Addu – Continuing my Dives in Beautiful Reefs

Once my superb dive safari with Jörg on board the “Mariana” had finished and we had reached the safe harbour off Hulhumale, I waved goodbye to my fellow divers and embarked on the second journey of my holidays – 10 days in the southernmost atolls of the Maldives, Addu and Fuvammulah! Both are situated south of the equator and are about an hour’s flight away from Male’. When crossing the 0° meridian, I was handed a certificate by the flight attendant and made aware that we are now in a different hemisphere. And when looking out the scratched windows glistening in the sun, I could see very long outer reefs stretching from north to south, but also the most beautiful string of little islands in Huvadhoo Atoll that appeared like a pearl necklace from above! I was definitely looking forward to experiencing the south!

Gan, the airport island in Addu and a former British naval base, was my home island for the first two days in Addu, which I wanted to use for scuba-diving. The coral in the south was said to be the best in the whole Maldivian archipelago and boast a diversity and growth similar to pre-bleaching times. Just as background information: A severe El Niño event in early 1998 with a subsequent rise in seawater temperature had caused the reef-building corals’ symbiotic green algae to dysfunction, consequently killed most of the shallow-water species in the Maldives and left the white, “bleached” limestone skeletons to crumble. In many areas in the Maldives, the live coral cover is still poor (15-25 %), but some reefs have recovered remarkably well and give reason for hope. As I had never really dived in pristine reefs in the area, I was excited about being able to see some coral-rich underwater sites in Addu. On Gan, I stayed at Equator Village, a budget hotel with very basic rooms and food. It had a busy dive centre with many German and Russian guests, though, and I was pleased finally being able to meet the base leader Axel Horn, who has developed a good reputation over the many years he has worked in the Maldives.

The three dives I made in Addu were wonderful. The first one was at the “British Loyalty”, the largest ship wreck in the Maldives, which was beautifully covered with table, soft and black corals, had a pink leaf scorpionfish and a curious octopus sitting on it and lay on its starboard. The “British Loyalty” was an oil tanker torpedoed in 19944 and still has black oil drops emerging from its interior! Nothing has been done so far to rectify the situation, even though this leaking of oil has certainly been a threat to the environment… The other two dives happened in the northern and eastern reefs of Addu Atoll. Particularly the cave systems, the enormous drop-offs and the reef top in the north were amazing! Nurse sharks, Indian Butterflyfish and lots of bluish soft corals inhabited the caves, while the shallow top reef was 100 % covered by diverse hard coral stands! I didn’t want to come up to the surface anymore, there was just so much to discover!

Hopefully this won’t be the last time I saw the reefs of Addu Atoll! It would probably be great to join one of Jörg’s two-week safaris and then cover the southern atolls with its beautiful reefs and big fish.

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