Swimming With Whale Sharks

Hello Dear Readers!

Today I want to tell you about our day spent snorkeling with whale sharks. For those of you who don’t know, whale sharks are absolutely massive, and the Maldives happens to be a hot spot for them. We spent most of our time snorkeling on the house reef (or eating. There was a lot of eating.), so ended up only doing this one excursion. Plus, as you can imagine, it was obscenely expensive.

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Heading to catch our speedboat

So what did it entail? Well, to be honest, it was pretty cool. We hopped into a speedboat with about six other people and a guide and sped away from the resort. It was about an hour long ride to our whale shark spotting destination, so we settled down and enjoyed the breeze, the waves, and the islands we were passing. Probably the coolest part was that in our wake, thousands of flying fish skipped away from us. Have you ever seen a flying fish? I hadn’t but they’re really cool, and watching them soar across the water, like skipping stones, was really neat.

The way shark spotting works is that you get to the hotspot and your guide literally climbs up on top of the boat, searching for enormous shadows in the water.

Unfortunately for us, there didn’t seem to be any sharks around. We spent hours trawling the water, slowly, searching for these guys. And it’s not like you can miss them, right? The problem is that whale sharks don’t normally swim so close to the surface, and they can (and do) dive right down and stay there.

They’d told us that the young males were the ones who usually swam up near the surface, but we had no luck.

So. One guy.

One guy had a drone. Brand new, top of the line, really cool. So he volunteered to fire up the ol’ drone and see if he could spot any whale sharks from high up. A cool idea, in theory.

He sent it up, and away we went, following after it as he searched. See, the problem though, was that drones can only fly for about twenty minutes at a time. Twenty minutes pass and we slow down, coming to a stop as he attempted to land it.

I mentioned we were in a speedboat, right? And that his drone was new, brand new?

Yeah. So there he goes, trying several times to lower it to the deck, only for it to- finally- hit the edge of the boat and *splash* right into the water.

And no, it didn’t float. Immediate panic ensues and he runs to grab a diving mask. He jumps in and flails around, while the guide leaps into the water- and- I kid you not, just dives.

It’d had time to sink by now, so I don’t know how far down she went. But she was under there for a while. A long while. I began to wonder if she was dead or simply lost, but then- miracle of miracles- up she popped from the depths, drone in hand.

You guys, this woman freedived into the Indian Ocean to find a lost drone. I can’t even find my goggles in a swimming pool.

The jury’s still out if he ever got it working again, since it wasn’t waterproof, but he did mutter angrily that it was a $1200 waste of money.

Shortly thereafter, we started to make our way back, disappointed at not finding any whale sharks- when- to our immense joy, we ran into a boat that had found one.

And once you find one, you gotta jump in ASAP because they don’t stay at the surface for very long. So in we went, flippers on, choking on saltwater and swimming furiously after this guy.

I’m going to take a moment now to thank my parents for all the swimming lessons they forced me to take, because I managed to stay in the front of the group and get an uninterrupted view. It was incredible.

Our guide had a GoPro with her. Take a look at the video below.

-Carissa “This Is Why I Don’t Have a Drone” Rawson

I Survived Snorkeling: A Tale of True Bravery

Hello Dear Readers!

When trying to figure out what to talk about, I usually scroll through my photos. I try to take a fair few, and use them to spur the stories I tell you guys. And that usually works out well for me.

But I realized something while going through my photos of the Maldives.

Paradise looks great:

But it also looks pretty similar in every photo. And we spent most of our time in the water, which meant we took no photos at all.

So you’re going to have to rely on my story telling skills more than my visuals, I’m afraid.

In that same vein, let me tell you about our snorkeling.

Now, I’ve been to a fair few places for snorkeling (and even once dived successfully in Australia), so I’ve always figured I knew what snorkeling was about. You go in,  see some cool fish, swim around a reef, try to not touch the urchin and get poisoned. You know, normal things. So when they told us they had a reef just off the beach of the resort, I was excited but not expecting much.

I cannot even tell you how badly I misjudged this reef. It stretched the entire length of the island, and during our time there we saw more different aquatic animals than I’ve seen in all my previous snorkeling put together.

We spent so much time snorkeling that, while my face was completely unburnt, I was unable to sit comfortably for over a week. And yes, I was wearing sunscreen.

The best part about this reef was that you could walk right out to it. The water was so close to it, and it was so expansive, that at times your belly was about an inch away from the coral and the reef stretched on literally as far as you could see. You had to be a good swimmer (or at least floater) in order to avoid getting caught up on the coral.

And this place was packed. Aside from all the regular recognizable fish (Nemo? Dory?), we also spent hours swimming with giant schools of fish, found an octopus hiding inside some coral, followed a sea turtle for over twenty minutes, and even swam out over the “drop-off” which was exactly like the one in Finding Nemo and exactly as terrifying as you’d think.

But my favorite part, which Harrison completely missed (he was frolicking in a school of fish), was when I was wandering along and happened upon a barracuda- or at least that’s what I thought it was. Turns out it was a Moray Eel, but at the time all I could think was “oh god please don’t bite me.”

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You can forgive the confusion

He was a mere few inches from my face and I frantically backpedaled, getting far enough away to wheel around and begin swimming in the opposite direction.

At which point I encountered two reef sharks.

And ok. Reef sharks aren’t huge. But they were sharks! And I was panicking! Alone!

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Ahhhhhhhh!

At this point I wheeled just 90 degrees (still avoiding the barracuda) and began swimming in towards the shore as quickly as possible.

Of course nothing happened to me. I mean come on, you think the Hilton is gonna let a shark eat their customers? No.

But it was scary!

– Carissa “The Bravest” Rawson

Discovering Dubai: Daytripping to Oman

Hello Dear Readers!

After my inglorious defeat by the bunny slope at Ski Dubai, I really needed a pick-me-up. So I was looking forward to our day trip up the coast of Oman, which promised “snorkeling, banana boat rides, fishing, an international buffet, and unlimited drinks,” all in a dhow boat that sailed up the coast.

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I’m on a boat!

Well…there was a boat…and I suppose it was a dhow boat? But it was a motorboat, not a sailboat, and the temperature was roughly 100 degrees. This meant it was too hot for fishing, and since it was Ramadan all the drinks were non-alcoholic.

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And…I guess the water in Oman is not to be outdone by the temperature outside, since the water was roughly 98 degrees. Maybe hotter, even. Like getting into a really hot shower after a hard workout and you’re already overheated.

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At least it’s pretty?

Despite these things, the day was pretty fun. We spent most of it chilling on the deck, and when we finally stopped for the snorkeling/swimming/beach time, PJ and I decided to ignore the speedboat to the shore in favor of swimming there.

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Our original beach destination

……

No, we didn’t make it. If you need a speedboat to get there, you’re probably not going to have a fun time attempting to swim there.

However! We did make it to the closer beach, which was totally abandoned. We hung out there and recovered before heading back to the boat, covered in some kind of weird mud/slime that wouldn’t come off no matter how hard we tried.

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The much more attainable beach

This, we found out from the guide, was actually crude oil.

I guess that’s how you know the Middle East is literally swimming in oil.

Get it? Get it?

I felt like one of those baby birds in an oil spill except way less tragic since I washed it off later that night.

We also sailed by a limestone cave, and PJ took a thousand photos of it as quickly as possible because we weren’t able to stop. (Due to the waves).

And there’s one more thing. By the time we returned from the boat ride, all of us in our tour group were thoroughly overheated. Like, heat exhaustion overheated.

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We’re meeeeelting

So we climbed gratefully into our air conditioned mini van and cranked up the A/C. PJ and I were in first, so it was our honor to do so.

There are two levers in the van, you see. There’s one up top, with a hi-lo setting, and one, on the left, with the same setting. So I- yes it was me- flipped them both to max and settled in to cool down.

There were ten of us in the van, you see. So we just thought that perhaps our combined body heat defeated the A/C. After an hour of sweltering doom, finally, the guy in the back pipes up, “hey, the A/C isn’t working.” The driver, hearing this, immediately turns around, flips the lever on the left, and glares at me. I guess…I guess that was the heat. And I had accidentally set it to max. This was while the A/C was simultaneously blasting on max, which meant that the A/C, which came from the vents above, was trying desperately to cool the floor, which was lava, because that’s where the heat was pumping out.

It was so bad I had already taken my feet and legs off the floor and laid them on the transmission, which was only scalding instead of lava.

I tried my best to look innocent. I really did. PJ and I looked at each other and stifled maniacal laughter as everyone tried to figure out what the driver had done to save us all.

No, I didn’t claim responsibility. I wouldn’t have made it back to Dubai alive.

-Carissa “It Was Me!” Rawson