Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Tag / manta ray

This is a follow up post to the 2013 Maldives trip, while the previous post detailed the liveaboard trip in its entirety, I want to share the dive log and some underwater photos in this post.

Photos are taken with Olympus E-PL3 & PT-EP05L underwater housing, I use an Inon UWL 100 & dome port for wide angle shots, and the Inon UCL 165 close up lens for the few macro photos.

Lighting is supplemented with a couple Sea & Sea YS-D1 from my buddy Terence, control wasn’t the best since I’m still getting used to the set up. I gotta be more patient in trying out different settings, but alas, when the underwater world is so beautiful, sometimes you just want to enjoy the moment.

the Choo family & Cherish, posing with a turtle at Fish Head
Joshua, Aileen & Cherish, posing with a turtle at Fish Head

We logged 17 dives over 6 days of diving, and got to see basically everything except manta rays at cleaning stations, but the sharks, tuna, whale shark, marble rays, beautiful seascape, and wonderful company more than made up for it.

Here’s hoping we will visit this paradise of a country again in not so distant future.

guitar shark found at 38 meters at "Fish Head"
guitar shark found at 38 meters at “Fish Head”

Day 1
Dive 1:
Check out dive.
One diver shot up from 20m with mask and regulator off, luckily proper CESA observed
Saw two black tip around 5-6′
Titan trigger non aggressive
School red tooth trigger fish
A very big morey eel
Parrot fish

Dive 2:
Night dive 9pm+
Site: fesdu lagoon
Set up lights on boat and dhony to attract mantas.
Went down and visibility was not too great due to sand kick up
Manta came close few times, magical
65 mins
During safety stop Manta feeding under lights. Shot a short video
The same diver cut the dive short, still recovering from first dive’s emergency ascent

school of fish at Lily's Manta Point
school of fish at Lily’s Manta Point

a customary picture of nemo
a customary picture of nemo

played with the cleaner wrasses a little at Broken Rock, day 4
played with the cleaner wrasses a little at Broken Rock, day 4

Day 2
Dive 3:
Site: fish head
Guitar shark at 38.5 meter.
Saw some 6 footer gray sharks
Giant morey eel swimming out of hiding place too
Plenty of fish, coral
Medium current, maybe a tad too deep at guitar shark area, luckily monitored and did not go into deco
Alan and Nicole came up late due to deco
The diver who had problem on the first day had a good dive, that’s great

Dive 4:
Before lunch
Second dive at Lily’s Manta point
Didn’t manage to spot any Manta this time
Close to 20m and we found a spot on Sandy bottom waiting for Manta, did not happen
Ended up playing a bit and taking pics at the nearby reefs

Dive 5:
Afternoon dive
Same site at Lily’s Manta point
No Manta this dive either, nice leisure dive
Puffer fish, coral fish, played with the sand and fishes taking advantage pecking the debris

day 3 - swimming with whale shark
day 3 – swimming with whale shark

Kudimaa wreck, I always love the ambiance of a wreck dive
Kudimaa wreck, I always love the ambiance of a wreck dive

Day 3
Dive 6:
Kuradah Thila
Plenty of reef fish, huge garupa too
Nice seascape, Nemo too
Saw a Manta while on Dhoni

Dive 7:
Second dive
South of ali atoll
Site: manigili
Trying to spot whale shark
We Snorkeled with the baby wheel shark first, was fun at first then it got too crowded
Some other group didn’t play nice and cut through front, blah
Still the whale shark was majestic!
Diving later was non eventful except the whale shark for the first minute.
Too much current swaying us left and right so we went up after about 40m

Dive 8:
Third dive of the day
Kudimaa wreck
Beautiful wreck, we went inside a little bit too
Didn’t put my flash trigger securely so no flash available
Big school of bat fish, very bold and curious

Night time Manta! Two came to the boat and we snorkel with them, took some pics. Very graceful and magical, better than whale shark I think

manta visited us again on the 3rd night, majestic creature
manta visited us again on the 3rd night, majestic creature

a moray eel scheming something against Caely, at Broken Rock
a moray eel scheming something against Caely, at Broken Rock

caught Nicole framing these pair of butterfly fish
caught Nicole framing these pair of butterfly fish

Day 4
Dive 9:
Site: broken rock
Nice leisure dive, Joshua having a bit of problem descending, tried helping but didn’t manage cos I didn’t carry weight
Saw a pair of yellow batfish, nice pic opportunity
Morey swimming outside too

Dive 10:
Site: vashu giri kandu
Deep and with quite a bit of current
Saw napoleon wrasse, sharks, and eagle ray
Hanging on the side wall to fight off current
Almost deco at 3-4 mins for a while
One of the more challenging dive sites

Dive 11:
Night dive
Alimatha jetty
One of the more exciting dives
We had some sardin in a milo tin and lots of nurse sharks came
Got very close to them too
A few knocked me and the camera pretty solid
Giant trivoli were huge, almost 2 feet in length and very bold
Huge marble Rays too
Haze was petrified underwater, didn’t know nurse sharks don’t bite
Awesome dive even tho it was very shallow at about 5-8 meters only

diving with nurse sharks at Alimatha Jetty, thrilling experience
diving with nurse sharks at Alimatha Jetty, thrilling experience

huge marble ray among the sharks
huge marble ray among the sharks

Day 5
Dive 12:
Site: miyaru kandu (means channel)
Black tip, napoleon wrasse and a honeycomb eel.
Others saw a school of black tip at deeper end too
Quite deep, less exciting dive especially after last night

Dive 13:
Site: kandoona
Pretty deep dive, hit deco for about a minute strong current and we just hang on the rocks, looking at quite a few gray reef sharks just chilling at the channel, kinda like f1 car in wind tunnel
A few Napoleon wrasse too
35 meter

Dive 14:
Site: vilivaru giri
Lots of reef fish, a few types of trigger
Trying to take a photo of a pair of pipe fish but an unsuspecting morey bit attacked the strobe
Saw a turtle too
Quite a lot of clown fish too
Beautiful corals, including table coral
Brown ribbon eel
Others saw octopus too

spotted this beautiful jellyfish at "Sunlight" dive site
spotted this beautiful jellyfish at “Sunlight” dive site, day 5

beautiful seascape at "Sunlight"
beautiful seascape at “Sunlight”

plenty of these small critters at Miyaru Kandu, day 4
plenty of these small critters at Miyaru Kandu, day 4

say cheese, Mr. Turtle of Miyaru Kandu dive site
say cheese, Mr. Turtle of Miyaru Kandu dive site

Day 6Dive 15:
Site: sunlight
No Manta
Played with sand again
Saw a tiny little flounder which was very cute
The two coral blocks had some jewel garupa, Nemo etc
Saw a pretty good size jelly fish on the way up too

Dive 16:
Dive site: Lankan reef
Saw a tuna for the first time. A bit far away so can’t get any pics.
It was some 10-20m from a shark that everyone was checking out
No Manta sightings tho
Reef fish aplenty, pipe fish too
Dive 17:
Dive site: Lankan reef
Another try for Manta but yet again no luck
Saw a shark, turtle, yellow pipe fish and other reef fish
A more relaxing end as the last dive of our trip
It was well worth it, we got to see eventing we could hope for. Not seeing Manta at cleaning station is alright.

Haze & yours truly, signing off
Haze & yours truly, signing off 

We went to Maldives for a holiday of sun, sea, and plenty of fun in the beginning of October 2013. This was the second dive trip of the year, the first was Anilao at the Philippines in January.

Two international trips in the same year, I can’t really ask for more. Anilao was mainly for macro (small creatures), while Maldives is famous for its’ awesome big marine animals. Perfect.

This post is about being on the cruise and the entire trip, there will be other entries with underwater photos detailing the dive sites and diving experiences.

map of Maldives

For those who aren’t familiar with this paradise of a country, Maldives is located in the Indian ocean, about 400 kilometers south-west of India.

We took the Malaysian Airline flight that goes straight from KLIA to MLE. The airfare cost a little over RM 1,000 all inclusive. This was a promotional price, usual fare goes for around RM 1.6k.

Luggage weight limit is 30kg, but showing your dive card gets you another 10kg if you’re traveling to a dive destination. Air Asia also flies to Maldives now (via Columbo).

the airport at Male, Maldives
the airport at Male, Maldives

The flight to MALE took about 4 hours and we touched down just passed 10pm.

The airport is built on Hulhulé Island and while you can see the capital of Maldives – Male, the two islands are not connected to each other.

crystal clear water right outside the airport
crystal clear water right outside the airport

Hence, instead of lines of buses and cabs, you have ferries and plenty of private boats picking up travellers.

Right from the get go, we were already impressed. By the airport there were crystal clear water, coconut trees, and gentle cool breeze. We knew that it was going to be a good holiday.

Before getting off the airport, we bought a local SIM card for data services. 22 USD gets you the “unlimited” data package that lasts a month, though unlimited really means 5 gigabytes worth of data before you get throttled.

Data coverage is surprisingly good, albeit the relatively slow speed.

plenty of liveaboard cruise ships parked near Male
plenty of liveaboard cruise ships parked near Male

We were transferred to Handy Cruise via a Dhoni, a multipurpose sailboat that’s equipped with a motor used in Maldvies. The Dhoni also serves as the boat that we used for diving, as well as a rescue boat in emergency situations.

Having a separate boat for diving ensures that the main boat that we spend most of our time in is always dry and clean.

aboard on Handy Cruise, where we spent the next 6 nights
aboard on Handy Cruise, where we spent the next 6 nights

The Handy Cruise is a pretty fine liveaboard boat, there’s a sun deck on top, followed by 5 cabins on first floor (two of which has built in jacuzzi), with access to front and rear of the boat. The entertainment area (with TV and sound system), dining room, kitchen, and the bar is on the main deck. There are five more cabins on the lower deck as well.

There’s a charging station for cameras & phones on the common area, and each room is also equipped with air conditioning with attached bathroom and hot shower. I’d say it is equivalent to a 3-4 star hotel.

light attracts planktons, which attract the beautiful manta rays
light attracts planktons, which attract the beautiful manta rays

We logged 17 dives in 6 days, with the seventh day spent clearing nitrogen out of our body before flying home. As mentioned earlier, posts on diving will follow.

For two nights, the crews set up strong halogen lights at the rear of the boat. This attracts planktons and small fishes, which in turn attracts manta rays that feeds on planktons.

There was a single manta ray on the 2nd night of the trip, and two more that visited us on the 4th night. These magnificent creatures were some 6-8 feet across their wingspan, gracefully gliding through the water and doing back flips just beneath the surface as they feed.

Beautiful beautiful fish, and no, you can’t have it for ikan bakar.

we parked near Machchafushi island on the 4th night
on the ocean, you get beautiful sunset everyday

The cool thing about living on the ocean, or really anywhere around Maldvies is that you get beautiful sunsets every single day. There are no tall buildings or hills obstructing the view. It was magical.

Of course, if you’re an early riser, there’s sunrise as well, but who can wake up for that?

on the ocean, you get beautiful sunset everyday
we parked near Machchafushi island on the 4th night 

We cruised passed many small islands with beautiful resorts on them. The views are worthy of wallpapers and postcards. The photo above shows the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa on the Machchafushi island, South Ari Atoll. Spending a night there cost something like RM 1,700.

We paid less than half of that per day, including, diving, food, board, and tips.

dolphins came by and played a bit in front of our boat
dolphins came by and played a bit in front of our boat

We were also extremely lucky. On the way crossing from South Ari Atoll to Maadhoo, we spotted a pod of dolphins. A few of them actually came and ride the wake of our boat for a couple minutes, it was the closets I’ve been to wild dolphins. You gotta be there to appreciate the moment.

food on board was not bad, we had sashimi for a few days after they caught this sailfish
food on board was not bad, we had sashimi for a few days after they caught this sailfish

Food on Handy Cruise is pretty good too.

While we’re diving, the boatmen sometimes go fishing (at non-reserve areas, of course), and they actually managed to net a 7 foot long sailfish on the 4th day of the trip. We dined on delicious sailfish sashimi for the next 3 days, cooked sailfish filet wasn’t nearly as tasty though.

Maldivian food is not very different from Indian cuisine, their dal is creamier, there’s plenty of seafood, and the meat of choice is usually chicken and the occasional beef. Since it is an Islamic country, everything is halal too.

Oh, the papaya from Maldives is also a lot juicier and sweeter than our Malaysian counterpart.

we stopped by Maadhoo island, beautiful place
we stopped by Maadhoo island, beautiful place

On the penultimate night of our stay, we stopped by Maadhoo Finolhu, also known as the picnic island.

The long and slender island with white sandy beach on boat sides is used for nothing but to host picnics and bbq parties. This was the first time we got off the ocean after 5 days. You do get a little bit of “land sick” after spending so much time getting used to gently rocking on the boat.

BBQ party at Maadhoo island on the 5th night of the trip
BBQ party at Maadhoo island on the 5th night of the trip

The BBQ party was awesome, instead of a sand castle, we had a sand whale shark. The crew even set up disco lights and sound system. Good food, great company, and we danced through the night.

Stepping on the beach along the water line excites the bio-luminescent creatures to generate lights, it was like tiny dots of stars on the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I think Michael Jackson must have gotten his inspiration for the Billy Jean music video from this.

On the last day, we spent a few hours on Male, the most populated island
On the last day, we spent a few hours on Male, the most populated island

On the last day of the trip, we got to spend a few hours on Male, the most populated island in Maldives with some 100k inhabitants.

The island is less than 6 square kilometers, with majority of traffic comprises of motorcycles traveling at maybe 15-20 KM/h. We visited the fish market and witness a master carving up a huge yellow fin tuna in just some 5 minutes, bought some souvenirs from the local gift shops, and spent some time at the fruits and vegetable market too.

By nightfall on the 7th and the last day of the trip, it was time to go. We reluctantly bid goodbye to the excellent crews on the Handy Cruise and left for the airport on the Dhoni.

It was an excellent trip and one that I hope I’ll be able to repeat in due time.

One of the most important item on our itinerary for Bali is scuba diving. Bali is one of the few places in this part of the world where there is almost a guarantee that you’ll dive with the otherwise very elusive Manta Rays, and there’s also a good chance in spotting the biggest bony fish in the world – the weird and wonderful Mola Mola, also known as Sun Fish.

leaving from Sanur to Nusa Penida
the beach at Sanur before heading to Nusa Penida

Prior to the trip, I did some research on the various dive centres at Bali (and there were a lot of them) and arrived at no conclusion, so I asked Edvin for suggestion and Bali Scuba was recommended, it turned out to be a good one, so thanks buddy!

Diving at Nusa Penida
the three dive sites at Nusa Penida that we went to

There are many dive sites in Bali offering very different diving experiences. There’s the USS Liberty wreck at Tulamben, white tip sharks that is common at Gili island, muck diving for macro photography at Seraya, and more.

However, since my goal was to see Manta Rays and Mola Mola, I chose Nusa Penida as my destination.

boat transfer from Sanur to Nusa Penida
Bali Scuba is located at Sanur

The dive center charges US $145 for three boat dives at Nusa Penida, and the package comes with hotel transfer, drinks, and a lunch served on the speed boat. Equipment can be rented at extra charge, and extra wet suit is recommended (5mm wet suit rented at $5).

To tag on for snorkeling only, the fee was US $50, Haze does not dive yet, so she went aboard for a snorkeling trip, that was the initial plan anyway.

manta ray at Manta Point, Nusa Penida
abundance of manta rays at Manta Point

We left Sanur at around 9 in the morning and our first dive was at the famous Manta Point, located at the Southern part of the island.

Even before jumping into the water, there were already sightings of those gentle giants swimming close to the surface.

2 mantas in a mating dance
2 mantas in a mating dance

I was wearing the rental 5 mm wet suit for the dive, and spent over 40 minutes in the water that was 22-23 Celsius. A bit too cold for me, but bearable, a hood and extra thermal guard would probably be a good idea.

My previous coldest diving temperature was at Aquaria KLCC, but 22-23 Celsius is a big difference with 24-25 Celsius.

the graceful devil ray
the graceful devil ray

The dive though, was definitely worth it. While the water at Manta Point wasn’t particularly clear and there were even debris (some banana leaves, plastic wrappers and such from offerings made by boatmen), the sight of these huge fish was amazing.

There were probably over a dozen mantas at the site and some were doing their mating dance too. A fantastic dive for sure.

mola mola at Crystal Point, Nusa Penida
mola mola: hello, diver: say cheese!

The second dive was at Crystal Point to hunt for the elusive Mola Mola.

The dive master said it’ll be cold on this dive, so I put on two wet suits this time (Haze has already abandoned snorkeling after being shocked by the 23 C water temperature at first site), but it was not nearly enough for the 17 Celsius water temperature at this site.

It was FREEZING! It was so cold I think I’d need at least a thermal layer, 2 wet suits, gloves, hood, and probably socks too.

But we saw two mola mola, so it was definitely worth it. I only managed to take four photos in the 20+ minutes we were underwater. I was shaking too much to operate the camera, basically.

Other than the temperature, the current at Crystal Point is also something to be reckoned with. There is sometimes a down current that can pull inexperience divers towards the deep slope, you need to always stay close to the coral & dive master and monitor depth constantly. A Japanese diver with another group was seen being pulled by the current while we were doing our safety stop and our DM had to help him out.

Crystal Point is definitely only suitable for those who have a bit more experience in diving.

underwater seascape at North Shore
underwater seascape at North Coast, Nusa Penida

We had lunch on the boat, took a bit of rest and then moved to the 3rd dive site of the day. This time at the much warmer North Coast of Nusa Penida. The operator usually would have a repeat at Crystal Point as third dive if you don’t spot any mola mola on first attempt.

North Coast offers drift diving opportunity, and after the two very cold water, I was happy we agreed to do something relaxing for the final dive.

then we meet another mola mola at 37 meter
then we meet another mola mola at 37 meter

And as luck would have it, we met another mola mola at this site. The dive master did mention that while there is a chance to see the sun fish here, it is exceedingly rare, we were very lucky.

The photo taken here turned out to be almost exactly the same as the one from previous site, and I think a couple of us accidentally went a little too deep chasing mola at 37 meter.

scorpion fish at north coast, nusa penida
hey look, a scorpion fish

After the encounter with the sunfish (lasted but a few minutes), the remaining dive was a more leisure and less interesting affair. There were scorpion fish, moray eel, and more coral fish. We finished the day after 40+ minutes underwater.

It was tiring, and definitely a very rewarding day diving at Nusa Penida.

Haze and I are in the midst of a 5 day trip to Bali and I scheduled in a day for diving with Bali Scuba. We did 3 dives today and it was beyond awesome, I came here with a purpose and got what I bargained for.

This majestic manta was shot at none other than the famed Manta Point dive site at Nusa Penida just earlier today.

manta ray at nusa penida

More on diving at Bali later and the whole travel experience for sure. 😀