San Francisco International Airport

We rented a car at Avis on Fulton and had a non-stressful drive to SFO, arriving in plenty of time for our 4:10 departure on BA to LHR. \240 Our First Class seats were comfy, even if I didn’t get much sleep on the red eye. \240

Heathrow Airport

We arrived LHR at 1030. \240That left plenty of time to shower in the Concord Lounge and have a light lunch before continuing on BA to Chennai, leaving at 1445 (30 minutes late). \240


We arrived Chenai at 0545 and quickly were into the third world. \240 The MAA airport is quite dilapidated by current international standards. \240Since I had checked a bag with my dive gear, we had to. Go through immigration and customs to claim my bag and recheck it. \240This mean going outside to get back to the international departures terminal. \240 \240The sky was smoky and the area outside the terminal was pretty broken down. \240 Once we checked it we went through many layers of careful security before we made it to the lounge. \240 Our Srilanka Airlines flight to Colombo was easy. \240We had lie-flat seats in Business Class for the one-hour flight.

Our arrival in Colombo was not at all like what we remembered from 41 years ago. \240The airport is modern, prosperous appearing. \240Full of shops and crowded with travelers, it could have been in Europe. \240We spent about 2 hours in the very nice Srilankan Airways lounge before our 1:30 departure to Malé in Maldives. \240 It was a quick flight and, with the 30’ time change we arrived Malé at 2:00 where we were met by a representative from the Lux South Ari Atoll resort. \240I was surprised to see a fleet of at least 30 private jets parked at the airport. \240A short bus ride brought us to the terminal for Trans Maldivian Airways, an extremely busy sea plane service which transports most guests to the numerous resorts spread out over many different atolls. \240They run a fleet of about 30 Twin Otter sea planes which are constantly coming and going from their base adjacent to the international airport. \240 We were off about 4:30 for the 60 mile flight to South Ari Atoll. \240 Once airborne we could see how built up Malé is. \240Seemingly every square inch is occupied by a building. \240 It actually looks like a mini Manhattan without Central Park or other green areas. \240 When we arrived at 5:00 it marked 41 hours of continuous travel since we left Sacramento at 11:00 Thursday morning. \240 Talk about exhausting.

The Lux resort is truly magnificent. \240With 195 over water and beachfront bungalows, it’s one of the larger resorts in Maldives. \240 It stretches for several km’s over a narrow atoll. \240 We were welcomed by numerous staff, reminiscent of a Club Med arrival (without the singing). \240Following a brief introduction to the resort we were walking along a long pier to our over water bungalow with its own private pool on the rear deck. \240 The room itself is done in white with a modern but very simple decor which blends well with its beach location. \240 Following a short nap we opted for the Asian buffet restaurant as the quickest place to get dinner before crashing. \240 It proved to be a good choice. \240 It’s now 10:00 and I’n struggling to keep my eyes awake so I’m turning in. \240 I’m sure I’ll be wide awake in a few hours.

Trans Maldivian Airways in Malé


Lux South Ari Atoll Resort

Arrival at Lux

LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

After taking melatonin 5 mg last night we both slept quite well, not suffering from jet lag. \240 After breakfast we walked the length of the atoll and explored the resort, finding the various restaurants, bars, activity venues, etc. \240 There is a lot going on here. \240 We then returned to our room and enjoyed hanging out of our deck with its pool and direct access to the lagoon. \240 It was then back on shore for lunch and more time on the deck in the afternoon. \240

LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

I was up at 6:30 to get ready for my morning dive. \240After an early breakfast, I boarded a dohni, a replica of the traditional Maldivian boat. \240There were. Only 4 guests on the dive trip. \240 A 30’ ride took us out of the south entrance of the South Ari Atoll and into the lee of one of the islands making up the atoll. \240Our search was for whale sharks which are here year round an are frequently seen by divers and snorkelers. \240Unfortunately, in 2 dives we struck out. \2402 of the group saw the tail of a shark during their safety stop but that was it. \240 Furthermore, I flooded one of my camera strobes; I had not properly seated the O-ring. \240 On the other hand, the tropical fish were very nice with many triggers, parrot fish, groupers, etc.

I was back at the resort for a BBQ lunch on the beach. \240The afternoon was quiet, just hanging out in our room. \240 We had a very good Indian/Maldivian dinner at Senses and that was our day. \240

Yellow mask Angelfish

Pearly Butterflyfish

Tailspot Squirrelfish and Splendid Soldierfish

White-mouth Moray

Freckled Hawkfish

Splendid Soldierfish and Threadfin Butterflyfish

Map Puffer

Titan Triggerfish

Yellow-Tail Sergeant

Fire Dartfish

?Blackspot Grouper

Five saddle Parrotfish

Masked Bannerfish

Diana’s Hogfish (Wrasse). \240Yellow-tail Wrasse (female)

Black-spotted Puffer

Stellate Rabbitfish

Five-lined Snapper

Robust Soldierfish

Senate Anemonefish

Threespot Angelfish

Orientalists Sweetlips

Freckled Hawkfish

Green throat Parrotfish

Red tooth Triggerfish

?Spiny Chromis

?Bleeker’s, Camoflage, Speckle-fin, or Brown-Marbled Grouper

Emperor Angelfish

Stellate Rabbitfish and Indian Triggerfish

?Star-spotted Grouper

Scythe Triggerfish

Phantom Bannerfish

?Guineafowl Puffer

?Two-lined Monocle Bream

LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

Another dat in paradise. \240 After breakfast we boarded a 25’ speedboat for a whale shark and manta expedition. \240 As we did yesterday, we exited the lagoon at the south end of the atoll. \240But this time we kept on going along the south coast until we reached the southwest corner of the atoll where we turned north a proceed quite a ways until we met up with a large group of excursion boats. \240 Immediately upon arriving we spotted a whale shark and so quickly we geared up and jumped into the water, along with snorkelers from many other boats. \240 We were fortunate to have several passes over the whale shark. \240 At almost the same time, a group of 5-6 mantas came along. \240We stayed with them for a while before moving on to a nearby manta feeding station. \240Again there were multiple mantas in the water around us. \240You needed to keep your head on a swivel because they came from any direction, just under the surface. \240 In between the manta encounters, we found large schools of fusiliers as well as unicorn fish and the ubiquitous red-toothed trigger fish. \240 After about 2 hours we headed back to Lux. \240 On approaching the hotel, we found that about 6 megayachts had chosen the area just offshore from Lux for their anchorage. \240Most prominent was Lionheart, the 300’, $150M toy of Sir Philip Green, a British billionaire. \240Turns out he is quite an interesting character. \240 He’s Jewish, inherited and expanded a string of clothing stores in the UK, made billions, and now lives in Monaco. \240He owns 2 other super yachts and a $75M Gulfstream to travel between them. \240It also appears that the UK is moving to revoke his knighthood. \240Seems he made much of his fortune by looting his employees’ pension funds so he could build his fleet of super yachts. \240

We spent the afternoon relaxing and napping and then had a very nice Mediterranean-style dinner at Beach Rouge. \240

Whale Shark

Manta Ray

Yellow-stripe Fusilier

Red-tooth Triggerfish

White-Margin Unicornfish


LUX South Ari Atoll, Maldives

After breakfast I tried a new sport; flyboarding. \240It’s harder than it looks. \240The balance is over the tube which connects the board to the jet ski, not the 2 water streams which are just exhausts. \240 Besides the lateral balance, the fore and after balance is really harder. \240I had a modicum of success. \240My longest time aloft was probably 15-20”. \240There are similarities to getting up on 2 water skis but there is no long ski to make up for mistakes in fore and aft balance. \240Despite the struggles it was fun and I hope to try it again some time. \240

After lunch a I did a 1-tank dive at Long Reef, south of the atoll. \240 I again had camera problems. \240This time I opened the outer case while outside at lunch, admitting humid air into the case. \240As soon as I submerged the water vapor condensed, fogging the lens and wiping out all the pictures I took on the dive. \240The dive itself was quite good. \240A spade fish followed us almost the entire 50’ of the dive. \240Yuan, our leader, \240thought it was attracted to her yellow fins. \240 The dive was remarkable for 4-5 moray eels, several of which were quite large and partially out of their holes. \240Alas, no decent photos. \240 We also had a large school of Oriental Sweetlips at the end of the dive. \240 The current was very strong, making for easy movement but difficulty stopping to observe the fish life. \240

We were back by 4:30 in time to clean up. \240Dinner at the Italian restaurant, Allegra was quite nice except that numerous dishes weren’t included in the “All Inclusive” price. \240 We are now packed and ready to leave in the morning. \240

Harder than it looks


After breakfast we packed up our room and checked out in anticipation of our return to Malé via TMA seaplane. \240 The flight was 30’ late and we arrived back in Malé by 11:15. \240Here it was a bit chaotic. \240 I thought the Lux representative at the seaplane terminal had reassured us that they would provide transportions to the ship. \240However the Lux rep knew nothing about any transfer. \240After a while we found a Silversea rep and he got us a taxi to the port. \240From the port we checked in and then were transported by Zodiac to Silver Discoverer which lay at anchor in the port. \240We boarded and were assigned to our cabin, followed by a lifeboat drill. \240 An initial briefing on the trip, then dinner with new friends, and now ready for bed. \240

Malé Airport

Friendship Bridge connecting airport to Malé


We cruised all night and arrived at Uligam Atoll in the northern end of Maldives. \240 After breakfast we were ready to go snorkeling on the reef directly off of th island. \240It was a fair site but not coming close to the wall of S Ari Atoll. \240 In about 10’ of water there was a reasonable assortment of tropical fish. \240 After lunch we went ashore to visit the village of 515 residents. \240This village serves as the port of entry and customs clearing center for vessel traffic entering Maldives from the north. \240We walked around and saw the mosque, school, a government Customs House under construction and not much else. \240So now we are underway, heading for Cochin, India.

Asian Koel

White-spotted Boxfish

Blue-lined Snapper

Powder-blue Surgeonfish


We departed Maldives yesterday afternoon and traveled all night and this morning to arrive Kochi, in the state of Kerala, by 2:30 pm. \240 The skies here are dull blue-brown and you can smell the burning charcoal in the air but, fortunately, it’s nowhere as bad as Agra or Beijing. \240 During the morning we had lectures on the various religions practiced in India and another lecture that was a brief overview of the country.

By 4 pm all the formalities in dealing with Indian Customs and Immigration had been completed so we went ashore with staff and guides to explore Kochi. \240 A short ride on a water taxi took us to Fort Cochin, one of the older areas of this city of 3.5 million. \240 We spent a short time in the Indo-Portuguese Museum. \240It contained mostly religious artifacts and wasn’t very interesting. \240Then we boarded a fleet of tuk tuks which took us to Mattancherry, another old section of the city. \240This is where “Jew Town” is located. \240It traditionally the home of Jews living in Cochin but the synagogue now has only 5 members and a rabbi who comes from Israel for 1-2 months every year. \240 There is another synagogue in the new town which has aboard 25 members. \240 We did pass the home of one elderly lady who is a member of the synagogue. The doors were locked and we didn’t go in but we have plans to do so tomorrow. \240On the way back to our meeting place we passed many jewelry stores and wound up buying a 6-strand beaded necklace made of of sapphires. \240 The price began at $550 and we settled at $228. \240

We then reboarded the water taxis and headed for the Taj Malabar hotel for a Syrian Christian dinner. \240It was served outside, on the large lawn of the hotel’s back area. \240 The setting was beautiful, the food was interesting and only a little to spicy and the show of Kerala music and ladies dancing provided a nice backdrop. \240 After dinner a short tuk tuk ride delivered us back to Discoverer. \240

Black Kite

Indian Pond Heron

Indian Pond Heron

Newlywed couple out for a photo shoot


We began the day with a private group tour of the Paradiso Synagogue. \240 Our group of 12 included Ron & Dina Feldman from NJ, David & Sally and Isaac & Judy from Melbourne, and 2 couples from Panama City, Panama. \240We were at the 450 year old synagogue for a special opening for our group. \240 This means no crowds inside and they waived the ban on photography by visitors. \240We stopped a a shop in Jew Town and found a chess set with the pieces made of bone. \240It was beautiful but we could not agree on a price with us offering $500 and the shop owner unwilling to accept our offer. \240His last offer was $1400. \240We spent about 1 hour there and then reboarded the bus for a 2-hour ride south to Alleppey, located between the Arabian Sea Lake Vembanad. \240There we boarded the local houseboats for a tour of the surrounding waterways and a huge \240Kettuvallam lunch.

After completing the tour we bused back to Kochi and arrived at shortly after 4:00. \240Then it was time to shower, catch the uptake, and have dinner.

Black-headed Gull

Oriental Darter and Little Cormorant

Indian Pond Heron

Jewish Cemetery

Tinnakara Island

After cruising overnight from Kochi we arrived at Tinnakara Island in the Lakshadweep Islands around noon. \240 The Lakshadweep are a geologic northern extension of the Maldives. \240However, unlike the Maldives, the Lakshadweep are relatively untouched by tourism or other development. \240 They are politically Indian but culturally closer to the Maldives and are predominantly Muslim. \240 They have a little tourism from the Indian mainland but almost no foreign visitors. \240 Silversea was here last year and left a good enough impression that they were invited to return.

Discoverer was forced to anchor about 7 miles off from Tinnakara due to shallow water so the Zodiac ride to our beach took about 45’. \240The landing beach was more developed than expected. \240It is the site of a hotel and it has a pier (or sorts), shade, bathrooms, and chairs. \240 We spent about 1.5 hours snorkeling the nearby reef which was in good condition with numerous wrasses, parrotfish, tangs, chromos, etc. \240 By 5:45 we were back in the Zodiacs for return to the ship. \240On the ride back I had a nice conversation with Eve from Panama City and our synagogue tour from yesterday so we wound up having dinner with the 2 couples from Panama. \240It proved to be an interesting exchange of ideas. \240

Bridled Parrotfish

Five-saddle Parrotfish

Two-spot Damselfish

Checkerboard Wrasse (female)

Indian Sailfin Tang

Redfin Butterflyfish

Five-saddle Parrotish

Grey Damselfish

Reeftop Pipefish

Moon Wrasse

?Swarthy Parrotfish

?Spiny Chromis

Suheli Par

Overnight, Discoverer repositioned to Suheli Island, an uninhabited atoll in the Lakshadweep archipelago and a place never previously visited by Silversea and likely by any other cruise ship. \240 We anchored several miles offshore and began a Zodiac shuttle to the beach. \240 Conditions were challenging with a 5-6’ swell and confused seas. \240 This was complicated by our Zodiac being under inflated so that the boat flexed through about 50 degrees on each swell. \240 Our driver decided it was safe for neither the boat nor us so we stopped and waited for another Zodiac to be delivered to us so we could transfer for our trip to the atoll. \240 We arrived on the beach of a beautiful atoll with a dense stand of coconut palms in the middle and a lovely beach. \240 The local operator had set up tents with tables and chairs, \240porta potties, and a floating pier. \240We spent about 1 hour snorkeling off the beach but it was disappointing. \240Most of the coral was dead and the fish were mostly small and not too plentiful. \240

Lunch ashore was a BBQ set up by the kitchen crew. \240It’s was excellent, especially considering the logistical challenge of bringing all the food and cooking gear ashore via Zodiac. \240 They grilled lobster tails, tuna, sausage, and chicken. \240This was accompanied by various salads and fruits, corn, and deserts. \240 After lunch we returned to the ship; again the seas were rough leading to a challenging transfer. \240 We relaxed during the afternoon and then had dinner on deck, cooking on individual hot rocks at each place setting. \240

Long-barbel Goatfish

Latticed Sandperch

Picasso Triggerfish

Two-spot Damselfish


By morning we had reached Cheriyum Island in the Kalpeni Atoll. \240 We were off Discoverer by 8:00 for the 20 minute Zodiac transfer to the uninhabited island Ceriyum. \240 As at our other stops in the Lakdashweeps, the local operator had set up a nice base for us with shade, chairs, etc. \240 Unlike yesterday’s stop, here the reef was in good condition. \240We snorkeled in about 10-12’ of water with a healthy fish population, highlighted by a very large Moray eel. \240 By 11, we were back on board and headed back to the Indian mainland. \240

Blue streak Cleaner Wrasse and Two Spot Damsel

Blue-lined Snapper

Striped Bristletooth

Spotfin Squirrelfish

Redfin Butterflyfish

Moon Wrasse

Violet Soldierfish

Moorish Idol

Six-bar Wrasse

Meyer’s Butterflyfish

Hermit Crab

Great Crested Tern


We arrived just off Vizhinjam on the southern coast of Kerala at 7:30. \240 Again III (Incredible Indian Immigration) was at it. \240 For at least the 4th time, they had to do a face-to-face inspection of our passports and visas, even though we haven’t even left the state of Kerala, let alone India. \240Finally we were able to go ashore via Zodiac and transferred to buses to the city of Trivandrum. \240 There we toured the Padmanabha Palace, the largest wooden palace in India mid-19th century. \240 It is now a museum housing ornate thrones, weapons, art, and other trappings of the maharajah. \240 Next to the palace is the Padmanabha Swamy Temple which we could not enter. \240 We walked through the local street market with all sorts of small shops and produce sellers. \240We then bused to the Taj Vivanta Hotel for a Kerala-style lunch and entertainment by a pair of Kathakali dancers.

We were back to the ship by 2:30 and, several hours later, after a total of 25 Indian immigration officers again checked all our papers and assured themselves that no passengers or crew were trying to illegally stay in India, we departed for Sri Lanka. \240 The weather forecast for our crossing to Sri Lanka is for winds of 25-30k when we enter the channel between India and Sri Lanka with swells up to 10’. \240 \240 We are patched up and ready to rock and roll.

Kathakali Dancers

Flower merchant

Jack fruit (largest in India)

Vizhinjam harbor


The overnight crossing to Galle was rough but neither of us got sick (after applying TransDerm Scop). \240We arrived Galle, Sri Lanka around 2:30. \240By 4 we were done with formalitities and ready to disembark the ship. \240We boarded buses. \240 And made the short trip to the old walled city of Galle. \240We spent about 1 hour walking around the city. \240The most remarkable thing is the number of foreign tourists here. \240 One 3-block stretch of the city is devoted to hotels, restaurants, bars, jewelers and other merchandise. \240 There were many European types walking around. \240 After our walking tour we stopped at the Ramparts Hotel for tea. \240The we boarded tuk tuks to return us to the buses outside the city walls. \240Because of rush hour traffic, it took almost 1 hour to reach the nearby beach resort and hotel at Unawatuna. \240Here we had a demonstration of Sri Lankan fdancving and a true feast served up to us at tables on the beach. \240 We were back to the ship by 9:30.

Brahminy Kite

Whispered Tern

Black headed Gull


Mirissa Beach

We left Galle at 0630 and cruised a short distance to a subsea canyon off Marisa Beach. \240 This is reputed to be a biological hot spot for Cetaceans due to the 2000M+ depths here. \240Despite being among numerous whale-watching boats we saw nothing more than a few distant spouts and left quite disappointed. \240(As did the numerous whale-watching boats which were near us). \240However, several hours later, while further north, we began to spot multiple whales. \240 The expedition staff estimates there were 30-40 individuals’ mostly Pygmy Blues but also a few Sei and Bryde’s whales. \240 Most of the activity was 1-2 km distant buys we did have one whale surface only 20-30’ from us. \240We heard him breathe before we saw him. \240The staff were amazingly excited. \240It was the first sighting of a Pygmy Blue for most of them. \240Although we didn’t see them personally, others saw a pair of mating turtles just next to the boat and numerous dolphins of several species. \240 We are now cruising north towards Trincomallee, our next stop. \240

Pygmy Blue Whale


We arrived Trincomalee at 9, about 1 hour behind schedule due to an adverse current of 2-3k along the east coast of Sri Lanka. \240 After breakfast we set out on a half day city tour. \240We declined the options of Anuadhapura and Sigiriya since either of them required a 2.5 hour bus trip (each way) and we had visited both when here in 1978. \240A small group of 9 did the city tour which proved to be disappointing. \240Our guide was one of the worst we have ever experienced. \240He showed little or no inclination to tell us about what we were seeing, even after significant prodding by the expedition staff who accompanied us on the tour. \240Part of the issue was language; he obviously did not understand some of our questions and just responded with an “Asian yes”. \240He only described the bare minimum at each site, suggesting he was working off some sort of script and would never go off topic to discuss Trinco, Sri Lanka, or anything else we enquirer about. \240 The sites, themselves, weren’t very exciting. \240 We walked about the Koneswaram Tample (Hindu) where the decorations were very nice but not spectacular. Our next stop was supposed to be the fish market but, since today is a full moon, that means it’s one of Sri Lanka’s 45 national holidays and the market was closed. \240The WWII Anglo-English Cemetary was quite nice and held the graves of about 200 fallen soldiers. \240(Ceylon was attached by Japanese aircraft early in 1942 but was never occupied by the Japanese. \240Our last stop was a hot springs which locals believe has healing powers. We were back about for lunch at 12:30.

Hot springs with “healing” waters

Koneswaram Tample


Our last day on board Silver Discoverer was a day at sea. \240We left Trincomalee lads night during dinner and have spent the day cruising up the east coast of Sri Linka and crossing over to ther east coast of India. \240The captain has slowed the ship to 6.3 knots. \240I suspect this is so that we won’t arrive Chennai until after sunrise tomorrow. \240 I had a massage in the morning, we went to a few lectures, but mostly spent the day saying goodbye to our new friends from Panama and Melbourne. \240


Discoverer arrived Chennai at 0800. \240We disembarked after breakfast and ran the, by now, familiar gauntlet of Indian immigration. \240 After passing through 3 layers of officials, we were on our own and boarded a shuttle bus to the port entrance (going through one final check of our papers). \240We were told we could get a taxi here but that was not the case. \240There were only a few tuk tuks so we loaded ourselves and baggage into a tuk tuk. \240I had my duffel in my lap with half of it hanging out of the cab. \240We traveled about 15’, then stopped while our driver called a taxi which arrived 30’ later. \240 Then we had a 45 minute ride to the Radisson Blu, located near the airport. \240Considering the travel time from the city we decided not to return for our pre-paid city tour. \240We just stayed at the hotel and waited to leave tomorrow. \240


We were up at 7:30 as Silver Discoverer was alongside in the port of Chennai. \240 After our last breakfast we disembarked and ran the substantial gauntlet of Indian immigration. \240 We had to go through at least 3 levels of screening. \240Are they really concerned about people trying to enter India illegally? \240After clearing immigration we loaded onto a shuttle van to carry us to the port entry (and another screening of our paperwork). \240 We expected to get a taxi from the port entrance to our hotel but that was not the case. \240It turns out that taxis in Chennai are very rare. \240We loaded ourselves and our 4 bags into a tuk tuk with me carrying my dive duffel on my lap with the bag sticking outside the tuk tuk. \240 Our driver drove us for about 15 minutes before he stopped and called a taxi. \240Finally the taxi arrived after a 35’ wait, during which time we did not see a single taxi. \240Then we had a 40 minute ride to the Radisson Blu, located just outside the airport. \240 We wound up spending the day at the hotel even though we had a prepaid tour of Chennai. \240It would have been about a 1-hour ride each way to get to the meeting point of our tour and we decided it just wasn’t worth it. \240In addition to the travel time, the air quality was terrible, smelling of burning charcoal, and the thought of a walking tour was not very enticing. \240 There also was no shopping anyway near the hotel so we couldn’t look for a chess set. \240So we had lunch, caught up on email and the Bee, had dinner, and now are getting ready for an early bedtime. \240 We leave the hotel at 0500 for our 0730 flight to London. \240


Our trip home from Chennai began with a 0430 wake up. \240It was only a 5’ ride to the airport from our hotel. \240Exiting India was as slow and inefficient as we have come to expect. \240 The immigration officer had trouble grasping that we had arrived Chennai by ship but eventually he cleared us out of the country. \240The 10 hour flight to LHR was easy and we landed on time. \240However, we were delayed about 10’ waiting for our gate to become available. \240We started to worry a little as we had “only” 90’ for our connection to SFO and, based on considerable experience, getting through security at LHR can be very slow. \240Fortunately that was not the case today. \240We were the first ones off the plane and also the transit security post was empty when we arrived. \240 From deplaning to the BA lounge could not have taken more than 15’; certainly a record for us at LHR.

BA from LHR to SFO was similarly easy. \240 We arrived at 6:30, collected our luggage, met our driver, and were home by 9:30.