March-April 2010 Trip Blog

I departed Seattle on March 7 the day after my birthday where I was really surprised by ten dear friends that turned a Birthday Drink with one at Mill Creek Azul’s into a full blown adventure with multiple bars and live music!

protest, march, red, Bangok stock photos

I spent two weeks in Bangkok, Thailand where I photographed Red Shirt protesters and set up a few photo shoots at the Floating Market an hour outside Bangkok.

commerce, fruit market, floating market, Asia stock photos, model  released Thais

Khlong Damnoen Saduak, 65 km from Bangkok,  Thailand, S.E. Asia

I also started swimming at a friend’s condo with a superb double size Olympic pool and worked up to swimming for an hour non-stop with flip turns at alternating ends.  This training really came in handy for the diving and snorkeling that followed in The Maldives.

Before boarding my liveaboard safari dive boat I had 2 days in Male, Maldives to do some resort photography as the rest of my 14 days would be on two different safari liveabaoard dive boats run by Albatross Top Boat.  I arrived late in the evening to my hotel located on the only Maldivian island crammed with towering buildings, narrow streets, and packed with 80 percent of the entire countries population of a half million that live on an island less than a mile long and a few football fields wide.  I could not sleep due to pain in my kidneys which I recognized after a similar issue ten years ago with a kidney stone.  At 3am I could bear it no longer and tried to get a cab to the local hospital but none were answering their phones so I walked (surely looking like a derelict) the half mile to the hospital.  I asked directions half way and the guy asked if he could help and gave me a lift on his scooter to the Male Hospital.  After some immediate pain killers I had to return  a few hours later for a barrage of tests in a very slow and inefficient hospital system.  I was told the stone was small and should pass naturally with allot of hydration.  However, at least the doctor spoke English and though it took up most of my day I felt much better knowing where the stone was located and had to spend the next day drinking a ton of water.  I was very fortunate that this did not happen in the remote atoll that I was flying to the next morning on March 28.  Never did know for sure when and if I passed the stone as I had the pain a week later but jumped in the ocean and swam like a madman and the bad pain disappeared.

color, shop, Male, Maldives

The Maldives is famous for the most beautiful string of islands to be found on the planet. Picture perfect by the thousands,  a good portion of them are tiny and uninhabited.  I was flying to the southernmost end of the Maldives to an area called Suvadiva or Huvadhoo Atoll,  so this was brand new territory.  The Maldives is mostly visited by European tourist and the dive boats and resorts are usually geared to one particular country.  My trip was sponsored by a boat catering to Italians so the diving is very different than the boats with Americans.  I was expecting rustic conditions and chain-smoking divers and was surprised by how luxurious both boats were.  Food was fantastic and most amazing was both groups of Italians on my two trips were all non-smokers!!!  My first 24 hours in the Suvadiva area had the mirror calm water that Maldives is famous for in the early months of the year.  It is such a great feeling to get photos right off the get go that have the potential to pay for my entire trip and then some!!!

Maldives stock photos, tropical stock photo library

Southern Maldives, Indian Ocean, Maldives stock photos

The trip highlight (besides the mirror calm water the first full day) was having a whale shark stay behind our boat feeding on  plankton for 3 hours.  I have had the good fortune to swim with whale sharks in many places: Australia, Galapagos, Mexico, & Hawaii but snorkeling at night was a totally surreal and a unique, amazing experience!  The whale shark tolerated a dozen people hovering around it and after 2 hours in the water with it (2 a.m) it started pouring rain so I went to bed exhausted.  I was told the whale shark stuck around until early daybreak continuing to feed on the plankton attracted by the bright boat lights on the stern.  I did not try to photograph the whale at night and decided instead to just enjoy the experience.  The big attraction to this southernmost atoll is the pristine shape of its lovely hard coral reefs.  Unlike most of the rest of the Maldives they never had the coral bleaching that destroyed much of the shallow hard coral reefs in a bad El Nino year over a decade ago.  There are fewer resorts and many more uninhabited islands so the topside shooting was breathtaking.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Maavahi and Conte Max liveaboards and recommend them for non hardcore divers who can be happy be with 2 to 3 dives a day.  I loved it because it gave me more time to go ashore the many uninhabited islands.

model released, lifestyle images, tropical stock photography

travel stock imagery, travel stock photo library

red, schooling, colorful, fish, marine stock photography

colorful, brilliant, calendar stock photography

traditional fishermen, travel stock photographer

lifestyle and tropical stock photograhy

property released, dive safari boat, marine stock photographer

I arrived back in Bangkok April 12 just in time for the country-wide Songkran Celebration (water festival).  I started getting the pain signals and blood in the urine again so went for a consult at one of the best hospitals in the world- Bumrungrad located not far from where I am staying.  After xray and ultrasound they determined that my kidney stone was not small at all (marble sized), still lodged and needed to be crushed and extracted.  I am finishing my blog here in bed just waiting for the numbness to wear off my foot that I almost forgot about having some embedded coral extracted from a foot cut my last day in the Maldives.

Certainly some challenges on this trip but the great sights and experiences make the pain quickly forgotten.  Unfortunately, my health insurance has a 3K deductible so my total medical bills of $2500 was the most painful part of the trip


9 Responses to “March- April 2010”

  1. 1 Vicki Irvine May 3, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Hey there Stuart,

    Well, not sure how it’s possible, but you continue to out-do yourself… The photos here are amazingly colorful and awesome!!
    Really hope you’re feeling better soon!

    Big Hugs,

  2. 2 Andrew May 3, 2010 at 1:09 am

    WOW- your eye for the colors of the world is EPIC! Your images capture the impact and passion.
    WOW- your eye for the colors of the world is EPIC! Your images capture the impact and passion.


  3. 3 Teri lou May 7, 2010 at 12:00 am

    2010/04/15 at 5:36am
    The more I travel the more I want to travel. Love your photos and stories. Glad you are now recovering.
    The more I travel the more I want to travel. Love your photos and stories. Glad you are now recovering.
    Teri lou


  4. 4 Roberto & Mariamargherita May 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Stuart,
we hope you are fully recovering from your stones; remerber, we were on the Mahaavai and really enjoyed share diving and shooting with you. As a nephrologist I recommend to you, once at home, to have a full metabolic study to determine the cause of your stones and to prevent relapses.

    Best wishes

  5. 5 Darline May 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Truly awesome Stuart. Stay well

  6. 6 Buddy LoBue May 7, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    You give new meaning to “getting stoned in Bangkok.” Amazing photos, as usual. I hope your feeling better.

  7. 7 Nigel May 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    God love you. Its a bad sign when the coral embedded in your foot is something that can be forgotten about cause of the pain in the Kidneys..Not long to the Bahamas now !! Get well.

  8. 8 Gavriel May 7, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    April 15, 2010 at 6:30 am

    it look like a great trip Stuart, great photos.

  9. 9 maldimaldive April 2, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Hi Stuard, do you remember of us? We were with you on Maavahi Suvadiva!!!
    Hope to see you another time…we will be in Siladen Island from july the 5th to 16th 2012… for dive and for to do lots of pics under &over sea!

    Clara & Andrea from Italy


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