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Eagle Rays and White Tipped Reef Sharks in the Maldives

Waiting for the boat after my morning dive on the second day
Plodding back onto the boat

Somehow I managed to get within five feet of the white tipped reef shark lying still as a rock on the sandy ocean floor. The only movement came from its black, blade-like pupil shifting back and forth within its ghostly green right eye. Tracking our every movement, it watched as we moved toward its white fin. For a minute, I thought maybe I could get close enough to touch it. Keeping calm, I inched forward in excitement. But, we pushed this shark to its limit for tolerating human intruders. Gracefully gliding its body left and right, it swam away from us without looking back for a second glance.
I spent three nights and two and a half days in the Maldives. In that time, I dove beneath the waves on five different occasions. On each one, I encountered a similar, yet distinctive and stunning aquatic kingdom.
On my second day I dove in the morning, afternoon and night. In the afternoon, I witnessed three white tipped reef sharks swimming beside each other, a magnificent sight that rivaled my close encounter earlier in the day.
Unfortunately, during the afternoon dive I lost about fifteen minutes of exploration time floating in the water at 35 feet. My guide Marcus had to escort the two other divers back to the boat, as they were low on air. I waited patiently, watching my air and working on my buoyancy control. Finally, after they climbed the ladder onto the wooden boat, he dove back down to me and we continued exploring the rest of the Hembadhu Khomdu reef. The interruption taught me a valuable lesson: diving with people whose air consumption is similar to your own leads to a more enjoyable underwater experience.
I faced no such problems at 9 in the morning as I walked onto the boat with just my guide, Jennifer, and my father, who had no intention of getting in the water. After a twenty-minute ride, we arrived at the dive site.
The waves crashed onto the sides of the boat. I donned my gear and walked over to the edge. My red fins protruded out over the water. A giant stride and I splashed into the Indian Ocean.
A moment later, I swam along the Madivaru Beru reef, taking in the sights and reveling in the bliss of weightlessness. It made sense to me that scuba diving has been used as therapy for physically and mentally injured war veterans.
Having never before seen corals up close, I kept my eyes focused down until I noticed Jennifer pointing toward the surface of the water. I looked up. A formation of ten massive Eagle Ray’s flapped their “wings” in unison. They soared through the water with elegance. One suddenly broke formation. It dipped down in our direction, exposing the white spots on its black back. A few feet and it rose back up, smiling at us on its way, before rejoining the synchronized group. It seemed as if the performance had been put on solely for us. A majestic display of beauty. In the next instant, they vanished back into the blue.


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