as the tide goes back out – potentially harming yourself and the reef.
This means that it is not easy to get super close to the turtles and wildlife, but this is the only downside. If you are a decent free diver – this should not pose too much of an issue.
It was amazing how warm the cerulean waters were! At some points I found myself wishing for a cold current as I was starting to feel too hot! I spotted numerous reef sharks and quite a few little fishies, but it took a while for me to spot any fish that were truly eye catching. However, a spot of patience ended up paying off when I caught sight of this little fella.
Getting these shots required free diving a couple of metres down, which is not a difficult dive to do. This fishy was completely chilled out about the whole situation and had no problems with me sticking my camera in his face.
I hung out with him for a while, but soon became ready to see some sea turtles! So I had to start really keeping my eyes peeled.
Then, finally, I spotted one in the distance!
In my excitement, I became so damn eager to get up close and personal with this little sea creature that I momentarily forgot that I am not a fish myself, and that I – like all other mere mortals – need to take the time to equalise while free diving large distances. So instead of taking my time and doing this properly, I hurriedly dived down approximately 6 or so metres. This may not sound like a huge distance, but for someone who doesn’t put that kinda pressure on her ears very often, it is pretty substantial.
I could feel my ears start to become uncomfortable, but in my excitement I ignored it. I started taking pictures and enjoying being near such a beautiful little turtle, but after a while the discomfort started to become a pretty intense pain.
On subsequent trips down I took the time to equalise, but the damage had already been done. Each dive down became more and more painful, but I was silly and chose to ignore it. I didn’t want to waste the amazing opportunity! How often is it that you get to swim with sea turtles in the Maldives after all?
All too soon it was time to head back to the boat and back to the tiny little island on which Maalifushi resides. My ears felt so strange – especially the left one! The pain had faded, now I just had a feeling of pressure and fullness – like I had gotten water trapped in there. I considered getting a consult with the resort doctor, but eventually decided to suck it up and hope that it would heal on its own.
Luckily – it did! The full feeling persisted for several days, and I also experienced very ‘tinny’ sounds, as well as altered hearing, but after a week everything had gone back to normal. I have definitely learnt that lesson though – always equalise!
Ear issues aside – it was an absolutely glorious snorkelling trip, one that I wish I could do all over again.
T H E L O W D O W N
Getting to Male: There are many different routes flying into Male, flights with Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur are some of the cheapest
Maldivian: This is one of two seaplane companies flying to destinations in the Maldives
Getting to Maalifushi: Access is by seaplane only, a return trip from Male airport will set you back around $600 USD.
Maalifushi by COMO: One of the most luxurious resorts in all of the Maldives, rooms start at approx $1000 USD per night for a garden room, water villas start at $1700 USD per night up to $2800 (seasonally dependent)
Camera: Nikon S31 Coolpix
Turtle Snorkel: These trips are run by Maalifushi several times a week, cost is $45 USD
Remember: To equalise!
Don’t forget to add me on Snapchat and Instagram – @wwellend – for more foolishness and travel adventures!