SCUBA DIVING AND UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHY SAFARI - HAA ALIFU ATOLL / MALDIVES
Spending 15 days on Maldives is every divers dream. Needless to say that for those diver who practise underwater photography words become unnecessary, and the dream becomes reality. After a few of my trips to Maldives I needed to find something different and more unique. My team Sebastian Diving Center this time chose totally unusual location - Far North Haa Alifu Atoll. Escaping to the Maldives atolls in the far north rewards you with serenity on your dives since, unlike other areas of the Maldives, you are unlikely to see another liveaboard during your entire cruise.
The image of the Maldives fixed in most visitors' memories is an aerial view of an open ocean interspersed by tiny islands surrounded by beautifully patterned lagoons, beaches and reefs.
The amount of land that lies above sea level in the Maldives represents only a tiny fraction of the country's overall land mass, most of which lies below sea level. The islands of the Maldives are the visible coral tips of an oceanic volcanic mountain range whose outer edge at some points plunge to depths of over 3000m. Deep channels separate 26 atolls that run from Haa Alifu in the North over 800 nautical km to Addu atoll in the South.
The relative isolation of the Maldives, far from any landmass, has led to a fabulous variety of marine species. Seasonal oceanic currents flowing through the country have forged channels from the open ocean in to all the atolls. These channels, or Kandu in Dhivehi, concentrate plankton rich waters into and out off the atolls, which in turn support an incredibly rich marine ecosystem. Once inside the atoll, reefs, sandbars, islands and lagoons have evolved over millennia forming the habitat and nurseries for many of the reefs inhabitants.
Far North Haa Alifu Atoll Haa Alifu is the most northerly atoll in the Maldives. There is a sizeable local population in the atoll but virtually no tourism development. MY Amba is the first liveaboard to the atoll offering a mix of dives on charted dive sites alongside truly original exploratory diving. Access to the atoll is via Male and involves an internal sea plane flight to Hanimadhoo airport. Main Manta season in this area is September and October for the best sightings, but nearly every week there are Mantas on some of the dive sites. Whalesharks in this are very rarely spotted.
MY Amba operate in Haa-Alifu, the most northerly of the Maldivian atolls. The build of boat with its deep keel and weight makes it a very comfortable vessel, covering quiet, remote dive sites over the 24 unpopulated and 14 inhabited islands of the region.
The wooden 33-meter long motor yacht, Amba, has been specializing in taking guests diving since 2004. Amba was a pioneer of diving in the most northern atolls of the Maldives - Haa Alifu and Haa-dhal, on 6-8 day cruises, always beginning and ending in Hanimadhuu.
Diving is done from a special boat called a Dhoni, which stores all of the diving equipment during the entire cruise. As well as the yacht has 6-foot dive boat to accompany guests on dives and beach excursions.
The marine life also seems to revel in the minimal interference from humans with flourishing hard coral growth over most of the submerged boulders. Soft corals do well on the sides of the boulders protected from often strong currents.
The sea creatures thrive in the nutrient-rich waters bringing in the reef predators: white and black tip reef sharks. Large numbers of manta rays and leopard sharks populate many of the dive sites in the far north.
Underwater life that can be found on Maldives in the depths of Indian Ocean is most definetelly something unique and special for every scuba diver, but also for those who don't dive. For me this trip will remain as a special memory because it was the first test of my new Subal underwater housing for Nikon D4 which after a few dives explaines why the Subal is the world leader on the market of underwater housings.