It’s fair to say I had a pretty amazing February with working trips to not only Kenya but also to The Maldives shooting for an open water swimming holiday company called Swimquest.
Being a fully confirmed water baby aka thalassophile aka lover of the sea, to be asked to travel to The Maldives to film/photograph in, on and under the water for an entire week while living aboard a luxury dive boat was a dream come true. To then be jetting off directly from there for two weeks in Kenya to document the work of Biosphere Expeditions (see earlier post) was unreal.
I flew out via Dubai airport and arrived on Mali, the capital island of the Maldives to be collected on the dhoni (dive/swimmer support vessel) to be taken out to the Emperor Divers liveaboard – MV Emperor Voyager. The heat was incredible and nothing prepared me for how warm the water would be when we got in for our first swim. I took a shorty wetsuit knowing how quickly I seem to get cold in water usually but there was absolutely no need for it here when swimming, even when staying in for over two hours at a time, it was like a warm bath!
Each day the guests had two swims of around 2km (sometimes more sometimes less), but the distance and pace was completely determined by the swimmers themselves, it was totally at their own pace and open to swimmers of all skill levels. Each of the sites were carefully selected by Alice from Swimquest and Chris from Emperor Divers to find the best site for calmest water and best visibility with the most fish & coral to see while they swam.
My job was to document the trip through photography stills and video which included underwater footage and aerial video using my DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone – perfect for this sort of job – compact, light and producing superb quality images through it’s Hassleblad optics & 4K video. Just look at the colours of that water!
The sea life was abundant with the swimmers frequently shouting to each other that they had spotted a turtle, eagle ray, white tipped reef shark, etc. I was in heaven!
As well as doing a dive to allow me to get some footage of the swimmers from directly below we also had the opportunity to do some dives for leisure and I took every opportunity. The first dive was on a nurse shark cleaning station in very fast currents. I’d never dived with reef hooks before so this was a first for me, an interesting experience ‘flying’ in the current while attached to the bottom!
Each day we moved from atoll to atoll to find the best swim sites, it was a superb way to get to see so much of the Maldives without being stuck on one resort. I would definitely do this again if I visit the area. Plus you can’t beat living on a boat (in my opinion), the food was absolutely superb and I love being rocked to sleep at night by the motion of the water.
The absolute highlight of this incredible week for me was when we dropped off the side of the dive support vessel right onto a manta ray cleaning station. To swim with mantas has been on my bucket list for decades and I wasn’t disappointed. We just had masks & snorkels this time so it was a case of taking a deep breath and swimming down as far as our lungs would allow us to spend some time with the beautiful behemoths.
Unfortunately my GoPro dome decided to take this one moment of the whole trip to steam up so the shots aren’t as clear as I would have liked but I’m still pleased to have been able to get this record of one of the most memorable days of my life.
On one evening of the trip we stopped off at this picture postcard desert island for a bbq and we rewarded with another incredible sunset…
While moored off the island the dive master Chris had another surprise up his sleeve for us – he knew that if they turned on the underwater lights off the stern of the boat young mantas would be attracted by the plankton that came towards the light. We had an incredible couple of hours watching the manta rays doing back flips while we stood watching on deck with ice cold beers. I’ll take that over watching sport any day of the week!
Huge thanks to Alice & John at Swimquest for this opportunity and to Chris and the crew of the MV Emperor Voyager for looking after us so well. Also big thanks to Guy, a friend of mine from way back and employee of Swimquest who suggested me for this job. Really appreciate it Guy, I owe you!
The short film I made for Swimquest is here:
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