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Underwater ballet in the Maldives


on – We were in a pristine white speedboat that had halted a short distance from the protected Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll, Maldives. Baa Atoll is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, an area teeming with marine life including manta ray aggregations and migratory whale sharks.

We were getting ready to jump into the vast, unknown ocean. Even with a life vest, the fear was paralyzing.

For all practical purposes, I think of myself as a non-swimmer. But I couldn’t imagine coming all the way to the Maldives and not swimming with the magnificent mantas. With the assurance of the resort swim guide, I took a deep breath and jumped in. I adjusted my snorkelling gear and looked into the ocean below me. My eyes took a few seconds to get used to the depth. I began to see the dark shape of a cleaning station on the seabed. (A cleaning station is usually a coral patch where mantas aggregate to be cleaned by smaller fish.)

THEN, from the corner of my eye, I spotted a graceful, winged motion. For a brief second, it took me back to the many nights I had spent watching manta rays in a Nat Geo documentary.

Soon, they were all around us!

Manta ray - Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll, Maldives

Carpet-sized mantas glided effortlessly, in what can only be described as a magical, underwater ballet. Deafening silence underwater yet they seemed like they were in sync with a beautiful, classical music piece. Very other-worldly!

A friendly manta that passed from below me

Making eye contact with a passing manta

My fear had completely vanished as I watched the elegant mantas do their feeding dance.

Chain feeding pattern of the mantas

Mantas are filter feeders. They consume huge amounts of water to get to the planktons they need for their nourishment. Simply put, they are harmless to humans. In fact, they are known for their friendly and curious personalities. Individual mantas are identified by their underbelly markings and spots.

Underbelly markings are used to identify mantas

The marine biologists have assigned cute names to the mantas they see on a regular basis like Bubbles or Squirt or Dipstick 🙂

Manta rays have one of the highest brain to body mass ratios of all underwater creatures. And their intelligence was quite apparent. They would swim right at me and then deflect just in time to swim by or under me.

A feeding manta headed straight in my direction

Goodbye my manta friend!

When I got back to the boat, I was in a trance. The interaction with these gentle giants was mesmerizing and my appreciation for them had grown exponentially.

On this blog, I rarely mention all the beautiful hotels and resorts we stay at, unless there is something really, REALLY special about the place. But our trip to the Maldives happened only because of the Four Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru, supporter of one of the largest manta ray programs in the world. It also offers its guests one-of-a-kind activities like ‘Manta scientist for a day’. And that for us, was the deciding factor.

Kudos to the Maldivian government for actively protecting Hanifaru Bay, by limiting the number of boats visiting at any given time. It has also banned diving in the bay. Only snorkelling is allowed.

A big thank you to the Recreation Centre staff and marine biologists at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Guy Stevens (manta scientist and conservationist extraordinaire), the Manta Trust and the Maldivian Manta Ray Project, for all the amazing work you do with the mantas and to protect the ocean.  Thank you for the most spectacular experience of our life! Nothing will ever match up to the pure, unadulterated, almost child-like joy of swimming with the playful mantas in their natural habitat. Unless, the next time, we get to swim with a whale shark 😉

Till then, dhanee my dear friends. We’ll surely be back for more quality time with the Maldivian mantas.

This blog is written by Anne Pinto Rodrigues. Anne describes herself as a nature lover, art enthusiast, accidental gardener, polyglot, but to travel and explore new cultures has been a passion. She have been very fortunate to live this dream in her various travels for study, work and pleasure. You can read more from No Roads Barred!


Umair Badheeu sets new, national freediving record at AIDA Philippines National Championship



Maldivian freediver Umair Badheeu has achieved a new national record with a dive to a depth of 62 meters in the bi-fin category. His accomplishment was made possible with the support of Kaimoo Resorts and Hotels, a key sponsor and advocate for Umair’s pursuit of excellence in freediving.

Competing among 14 international participants, Umair’s performance not only secured a new national record but also surpassed his previous bi-fin category record of 60 meters by a margin of two meters.

Reflecting on the challenges of transitioning from his training in Egypt to competing in the Philippines, Umair said: “Adapting to reduced buoyancy due to warmer waters and encountering jellyfish were part of the new environment.”

This marks the third national record Umair has achieved. He previously set two national records of 62 and 64 meters in the free immersion category of free diving at the Andrea Zuccari World Cup held in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt in October. Free immersion freediving is a discipline that requires divers to descend and ascend pulling a rope.

Umair’s switch from training in free immersion in Egypt to the bi-fin category for this tournament demonstrated his adaptability: “It felt like shifting gears, utilising distinct techniques, and returning to a more familiar discipline. This dive marks a confident depth for me, focusing not just on depth but also on refining dive times for a more enjoyable experience,” he remarked.

“Kaimoo’s support has been instrumental, offering me the freedom to train. This support has allowed me to focus on honing my skills and achieving new heights in my freediving,” Umair added.

“Umair’s third record-breaking dive this year is a testament to his exceptional skill and determination. Kaimoo is thrilled to continue supporting Umair’s journey in the world of freediving. His achievements inspire us, and we congratulate him on this impressive feat, looking for-ward to his continued success,” said Mohamed Manih Ahmed, Kaimoo’s Managing Director.

With this record-breaking achievement, Umair now looks forward to a period of rest before gearing up for the upcoming freediving season.

Kaimoo Resorts and Hotels is a leading tourism company in the Maldives that manages five properties across the country. In addition to Embudu Village and Summer Island Maldives, Kaimoo also operates Equator Village in Addu Atoll, and the Mookai Hotel and Mookai Suites in Male’.

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Kuramathi Maldives and Rasdhoo Divers dive into adventure with speciality courses



Kuramathi Maldives, in collaboration with Rasdhoo Divers, is elevating the underwater experience by offering a captivating range of Dive Speciality Courses, tailored for both novices and seasoned divers alike. These courses go beyond the ordinary, immersing participants in topics such as Perfect Buoyancy, Wave, Tides and Currents, Turtle Ecology, Manta Ecology, Marine Ecology, Deep Diver Speciality, and Enriched Air Nitrox Speciality.

Perfect Buoyancy: Master the art of achieving and maintaining perfect buoyancy underwater, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable diving experience.

Wave, Tides, and Currents: Dive enthusiasts can now confidently navigate ocean dynamics, enhancing their skills in diverse underwater conditions.

Turtle Ecology: Gain insights into the captivating world of sea turtles, understanding their behavior, and contributing to their conservation.

Manta Ecology: Delve into the mysterious realm of majestic mantas, exploring their habitat, behavior, and the crucial role they play in marine ecosystems.

Marine Ecology: Discover the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and learn how divers can contribute to their preservation through responsible and sustainable practices.

Deep Diver Speciality: Embark on a thrilling adventure below 18 meters, gaining advanced skills for deep-sea exploration and mastering safe diving techniques and pressure management.

Enriched Air Nitrox Speciality: Unlock the secrets of the deep with Nitrox, ensuring safer and longer dives. Enhance your dive planning, elevate safety, and indulge in extended reef adventures.

These Dive Speciality Courses at Kuramathi Maldives are designed not only to enhance participants’ diving skills but also to instill a sense of environmental awareness and responsibility. As custodians of the pristine underwater environment, Kuramathi Maldives is committed to nurturing a community of conscientious divers dedicated to appreciating and protecting delicate marine ecosystems.

Led by certified dive instructors from Rasdhoo Divers Kuramathi, these courses provide a safe and enjoyable learning experience. Whether you are a beginner eager to explore the underwater wonders or an experienced diver looking to expand your knowledge, Kuramathi Maldives invites you to embark on a journey of discovery beneath the azure waves.

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Sun Siyam Iru Fushi welcomes marine biologist Caitlin Rentell to lead sustainable marine conservation initiatives



Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Maldives has welcomed Caitlin Rentell, a talented and passionate marine biologist, to their team. Caitlin brings her expertise and dedication to the forefront of marine conservation efforts, focusing on critical initiatives to protect the pristine marine ecosystems of the Maldives. With her arrival, Sun Siyam Iru Fushi is enhancing its commitment to preserving the enchanting waters of this tropical paradise.

Caitlin’s primary responsibilities at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi will include spearheading coral restoration efforts, engaging with guests and island team members in educational outreach programs, creating activities for the younger guest of the resort with the Koamas Kids Club team to raise awareness about marine life conservation, and fostering eco-tourism initiatives through collaborations with NGO and other local islands. Her work will make a significant contribution to strengthening the reef ecosystem, ultimately improving the region’s overall ecological health. These initiatives will also serve as an invaluable resource for educational purposes, allowing guests to learn and appreciate the Maldives’ unique marine environment.

UK National, Caitlin Rentell, holds a degree in Marine Biology from the prestigious University of Plymouth, United Kingdom, and has dedicated her academic career to understanding the anthropogenic impacts on our precious marine environment, particularly focusing on the menace of plastic pollution. Throughout her studies, Caitlin developed a profound understanding of the challenges facing our oceans and the urgent need for action.

After completing her degree, Caitlin ventured to the Maldives and joined a sea turtle rehabilitation NGO located on a local island in the Lhaviyani Atoll. During her time working with the NGO, she gained invaluable experience in coral restoration and community outreach. She actively engaged with the local community to address pressing issues such as waste disposal, all while educating future generations about the importance of preserving the ocean and its unique ecosystems.

Caitlin’s passion for marine conservation and her commitment to involving local communities align perfectly with Sun Siyam Iru Fushi’s sustainable values and dedication to preserving the Maldives’ remarkable marine heritage.

“Sun Siyam Iru Fushi is excited to welcome Caitlin Rentell to our team, and we are all looking forward to her leadership in the pursuit of sustainable marine conservation initiatives,” said Abdulla Atham, Resort Manager at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi. “With her dedication and expertise, the resort reaffirms its commitment to environmental stewardship and the preservation of the Maldives’ natural beauty.”

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