Not everything is what it seems

You know there are so many different kinds of animals that it is sometimes difficult to recognize them even if they are right in front of you. You won’t be the first diver to nod yes during a dive while your eyes still look wild while I point out something special as a guide.

So I had diving trip in the Maldives, where I met Laura. A lady from London with an Asian background who has been in the Maldives many times to dive. Still, this was her first time with us and during my opening briefing she explained why. The guides of the boat she always went with were making fun of her and she was tired of that, so she came to us now.

What a special reason and certainly one that I have not heard before. What do you mean fool? I asked her. ‘Well, she said, the guides would point out something crazy every time and say it was a snail or something. Well, you don’t think I’m crazy!’ Now there are really nudibranchs that are very difficult to recognize, such as the Maldivian sponge snail which looks like a sponge, but really a Nudi, I said while she looked at me with questioning eyes. I asked her to point out what she meant on one of the next dives and she would definitely do that.

Is it a sponge?

After the briefing it was finally time to dive and that first dive was fantastic, a light current, some large rays passing us and a black tip reef shark curiously looking around in the middle of our group. I didn’t see Laura the whole dive, but when we got back on board she told me she loved it. What a great start to this week, nice people, good diving and then also see sharks and rays.

Whale shark

After a few days we arrived in the south of the Atari Atoll, which is known for its population of juvenile whale sharks. We parked the boat in the lagoon of Dighurah where we were going to make the night dive. It was still early in the evening and the weather was Calm. And when we jumped into the water I saw that Laura was close to me and thought ‘I need to find the sponge snail’.Now I am not a Nudi specialist but I know that this one often sits in shallow water and often crawls over the sand away from the current. And so I went with my group where it was likely to find it and it did not take long for me to spot the first one and I looked back to find Laura. She and her buddy had fallen behind, but I could just see her. So I first pointed out the blue-black animal to other divers and waited until Laura and her buddy were close too. I tapped my tank with a steel pen and flickered with my lamp to get her attention and it worked. When Laura was with me I put my torch on the snail and Laura started to nod vigorously yes. Bingo!

Maldivian sponge snail

The small blue black animal has large protrusions making it look like a sponge and one of them is the head. I pointed it out and tapped my own head to clarify, while Laura gave me a questioning look. Once back on the Dhoni, our dive tender, Laura came up to me. ‘Hey Anke, that is indeed the same sponge that those other guides also pointed out! And those nasty guys did that over and over, really annoying.’ I already thought so and started laughing, I just couldn’t resist. I told her it’s really a snail and no sponge. The animal resembles a sponge and probably uses it as a defense mechanism. In the end, if you can’t be seen, you can’t be eaten! Luckily I have some pictures of the animal to show more clearly and I showed it to her later on board. She looked at me wide-eyed and covered her mouth with her hand. ‘Oh how bad and I never believed them’ she muttered. So you see, not everything is as it seems.

Love life… Blow bubbles…

Anke.