Margaret and I didn’t have to search too far to find some idyllic tropical scenes to photograph. Literally, falling out the front door of your villa in the Sangu part of Kuredu resort, you are greeted by white sand, a coral lagoon of the most divine blue, all framed by coconut palms and the odd banyan tree. Below pretty much says it. The lagoon pictured was ideal snorkelling. Much of the marine life you can see on previous blog posts we encountered while snorkelling out to the coral gardens, a mere 200 metres from the shore line.
Sangu Beach, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Framing Fronds, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Indian Sunrise, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Crimson Calm, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
You can view more Maldives Landscape photos on my site here
Adorned with a few banyan trees and coconut palms, a patch of sand barely 500 metres in length and 150 metres in width, 1.5 metres above sea level, on the rim of an atoll, plonked in the vast Indian ocean a few hundred miles from the Sri Lankan coast, it’s hard to imagine that you could find any kind of wildlife seemingly interested or bothered enough to find their way to something that remote or obscure. But, as the tourists have managed to find their way to Kuredu Island Resort, so too has a motley crew of other wildlife.
First up, is the enigmatic white-tailed tropic bird. I say enigmatic, because they first catch your eye with their graceful flight, their long white tails glinting in the sun. I photographed them in earnest for a good while, attempting to catch one or two as they ditched their high flying flock to come down to beach level. On a walk of the island (which wasn’t a long jaunt by any means) I noticed one fly into some trees. I was able to walk right up to one, crouched at the bottom of a banyan tree. I was surprised it didn’t move, until at the last moment it decided that I, on my haunches with Canon 5D II poised, was too much of a threat. It literally fell over itself in what was laughable for a walk before taking to the air. This bird is clearly not designed for living on land. Below are a few shots I took of this quirky bird.
White-tailed Tropic Bird, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
White-tailed Tropic Bird Formation, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Blue Horizons, White-tailed Tropic Bird, Maldives
Of course the white-tailed tropic bird was not the only wildlife we found on Kuredu. We also came across a hamster during the evening. Looked more like a rat, but the folks in the resort dive centre maintained it was a resident hamster, and it had penchant for snorkelling fins. Those hamsters sure do get about. The most unexpected creature we did see though was a black and white rabbit munching on some grass near the resort’s golf course. The rabbit is the world’s true survivor, they are simply everywhere. But back to the more authentic fauna. The local lizards were fascinating to watch, especially the Calotes lizard which could be found basking in the branches of trees. Really liked the shots I was about to capture below.
Calotes Lizard, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Calotes Lizard, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
And to a shot of yet another island bird. This time a crane. This shot really struck me. I saw this bird sitting seemingly on the fronds of a coconut palm as dusk approached. It was almost like he was keeping lookout, an avian sentinel of sorts. The 5D Mark II came into it’s own here. The shot was taken at ISO 3200, with very little grain.
Crane and Frond, Kuredu, Maldives
I close then with one more photograph. This of a breaching dolphin. We came across a pod while enjoying a sunset cruise near the island. One can never tire of watching dolphins. This was one of many I took, and it does take a deal of patience timing the shot just as this incredible mammal appears above the water line.
Breaching Dolphin, Kuredu, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
You can find more Maldives wildlife photos at http://stephenjkennedy.com
As promised, below are some more amazing photos from our snorkelling trip at the Tinga Giri coral gardens in the Lhaviyani atoll in the Maldives. The photos I include below are very typical of the marine life we encountered at other snorkelling sites around the island resort of Kuredu. Thanks once again to Ludwig Hoffman, our Kuredu Prodive snorkelling guide for having an underwater camera on hand. First up is the moray eel. We saw numerous moray eels throughout our weeks visit. This shot from Tinga Giri enabled us to get within a foot away after duck diving down to his lair. The moray is 70% blind and relies on water movement in front of him to detect prey so we were perfectly safe. The largest moray we saw on the trip was actually at the Kuredu house reef. While snorkelling over a large coral block and admiring some scuba divers who were at a depth of around 4-5 metres, a large black moray swam out of his coral hideout into open water right up to the divers. An incredible sight.
Moray Eel, Tinga Giri, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Another common underwater sight in the Maldives is the titan triggerfish. We were warned by our snorkelling guides that if we came across this fish feeding off coral it was perfectly safe. However, if we happened to encounter him in shallow water and seemingly hovering face down towards the sand then we would need to be wary. In this sand stance, the titan triggerfish is likely to be protecting eggs. If he feels threatened then he will go after you. Not necessarily a great thing, given this guy can be seen hacking into coral with quite sharp teeth. In the event we did come to grief with a territorial Titan then we were instructed to fin away from it, flippers towards the charging fish. After a while, the pull of instinct to protect his eggs would see him go back to protect them and leave you alone. Well, there maybe some toing and froing for a while, until you are out of his personal space. Thankfully, we were not chased down by this Maldivian biter, but we did hear from two people on the trip who were attacked. There were several other varieties of trigger fish that we saw too. Most notably were the schools of red-toothed triggerfish, which on occasion you could float through in an exquisite scene of flickering blue and black half moon tails.
Titan Triggerfish, Tinga Giri, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Yet another cool fish now. I remember getting a Ron and Valerie Taylor underwater photography book as a kid, and I do remember seeing a porcupinefish in its pages. So I was excited to see many on this trip, and in the photo below I dived within a few feet of him. I thought they were dangerous these fish, having spines which are a fierce defensive mechanism. In some species of porcupine fish the spines are extremely poisonous. But in actual fact, if you keep your distance they are perfectly safe to observe. This photo was taken at another reef site, closer to the Komandoo resort.
Porcupinefish, Komandoo, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Of course one of the more amazing marine creatures in the waters of the Maldives is the stingray. For some reason I thought stingrays were relatively small things (maybe Steve Irwin would suggest otherwise), but on numerous occasions, while snorkelling both at Tinga Giri and other coral sites, I was astounded by both their size and grace. Margaret and I came across a couple of types of rays. First up was the feather-tailed stingray. This is the ray in the Tinga Giri shot below. On one occasion when snorkelling out to a reef in the lagoon of Kuredu resort I came across three different feather tailed rays all on the one outing, two of which I only discovered at the last instance when seemingly detecting my presence the ray emerged from the sand bed and began to swim in the most serene of undulations. Of course the other magnificent ray we encountered was the eagle ray. At one snorkelling site in Kuredu, Magaret and I came within a metre of a huge eagle ray, it’s tail at least two metres in length and a span of about 1.5 metres.
Feather Tailed Stingray, Tinga Giri, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Our experience of seeing the above ray was made even more unique when a hawksbill turtle arrived on the scene. It was like being in an aquarium seeing such beautiful marine life in co-existence. I loved the photo below. The ray floated over the turtle in perfect harmony. None of them seemed worried by the other. The hawks-bill turtle, of which we saw quite a few in the waters off Kuredu feeds off the coral, hence their beak like mouth. These guys can stay submerged for up to 45 minutes before heading for air, unlike their green turtle neighbours, (of which we also saw many) can hold their breath for a whopping 5.5 hours.
Close Encounter, Stringray and Hawksbill Turtle, Tinga Giri, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
I close with one final photo of our underwater jaunt. Yet another photo of the Maldivian clownfish. I liked the composition of this shot. “King of the Mountain” Ludwig called it, and it is a fitting title. After seeing such great photos taken by Ludwig I was half tempted to rent a camera for further snorkelling, but decided I would leave my photography to the above water and truly immerse myself in the underwater world of the Maldives.
King of the Anemone, Clownfish, Tinga Giri, Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives
Having been lucky enough to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays some years ago, I would have to say that for accessibility and sheer variety of marine life, the Maldives has left me with more stunning memories. That said, we may have been especially fortunate to see see what we did in the Maldives. Ludwig passed comment a number of times that our Tinga Giri trip was truly exceptional. Should also be pointed out that the coral blocks in the Maldives aren’t as spectacular as the Great Barrier Reef, the reefs of the Maldives are still recovering from an El Nino warming event in 1998.
A bit of a teaser to the Maldives photos I will post over the next few days…
Last week’s trip to the Maldives meant we were snorkelling almost every day. On Tuesday morning, we took an organised snorkel trip from the island resort of Kuredu (Lhaviyani Atoll) out to nearby Tinga Giri, a sunken island and now home to a delightful coral garden and an abundance of amazing sea life. One familiar face we came across was that of the Clown Fish, or more precisely the Maldivian Clown Fish (or Anemone Fish). This cute little fish was of course immortalised in the Pixar movie classic “Finding Nemo!”. We were delighted on discovering this little family darting in and out of their anemone home. Thankfully, our snorkelling guide Ludwig Hoffman, from Kuredu Prodive, had an underwater digital camera to hand. So while Margaret and I were gawping at these fish Ludwig photographed it. He was gracious enough to give us a copy as well as several other photos from the Tinga Giri trip. I will publish these over the coming days, in addition to the many photos I took on terra firma with my Canon 5D Mk II.
Maldivian Clown Fish, Tinga Giri, Lhavyani Atoll, Maldives
"While a difficult climb, the views offered of the glacier and Cerro Torre were astounding. The ice-blue vista offset by the autumn colour fest of the beech trees was truly stunning."Argentina, 2003