THE DAILY ROUTINE was to do one dive before breakfast, one before lunch and one in the afternoon, with plenty of time to relax in between.
What makes diving in this area of the Maldives so special? The answer is its wild, natural beauty. At their best the underwater topography, colourful corals and wildlife are wonderful.
There is something very raw about diving on this particular itinerary off the beaten track. As only a handful of dive boats come this far south the fish are not accustomed to divers, so you experience their natural and instinctive behaviour.
Some dive-destinations will feed sharks to keep them in a localised area, but here you experience them in their natural state. On one of the dives, we witnessed hundreds of schooling sharks effortlessly swimming in the current.
Getting glassfish to work for the photographer.
We ventured towards them, and the closer we got, the more sharks appeared from the blue. It wasn’t the kind of shark-diving where you are surrounded and able to indulge in close-up photography, but it was an impressive natural spectacle.
I have rarely laughed as much as I did on this Maldives trip. Nigel and I would spur each other on and generally joke around, but as always he would get serious when it came to taking pictures.
One evening, while enjoying a sundowner on deck, he instilled in me a lesson he had learnt from one of his peers: “Get the shots, then relax.”
Wise words, because you can never be sure what the sea will be like tomorrow.
Our guides Monica, Asia and Margherita would ask what we wanted to see and, as if by magic, would deliver. They were not only very experienced divers and superb guides but turned out to be very good underwater models.
This is not as easy a job as it might sound but they were like bees to honey when Nigel was in charge of the camera.
Ever the professional, Nigel had had a picture in his mind of a particular shot he wanted long before we arrived in the Maldives. The subject was a whale shark, and although he knew it would not be easy to get, he had been imagining methods of how he might make it work. Of course, all this depended on a whale shark obliging us with its presence.
One night, we were blessed. Before you could say “look!” Nigel had disappeared into his cabin and re-emerged, camera in hand, in his white swim-shorts.
What ensued was among my funniest memories of the trip. Nigel donned his fins and got in. Now as a diver he was very experienced and extremely accomplished, but his snorkelling skills were something to behold.
Picture a white marker buoy being held below the surface and then released – that was Nigel. He’d dive, camera primed, and a few seconds later would break the surface, bottom-first and gasping for air.
The whole boat was in hysterics at the spectacle. It’s a memory I can’t get out of my mind, and always makes me smile.
The last laugh was his, however.
He didn’t get the shot he wanted, but nonetheless he obtained some stunning images, and was delighted with them.