7 ways to get the most from diving and snorkelling

Marine biologist Robin Aiello gives her top tips for getting the most out of your dive and snorkel experience. Robin is visiting Constance Halaveli, Maldives and leading dive and snorkel excursions for guests as well as island nature walks and talks.

Baracudas

Baracudas

1. Scan the area – Look down, look out, look up

Let your eyes relax and scan the whole area – don’t look at anything in particular, just take in the whole reef. Do this at regular intervals. Take a wide panoramic view. You might spot a large manta ray is cruising past in the deep water, or a tuna is speeding by just above your head.

Large schools of snapper or fusiliers attract larger predators, such as barracudas and tuna. Take the time to hang back and observe for a while – sometimes, out of the blue one of these large hunters will dash through the fish trying to grab one.

2.  Use your peripheral vision

Pay attention to your peripheral vision – a quick motion or an unusual colour – and turn to have a look. It might be an octopus feeding in the coral, or a turtle grazing or a titan triggerfish tearing apart the reef trying to get to some morsel of food.

3.  Weird behaviours

Pay attention to ‘weird behaviours’:

  • a fish floating vertically on its head (tail up), or the other way around (head up, tail down). Fish don’t usually act this way so stop and look.
  • is the fish flexing its gills, is it opening its mouth wide, like a yawn (fish don’t yawn!), does it look like it is dazed and tilting sideways? Look even closer – there are most likely some very small, blue and white fish darting around the fish. These are cleaner wrasses that play a very important role for fish by cleaning off harmful parasites. As they are cleaning, they also ‘massage’ the fish to help it relax. As they relax, the fish change colour, which in turn allows the cleaner fish to see the parasites easier.
  • a fish wiggling its body sideways, flat against the reef or the sand? Look closer – you could be watching a female laying its eggs, or a male fertilising freshly laid eggs.
  • two fish, head to tail, spinning in tight circles around one another – like two dogs in a dog fight? You are probably witnessing fish spawning.
  • a small tightly packed school of fish suddenly dash to the surface, then burst apart and swim back to the reef? This is another style of fish spawning.
Diving in the Maldives

Diving in the Maldives

4. Don’t forget to look behind you

Animals, even marine wildlife, avoid approaching other animals from the front – they would rather creep up from behind where they are less easily seen. This is even true of fish.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen turtles, rays, reef sharks and trevallies (jacks) following divers, staying only a few feet from their fins, and the divers were completely oblivious.

In fact, just last week while diving at Halaveli in some very strong current, we were hanging on the reef flat doing our safety stop when one of my guests started gesturing to me to look behind – and sure enough there, nearly touching my fins, was a beautiful white tip reef shark!

5. Focus in close

Every so often shift your focus and concentrate on a small area of the reef – whether on the reef flat, or on a steep wall face, or under an overhang. Stay in one place, hovering close to the reef, and select an area about one metre square. You will be amazed by how much you can see in this small patch.

Slowly scan side-to-side, taking in all the small animals and plants. Be sure to look in the nooks and crannies – that is where many of the small shrimps and crabs hide out.

Do you see something moving, like thin white strings sticking out of the hole and waving around? Look closer – it is probably the antennae of the red-banded cleaner shrimp. They use their antennae like a neon billboard to advertise that they are open for business – for fish or other animals to come bay and get cleaned. The shrimp use their long claws to pick off parasites and dead skin.

Butterflyfish, Maldives

Butterflyfish, Maldives

6. Pick one thing to look at

Find one thing – a soft coral, a sea fan, a sea anemone – and focus exclusively on it. Don’t be distracted – let your eyes adjust so you are looking at all the small details. Look for tiny animals that live there.

Small shrimp, sometimes transparent or the colour of the object it is sitting on, or small parasitic snails, or teeny fish looking for even smaller prey. Look all around – some crabs like to hide on the undersides for better protection. In bushy soft corals you can sometimes find delicate ghost pipefish or long-nosed hawkfish that stay so still, and are so well camouflaged, that you can barely see them, even when they are right in front of your nose. But they are there to be found.

7. Stop and listen

Sound travels much faster underwater than in the air, and marine animals use sound for all sorts of communication. Stop and listen. You can hear it too.

The reef is alive with sound – the crunching of the parrotfish as they graze algae off the reef, the clicking of shrimps as they snap their claws together, the woosh of tuna as they attack a school of fish, and the drumming noise of fish defending their territory.

They do this by using their air bladder (swim bladder) – an internal sac structure that is filled with air, that they inflate and deflate to maintain buoyancy. Surrounding the sac they have muscles, which if quickly flexed will strike against the air bladder and make a noise – like a drum. Many fish use this during spawning to attract females, or as a warning alarm.

So remember – Stop, take your time, do not rush through the dive. Stop, look closer and see the incredible underwater world unfold in front of your eyes.

See you soon

Robin

Discover the secret of De Toren’s 5* South African wines with Constance

Take a journey of taste and discovery through some of South Africa’s finest wines with elite winemaker Charles Williams of De Toren when he visits Constance in the Seychelles from 3-10 November.

De Toren Wines

De Toren at Constance Hotels & Resorts

Having won a gold medal from IWSC for its maiden wine in 1999, a Cabernet Sauvignon driven five varietal Bordeaux-style blend, De Toren’s reputation has continued to soar with latter vintages winning numerous accolades, including the elusive ‘5 Stars’ from John Platter.

What lies behind the success of De Toren

Williams explains the success of the privately-owned boutique winery:

‘Fine wines are my passion! For me a fine wine is created and moulded in the vineyard first, then perfected in the cellar. I believe that every terroir has a given potential to produce quality, and to unlock quality one must be a student of nature, learning and observing every moment!’

At the De Toren wine cellar this means an organic approach to viticulture to get the most from the soil and a series of micro-harvests, based on near infra-red aerial imaging to ensure that each small cluster of grapes is picked at its optimum ripeness.

De Toren at Constance Ephélia and Lémuria

Guests at Constance Ephélia and Constance Lémuria will have the opportunity to sample some of De Toren’s finest vintages as well as meet and talk with Charles Williams at special wine events from 3-10 November.

Read more

Visit their website to find out more about De Toren wines.

Brown is singing in the rain after Dutch Senior Open victory

Simon P Brown has won his second European Senior Tour title in adverse weather conditions at the Dutch Senior Open.

Simon P Brown

Simon P Brown (Getty images)

Torrential rain on the first day of play and over night on the second at the International in Amsterdam led to the tournament being halted, granting the English-born Brown victory after only two days play.

This is Brown’s first season in the European Senior Tour. The victory puts him fourth in the Order of Merit which could secure him a place in the top six at the end of the Tour, earning him an exemption to all the Senior Majors of 2014.

With just one event to go before the MCB Championship, held in Mauritius at Constance Belle Mare Plage in December, Steen Tinning still has his eye on the Jacobs Trophy, leading the Order of Merit by just under €10,000 ahead of the nearest contender Paul Wesselingh.

Read more

 

Top 5 reasons to visit the Maldives right now

Enjoy a holiday to the Maldives and take advantage of the archipelago’s glorious dry season.

Constance Moofushi

Constance Moofushi

If beautiful sugar-white sand and crystal lagoons aren’t enough of a temptation, here are our top 5 reasons to visit the Maldives right now.

1. The best season for uninterrupted sunshine

From December to March the idyllic islands bathe in the sunshine of the North East Monsoon bringing with it low rainfall, low humidity and plenty of sun – weather which continues into the transitional month of April.

For those looking to escape the dull, cold greyness of a northern hemisphere winter the calm, crystal waters, consistent 30ºC temperature and 12 hours of daylight could be the perfect remedy.

2. Swim in beautiful warm waters

While the Maldives is undoubtedly a year-round destination the shift from the South West Monsoon in November brings with it gentle breezes and calmer waters making it the perfect time of year to enjoy water sports. From water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking and pedal boating to swimming and snorkelling this time of year equals tranquil, clear waters to relax and play in.

Spa de Constance

Spa de Constance

3. Dive in clear, calm waters with heightened visibility

The gentler winds and calmer waters mean that this is a time for outstanding visibility when diving. From November many glorious species pass through the eastern side of the Maldives including large numbers of whale sharks and grey reef sharks. December to April is Manta season in the Ari Atoll where both Constance Moofushi and Constance Halaveli are located. Join us at this time of year and swim with these elegant, beautiful giants as large schools migrate through our waters.

4. Big game fishing

During the winter season the Ari Atoll sees an increase in the number and size of pelagic species making it the perfect time to come and fish our waters. Thanks to the increased warmth and calmness of the ocean at this time of year we see more large yellowfin tuna and swordfish, among others, as well as the marlin and sailfish which are caught here all year round.

5. Festivals

Time your holiday to coincide with one of the many festivals celebrated at this time of year, and enjoy traditional feasts and festivities in Maldivian style.

• Hay Festival Maldives, 1 – 31 October
An offshoot of the famous English literary festival, the Hay Festival in the Maldives celebrates Maldivian culture and is a chance to discuss the challenges climate change creates for the archipelago.

Constance Halaveli

Constance Halaveli

• Al’h'aa Eid Day, 6 November
Join in a day of celebration and feasting in most areas of the Maldives on this important religious holiday.

• Republic Day, 11 November
A celebration of the day the Maldives became a republic which usually includes local festivities including street parades, local food stalls, music and dancing.

• Fishermen’s Day, 10 December
Celebrate the important role of fishing in the Maldives with a day of feasting on the very freshest seafood including tuna, mackerel and may other locally caught delicacies.

Constance Halaveli and Constance Moofushi, Maldives

Add a touch of ultimate luxury to your winter break with a stay at Halaveli with its water villas complete with private plunge pools and beach villas set on crystal white sand. Enjoy the very best of 5* dining at our selection of restaurants and pamper yourself in the Spa de Constance and Valmont spa.

Or kick off your shoes and enjoy the laid-back vibe and castaway chic of Moofushi. Drink cocktails on beanbags underneath the stars, dine with your loved one on your very own sandbank, watch movies on the beach and enjoy the sumptuous seclusion of your own water villa in this relaxed 5* resort.

Find out more about Constance Halaveli and Constance Moofushi on our website.

Fruits and spices in Mauritian cuisine

The island of Mauritius has a unique blend of different ethnicities that have all had an influence on the island’s cuisine.

Pineapple and watermelon sandwich with cinnamon French toast

Pineapple and watermelon sandwich with cinnamon French toast

The African, Indian, Asian and European influences are evident in the delicious, spicy cuisine of the region. Creole pickles and fried vegetables sit alongside spicy Indian curries, Chinese noodles and European inspired dishes.

Here is our run down of 5 of the most popular fruits and spices used in Mauritian cuisine and some inspirational recipes created by our Constance Chefs.

1. Pineapple

Pineapple is one of the many fruits that grows all year round in the tropical climate of Mauritius. Freshly picked pineapple is always available at local markets and street stalls on the island, and pineapple sprinkled with chilli salt is a popular Mauritian snack. Watch our video for how to peel a pineapple and add the chilli salt.

2. Mango

There are over 50 different varieties of mango in Mauritius, the most common being the Maison Rouge, Baissac and Dauphine. Each has a slightly different flavour and colour and all are enjoyed as snacks or ingredients in local recipes.

Pan-fried sea bass with mild spices, salad of warm spinach, asparagus and berries

Pan-fried sea bass with mild spices, salad of warm spinach, asparagus and berries

3. Turmeric

A popular spice in Indian and Pakistani cuisine, turmeric has become an important spice in Mauritius. The island also provides the perfect conditions for growing the spice, which is part of the ginger family.

4. Chillies

The gentle heat of chillies, including the cari chilli, permeates much of Mauritian cooking. With influences from the spice-rich foods of India, Asia and Africa, chilli plays an important role in both savoury and sweet dishes.

5. Cardamom

One of the world’s most expensive spices by weight, cardamom is native of India, Nepal and Bhutan and is often used to add a rich warmth to curries.

Read more

 

Recipe: Tandoori marinade

This suggested tandoori marinade is a combination of lots of ingredients: chicken, lamb, fish, crustaceans, etc…

Halaveli's Tandoori marinade

Halaveli’s Tandoori marinade

The ideal is to use a traditional tandoori oven for cooking dishes marinated like this, but we still get a good result in a conventional oven, brought to a high temperature.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 5g cumin powder
  • 20g garam massala
  • 8g chili powder
  • 5g ground coriander
  • 4 tablespoons of whole yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1g orange food colourant
  • 1 teaspoon ginger and garlic paste
  • Salt/pepper

The cumin and coriander:

1. Heat the cumin and coriander seeds in a moderate oven until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Let it cool to room temperature.

2. Once cooled, crush the spices in a mortar with a pestle. You will get a fine powder. Store it.

The ginger and garlic paste:

1. This is a simple mixture of 50% fresh ginger and 50% garlic. Peel, crush and puree both of them.

Finishing

Mix the spice powder and the garlic and ginger paste. Season it with salt and pepper. Store it. Use this mixture to marinate the ingredients of your choice.

Sommelier’s suggested wine

Bold dry white wine:

  • Alsace Grand Cru Muenchberg, Pinot gris, “A360P”, Domaine Ostertag, 2007 France
  • Bordeaux, Château Fombrauge, 2008 France