Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The diving

A typical day on board the Maldives Aggressor started at 6am with a knock on your door and personal delivery of coffee!
A dive briefing started at 6:30, then we boarded the Dohni that took us to the dive site and we were in the water by 7-7:30. We came back to the mother ship for breakfast then out on the Dohni for one more dive before lunch. A little rest time then an afternoon dive and back for dinner. On two nights there were night dives. All in all there were 28 dives offered in the 10 day trip. Jim did all 28, I did 13.

The best way to tell you about the dives is with pictures!

For the Manta experience, you need to watch the video. This was not only the highlight of this trip, I think it is the highlight of my 40 year diving career!! Such graceful, majestic creatures, and they seemed to like us. We were on this dive for a full hour and they were swimming around us the whole time. This was a cleaning station for them. They especially seemed to like our bubbles - I think it tickled them.

Here's the video

Here's Jim taking that video!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

On the boat

By the time we were leaving the hotel to go to the boat,  our luggage still had not been delivered, but we were assured it was at the airport. The boat was also at the airport.  So it would be no problem to pick it up ourselves.  

Yes,  you heard that right,  the boat was at the airport.  This island airport was also the ferry docks and sea plane port.  Quite unique and beautiful. 

There are actually 2 boats involved.  The main "mother ship" the Maldives Aggressor that would be our hotel for the week.  And the smaller Dohni boat that would carry us and all our dive gear to the various dive sites.  It was the Dohni that picked us up at the airport and our first item of business was to get out all our dive gear, set it up on a tank and put the rest into our bin.  This is where it stayed for the duration. 

The dohni then took us out to the mother ship where we took our empty dive bags,  and the rest of our luggage to our rooms and for settled in.  I don't remember splurging for an upper deck room with large windows but I guess we did. It was very nice. There's even a window in the bathroom. Now that's a memory ... taking a shower while looking out at those 🏝 islands!

We had the traditional "Welcome aboard" party and our first dinner of fresh tuna - I'll bet they caught it earlier that day!

The next morning we all did our first, checkout, dive. As soon as we got back on board, I wasn't feeling so hot. Yep, I had a cold. I took a rapid Covid test to be sure it wasn't that - I tested negative. But I felt rotten and spent the next 3 days in bed. I'm glad it was a nice room! And, we had Internet most of the time because our Google Fi phones could connect to cell towers on the resort islands. 

While I was sick in bed, one of the crew named Mahedi would bring me food and take away my dirty dishes. He was very sweet and attentive. This photo is when Jim came back and found Mahedi in our room! Ha! 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Malé in the Maldives

What a unique bunch of islands.  Hundreds of atolls (circular arrangement of islands) with several islands each.  Something like 3,000 islands all totaled.  From the air they look like rings of air bubbles that some deep sea creature has blown.  

Most of these islands are barely more than some sand that manages to stick up above the surface of the ocean.  No mountains.  No hills even. Just sandy beaches,  some brush,  and some palm trees.  A big wave could wash right across,  yet many of the islands have resorts in them. 
Then there's the capital city of Malé. That's where we fly in.  I think of a bumblebee who is scientifically incapable of flying.  This city doesn't look possible for existing.  High rise buildings,  chock-a-block covering this small island which is home to 250,000 people. I saw no evidence of any zoning laws.

The airport is large and modern. A representative of the hotel was waiting for us with a sign of our name.  Our luggage did not arrive,  so we had to go through the paperwork to track it down.  They said it was in Dubai and it should be no problem to get it to us the next day.  We're so glad that we arranged 2 nights at a hotel before boarding the boat!
It didn't take long after getting to the hotel - Sala Boutique - to meet up with Alvin and Lisa. But we were all too jet lagged to do anything but arrange to meet for dinner.  We understood that the best restaurant on the island was right at this hotel.  So no reason to go anywhere. And it's a good thing too because it was Ramadan. The Muslim culture on this island is very strict.  If you were caught eating or drinking anything in public,  you could be put in jail because it is illegal.  And, there was no alcohol at all at the hotel.  The owner said he would be shut down if so much as a beer was found in the premises!

The next day we did make it out for a walk around the immediate area.  The traffic is amazing.  Mostly scooters,  but plenty of cars and a few buses also.  I saw no evidence of any traffic rules. No lights,  no stop signs. Cars just have to be gutsy and push out into the stream of traffic, forcing others to make way. 
It's a relatively wealthy country so there are no beggars or pushy vendors about, but they had a different technique. 

A Maldivian man would just strike up a conversation with us and start walking along. He was very friendly,  and quite informative. Kind of like our personal tour guide. After a while he pointed out his shop Black Bean. And told us to come by when we were finished with our walk. Then he left! Wow. Low pressure sales.  It worked.  We felt grateful and definitely visited his shop on our way back. All 4 of us got at least one t-shirt. I also got a pair of cool island pants. 

All in all a very nice day. 

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Dubai Airport

 Dubai airport was amazing.  First of all it's huge.  Then, it's the biggest, fanciest shopping mall I've ever seen and it's open 24/7!

You read a lot about Dubai being in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and a Muslim country where drinking alcohol is not allowed. Apparently it's not completely true. We were pleasantly surprised to find a Hard Rock Cafe in the airport with a full bar. 

We had tried to reserve a "Sleeping Pod" for the night because we had a 15 hour layover. After paying $120 to arrive on April 7 and depart on April 8, I got the notice that my reservation was from 1pm to 11pm on the 7th. No - that won't help. I tried to get it changed to 11pm to 7am without success, so I just cancelled. There is also an airport hotel, but Jim and I talked it over and decided $250 wasn't worth it, we could wander around the airport, maybe find a lounge chair to shut our eyes for a bit. We could live thru a one-night-in-the-airport - it would be an experience! And so it was ..

I took this photo at 4am! Lots of people and all the stores were open - the close end of the photo is an Apple Store!

Here is one of the "lounge" chair areas we found. They weren't as comfortable as they looked. 

When we left the next morning, we had to take a bus out to the tarmac and climb stairs to the airplane. No biggy - it gave us a few new views of the place.

When we got off the ground, we finally got a glimpse of the Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world. Our original plan was to stay in Dubai for a couple of days and get a ticket to see it up close, but then we would need to take a Covid test and we didn't want to risk that this time. So this is it ...

How being an airplane passenger is like a firefighter

Headed off to our twice postponed dive trip to the Maldives!
Flying Emirates from Miami thru Dubai to Maldives.
I've heard it said that being a firefighter is a life of boredom punctuated with moments of  terror.Airplane travel is a bit like that with hours of waitng and moments of panic. We're told to get to Miami airport 4 hours ahead of departure time. That means a lot of waiting. Waiting while sitting on the train to get to the airport, waiting in line at the check-in counter, waiting in line at the TSA security line. While you're in that line you're mentally reviewing everything in your carry-on and whether or not you'll need to take it out and put it in a separate bin to go thru the xray machines. You'll need one bin for the laptop, another bin for toiletries, and fanny pack, another bin for daypack, and sometimes a separate bin for  the iPad - you need to ask an agent about that. Oh yea, you also need to take off your shoes, what bin will they go in? Jim also has to take off his belt, I have to take off my watch. Basically those 2 days you spent carefully packing need to be UNpacked in as few seconds as possible because there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of people waiting behind you. 
You get it done, you stand barefoot, passport and boarding pass in hand, as you raise your arms over your head and get scanned. But still she needs to pat you down?!? Oh yea - I have a necklace on with metal, maybe that's it. 
By now my bins are holding up the line. I have to re-pack in as few seconds as possible. Is that my bin? I know that one is. Did I have 3? or 4? Do I still have my passport? How do I put my shoes back on at the same time as attaching the fanny pack around my waist and shoving the laptop back in the daypack. Where does the iPad go now? Do I still have my passport and boarding pass in my hand?
Don't forget to be neat and pile your bins on top of each other and place them at the end of the line. 
Then I hobble off with unstrapped shoes, daypack slung over one shoulder and my mind running at high speed going thru my checklist of everything I had before the TSA line and wondering if I still have it. 
Where's JIm? Having his own struggles, but we make it. Find our gate and sit and wait.
At least we knew that was the procedure, it's just how it goes. When we get to Dubai after 14 hours of sitting and waiting on the plane, our plan is to stay in the airport all night, so there should be no need for security. We disembark at one gate and simply find our next gate.
For some unknown reason, you have to go thru security after disembarking - period. We weren't prepared and we were sleep-deprived, back to panic mode: laptop out, iPad out, shoes off ... that's the drill. My plan is to get good at it, because I want to do more traveling!

The map that displays on the back of the seat in front of you, showing your start, end, and current location. I love this.