In this article, guest blogger Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler continues her run-down of her top 3 dives in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Missed Part 1? Read it here.
Dive Site: Ari Atoll
Depth: 0 – 30 meters
I was lucky enough to celebrate my 30th birthday on a liveaboard in the Maldives. Four dives a day, in a location that is all about diving, was a dream come true. If I had to choose one dive that has stuck with me however, it has to be the whale shark encounter that I had in the Gaafu Atolls.
Strong currents are something that I am not used to (I come from a Mediterranean environment which is notorious for its calm, clear waters) and this trip was my first use of a reef hook. The current was particularly strong on this dive; my brother and I made a quick, negative entry and headed straight down to 20 meters – as we had been briefed to do beforehand. The plankton-rich waters were teeming with life, the cleaning stations were prominent and the dive group was experienced. This meant that the conditions were perfect for a very close encounter indeed.
The maldives are world-renowned for crystal clear waters and stunning marine life
Our dive guide must have been psychic. No sooner than the 10 of us making the dive had tucked ourselves away, a whale shark with an adolescent pup came into view. She was enormous. She was gentle and glorious. She was here for a cleaning and my brother and I were just meters away. I could have reached out and touched her if I had wanted to (I didn’t of course).
After 10 minutes the other divers started getting fidgety, but I didn’t want to move. I looked at my brother and could see that he had no intention of moving either. I signaled to the dive guide that we would stay, and that we would end the dive when either of us became lower on air with the safety of my DSMB, and that they should continue their dive. They signaled “OK”, released their hooks, and were a distant spec within minutes.
We stayed there for almost an hour. The whale shark was cleaned and we watched every second of it.
Whale sharks are regular visitors to the Maldivian atolls
This dive stays with me forever. I felt like I was on a conveyor belt of wonder, that my brother and I were the last two humans on earth and we had front row seats to all the action. I have seen whale sharks before, but this was the dive of a lifetime…. and that’s why it has made my top 3!
If you’ve enjoyed this article, watch this space for Part 3!
Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler is a PADI Dive Center owner in Agia Napa, Cyprus. She became a diver in 1992 and received her bachelor’s degree in Oceanography at Plymouth University in 2003. Her love of the ocean has always been her driving force, and this has led to the natural progression of becoming a diving instructor in 2005. She is currently a PADI staff instructor and owner of Scuba Monkey Ltd and is writing a series of guest blogs for PADI Europe, Middle East and Africa.