Real friends hold hands?

My big sister who doesn’t dive gave me the tip to watch the movie ‘Octopus my teacher’ and I did that a few days ago. What an insane documentary about a biologist who snorkels every day for almost a year in the same large underwater kelp forest. In doing so, he follows the doings of an octopus, from hunting and foraging, to a shark attack, mating and having babies until her last hours. It’s unbelievable how much patience this biologist has and the amazing shots he manages to make of all the important moments in the life of this eight-armed lady. Now I regularly see octopus underwater and when watching the documentary I thought back to Chrissie and Mel and their octopus adventure. The ladies had traveled to the Maldives to see mantas and so they came to me on the liveaboard. That week it was Manta heaven underwater and that started on the third dive day, although the ladies had more eyes for something else.

Sweetlips

The sun has just risen and it promises to be a fantastic day. A clear blue sky and a little spring breeze meet me as I come out of my cabin. Today we will hopefully see mantas for the first time this week, we’ve already had two days of diving done and they have been fantastic. A nice current predominates and so far has yielded gray reef sharks, eagle rays, silver tips and huge schools of fish. From Male we are now via Rasdhoo in the Ari Atoll in the central part of the Maldives. She is a beautiful big atoll laced with big cleaning stations where the Manta is often seen. We are on the inside of the reef and looking out over the dive site I see that we are the only boat on location, whooohooooo! After the wake-up call it is now time for the briefing of our first dive at Moofushi. We are going to dive not far from one of the channels, on the outside of the atoll. There you can see a beautiful landscape underwater, with the plateau at the top at a depth of 8-10 meters, followed by a gentle slope full of coral that eventually turns into a sandy bottom at 25 meters. On that slope is a large cleaning station where mantas often come for a morning wash and to maintain social contacts. You can recognize this washing place by the many table corals that grow over each other and the enormous variety and amount of fish that hangs around it.

Leaf fish hiding in plain sight

After the briefing we pack our things and board the dhoni, our submarine, which sails to the dive site as we prepare for the dive. The mood on board is promising and full of energy, I can hear laughter while buddy checking…hahaha. We are excited! Thiti, one of my colleagues and fellow dive guide, jumps into the water and checks the current, it is incoming and nice and strong. Fab, fab, fab! The current is moving in the right direction and promises a lot of life in and around the cleaning station. Full of expectation we jump into the water and descend to a depth of 20 to 25 meters and let the current do the work. While drifting we see a number of white tip reef sharks lying on the sandy bottom while the gray reef sharks are cruising against the current. You just don’t know where to look from craziness, although we don’t see a manta yet. We are almost ten minutes on the way and on a curve in the reef I see that the cleaning station must be close by and I communicate that to the divers in my group. I ask them to grab the reef hook and as soon as we get to the table corals we look for a nice spot between the primary cleaning station and the second collection of table corals that is also sometimes used as a cleaning station. What a top spot, so we’re right in the middle of it.

One by one everyone finds a place while me and the other dive guides look out and search in-the-blue for the recognizable movements of this large ray species. It may take 5 minutes or even 50, but this dive site always gives manta and we wait quietly at depth. In the meantime there is also a lot of other life: a green turtle feeding in the shallows, a baby eagle ray just above us, a green leaf fish openly but hidden at 23 meters, a school of wrasses above the table corals and an octopus crawling over the reef behind Chrissie and Mel. I tip the ladies to point them to that eight-armed sea monster and Mel gets really excited. The octopus is apparently used to divers and sits undisturbed and begins her wash. She changes color and texture as several divers come around her and she carefully feels herself in every nook and cranny with 2 of her 8 arms when suddenly a second octopus crawls up from the side. They both immediately changed color and texture, one almost white and the other burgundy, one smooth skin and the other all bulging. How beautiful is that! And the great thing is that they don’t care about us while they put on this little show together. They come close to each other and now begin to grope each other, continuing to change color and texture. Then I hear a ticking sound and look around, that’s Thiti and he points into the blue water while making a flying movement with his arms …. MANTAAAAAAAAA!

Everyone turns around as the first big lady arrives at the cleaning station. Whaaaaa that is and remains unparalleled beautiful, the mystical eyes, elegant movements and it seems that she says hello to us when flying over. And then the second arrives, a slightly smaller male who swims up to the female and greets her by swimming around her for a moment. Wow and if that wasn’t enough there are more and they come one after another. They arrive at the station, greet each other and take turns being washed. Some swim out of sight and then come back and others hang above divers to collect bubbles. They are really all around us and we are amazed, what a beautiful manta soup we are served here for breakfast!

Mantas on a cleaning station

After 65 minutes the mantas are still busy, but our tanks are almost empty and the no-decompression time is almost over. And so we leave the spot for a safety stop while my divers make only flying movements hahaha. Fantastic it was already great but now I have a boat full of childishly happy divers, the Maldives is so beautiful!

As soon as I am a board the dhoni, I walk to my tank spot and Mel and Chrissie are sitting right in front of me. I still say ‘Hey ladies, is this what you came to the Maldives for?’ They look at me a little quizzically, huh? Now Mel says ‘I thought they were so incredibly beautiful and sweet how they held hands’. Watthuh? I didn’t understand that. Hold hands? What are you talking about? Well she says, ‘those two octopuses became friends and even held hands, really so sweet!’ I start to laugh haha… ahh okay, |I thought we were talking about mantas. Mel picks up on that and says ‘yes, we didn’t really or really didn’t look at that, we only had an eye for those octopuses and holding hands. Well, I say, then you’ve watched plenty of porn, because holding hands is actually mating. And together we burst into loud laughter… Hahahaha friends holding hands… no way …

Love life… Blow bubbles…