A week of whale sharks…

Its the first rainy day today so our dive trip got cancelled. (Programme Perk: Dive trips are REALLY cheap if you’re on the programme. 17USD PER DIVE all gear inclusive) so instead we’re doing laundry and surfing the net.

Not every day is sunny in paradise
Not every day is sunny in paradise

From my point of view, I find that life on the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme has been hectic or totally calm. We spend hours just searching along the shorelines of the Southern Ari Atoll looking for marine giants, just standing idly on top of the boat.

Everyone up top looking for sharks
Everyone up top looking for sharks

But as soon as a shark is spotted the whole crew springs to life. People fin up and dive in with cameras, you have the boat captain steering us closer while fighting the tides, the spotter yelling out directions to captain and divers, and someone recording data before jumping in as well. Its total organised chaos.

Surrounding the shark and getting into position to take photos and measurements
Here’s the team surrounding the shark and getting into position to take photos and measurements

But I’d have to say the experience is amazing and some neat photos come out of it too =D

Anna, the shark and a trevally
Anna, Stephan the shark and a over protective trevally

After the first week I can honestly say I’m exhausted, happy and still excited for our next trip out. Given Anna’s comprehensive post I’ll just post some highlights that have stood out for me.

Mornings

Every morning we take the Dhoni out from Mandhoo to Rangali and for a short 30 minutes its a peaceful ride where you can chat to others or lie down and relax.

Chilling in our morning ride on the dhoni
Chilling in our morning ride on the dhoni

Always wear sunscreen…

But its not all fun times now I’m brown, burnt, covered in a rash and have a blistered lip. Also I look like I’ve been wearing a super hero mask in the sun.

I don't sunscreen my lips because I don't like the taste.
I don’t sunscreen my lips because I don’t like the taste.

Sleep

We spend most of our time in the dorms. Though mostly asleep as we’re so tired. Its simple rooms but its clean. Plus nobody snores so that’s a plus.

Simple lodgings
Simple lodgings

Food

Admittedly the food can get a bit repetitive. There is no shortage of rice prata and tuna curries for each of your main meals. And though I don’t mind the taste of it I am getting a little tired of seeing them. So on Friday when second breakfast came around I was in for an awesome surprise.  Hash browns. You know when you’re looking for variety in your diet when you’ve just finished a full breakfast, put all your dishes away and leaving the canteen to get ready for the day but as soon as you spot hash browns you make a bee line for them and pick one up to go. Last Friday that was anna and when I spotted her holding one I did I 180 and darted right back to the buffet and grabbed myself one. So on the way out from the canteen it was the 3 volunteers, Anna, Chris ad eating hash browns with probably the biggest grins on our faces all day. Rachel in front of us slightly bemused why we were all so happy about hash browns. I can’t really explain why that hit the spot but that hash brown the memory of all three of us eating happily still puts a smile on my face. 

I can swim

This was the first time I can recall being truly terrified in the water. We were all in the water chasing down our second shark of the day. The current was rather strong and once I caught up I was too tired to actually dive down to photograph the shark. So I decided to lag behind rather than keep up. From then on I swam slowly and bobbed along with the waves watching the action from afar. In my lethargic state I wasn’t watching the waves and a huge wave crashed just past me. It was then I realised the tide had been carrying me towards the break. I started to panic and looked around. I couldn’t see anyone else. But I did see the boat a fair way off so I swam. I swam really hard. All I remember was I just stayed focused I watched the sea floor and noted that for several strokes I wasn’t moving at all because of the tide and then when the tide subsided I made ground towards the boat. When I finally made it and hauled myself up I was exhausted. I just collapsed on a bench and breathed. Later one of the programme members was telling me how he was trying to warn Anna and I about the on coming waves. Only he only found Anna and saw me a fair way off. He swam towards me to help me out only to find that I was just speeding away from him. I guess from that point of view I must have been fine and not really in danger. But just being beside a crashing wave and not being certain what the reef was like was enough to scare me into a lung bursting swim. All I have to say about it is that I’m grateful for Anna and Voonie for the training before I left =)

Anyway that’s enough random thoughts for now. A lot has happened in the past week and I’m sure more will happen in the future too.

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