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Night Snorkelling with a Nurse Shark in the Maldives

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Our week in the Maldives, staying at the luxury Hurawalhi Maldives resort, was a dream come true in itself, but the opportunities we were offered, to experience life underwater, were unbelievable.

We snorkelled more on this trip, than we have on any other to date. Before we arrived, we pre-booked a snorkeling excursion with the on-site Marine Biologist, with the hopes of finding Manta Rays. We did find them, (I saw them from the surface) but they are shy and we were unable to snorkel with them that day.

Dolphins playing in the waves at sunset, Maldives
Dolphins playing in the waves at sunset, Maldives

We did, however, snorkel in some of the most beautiful reefs and have a family of dolphins swim by our boat. We also booked a private sunset excursion, where the lovely Appu took us out to watch dolphins play as the sun began to set. A few boats gathered, moving in circles and singing aloud to encourage the dolphins to jump and play in the waves. It was truly magical.

J beginning the night snorkel as the sun set, Maldives
J beginning the night snorkel as the sun set, Maldives

When it was almost dark, the three of us jumped into the ocean with nothing but flashlights for a night snorkel. Appu (whom we later nicknamed The Seal) was a deceivingly fast swimmer. He seemed to make small, slow movements but somehow propelled himself forward with such speed we found it difficult to keep up. In the darkness, this was especially unnerving.

The entire idea of a night snorkel was both terrifying and invigorating. The flashlights slowly became the lifeline we both hung onto, without them, nothing but specks were visible with the naked eye underwater. Appu searched the dark reef and pointed out Sea Cucumbers, Puffers and Lion Fish on the seafloor. It was difficult to capture anything with the underwater camera, especially while holding the flashlight in the other hand and attempting to follow their movements as they moved away from the light.

No other boats, no other people were in the water save for us three. The ocean was calm and eerily quiet. Normally when I snorkel, I remain as still as possible, floating with my face in the water so I can observe life as it happens. In the dark, my muscle memory wanted to do the same, but my instinct warned me not to, so I stayed close to the other two swimmers. We snorkelled mostly in silence, stopping occasionally to clean our masks or marvel at the night sky, until suddenly it was interrupted by Appu's muffled yell "shark".

Directly below us was a large Nurse Shark, swimming close to the reef, ducking in between the rays of our flashlights. We managed to snap a few photos and capture a video of the beautiful creature, while individually worrying what would happen next. I tried to keep the flashlight off the shark's face for fear it would enrage her, but my other half ensured his light was directly on the shark's face so he could see where she was going.

The shark swam beneath us for a few minutes, then disappeared into the darkness. Swimming back to the boat, for me, was more terrifying than the snorkel. Now that we had seen a shark, we knew they were there. With my head above the water and my flashlight off, my brain imagined what was lurking beneath. Back on the safety of the boat, the fear dissipated and we reveled in the sighting.

Appu raved about the Nurse Shark we encountered, claiming it was at least 10 feet long and one of biggest he had seen in the area. He was thrilled that we had captured some photos and we of course, shared them with him the next day. Thank-you to Appu and the wonderful team at the Hurawalhi Dive Center for arranging this unique and wonderful experience.

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