Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Pleasant sojourn in Uligan

We take any chance we can get to snorkel reefs in clear waters so here at Uligan Island of the Maldives, we had just that. We saw lots of little fish and a Crown of Thorns, a relative of the starfish which eats away at the coral. As pretty as it is, it's considered a nuisance.

What will we see...

Coral predator

We had arranged for a fuel delivery through our Agent and it was delivered by a small boat carrying 2 large barrels of diesel. All 3 boats in the anchorage took advantage of having full tanks for our upcoming 1,900 nautical mile passages towards the Red Sea.

Delivery of fuel

We heard from our Agent that there was a 100-year-old wreck on the outer ring and the thought of a wreck dive got Jordan's attention. Surprisingly, there was dive equipment for rent in the small Uligan village and a speedboat and crew were available for hire. So 2 persons each from SV Jubilee and SV Atea and Jordan headed out (I am not a diver).

From a ways off, the wreck site was made evident in the crashing surf by the remnants of the steam engine that stood as a beacon, tall and defiant after decades of assault from the harsh elements.

Even though the seas were like glass, there was a generous swell rolling in that pestered their dive in the shallow water. Other than the motorus erectus, the large drive shaft, and prop lying exposed there was little else to see.

Motorus erectus

The health of the coral was also a disappointment but in spite of that, there was an abundance of sea life. There were various schools of fish shimmering in shades of silver and blue sashaying about and in their shadows were a motley profusion of fish of intense colours skittering about. Morays, shark, large stingrays, and even a deadly stone fish were spotted.

The highlight of the trip was on the return when the eagle-eyed speedboat captain stopped at a school of feeding manta rays. The excited divers quickly dove in with snorkels for an exhilarating encounter with these regal aquatic flyers.

Multitude of majestic mantas

And yet further along, the thrill continued as large pods of dolphins cavorted in the bow wave of their boat to top off their memorable excursion.

SV Jubilee had made arrangements through our mutual Agent for a traditional Maldivian evening dinner at a local villager's house. Escorted by our Agent, he introduced us to the shy hosts in their humble patio setting and translated and explained the spread.

The table was set with fancy porcelain dishes and delightfully fragrant frangipani blossoms were spread around. (They called the flowers by another name but we remember them as frangipani as in the South Pacific.) Jordan asked if they typically grew the trees in their yards but we were amused to find that, no, the flowers were courtesy of the dearly departed - the only frangipanis were in the cemetery!

Next to the table was a smaller table laid out with buffet-style food consisting of tuna curry, fish curry, grilled fish with a coating of unusual spices, rice, a salad made from small pieces of green leaves only grown in the Maldives, fresh papaya, and hot sweet tea. The meal was scrumptiously delicious and some went back for second or third helpings.

After dinner, we settled up our expense accounts with the Agent and he gave us our check-out documents and stamped passports. Our departure from this quiet paradise was to be the following morning.

From here we expected favourable winds to do about a pleasant 10-day passage across the Arabian Sea to an island of Yemen called Socotra and then continue up the Gulf of Aden to the entrance of the Red Sea. This crossing, up until 2 years ago, was the world's most dangerous waters where the infamous Somali pirates harvested their catch.

No comments: