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Horizon-2 – Outer Atolls

Hi Ian and Atoll Team,

We’ve been back for a week now, and I thought I’d take a moment to write to you to let you know how our trip went.

We had the most amazing time.  Basically, it was everything I had ever imagined and MORE, much MORE.

The boat trip was a long long time bucket list item for me, and eventually I got tired of all my surfing buddies saying “Yeh, we should do that!! Lets do it.”  So last year, after the very sad passing of one of my longest term school friends to pancreatic cancer I could take it no more.  So I booked with you in December.  I was pleasantly surprised when so many friends quickly came on board, and even more so when almost everyone actually turned up at Singapore for the trip.

The trip was long and arduous, with the early start, and then three legs of flying, but made easier when I let my mind wander to warm, crystal clear water, surfing with friends in some uncrowded waves, and some great fishing.  Singapore Airlines were characteristically excellent – both plane, staff, service, food and timing.  We largely sat together, although a little further forward in the plane may have been nicer (the back is notoriously bumpy at times).  The stay at Changi definitely made just a little nicer by the voucher that you kindly provided.

By the time we got to the boat we were all thoroughly exhausted but super excited to be on board (albeit, less one set of boards, that were sadly, and frustratingly left behind at Male, due to lack of space).  We surfed the next morning at Café’s, close to the airport, and the errant boards arrived at about 8am.  It was an amazing way to start – we had the break to ourselves and it was 3-4ft and just GREAT.  Everything I had told the boys about.

Madey told me that we had lucked out, and that there were NO other tour boats in the area at the time.  And so, other than a pesky South African, privately owned vessel with five very talented grommets and their fathers, we had it to ourselves.  It was incredible.  We had nine days of 3-5ft and mostly good to excellent conditions.  The only surfers in our group that struggled to catch waves were those whose boards were too short for their size/skill/fitness – one in particular because he normally rides long boards (9ft-9ft6), and the 7’10” was just not enough to float him well.  Otherwise, everyone had a ball in the surf.  It certainly would be good to be able to access a longer board somehow, but I understand the difficulties.

I had bought two second hand game fishing outfits before leaving home, and a bunch of suitable lures and tackle.  I took a small rod and reel to catch smaller fish. I set myself up straight away, and the boat was really well set up for it, and the captain and crew very versatile fisherman also.  Much to my shock, and probably everyone else’s, I had hooked a sailfish within the first two hours of motoring!! It was spectacular as it flew through the air. I lost it in the excitement, and surprise, but the enthusiasm was lifted to a whole new level.  A level that was matched by the fish that we subsequently caught.  I got the other guys into it as well, and before I knew it many of them who never fish were spending some time at the back of the boat either trolling for the big game, reef fishing for snapper or grouper, jigging for those tasty little school fish, and using them for live bait fishing for tuna. We caught Skipjack tuna, Yellow fin tuna, Bonito, a couple of awesome Wahoo’s and were unsuccessful in hooking and landing a sailfish, despite a couple of close calls.  I fished with my friends, the captain and crew, and on one night surrounded by local village fisherman.  For a keen fisherman it was just sensational and I loved it.  I sold the captain all the game fishing gear I had bought and he was absolutely delighted and it was a little less to carry home.

The boat was superb.  It was comfortable, well equipped, and had a great feel about it.  It was really well maintained considering that it is an older vessel than some I had looked at for our trip, but the Horizon 2 rarely disappointed.  The gentle air con at night was welcomed.  The seating and viewing arrangements offered us fantastic places to watch the surf while relaxing or eating.  Obviously the fishing arrangements were very good for a non-game fishing boat.  All our beds were comfy and EVERYONE was happy with their rooms.  Toilets took a bit of getting used to, but eventually were not too much drama.  The drinks fridge could be colder but we learned to shuffle the beer into the freezer at the middle of the day.

The boat crew were great, starting, of course with Madey, but the captain was a real character.  We all loved him.  The chefs put out some wonderful healthy food, and prepared all the fish that we caught.  So we ate VERY well.  The variety was excellent and freshness superb.  We loved the beach banquet that the chef and crew put up on a deserted island one night.  They went to so much trouble and it was a unique experience.  The young deckhands kept everything clean and tidy, and Sunny (Sohail) and KK were always enthusiastic fishing companions.  Nothing was too much trouble for the two of them.  They even made our beds each day – very unexpected – but nice.

We really topped off the trip with a memorable evening at Ayada, a luxury resort close to where we had been surfing (Blue Bowls).  I thought that they were pretty game inviting us ashore, but their occupancy was low, and Rachelle must have seen us as an opportunity.  And we were!  A few of us had massages whilst the others did a “Cocktails Masterclass”.  By the time we got out of the MOST luxurious massages and showers, and toilets with paper, the ones doing the cocktails were already seven or eight drinks in, and indeed, very relaxed (read “slightly pissed”)!  With a few more drinks at the bar, a few “tasteful” photos with a large inflatable unicorn, a tropical squall, we all headed back to the boat for dinner.  A hilarious night we’ll all never forget.  Huge thank you to Madey for coordinating that little event with Rachelle from the resort.

A few more days of breath-taking surf and camaraderie and we were making our way back home to reality. Another couple of spectacular fish caught, one, a good sized Bonito, on the way to the  airport!  Another few belly laughs.  A comfortable stopover in Changi with a nice voucher for the lounge
And finally back to freezing Melbourne.

Now busy reviewing, dissecting, filing and deleting photos and videos, but the more I look the more I realize that I shouldn’t wait twenty years to do it again…….

So, Ian, can you book me in again next year please.  Same time, give or take a week, same boat.  I reckon I’ll have a couple of new guys, but quite a few will rebook with me.  By the way, I’m not telling too many people about the completely uncrowded waves because that really was the BEST.

Thanks you very much for your patience at the beginning, helping us get it all sorted.  In the end it was simply INCREDIBLE.

Warmest regards,
Ashim Marfatia

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