Tel: 0207 644 8252
Once upon a time, there were three Ugly Brothers. One was less ugly, but only just, than the other two, and he was taller than the other two too. He was however, of Italian descent, so enough about him, other than to say from now on he shall be referred to as ‘The Count.’ The other two were under-tall for their weight, and will be known from now as Stumpy and Splash. Stumpy due to him having exceptionally short (but very sexy) legs, and Splash because he once fell out of a RIB in the Red Sea. Nuff said about that.
Stumpy and Splash knew that they were going on this trip. Stumpy knew that the Count was coming too, but Splash didn’t. It all made for a very emotional meet at Heathrow for our Qatar flight to Doha and then on to Male in the Maldives.
Considerable supping of all potions available on the plane made the journey vanish in a puff of fumes, and we arrived into Male to catch our local flight down to Khoodhoo, a 60 minute turbo-prop assisted flight to as far South as you can go in The Maldives. We were almost touching the equator when we boarded our boat for the week!
Now, I (aka Stumpy) have to pen a few words about the boat, or I will undoubtedly end up as a pumpkin or mouse (with short, but very sexy legs).
Our vessel was the Italian owned and operated Duke of York Yacht and Spa, and it so lived up to its name. The dhoni transported us from the jetty to the mooring, and our kit stayed on the dhoni as is typical in the Maldives. So, getting on board a luxury yacht with no dive clutter is a very pleasant experience, but was totally surpassed by the sheer size and quality of the rest of our floating Palace for our weeks diving.
Indeed, I have never seen such space on any live-aboard, ever! A huge beam (width, for those non-nautical readers) was immediately noticed, and then the immense salon, furnished with a style and opulence second to none. Plush couches, recliners and the like, and of course, the most important of all, the Bar!
4 full decks, with a huge sun-deck up top, suites with double patio doors opening on to a deck we christened the ‘Sun-downer deck’, the main deck and then the lower deck. 11 cabins, and NO BUNK BEDS!!!!
The standard cabins are huge, have individual air conditioning controls, and the en-suites are bigger than the whole of my first studio-apartment. All are beautifully furnished, have full wardrobes, a desk, and both a single and double bed in them – the single making a perfect dumping ground for cameras and the like.
Dining is conducted al fresco on the main deck, but there are canvas curtains if the weather is all of a sudden under a nasty spell. Food – yes, there is food. And loads of it, and it is awesome!! Splash had his cooked individually, as he doesn’t eat fish, so we of course stole his every time he left the table, as is par for the course, but in summary, the food is ‘gert lush me babber’, and Splash’s was even nicer because it was stolen. Snacks (cookies and cakes, and fruit for sensible people) is available between every dive too.
Diving –we were there to dive, so I had better sharpen the quill and get on with this part of the story…….
The Extreme South Safari is not about reefs and pretty corals – it IS about sharks, sharks, more sharks, and whale sharks, and this is what tempted us to take the trip.
The first dive was, in all honesty, rubbish. We were in the lagoon on the arrival island, and there is a population there, and a fish-canning factory. Human interference, industry and super-warm waters mean that the corals were dead. We were gutted, but took time to have the dive explained to us (for once, I actually listened to a post-dive briefing!) We had done a check dive to get our kit set up, get wet, and get ready –for the dives that were to come were going to be what can only be described as ‘intense’.
Optimism was taken in big doses by the band of three, and off we went – outside of the lagoon, and away from the island.
What followed over the next 6 days were three to four dives a day, and they were, without exception, magical in every sense. Great visibility, warm (30’ warm) waters, and enough current to raise the Black Pearl and propel it into Portsmouth. We wanted sharks, and we got them, by the bucket-load.
Each dive followed the plan of ‘jump in, drop down quickly, hook on, and watch’ so we either hooked on to rocks, or hung in the Blue just off the reef edge, and abra cabloody dabra, we were surrounded by sharks within minutes! And lots of them. And then lots more! Wow – this was just WOW!
As Splash needed to get loads of his very super awesome piccies, we soon opted out of these dives as the sharks weren’t within his lens-range and made our own plans, assisted by the awesome dive guides, all of who took over modelling duties from me (Stumpy) much to my chagrin. Something to do with beauty, flowing locks and long legs I expect, but that’s enough about me!
We harnessed their expertise, and dived the channels and WOW! Again – this was some extreme diving. If you turned sideways, the current would have ripped off your knickers on some of the dives, so we didn’t – we shot along with the flow until coming into shelter, to be greeted by leopard sharks, turtles galore, oriental sweetlips, and clusters of anemones of all shapes, colour and size. And big, super healthy, very colourful corals too – our first dives disappointment was obliviated as soon as we were away from the inhabited island.
We found a pinnacle or two totally enveloped by sweepers (glass fish), took some beautiful pics, and then watched jacks come in and devastate the shoals in a feeding frenzy – just spectacular!
What else? Big sting rays, mobula rays, spotted eagle rays, (did I mention sharks?) and some very friendly turtles – pretty much everything anyone would have on their wish list. But, the major point of this trip was to get up close and personal with whale sharks, and after every dive, despite the dive-guides promises, our optimism was starting to wane………
Day three (okay okay – we are impatient!) started with another stunning Maldivian sunrise –there is nothing quite like being that close to the equator for the start and finish of the day. There was something in the air – the guides knew of our ‘target’ and were plotting and scheming it seemed.
The starters came and went, then the main (Splash losing his of course) and then dessert. Coffee followed, and then our ‘dinner guests’ arrived…..
Prior to dinner, the crew had placed big sodium lamps over the stern of the boat.
Throughout dinner, the krill had started to accumulate on the surface – a huge cloud of reddy brown surrounded the back deck, and then we got splashes. Squid were feeding in the light, and mobula rays were darting through the mush like rockets. Needlefish started jumping out of the water, and one even clouted the skiff floating on its umbilical tether some 10 metres away. The came the dolphins – yes –dolphins!! The sharks that were there soon vanished when this lot turned up! As amazing a spectacle as tis was, still no whale-sharks, but the crew knew something we didn’t!
9pm came and went, and then at 10, we got our first whale shark. Splash and I jumped in of course, but The Count, who dresses for dinner and is far too suave and sophisticated to get wet after hours, stayed on the dive platform where he concentrated on taking above water shots and smelling very nice.
2 hours! Yes – two whole bloody amazing and fantastically magical hours of being up close and personal with a gentle giant (this one was about 7 metres long, so not a fully grown adult) and I mean up close – we got bumped numerous times! I had dreamt about this of course, but the reality of being millimetres from its open mouth and taking photos down its throat was beyond all of those dreams!
Midnight came, and our gentle friend sauntered off – we sat on deck for an hour, a silent time to digest what we had experienced – there were so few words spoken. We then hit our cabins, full of excitement and smothered in a good coating of fairy-dust. Smiles? Our faces could have split!
0130 hours – and a gentle tap on my cabin door teased me from my slumber. Herbe, our Dive Captain, quietly informed me that the whale shark was back, and that is had brought a buddy! I then of course pounded on Splash’s door, and woke up el Conte, before the two of us then bounced all over the still sleeping Splash, just to make sure he was properly awake.
Needless to say, one whale shark was special. Two (the same original one and a 5m buddy) were incredible. They swam in synchronised loops, gulping down the krill, and were joined by us unruly lot and some of the crew too. We had the delight of their company for another 2 hours, staying right at the back of the boat, so close that they brushed up against the rails and ladder repeatedly.
Our wishes came true – we got whale sharks. These weren’t my first encounter, but it was by far the most memorable –I do not believe, even if I replace Sir David Attenborough in his job, that I could replicate anything as close to magic as this experience was.
The rest of the trip was made up of diving, and flights – nothing else is as important as the whale shark encounter we had, so ner! End of, ad finitum, le fin.
The trip? Awesome. The boat? Awesome. Would we go again? Hell yes!
So to end, and on a sombre note. We had an emotional meet at Heathrow when we left the UK to start our adventures. We had a phenomenal time, and one that is embedded permanently in our hearts and minds.
Our trip had an emotional end that followed very shortly after our return. Three very close friends, nay brothers (one less ugly than the other two, one with sexy legs and one who had to have a private chef) are now just two. Splash is no longer with us, having passed away a week after our return, but he will remain with us in spirit, within our hearts and memory, as he will to many, many others.
Forever and ever…
The Scuba Genies
Tel: 0207 644 8252
The remote island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia is among the few places in the world that remains free of Covid-19 thanks to its ocean border and a strict travel ban that has kept its residents safe.
Nonetheless, Yap has been affected, too. As one of the world’s premier, award-winning destinations for divers, this paradisiacal location in the western Pacific Ocean has had no outside visitors to its rich shores and reef for nearly a year. But while there may be no virus, the island hasn’t been cut off from the economic impact experienced around the globe.
That didn’t stop Bill Acker, CEO and founder of the Manta Ray Bay Resort and Yap Divers, from doing something, though.
Last March, soon after the island went into lockdown, Bill began to realize the effect of the virus on daily life beyond the island. “Yes, we are closed, have no divers, had to send our employees home and prepare for difficult times,” he said. “But we’re lucky in that we have, for the most part, avoided the human suffering and death this pandemic has caused.”
Thinking about the problems faced by his family business, they paled when he compared them to those endured by the healthcare workers who have been fighting selflessly around the clock for months on end for the well-being and lives of others.
“One evening, while checking the news online, I saw pictures of frontline workers who were tending to desperately ill and dying people when families and friends could not be with their loved ones. It was heartbreaking,” he added.
The next day, a meeting was held with the resort’s staff and Bill invited suggestions for ways they could do something to honor healthcare workers. The result was the idea to award twenty divers who are working on the frontline to save other’s lives during this pandemic while risking their own, with a free week at the resort.
Divers around the world who had been guests at Manta Ray Bay in the past were invited to submit the names of candidates for the award by December 31, 2020. “We received nominations for 126 individuals from as far away as Germany, the U.S., Australia and Canada,” he said. “It was not easy choosing the winners but our committee of staff members took on the job and selected the 20 finalists.”
“While trying to choose the people to reward for their hard work during this Covid-19 crisis,” Bill added, “by reading the nominations we saw that every one of the nominees was doing things above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly, we don’t have the finances to offer over 100 free weeks in Yap, but we do want to recognize the contributions all of them are making to our world. So, we are offering the rest of the nominees a free week of diving in Yap which includes room, hotel tax, airport transfers, breakfast, diving and Wi-Fi. The only requirement is that they travel with at least three other people and stay in two rooms or more.”
“We do not yet know when Yap will open its borders,” said Bill, “but when it does, we will welcome these important guests to Yap to relax and dive with the manta rays and the other beautiful denizens of the ocean surrounding our island home. They are the true heroes of this devastating, historic time and we look forward to honoring them with a well-deserved dive vacation.”
Watch out for our exclusive trip report from a healthcare worker from the UK who is one of the 20 to have been awarded this amazing dive trip!
For more information on Manta Ray Bay and Yap Divers visit their website by clicking here.
It’s finally here! Time to start building the greatest dive locker the world has ever seen! Part I: Demolition! #dreamdivelocker
This is the first of a series of videos showing the evolution of building out my dream dive locker. My dream dive locker needs to be dive gear drying and storage, dry storage, workshop, office, editing suite, You Tube studio and classroom. That’s a lot of functions for a small space!
The first step is planning out the space and demolishing the laminate flooring. Then I taped up the walls to get a feel for the space. We have a lot of work to do!
But finally we will have a purpose built space to house all of our dive equipment! Subscribe to our channel to follow our progress!
Thanks for watching, Team!
Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/DiversReady
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This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.
Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.
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