By David Loh
Anticipation was high as we started up our boat in the capital, Male, and headed to Maldives’ remote northern Baa atoll. Our destination; the geologically unique Hanifaru Bay. The bay is so small that you could walk around the island in a ten-minute stroll. Every year, hundreds of manta rays and a handful of whale sharks gather for their annual feeding frenzy of plankton in July and August.
Baa Atoll was recently declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, and for reasons of conservation, word has it that the Maldives is likely to shut down Hanifaru Bay to divers. This season might just be the last chance to dive inside the bay. That’s where Tan Shung Sin, my colleague from the Singapore Global Pictures desk, and I ventured to capture images.
Thomas Peschak of the “Save Our Seas Foundation” made Hanifaru famous overnight when he shot the feeding frenzy in the summer of 2009 for National Geographic. Preparing for a topside news assignment is easy for me (I’ve been doing it for over 16 years with Reuters) but shooting underwater is a new ball game; and trying to make it into a multimedia project? Where do I start? How does one plan to cover an event like this?
Home, for eight days, was on a live-aboard, the chartered luxurious 41m mega yacht cruiser “MV Mosaique” or the mother ship as we called it. Daily, a dive boat or ‘dhoni’’ as it is called in the Maldives, would take us out to the various diving points.
Mario, our very experience dive master, called the shot on the dive sites and dive times. Our request was for 100 mantas and 2 whale sharks! He did not disappoint – at least on the whale shark request.