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Dive in the Maldives

A well known destination to divers, but not only: the Maldives!



Dear readers, a good day to you!

I hesitated a little before writing these few lines since I went diving in the Maldives a while ago, in September 2019. However, the fundamentals have probably not changed since then and I thought to share my experience with you.


In summary

Duration: 8 days / 7 nights

International airport: Male

Starship: Blue Voyager

Condition of the boat: overall good

Staff: generally good and helpful

Food: abundant and tasty

Location explored: northern Maldives

Material: standard + torch + hook

Temperature (water): 25-30 degrees

Current: low to medium

Visibility: 15 to 30 meters

Difficulty: relatively easy

Depth: 10 to 30 meters

Night diving: yes, but unfortunately little

Fauna and flora: rich, similar to Southeast Asia

Price: USD 2,500 + / person excluding international flights


A paradise for divers?

I'm sure you've heard of the Maldives before, so I won't go too far into the details but you probably want to know if this is the paradise you've heard of. I will be careful not to give you a definitive answer because I have only explored the northern part, while the majority of divers go south (whale sharks are more likely seen in the south) . But hey, I weren't deciding which route to follow ...


The Maldives archipelago stretches 700 km (roughly) from north to south, and lies between the Lakshadweep Islands in the north and the Chagos Islands in the south. All this forming an underwater plate made up of atolls and coral reefs.


There are more than 1,000 species of fish, 5 species of turtles and so on. Number of corals also (more than 240 varieties). I'll be honest, I didn't check these numbers myself, it would have taken me too long. So I defer to our scientists for those numbers. For a change let's trust them! I am joking of course.

And in the north of the north therefore, I had the pleasure seeing a lot of things. White tip shark, black tip shark, gray reef shark, guitar shark and very stealthily a leopard shark (he was probably tired of the divers and ran away when we arrived). I see you coming up with the ultimate question, what about whale sharks? Well ... I haven't seen any! Sorry to kill your excitement but it's the truth.


Rays, of course! They are protected in the Maldives. Manta rays are abundant in the archipelago. They can be seen in all seasons, at different locations (5,000 rays according to some sources). Besides manta rays, eagle rays are not uncommon. The stingrays are in the game too.


The post card would be incomplete without the turtles. The green turtle is the most common. The hawksbill turtle seems common (but I haven't seen it). The leatherback turtle, the largest of the local turtles, is rare. Turtles come to lay their eggs on the beaches and if you are lucky, you can observe this fabulous spectacle.


I will pass the full list of other fish but you will find a good part of those that you can observe in South East Asia (from octopus to moray eels with lionfish and triggerfish (rather aggressive by the way).


Last but not least, the corals. They form beautiful reefs with sometimes exciting shapes to look at while diving. There are acropora tables, deer horn coral, brain coral, multicolored soft corals. Note, however, that a lot suffered (bleaching). I was told that the corals of the southern atolls, deeper, suffered less from the effects of El Nino but I did not go.


Overall a good liveaboard

So I spent a week on the "Blue Voyager", a 37-meter-long boat with 13 cabins, a sky lounge to chill, a friendly bar which is also the relax area with television and sofas. A living room if you prefer. The bar also serves as a briefing room. I was about to forget...a jacuzzi that I haven't tried and last but not least, the essential sun-deck to revive your tan.


You will find photos, a little more professional than mine, on the following link: www.liveaboard.com/diving/maldives/blue-voyager


The cabins are comfortable while being somewhat spartan. Let's say that the wc/bathroom could be a little more functional and modernized. Well I had the basic double room so I wasn't expecting a five stars anyway. The cabin was clean, no worries. It just deserves a lifting. We received a clean towel every day but do take a spare in your luggage. We also received fresh towels post dives, so you have clean ones. The smell of humidity in the cabin wasn't too bad, which is nice. I have known much worse.


I particularly appreciated the presence of a small boat called "doni", which follows the main boat and is dedicated to diving only.

You leave your material on it. For each dive you go from the mother boat to the doni, which will bring you to the spot. Believe me it's nice. This saves a lot of space on the main boat, it brings less water (that surely makes you laugh but connoisseurs appreciate it). Personally I still do not leave anything that sensitive or valuable like the dive computer (you never know). On the doni are also water tanks to rinse the equipment between dives.


The crew was generally friendly and helpful. Everyone spoke English (or a little) which made communication easy.

We had several Divemasters to guide us, who at times seemed a little jaded by their work. They were not rude but a bit mechanical, without making too much efforts to help us discover the wildlife. Fortunately, we were a rather experienced group and we could still explore.


I was going to finish but no, another point that some would have criticized me for forgetting: food ...

As it is often the case on a liveaboard, food is...filling. And it is good. No fine dining of course (after all you are not in a hotel). Light snack before the first dive, followed by a rich breakfast, diving, followed by lunch, diving, followed by a snack, diving (for those who want) and dinner. Your calorie intake is sufficient. Okay you burn it in the water but still. Take it easy if you don't want to have to buy a new wetsuit after the Maldives. Lots of rice and noodles prepared in the local style, with fish (which was very good). Personally I avoid "western style" food in Asia, in general it is not very convincing but it's up to you, there are some in case the local specialties do not inspire you. You won't be starving, no need to worry.


A little anecdote


For giant stingrays, the operator cheated a bit if you allow me that term and it appears to be common in the industry in this region. We were in the second part of the cruise and had not seen stingrays (nature does not always offer you everything). En route back to our starting point were a place known for the presence of rays. And for a good reason ... rangers or the local equivalent have the habit of giving them food, which almost guarantees you seeing a large number of rays. This is of course not free. From memory it was around USD 50 . Officially, the money goes to the government for the conservation of the place. Unofficially, I am skeptical. The divers in our group who tried the adventure did not receive a ticket that looked like something official. I am not stingy but I was not particularly interested to contribute in somethat that I assumed to be local corruption (this is only my opinion and it is an impression, I did not investigate on the subject). So I didn't go. Those who went there came back satisfied. Note, however, that this is a snorkeling activity (approximately 30 minutes). This is of course not included in the price of your trip so plan to have cash if you are interested.


Equipment

  • Standard (basic) equipment.

  • One or two torches. Personally I only use one and I take a distress signal light in case I get lost and need to surface.

  • A pair of gloves.

  • I strongly recommend a hook. The currents can be a bit brutal. Nothing superhuman but you probably don't want to swim non-stop to observe a "cleaning station" or a moray eel spot. One solution, one hook. I do not recommend bare hands ... it is teeming with moray eels.

  • I dived in a rash guard and never felt cold, even at night. Having said that, I am not very sensitive to temperature. Many of my fellow divers had the full suit. The water temperature fluctuates between 26 and 30 degrees.

  • Last point, you must have your own SMB (Surface Marker Buoy). You will have a check dive on the first day and will need to show you know how to use it.


When to go


I was there in September. August to November is predicted to be the best time of year to watch manta rays and whale sharks. I did not see whale sharks unfortunately. January to April offers great visibility (driest and hottest months).


Get there


Not complicated, but you don't really many options. International flights to Male, from there an internal flight to another destination of ... to be confirmed according to your itinerary. Be early at the airport for the domestic flight, it's a bit ... a mess. It's small and not necessarily fast (I'm soft here). Arm yourself with patience at thev immigration. I felt like I was passing checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. The officer was friendly but I think I have seldom been observed and checked for so long although I don't have a suspicious face (I hope...).


Costs


Always an important question. And always difficult to answer because it depends on the season, the lenght of your stay, the group size and the level of service you look for. For the Blue Voyager, an eight day and seven night package will cost you in the range of USD 2,000 to USD 2,500. This excludes international flights, alcohol extras. It includes the cost of the domestic flight which should be booked for you by the operator.


Tips

  • A classic, take some cash. I am generally reluctant because we can lose it, have it stolen. But here you won't find many ATMs. A few at the airport but nothing more, and assuming they work. Take USD for expenses like hotels, extras on the boat (bar bill, it can go up quickly ...), a few local notes for small purchases (snack or others if necessary).

  • No alcohol in your suitcases please, import is prohibited. Also, you will not find it everywhere. The Blue Voyager has the right to sell it at its bar.

  • For those of you who are Nitrox certified, take advantage of it, it is available and included in the price.

  • There is a TV with some DVDs, (interesting) books on the fauna and flora of the Maldives (have a look at it, its rich), a card game. For those of you who are not into card games or drinks, take a book with you. You will have downtime to fill.

  • If possible try to travel in groups to get a discount. The Maldives can be quite expensive depending on the season and the operator so it's worth negotiating.

  • If you plan, as I did, to arrive the night before to take the domestic flight the next day (i.e. to minimize the waiting time between flights and the liveaboard), I advise you to take a hotel near the airport. This will be more efficient than wasting your time in transport going down to the center of Male, where there is not much to visit anyway. The beaches will not be heven but for one night and a breakfast, that will be enough. If you are in long vacation mode and spend a few days there before the cruise then that's another story.


To conclude


In conclusion, it is worth it yes but note that a lot of fauna and flora is similar to what you find in South East Asia.

On the boat, many divers used to dive in Egypt told me that the Red Sea was more interesting, not to say much more. To each his own opinion. I also found the Maldives to be slightly overrated, probably due to effective marketing.


What could be improved: more night dives. We only had one, which is a bit light.


The common areas of the boat are correct, I have no complaints. Very pleasant The cabins deserve a refresher, particularly the toilet-shower which is a bit old.


Instructors and guides should pay a little more attention to their groups. Especially if the groups are inexperienced. Also, a little more attention to searching for underwater treasures would be welcome.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting not to go. But if you are a veteran of diving you won't be impressed. But after all, does it matter? As long as you're underwater you're happy, aren't you?


If I have the opportunity to dive again in the Maldives but in the south I will let you know. If you want to share your experience of the Maldives with us, do not hesitate.


Sincerely yours, and have a good dive!


The diving bear

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