Some time ago, in March 2009, my boyfriend James and that i proceeded a few things i can only describe because the holiday of a lifetime within the Maldives. During the last a decade, since our first holiday together for the Bay Islands of Honduras, where we got certified as SCUBA divers, we have been keen "holiday-divers". I mean that we only dive once or twice a year, while on holiday by this. Because it encourages us to travel somewhere different each year, it's a great hobby. So, far, we have been to Egypt, Thailand, Mexico, Florida, Australia and Malaysia, and all of the trips have been amazing. However, our trip to the Maldives eclipsed all other holidays in terms of comfort, service and most importantly, the marine life we saw there. maldives liveaboard
If you stay in one of the many gorgeous resorts, some of which are at least US$ 500 per night, travel to the Maldives is expensive, especially! When we were looking at the many options, it made sense to choose a liveaboard holiday, as keen divers. Until we started researching, I didn't realize how big the Maldives are. They cover an area of about 300 square kilometers, so if you want to visit a good selection of dive sites, staying in a resort is not feasible because you end up spending so much of your time in the dive boat travelling to and from the dive sites and less time actually diving. Using the liveaboard option, you simply cruise across the archipelago on the main liveaboard then jump in to the smaller dive Dhoni that travels alongside the main liveaboard for each dive. This is great, because the smaller boat can get to shallower waters - so closer to the actual dive sites - and all the equipment is kept on board the Dhoni so you don't have to drag it anywhere. Simply get into the Dhoni, wear your gear, and jump in water. Of all the diving trips we have been on, we have never had such an easy experience. One thing's without a doubt, the Maldives has definitely spoiled us! maldives liveaboard
According to their price, there is a wide variety of liveaboards in the Maldives, all of which offer differing levels of comfort and amenities. While our budget wasn't enough to get us one of many fanciest resorts, we were able to get among the high end liveaboard boats. So, mainly because it looks like one of those cool private yachts you see in places like Key and Monaco West, we chose the Island Safari 2 Royal. All things considered, when else are we getting to spend per week living like kings for a fraction of the expense of renting a yacht like that? So, we booked for a 7-night "Scuba Safari". maldives liveaboard
Our trip began with a long 14-hour flight from London to Male Airport Terminal, connecting in Qatar. Long flights are something that we have grown familiar with since our love affair with scuba diving began. If you want tropical waters and the best coral reefs in the world, long flights are part and parcel, unfortunately, living in the UK. One good thing about London is that flights out of here are some of the cheapest in the world. Our flight to the Maldives cost approximately US$one thousand, which we thought was pretty reasonable. Once we arrived in Male, we had been met at the airport by a representative from Island Safari 2 Royal, and were taken to the boat, which left from Male. We boarded the boat and waited a short while for all the remaining guests to arrive and then we set off.
The boat was absolutely gorgeous. Better yet than it had appeared in the photos! And we chose the suite because it has a bathtub, and both James and I love taking a bath after a day's diving, there are 8 rooms and 2 suites on board. I do believe people underestimate the physical exertion of deep-sea diving; it's not really a question of just floating around in water. After all, you're swimming for several hours each day on a scuba holiday, so you get really worn-out. Our suite was gorgeous, using a nice big window so that we awoke to views in the amazing turquoise waters of the Maldives and seemingly permanent sunshine and spectacular sunsets. The rest of the boat was also gorgeous, using a nice dining room, that was slightly more formal than you may expect, two comfortable lounge areas for relaxing and watching television and a really big outer deck, ideal for sunbathing, my second favourite pastime after scuba diving! There's nothing like returning to grim England with the outrageous suntan.
Once all the guests were on board, we set sail towards the first dive site; it was early afternoon, therefore we might have time for your introductory dive on the first day. Before that, we were given a delicious welcome cocktail (non-alcoholic since we were going diving) and have got to meet all the other guests. We had a very international group with another couple from the UK, a group of 4 from Italy along with a couple from Germany. Whilst the crew spoke a, German and English little Italian, English was the dominant language onboard, and also since all of the guests were fluent, there was clearly no language barrier. Needless to the, James, I and say other Brits had no language skills to provide up, therefore we were relieved! Our first dive was the introductory dive where everyone gets to recap on their diving skills and basically prove to the crew that we are all capable scuba divers. Currents inside the Maldives could be strong, so you will need to get some scuba experience to get the most from a diving holiday here. Everyone aboard had a lot of diving experience and we all had a minimum of a high level Open Water certification, so we had no problems whatsoever.
We took the intro dive at Hanns Reef on the North Male Atoll, and even though it was just the intro dive, we saw some good marine life together with a Moray Eel, several Turtles, a large group of Blue Stripe Snappers and a lot of Glassfish. That was it for the first day, and everybody was tired from travelling, so that we relaxed, chatted with the crew as well as other divers, mainly about previous diving holidays, and tucked into a delicious meal of Asian-style shrimp rice, kebabs and salads. It was absolutely delicious and we all crossed our fingers that each meal could be this tasty.
We spent the first two times of the trip cruising round the North Male and North Ari Atolls, visiting such dive sites as Nassimo Thila, Rasfari, Rasdhoo Madivaru and Makaru Thila. Highlights from these sites were the incredible Manta Rays at Rasfari. While diving, we saw loads of Mantas getting cleaned and a few batfish playing around the reef. Then, following the dive, we went to get a short snorkel round the site, and saw even more Mantas - maybe the same ones - they may be such majestic and peaceful creatures, therefore big, it's quite unbelievable. Another memorable site of the first few days was Ghangethi Pass, where we saw a group of 30 White Tip Reef Sharks of numerous sizes, an enormous Manta Ray, maybe 5 metres across as well as a very cool Leopard Shark, something I needed never seen before.
All the sites were teeming with beautiful marine life. Whenever we didn't see one of the 'big creatures', we may always see lots of pretty reef-fish, tiny invertebrates, gorgeous corals and usually some big pelagic species as well. In others there would be 30-50, even though the main star of our trip was definitely the Manta Ray, at some of the sites there would be just one or two. We had never seen, or perhaps imagined, a lot of Manta Rays in a single.
Our night dive came on the fourth day of our trip with a site called Maaya Thila. Night diving is usually an appealing experience and I think it's the one instance where even seasoned scuba divers feel just a little nervous. Surrounded by such an intense darkness is always a little intimidating and gives that extra adrenaline buzz, even though it's one thing being in the ocean when you can see. The behaviour of the fish is a little different at night, when most of them do their hunting. We saw a team of White Tip Reef Sharks trying to find some dinner and a Moray Eel, out of his hole within the reef and swimming around a Turtle, in addition to a beautiful Lionfish and also the usual phosphorescent plankton. Very cool!
The following evening, we visited the local community on one of many islands. It's very interesting to see how these people live this kind of simple enjoy life, totally in harmony making use of their environment. Every source of protein they eat comes from the ocean, and is also usually served using a coconut or some other fruit that grows naturally on their island. They did some traditional dances for we and us bought some nice souvenirs from their store. This seems to be their main source of income, apart from what they make by selling their catches at market in Male or resorts round the islands.
The last two events of the liveaboard safari, we spent round the South Ari and Vaavu Atolls, where highlights were Fotteyo and Cocoa Thila. At Fotteyo we saw a team of dolphins come through, which is really unusual while diving. We saw some beautiful Eagle Rays and the best coral reef we had seen all week. This was an excellent chance for the underwater photographers in the group to consider some beautiful shots of the coral using the reef fish and pelagic species in the foreground. Sun Island inside the South Ari Atoll was probably the most important sites from the whole trip, because it was the sole site where we saw Whale Sharks within the whole trip, which is probably the big draws of the Maldives. There have been actually two different Whale Sharks around this location and they also were HUGE!
All in all, the diving was superb, we saw far more creatures than I could ever mention here. Because a lot of guests leave the Maldives directly from the liveaboard safari, there can be no diving on the last day, because it's not safe to fly so soon after scuba diving, so we spent the day snorkeling in the morning and then shopping in Male in the afternoon. Male is a very congested city, and is definitely not the place to spend your Maldives holiday, but it's worth spending a day there just to check it out. The fish industry is particularly interesting and you see how all the fishermen from across the islands are available in making use of their day's catch and also the resorts from round the nation buy it up and carry it to feed their hungry guests.
We made a decision to extend our trip by a few days and benefit from these gorgeous resorts and fully relax after our fantastic liveaboard adventure. We chose the Coco Palm, Dhuni Kolhu, because it was only 30 minutes from the airport and we didn't want to have to travel too much. We had been more interested in the relaxing massages on the spa as well as the over-water bungalow. Whenever you look at the Maldives within the travel brochure or on the web, it's the over-water rooms that catch the attention, so it seemed almost wrong to leave without spending a minumum of one night sleeping in one. Our last two days at Coco Palm were totally breathtaking, so much so, it's going to be difficult to get a honeymoon retreat more perfect than that one!