NOT ALL THE BIG setpiece dives were unqualified successes in terms of meeting objectives. Hukurudhoo Faru to the west was all about peering into the blue during a mild drift along the top of a rubbly wall.
A faru has reef extending above the surface, and this one is known to attract manta rays when conditions are right.
Whitetips patrolled the margin, a Napoleon trundled past one way and an eagle ray the other, but none of them was remotely close to us, and there was no hint of mantas.
The currents weren’t playing ball, although as usual there was plenty of smaller reef-life to keep us entertained.
We tried to focus on the big stuff to the west of the atoll again on my last day.
This was at Huruelhi Kandhu, a channel connecting ocean and inner atoll.
Our group of six, hoping to be first to the action, took a longish swim against a modicum of current to reach a popular sighting point where the channel narrowed, but it was all too easy in terms of water-flow, so the hoped-for Sharknado failed to materialise.
We had been teased by a patrolling grey reef shark and a whitetip going our way along the wall, followed by some eagle rays and then a distant Napoleon – but they were all passing trains in the distance.
The star of the show was a sting ray that slipped beneath one of our number without him noticing and stayed there, to our amusement, like his shadow on the sand.
My final dives were particularly memorable. On Mirihi Thila you can root around under the deeper overhangs and spiral up slowly to explore the very lively top. Almost every familiar species seemed to be represented there, like some sort of Noah’s Submarine – I won’t list them, you could just look at one of those Maldives fish-cards – but I was particularly taken on this occasion by an amorous pair of peacock grouper.
Afternoon tryst for a pair of peacock grouper.
It’s a beautiful fish, is Cephalopholis argus, with its blue/olive colouring and stars & stripes markings. The patriarchal male likes to keep harems of up to half a dozen females scattered around his coral-head territory. He hunts morning and evening, but during the day finds time to visit each of his concubines.
The female sees him coming, grows pale presumably with excitement and comes to meet him for a catch-up.
Both fish, dorsal fins erect, then spend quality time nudging up against one another. The daily ritual is worth watching – as, I’m told, are male-on-male peacock grouper “colour fights”.