Archive for the ‘Liveaboard Diving’ Category
What’s never been alive but can come to life? When is a looming fear also a light of hope? I’ve never been good at riddles so, fortunately, the title gives away the answer: Maldives Shipwrecks.
Ships that were originally thought to have been past their prime are now adding to the underwater life in the Maldives as home to plentiful corals and marine fauna. Often referred to as “artificial reefs” they actually display very natural growth on a man-made structure. A shipwreck certainly isn’t something any sailor wants to experience but thanks to these unfortunate circumstances, divers can savor these imposing attractions and the life that swarms around them.
Dive safaris often include wrecks on their dive itineraries; which sites will depend on the route they take. These coral, algae and fish magnets can be found throughout the Maldives in the central, core region as well as in the outer atolls.
Wrecks of the Core Maldives Atolls
The core atolls, those most easily accessible from Male airport, are fortunately also full of interesting dive sites. When it comes to wrecks some of the most popular and vibrant are found in the North and South of the Ari and Male atolls.
North Ari is home to some large submerged sights. Firstly, there is Fesdhoo Wreck and its neighboring thila. This 30-meter long boat sunk in the 80s and is now covered with colorful soft and hard coral. Next, the Halaveli Wreck is an attraction for schools of fish as much as it is for divers. Its 40-meter hull is open for exploration.
In the south of Ari, Machchafushi Island and its shallow house reef share the area with Kudhi Maa Wreck. Stone Fish and multicolored nudibranches bring the wreck to life and after spotting the rare black leaf fish it will seem that much less rare.
In North Male atoll sits one of the most famous wreck sites in the country. The Maldives Victory Wreck has been submerged since 1981 and is now a hot spot for barracudas, fusiliers and sea turtles. While the dive level for the well-known Victory Wreck is considered advanced, the Rannamaari wreck of the atoll has a location and formation that is suitable for all levels. Close to the nearby reef and treasured by the nearby resort, Angsana Ihuru, it recently celebrated its 14th anniversary. The resort arranged a 24-hour dive event to commemorate the milestone at the end of last month.
Heading south in the Male atoll you’ll likely stumble upon the Kuda Giri Wreck with its jacks, trevallys, brown paper scorpionfish, tunas and nudibranches.
Diving Wrecks of the Outer Atolls
In the north and south of the expansive country, beyond the borders of the most visited atolls, are some hidden underwater gems. Many tourists stick to the central atolls around Male but deviating from the usual routes will be worth it.
In the far north, which is accessed by Hanimadhoo Airport, Haa Alifu atoll is among the most secluded regions of this isolated island chain. Here, Maadhoo Wreck is found deep in the sea where leopard sharks are known to frequent. The area has several other dive sites to discover so you can make the trip into a holiday, including a flight over the blue-green lagoons to get some great aerial view photos.
Many famous wrecks are located around Baa and Lhavivani with many ships having run aground on their way to Bengal while passing through Maamakunudhoo Atoll, a route of the ancient sailors. If you are into adventure and mystery, here are some stories of shipwrecks like the Persia Merchant, the Hayston and the George Reid from the 17th and 19th centuries. Due to the currents and surf in Maamakunudhoo there is not much left of the wreckage.
On the other hand, Lhavivani Atoll has a wreck known as The Shipyard – an iconic landmark and a star attraction of the region. The site is made up of two boats, one of which protrudes the water surface. They didn’t sink together but both have been in the channel since the early 80’s.
Skipjack 1 and 2, as the two ships are known, are now grown over and encrusted with colourful hard and soft corals around which divers can see small blennies nesting in the ends of broken pipes, emperor angelfish, anthias, thousands of glassfish and, if you look closely, some well-camouflaged scorpion fish. Stingrays are known to sleep under the wreck and the wreckage itself provides some great photo opportunities with the silhouette of the winch arm visible with sun in the background.
There’s no shortage of wrecks to see in the Maldives. Like a quality French cheese, age adds additional “flavor” to wrecks as the coral thrives and attracts further marine life that take shelter around the revived wreckage. You’ll be sure to discover some wrecks on your liveaboard tour in the Maldives. Check the itineraries and head to the Maldives on one of our value-packed packages.
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The Maldives’ qualities of remoteness, refreshing ocean atmosphere and laid back island life are synonymous with relaxation holidays. In turn, a relaxation holiday conjures up thoughts of being pampered while surrounded by luxuriousness. You can imagine yourself in a spa, sprawled out on a sun lounger or enjoying the privacy of your own comfy room. If it’s the spa you or your partner is dreaming of, find out what to expect and what options are on the menu in Maldives’ spas.
Considering the complementary characteristics of spas and the Maldives’ islands – it all seems like a perfect fit. Spas are relatively new in the country though, you may be surprised to know, and in a short period of about 5 years they have become common place and are found at almost every resort. They are even found on dive cruisers! Spas now come in many shapes, sizes and prices.
The Maldives Spa Range
Many resorts offer spa facilities though not all are created equal. Some resorts provide spas simply as another of their services while others completely revolve around the spa, commonly known as destination spas.
These destination spa retreats are a high end luxury holiday choice that focuses on a holistic experience of health and well-being. Combining meticulously perfected fitness, food and spa facilities these destination spa resorts immerse guests in an island refuge. Some examples are the spa villages of Cocoa Island and Conrad Maldives.
For those who seek pampering but would rather be on the move and incorporate more natural water activities, a “safari” cruise spa is ideal. This option is also great for those couples that share a love for each other but have different ideas of holiday fun, with packages dedicated either to spa or scuba dive interests or a mix of the two. Diver and non-diver couples now have an option that provides the best of both worlds and divers who usually avoid spas can give a treatment a try saying, “when in Rome”!
Another advantage to a holiday aboard a cruise spa is the range of sights you’ll see. Instead of spending the entire holiday on one island and having to board a boat each time you’d like to go explore, on a cruise you’ll see the sights effortlessly. In between spa treatments or dive excursions, just look out your bedroom window at the passing seascape or relax on the deck, sunbathing with an ever-changing view. The Scuba Spa Ying will be your dream spa experience at sea.
ScubaSpa Ying lets you experience the exotic scenery of the Maldives Islands while providing an on board spa experience.
Getting Special Treatment
When you’re abroad in a tropical destination you might like to try something new. Also, you’re in an environment where the sun and sea prevail, a fact that spas in the Maldives have taken into account and tailored their services to suit this island lifestyle.
You may have heard of after-sun treatments to sooth sun-basked skin and pre-sun exfoliation to prepare for a nice deep tan, but some packages even offer application of sunscreen throughout the day. One that is highly rated by travelers is the One&Only Reethi Rah in North Male atoll, Maldives.
On the spa menu there are as many options as in the fine restaurants: post-dive and detoxifying treatments, acupressure and nail treatments, among various ethnic massage types from Balinese to Swedish. For those who want to further enhance the decadence there are combo treatments like simultaneous facial and body massages with more than one therapist taking care of you at the same time.
Natural products like coconut and herbal oils, tropical fruits, seaweed and vanilla leaves all grace the menus of spas around the Maldives. The aromas won’t let you forget you’re in a tropical hideaway.
The Maldives Spa Experience
Needless to say, spas go out of their way to provide comfort to guests, from the bathrobes to the atmosphere of calm.
There are usually pairs of treatment tables or special bungalows for couples’ treatments and the spa facilities accommodate all the ideal elements of body leisure. Laze around in the sauna, Jacuzzi or lounge taking in rejuvenation through all the senses of smell, touch, taste and sight. Beverages and snacks keep you energized from the inside.
Booking your treatments around your “schedule” won’t be difficult considering your day is pretty much wide open. Sleep till late and wake up slowly with a massage or wind down after a busy day meeting Maldives marine life with a healthy massage “night-cap” – it’s up to you and your idea of the ideal spa holiday.
For total health and well-being some spas take into account fitness with fully-equipped gyms and exercise classes such as yoga. Yoga retreats are even popping up in the Maldives outside the resorts on local islands in guest houses like Kuri Inn on Omadhoo Island.
It’s obvious that Maldives spas have perfected the methods of incorporating tropical essences and charm while nestled in the boundless waters of the Indian Ocean. Whether tucked away in a resort or cruising the dispersed island chain, these spa experiences are a way to personalize your holiday. The packages of ScubaSpa Ying are revealed and you’ll find impressive introductory offers here.
Spoil Yourself with Solitude – Maldives Spas Uncovered is a post from: Maldives Blog
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When it comes to planning your dive holiday it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There are so many options, from the destinations to the tour companies to the individual boats and itineraries. Let’s assume you’ve chosen the Maldives – good choice! – and let’s take a look at the dive boats that fit best with your ideal dive trip.
Setting priorities, the elements of the trip that are most important to you, is important to consider; some are flexible while others won’t seem to budge. For example, your budget and the duration of your holiday are usually quite fixed while the dive spots you want on the itinerary are usually up for discussion. Then again, if you’ve been to the Maldives before, hitting specific dive spots might be your main requirement.
Here’s how to best select your liveaboard based on your priorities, from the atoll destinations to the extra activities and your budget:
Depending on your prior experience in the Maldives or the marine life you are hoping to see, certain atoll destinations may be a high priority.
While many dive tours in the Maldives come across the famed mantas and whale sharks of the region, the “Constellation Fleet” specializes in them, with the “Best of Maldives” tours and tailored tours. The fleet’s MV Leo has a tour specially designed for sightings of the large pelagic. While just like in any true wildlife safari sightings can’t be guaranteed, they’re highly likely during the 7-day tour through different atolls. Also, the MV Orion offers a “Deep South” 9-night tour that starts or ends in the southern atolls and is offered January through March. They also have “Pelagic Magic” and “Manta Madness” tours, aptly named dive adventures outside the height of the high season.
For a boat with a varied itinerary, Theia offers combinations of Male with Baa or Ari atolls – or throw in Faafu, Raa and Lhaviyani depending on the duration and season. Central, Ari and South atolls are covered by the Maavahi, Nautilus One and Two, and Stingray itineraries.
For a fully flexible, tailor-made tour to the atolls of your choice, Dhoni Stella offers a private yacht charter.
It goes without saying that diving is a top priority for liveaboard tours. Besides diving, though, you may be keen on some other activities like fishing, surfing or island hopping – or maybe you’re a mixed couple one of which is partial to diving and the other not. Choosing a boat that suits your needs may make the difference between an ordinary holiday and an extraordinary one.
Fishing fans will want to take a look at Dream Catcher II, for example, which offers a fully loaded fishing speed boat for hire alongside the dive cruiser.
Maavahi on the other hand offers specialty surf packages as well as well-rounded tours. Packages specialize in either surfing or diving with a range of other recreational activities on the menu: snorkeling, fishing, desert island or sandbank BBQ, local island visits and a guided Male (city) tour. If you’re particular about the different activities you want, then the custom activity planning of Dhoni Stella may suit you best.
And if it’s truly diving that you want to focus on, then the Constellation Fleet (MV Leo, MV Orion & MV Virgo) is all about the diving, and Nitrox diving is included in the packages. Leo and Virgo also offer Enos dive systems. Diving is the focal point for Nautilus One & Two as well, with both offering PADI courses and Nitrox at a surcharge (on Nautilus Two).
Top for luxury, the 5-star Scuba Spa Ying offers more modest diving (12 dives per week while others offer 2-3 per day) as the cruise is more about luxury and the couples’ experience. This is the top choice for mixed diver/non-diver couples and avid divers looking to incorporate spa luxury with diving. The ship offers PADI courses but no Nitrox or Enos.
Price, Quality Rating & Duration
The price and duration of liveboard tours come in a wide range, from $110 to $250 per day, and up to $810 for private chartered boats. You’ll find, however that many special rates are available for last minute bookings and you can rest assured you’ve found the best price with Maldives Dive Travel’s best price guarantee.
Prices range depending on the season, rating, boat capacity and package type. The rating system compares overall quality and comfort standards, with 3 stars in the budget range and 4 to 5 stars offering additional comforts and luxury. You’ll want to decide if luxury is a priority for you and review the boats in the mid to high range price categories, if so. In any case, you’ll be comfy and have quality diving no matter what boat you choose.
The lower range, starting from $110 to $200 per day and in the 3- to 4-star range, you’ll find Dream Catcher II, Theia, Maavahi, Nautilus One and Two, as well as Stingray. Most of these run 7-night tours with the exception of Theia and the Nautilus team, with longer duration options. They are cozy options for budget-conscious divers.
Mid to high range, starting from $200 to $250 per day and in the 4- to 5-star range, are the Constellation Fleet (MVs Virgo, Leo & Orion) as well as the luxury cruiser, Scuba Spa Ying. These all have 7-night packages with some options to book back to back tours or MV Orion’s “Deep South” extended 9-night tour. Luxury while at sea is the focal point of these ships.
Priced a bit differently, private Dhoni Stella tours start from $810 per day for a fully-charted 2-room yacht for up to 5 people.
Now you can see which boats may suit your priorities best. For more details, view the boat profiles on our liveaboards page which can be ordered by name, rating or price. From there you can reserve the Malidives dive cruise you’ve been dreaming about by clicking on “prices and reservation”. To check out the liveaboards page in order of price, click here.
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The underwater world can be compared to any vibrant city, traffic in all directions and there’s a completely different feel to its atmosphere at night. Creatures and characters come out that we don’t see by day and the darkness adds a mysterious feel, not knowing what may be lurking around the next corner. Without experiencing the reef by night, divers miss out on an important part of reef life. The depths of the Maldives come alive at night.
To celebrate this night-time excitement we’re counting down the 5 top reasons why you shouldn’t miss night diving in the Maldives. Warning: Don’t read this if you’re afraid of the dark.
Top Reasons to Dive at Night
Reason #5: Megafauna – Nurse sharks as well as zebra/leopard sharks found in the Maldives are nocturnal. Also white-tip sharks are seen more during the night. It’s rare to see these creatures during the day so a night dive will expand your dive encounters to new species that non-night divers may never set eyes on. And that’s true for “mini-fauna” as well – see reason number four.
Reason #4: Core Reef Life – Hard, rock-like corals are the foundation of the reef. While seemingly inanimate by day, at night they come alive and turn into tentacle-covered branches reaching out for a nutrient-rich meal. The predator and prey relationships, the dark side of the food chain, becomes more apparent when the lights are dimmed. Night fishing is popular in the Maldivian islands as well, adding human predators to the mix.
Reason #3: Focal Points – By the light of your dive torch, the smallest and most transparent creatures become visible in the water – not such a clear blue sea after all. Also the light can be focused on particular areas so you can really capture the natural colors and hone in on objects and creatures with their minute details and movements, especially visible on video. Watch seemingly inanimate objects open up or scurry off, previously camouflaged into the surroundings.
Speaking of light, there’s less of it from the sun and therefore the colors of the reef are more vibrant without interference from absorption of sun rays in the water. It’s an exotic, living rainbow of colors to discover.
Reason #2: Neon Parties – Some tours in the Maldives offer special lamps and mask filters which can be used to bring out the florescent colors of the marine world. The fluorescence of underwater species is very complex. World scientists continue to look for explanations on the ability of these species to absorb and then convert the colors into such spectacular, almost psychedelic, displays.
Reason #1: Darkness, of course! – Experience the underwater world in darkness. While a dive light is essential, temporarily covering it or turning away from it can reveal more than you think. Your natural night vision will adjust to a certain extent, and light from various natural and artificial sources will help you see the marine nightscape in its semi-natural form.
If you think sitting out admiring the stars is cool, night diving will really excite. In some areas, phosphorescent plankton light up the water with their blue bioluminescent effect. The view from under the water out into the above-water surroundings is also a unique sight.
Colors seem to “pop” during night dives. Here, a Spotfin Lionfish brightens the scenery. Photo: Malcolm Browne
Top Tips for the Best Night Dive Experience
Night diving obviously requires extra precautions and equipment to keep you safe. Visibility reduces to a very short distance, leaving just you and your torchlight to head into the darkness. You’ll need to slow down and concentrate on a small area at a time, to see all the details and, because you’ll be shallower and closer to the reef than in most daytime dives. When we say “night” it can actually mean “nightfall”, as dusk is an ideal time to discover; you can suit up still in the light and see creatures as they transform from day to night mode.
Don’t be afraid to turn the light off at opportune times to experience the darkness and see how the moonlight reaches down into the water depths. Although, if your light goes out altogether or gets dropped it won’t be so much fun. Ensure the torch has a strap to secure it to your wrist and even bring a compact, back-up light to cover any eventuality. Like when you put on the car’s spare tire, though, the spare isn’t for the long haul so using it may mean the end of your dive may be near.
Night dives are for more advanced divers in the Maldives who have some experience navigating the waters first, during the day. Learning to signal with the light while underwater and when surfacing is an additional skill you’ll need to pick up. Understand with your dive buddy and the boat crew exactly how you’ll communicate to get each other’s attention. Once you’ve got their attention, focus the light on yourself so your gestures can be seen. Be careful not to direct the light into the eyes of other divers, which will impair his or her night vision.
There you have it. We’ve seen how divers who take to the Maldivian waters at night are rewarded with an abundance of flora and fauna going about their business in a manner not seen during daytime scuba experiences. Now it’s time to see what all the fuss is about and get to the Maldives for a night dive you’ll never forget. Find a dive package including night diving among the many options here.
- Adventurer 2 trades barbecue for a night dive at Raidhigaa Island House Reef.
- MAAYA THILA; a must to do night dive.
- Barbecue made on a full moon night.
Dive safaris have not famously been synonymous with romance and luxury cruises. While the resorts and island beaches are known to hold the romantic side of things, the dive cruises seem to be for the avid divers who are thinking about diving first and romance later. So what about couples in which one dives and the other doesn’t and those that want to combine diving with a bit of relaxation and pampering?
Often a compromise has to be made for example, to go diving this trip and hit the resort next time. Then again, the elements could be combined by splitting vacation time between the resort and the dive boat. However, that could get expensive. Well, now couples can combine the best of both worlds – whether they’re divers or not. Not all dive holidays are made equal – which is perfect as it means you can find the right mix of diving and relaxing that suits you as a couple.
Combined Holidays: Luxury and Scuba Diving
New dive cruise options are popping up that offer views, spa treatments and fine dining, all from the comfort of the spacious dive boat. The biggest advantage for couples who don’t want to sacrifice any luxury or for couples in which one dives and the other doesn’t, is the combination of packages that cater to the individual.
Divers can choose the 12-dive per week Scuba Package while partners can choose a Scuba-Spa package or a Spa-only package. Certifications are required for Dive package guests, but those on the Spa package without certification can book a Discover Scuba Experience depending on availability. Just to make the decision even easier, there’s flexibility built in so that dives and spa treatments can even be exchanged between the couple if they’re on different packages. Nothing says luxury vacation more than the freedom to choose what you want to do, when you want to do it.
The cruiser, known as ScubaSpa Ying, offers additional relaxation activities for divers and non-divers alike, such as Yoga and Pilates classes and an on-board Jacuzzi and recliners. Whether you prefer sun or shade, there are areas around the deck to relax between dives or while the divers are out on a Scuba excursion.
It’s undeniable that the basic elements of a great romantic holiday are having ample personal space, a comfortable and calming place to sleep as well as delicious dining options. This was a top concern then the dive cruiser, Ying, was created. Not only do the suites and cabins have king-size double beds available, but all have ensuite facilities, storage space and individually controlled air-conditioning units, for absolute comfort.
As for the private views from the rooms, the Manta Suites and Dolphin Suites have both been designed to have direct ocean views with windows set right into the hull of the boat. The panoramic three-meter-wide windows of the aptly named Dolphin Suites will allow you to gaze at any dolphins that happen to pass by.
To keep your stomach happy and your body refreshed, there are several options for meals and snacks. Outside the full-board, main, buffet-style meals which are served each day, there are the Lagoon and Sea-Breeze lounge-bars that offer additional snacks and drinks, both inside and out. For the ultimate romantic dinner under the stars a private dinner can be booked on the Thai Deck, to make for a real special night.
Off the boat, a visit to a deserted island for a BBQ will hit the spot. Sand between your toes, the sound of waves against the shore, and a delicious grilled dinner – it’s an escape from your already-relaxing holiday getaway. Other non-dinner excursions are also included in the package. For full details check out the ship’s info page here.
Don’t Forget the Diving
Not to worry – in considering all of the luxury elements of a romantic cruise boat, the diving hasn’t been forgotten. In fact, arrangements have been made so that you can maximize your time diving and relaxing, and minimize your time preparing and maintaining your gear.
Each diver has a designated “dive point” for the duration of the trip, where gear is stored and where you can have space to suit up for the dives. In addition to wet and dry storage under your individual seat, there are, of course, areas for cleaning cameras and computers. The staff assists with the storage of gear between dives, so you need only assemble your dive gear once at the beginning of your trip. They even fill your tank in-situ.
Access to the water from the boat has been made easy with four access points around the vessel and a water level platform at the stern. For non-divers who want to get a glimpse at the marine marvels around the reefs, snorkelling equipment is included in all packages. This includes for dive packages so that divers that want some time on the surface can choose to do so as well.
As you can see, each element of the ScubaSpa Ying vessel and service offers the flexibility to provide the ultimate, balanced luxury-dive holiday. The needs of both a diver and non-diver have been carefully taken into account, with attention to the small details.
For couples who want to combine diving and a romantic holiday, this is the perfect choice. And to top it all off you can book your favorite package at a discount: Check out these limited-time introductory offers!
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Dive holidays may officially start when you’ve taken your first plunge into the sea but the preparations start long before that. Scuba diving holidays are more complex than the average beach holiday yet divers know their efforts will be worth it for the experience.
There’s a bit more equipment and paperwork involved when taking part in risky, adventure activities. For divers these preparations become second nature, but even the most organized of people use lists and reminders to ensure they don’t forget anything and to reduce stress levels prior to departure, to avoid worrying if they remembered everything. You can use the following tips along with our handy checklist and record sheet (PDF) to prepare for your next dive trip to the Maldives.
Dive-Specific Packing for the Maldives
Regular divers will be familiar with the drill of getting together the required dive certificate, logbook, proof of dive level and proof of your dive insurance; it’s important to ensure this travel information is handy and that you know where it is at all times.
As for the underwater equipment, the key is not just to remember all these items but to check their condition thoroughly before departure. You wouldn’t want to arrive on the boat before your first dive to find a crack or hole somewhere. Also, check with the airline that you will be flying with regarding weight limits and other restrictions on the checked and hand luggage. Dive lights and their accompanying power supplies are one to verify.
Recommended dive suits are the 3mm full-length suit, for knee and elbow protection, or the 5mm full-length suit, depending on your susceptibility to cold and on how much protection you prefer. Think about bringing spare kit or spare parts for your mask and fins, like replacement straps for example. In fact, if you bring an extra set of fins, masque and snorkel, it means that you’ll be able to bring them with you on any non-dive excursions and leave your main set on the dive boat. This will ensure you don’t miss any opportunities to surface dive no matter where you are. We all must respect the coral so gloves are not essential, but you may like to have them in any case.
The dive computer for diving autonomously is necessary and should accompany any diver for their safety. For night dives a light will also be required. On another health and safety note, for consideration pre-departure, it’s highly recommended that divers get a physical check up with a physician, preferably a specialist dive doctor, including a heart exam or ECG.
Travel Health & Leisure
The great news about travel in the Maldives for diving is that, while the equipment may take up a significant portion of your luggage, the rest of the travel items are generally light to counter balance the rest of the load.
There is no dress code on the boats and even shoes are negligible. No need for sheets and towels, except a larger beach towel if you prefer. For visits to local islands you’ll want to bring light but conservative attire, like shorts or pants at least to the knee and cover for shoulders, like a t-shirt or light scarf for women. This is for your comfort and to respect local culture.
In addition to the main travel documents and money, that’s passport, cash in USD and any credit cards, there are the usual leisure items you’ll want to take along for when you have free time, when you’re not diving. Serious photographers will have a whole other list for their kit but otherwise, each has his own preferred hobbies. In the increasingly digital world, you’ll want to mull over bringing your Kindle or paperback books, your iPad or similar tablet/smart phone or any magazines, games or music to keep you entertained. Check if your boat has internet access upon booking. As for phones, you can run up some big charges for roaming out here, so before you leave it’s best to check with your service provider how to avoid them. Alternatives could be the use of international phone cards and payphones when stops are made on local islands.
To keep yourself healthy and combat any health challenges, you’ll likely want to have your own supply of common remedies such as those used for swimmer’s ear, motion sickness, headache and diarrhea (you just never know) and of course your own prescriptions. No vaccinations are required for the Maldives.
When considering the amount of cash to bring, you may like to bear in mind an amount for staff tips. Averages are around $50 per dive guest per week. A collection is usually made at some point during the trip with the final amount shared evenly among the crew.
Finally, a great tip to save space and weight when packing: You should consider who you’re traveling with. If you’re traveling on a private charter and know everyone in the group (or you are in contact with the other travelers prior to departure), coordinate so that items that could be used communally are brought only by one or two people. For example, decide in advance who will be responsible for bringing certain items like games, insect repellent and first aid supplies. This will save on the load for everyone.
Now that you know the preparations are in hand you can relax and focus on the excitement of your upcoming dive vacation. Haven’t booked yet? Check out our package deals here on our website.
The Maldive Islands are known for strong currents. While they make diving more difficult at times, thanks to these currents the archipelago is especially known for the Maldivian ”big five” (whale sharks, reef sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, and dolphins . The surrounding schools of fish, nudibranches and turtle sightings won’t disappoint. either. The currents make for challenging diving which Maldives dive instructors are very familiar with.
Diving in the Maldives can be experienced in different ways depending on your ability and interest. Some see diving as an adventure sport and build their holiday around it and others are happy to dive once or twice during their holiday as an excursion from the hotel or guest house. While hotel and guest house diving is adapted to suit lower levels as needed, when participating in a dive safari or liveaboard dive holiday having some experience will ensure you can benefit as much as possible from each dive.
Sources of Maldives Currents
The main factor affecting Maldives scuba diving is the current; this goes for the channels as well as around the reefs. With varying factors at play, the currents fluctuate frequently in the many spots around the island chain. There are four factors that affect the strength and direction of these currents, including:
- shape/type of site
Of the four factors, the most influential are the seasonal changes. Seasons in the Maldives are linked to the winds of the monsoons. Found out in the middle of the Indian Ocean, monsoonal periods influence the oceanic currents which cross this archipelago with the current at its strongest in the middle of monsoon rather than during the periods of transition.
Monsoon periods generally fall during these periods:
-from December to April (North-East monsoon), current from the east towards the west
-from May to November (South-West monsoon), a reverse current from the west towards the east
The lunar-influenced ocean tides also have a considerable impact on Maldives currents. While the scale of the tidal change is not large, the limited numbers of channels where water enters and leaves the atolls create strong currents in certain areas. It’s when a combination of the above factors comes together that the currents are strongest. For example, the tides can work against the general current to stop or slow the flow then upon changing of the tides the forces are flowing in the same direction and work together to create very strong currents. Dive operators and instructors will be aware of this and will ensure diving takes place at the appropriate time.
Why We Like Strong Currents
Navigating the currents is not generally a problem, for divers with some experience, since divers move with the current. Divers advance with the water under the surface while the boat follows above.
For a scuba diver, there are many good reasons to like strong currents:
- more fish (including more large fish) are attracted to the area
- more distance can be covered under water; therefore divers can discover more during the dive
- less use of fins to move; therefore less fatigue, reduced consumption of air and longer time spent under the water
- a higher quality, higher energy experience
Diving with the Current
The types of sites and the currents in the region mean drift dives are common and safety balloons are often a necessity. This means you start the dive from the spot where the boat drops you off and then you’ll be picked up where you surface after the dive.
The types and shapes of dive sites combined with the effects of the current require specific entry tactics for many Maldives dive sites. Following the dive master, everyone in the group jumps into the water and descends quickly to 5 meters to shelter from the current. At this depth, the current is weaker thanks to the effect of its contact with the reef. The current is forced up towards the surface to pass over the ridge so divers near the surface would be fighting the current and be taken away from the intended dive site destination.
For this reason, ample preparation before hitting the water is imperative. Once you hit the water you won’t have time for adjustments so all the equipment has to be well-adjusted, sinuses and ears tested. At the 5 meter point, it’s important to keep your eyes on the guide who is testing the current and deciding on the best descent. In some cases you’ll even have to swim on the opposite side of the site in order to get in line with the current that will take you into the right area.
The use of a diving hook will be best in some spots which will allow you to hang out in the current with hands free and to remain steadier to prevent damaging coral. There are two other major benefits to using a diving hook, which are the ability to spend more “quality time” with the larger fish who loiter in the strong current and the advantage of being at a higher vantage point with a great view above other divers.
In short, you need not worry too much about the strong currents of the Maldives. Instructors are familiar with the local quirks and conditions. Dive into the exotic Maldives’ marine underworld with a liveaboard package for your next holiday.
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As scuba divers we are often sticking our noses into environments filled with natural wonders and we often come close to rare or important species. Some of the dive sites we visit are recognized for their special characteristics and protected under national and international regulations while others are not. The Maldives island nation is a region that has already registered parts of its atolls under such international guidelines and now this protection may extend to the entire country.
The wheels have been set in motion on a path towards an unprecedented event – application by a whole nation for designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Maldives recently made a pledge to gradually get each of their atolls on board a “Biosphere Approach” to realize the international reserve status as well as lead the way in achieving sustainability targets laid out in recent world conferences. This could potentially change diving in the Maldives.
Environment and culture integrated in the Maldives. Mosque next to Utheemu Palace in the north of the country.
What is a Biosphere Reserve?
Worldwide recognition as a biosphere reserve is more than just designating an area for conservation or protection. The programme is described as a network which integrates research and knowledge among the members. Characterized as “learning sites”, the program strives to cultivate places where localized efforts and traditions are combined with science to create sustainable areas, both from a human and an environmental perspective. Ideally, the organization uses the area for further research about environmental conditions while the country benefits from increased attention and efforts to sustain their resources.
Since the program seeks to harmonize people with nature there is a diverse range of project aims from economic, to cultural and biological; the program is, after all, run by UNESCO, which is the UN Education, Science and Cultural Organization. There are hundreds of designated sites across the world including caves in Slovenia and projects like educational reform in South Africa. This site describes some of the different projects and is the source of info for biosphere reserves for this article.
Getting a handle on fish stocks is a global concern. Conferences are held regularly where international leaders discuss world issues and set targets towards improving the conditions of the world’s economy, society and environment. The Maldives may be trying to lead the way for other countries towards achieving the aims set out in what is called the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and become “Biodiversity Champions”. These are some of the efforts being made for sustainability in the international community.
The Maldives’ Commitment
As stated in the original press release, the undertaking that the Maldives has committed to involves a process of change over the next 5 years leading up to their reserve application. The goal is to have half of the country’s atolls fully implementing proposed changes by 2017 and to become a “reserve nation”. Since the strategies of the approach are not yet clear, it’s difficult to say exactly how this will affect tourism and diving in the islands, if at all.
Controlled fishing seems to be top on the list of strategies. Certainly, any efforts toward preserving biodiversity will be great for the scuba dive experience; more vibrant and healthy reefs a direct result. The example taken from the success of Baa Atoll’s Biosphere Reserve at Hanifaru Bay sheds a light of hope on the possibilities for the rest of the Maldives. The atoll’s manta feeding area has received lots of attention and is the cornerstone of the nation-wide approach to be rolled out.
It’s a project that will require the collaboration from many different groups from the local population to industry players in tourism and fishing as well as cooperation in the political realm. Imminent issues related to living conditions for locals are arguably more important than potential environmental ones, such as changes in climate; the two issues, however, may collide if no attention at all is paid to the surrounding environment. Ensuring a good standard of living for Maldivians was mentioned in the president’s statement alongside the need for a “green economy” so hopefully the approach will integrate the efforts, as biosphere reserves envision for their sites.
While ambitious targets are often set during international summits and conferences, it’s sometimes difficult to follow the result of these commitments. In the diving community, however, we’re sure to see some of the effects through our direct contact with the marine life. In the coming months and years it will be interesting to see how the project pans out and whether the application for the entire nation to become a biosphere reserve will be realized and how quickly. The greatest result would be that reefs continue to flourish and that the locals benefit from environmental and social stability as a result of all the efforts. See why Maldives is worth protecting and contribute to a sustainable industry – check out our liveaboard dive packages here!
In a tropical country made up almost entirely of water it’s natural that most of the activities take place in the water, like scuba diving. As you know well, there’s a whole world below the land for divers to discover. However, on and above the surface there are tons of activities to keep divers busy when they want to find dry land or splash around in the sun.
The easiest way to understand the possibilities is to know the landscape, as this is what shapes the experience and it’s what makes the Maldives unique. Unlike the islands of Thailand where you have rocky cliffs jutting out of the water, the Maldives is almost unbelievably flat and low-lying. Unless you’re in the air, flying overhead, you’re never any further than a few feet from sea level. This makes for some beautiful scenery, like the azure-green lagoons, endless beaches reaching out into the water as well as waves and wind that will exhilarate traditional surfers and kitesurfers alike.
This country has endless blue horizons where the sky seems to meet the water at a point in infinity.
Now, just because the country is flat doesn’t mean your vacation will be! There are many things to do above water other than lay on the beach – of course the beaches are top notch for when you do want to kick back to sunbathe or build sand sculptures.
To take advantage of the elements there are adventure sports like surfing, kiteboarding and wakeboarding. Maldives is a famous surf destination with the season running from mid-February to November during the south-west monsoon, with especially good conditions in March and April. The warm water and depths make for luxurious diving and daily surf time can be maximized since the changing tides do not hinder the waves, or the avid surfers.
If you’re looking to jump into activities every day then resorts might be a pricey option. Resort extras beyond the package amenities are often priced to be one-offs for tourists with deep pockets looking to splurge. There are other options though, alternatives to resorts that are less costly and which are embedded in real, local islands.
Just in the past few years a new type of accommodation has gained momentum – one that’s more affordable and less synthetic than the artificial resort island atmosphere. Guesthouses are small hotels located on islands where local Maldivians also live. Until recently, tourism on these islands was limited to shops and short excursions, however with accommodation now permitted, new holiday packages are available.
Excursions for any water activities can be arranged through most guesthouses. Generally, with a guest house package daily activities will be included – though it’s best to confirm which activities and equipment will be part of the deal. You can even combine a liveaboard holiday with staying in a guesthouse to see even more of the country during your holiday.
Another contrasting element of the Maldives’ islands to see is the capital city of Male. While you will not find rock cliffs in these islands, there are buildings that seem to rise from the water. It’s a small island, you can walk the city in less than a day from end to end, and it’s completely unlike the rest of the secluded quiet islands. Most islands in the Maldives don’t even have cars – just bicycles and a few motorbikes.
To experience Male there are cafes overlooking the sea and restaurants with international cuisine as well as art galleries, large mosques, handicraft bazaars, fish markets and festivals not found in the rest of the country. Like any major city, it’s the central hub of transportation, goods and services.
To stay near Male the best option is just a short ferry ride away in Hulemalé. The growing Hulemalé Island near the airport may catch up to the hustle and bustle of Male at the pace it’s going but for the moment it’s quieter and cleaner. There are many new beach front hotels there for those who want a bit of a city break after their holiday at sea.
Male, the capital of the Maldives, seems to jut out of the ocean; it’s unlike any other Maldives’ Island.
The Maldives, with its luxury reputation, is seen by most as just a dream vacation and it’s rarely the first country adventure travelers think of when planning their next trip. This is all the more reason to consider an adventure holiday in the remote country, based outside the resorts, since there are no crowds yet and you can still get the feeling of seclusion. Liveaboard and guesthouse packages are more affordable than you may think. So to fulfil the cliché – your dreams really can come true in the Maldives! Click here to see what package suits your budget and holiday plans.
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As it turns out, the serene atmosphere of the Maldives is good for more than just soothing relaxation for holiday makers. It’s also home to underwater species that produce the base for many potentially lifesaving medicines, taking the healing process to another level.
Interest in sponges as sources of medicine has multiplied since the 1950s to a point where they can now take responsibility for almost 30% of the 18,000 natural marine products known and 75% of the new patents for natural antitumor products. Sponges are described as a “gold mine” for certain parts of its makeup, which can potentially be used for medicines; this all according to a study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research.
Without getting too technical, exploring the importance of the Maldives’ sponge “community” can help divers have a better appreciation for the scenes they encounter frequently. It will also hopefully bring awareness to ensure the less famous species in the Maldives are not overlooked.
What are Sponges?
It may seem a bit funny to ask what sponges are as we’ve all likely held a sponge of some sort from a bath sponge to a cleaning sponge. Furthermore, considering such an object as a living organism is sometimes difficult to conceive. While bath sponges aren’t about to come alive and bite us in the shower, the structure is basically a replica of sea sponges. Sponges both living and non-living are made to pass water through their porous composition; cells are arranged for efficient water passage like a water filter. In live sea sponges however, the cells are living and require nutrients; the water passing through the sponge is purposefully directed so that nutrients can be deposited in a central cavity.
Sea sponges have the capacity to reproduce but have no tissue or organs, including no organ systems for nerves, circulation or digestion. And like the average house sponge, sea sponges are immobile (called sessile in the aquatic world). It’s simply the flow of water through them that keeps sea sponges alive. Coral, on the other hand have inner bodies, polyps, that can reach out of the outer shell to catch more than just nutrients that flow by them.
The aquatic sponge lifestyle requires water movement but not constant waves or current where the sand and sediment could form blockages in their pores. It’s at all water depths and temperatures that they live, from tidal regions to great sea depths. The Maldives has an array of environments with its shallow lagoons and surrounding ocean and also provides abundant nutrients in the tropical waters that make great conditions for diverse sponge species.
Sponges of the Maldives
Sponges come in all shapes and sizes and rarely have any symmetry. In the Maldives’ Ari Atoll alone there are ball-shaped sponges, coral eating sponges, tube-like and branch-shaped sponges, lumpy ones, puffy ones and even spiky ones.
Since the larger fauna of the Maldives like manta rays and whale sharks usually get all the attention, it can be difficult to find photos of sponges and coral. This collection is impressive and shows many sponge species.
They are not to be confused with the Maldives Sponge snail which is actually a sea slug. Also named the Blue Velvet Sponge Snail, this name describes its blue, sponge-like appearance. This species is found only in the Maldives and can be found in Baa Atoll at Dhigali Haa. Unlike actual sponges, the sponge snail moves, albeit slowly, at a true snail’s pace.
Immobile, without much in the way of protection, sponges create substances to defend themselves. These toxins fight infection and can repel predators as well as claim space in the habitat for its own growth. It is these substances that are making headlines for sponges as sources of antitumor, antiviral and anticancer drugs. The Indo-Pacific regions are a target for this research and it is said that 5 species within the Maldives have shown to contain the special, potentially life-altering properties.
Technically speaking, sponges produce compounds and host other organisms that create microbial symbionts of chemicals which are used for self-defense and can be applied to control viruses, bacteria, tumors and fungi. More simply put, the natural ways in which sponges defend themselves are being applied in science to develop anti-tumor and anti-cancer treatments.
The isolation and creation of these important substances within a lab, without exploiting natural sponge growth, is also a task at hand.
The Maldives has not only the beauty but also the substance to make it a significant target for environmental protection. Isolated and surrounded by highly diverse and productive ecosystems, the islands of the Maldives are worth a visit and worth a dive. Check out Special dive packages that fit your needs here.
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