Maldives, I dare say, is a destination on everyone’s bucket list.
And to your pleasant surprise, making that dream come true is not going to burn a hole in your pocket anymore. The iconic image of Maldives is a private villa on a private uninhabited island, right on the sand banks with an unobstructed panoramic view of Indian Ocean. For divers though, the most important highlight of the holiday is perhaps the encounters with the magnificent creatures in the Indian Ocean.
The regular route brings one on a classic tour from the Male airport to the North Male Atolls to the South Male Atolls and then Vaavu Atoll, followed by Ali Atolls and back at North Male Atolls. And the draw is, of course, the big stuff! And it could come at a price that you can afford when you take a liveaboard trip.
This particular trip was really value-for-money.
1. Plan your trip way ahead in advance. We planned ours at least a year in advance!
2. Get the word out and get as many people as possible. So you can get a better deal as a group!
3. Book with someone you know and trust!
The good news is, Maldives’ liveaboards are really quite luxurious as compared to other areas, and for this particular trip, we chose M/Y Sachika, which is one of the most luxurious diving yachts; the main boat is divided into four storeys with luxurious cabins and suites, a restaurant with a bar attached, a lounge bar, jacuzzi, sun deck, paddle board, kayak, and comes attached with a diving boat (or what the Maldivians call a Dhoni).
Every single day, the first scenery that greets you when you walk out of the cabin, is the beaming sun and the horizon that stretches into infinity. The last scenery before heading to bed, are the stars illuminating the night sky of a canvas, while you are in the middle of the ocean, with nothing but the sounds of waves splashing onto the boat as it glides along the water. But of course, these are all just memories formed from my senses.
The Diving - Dream Come True
First of all, diving on the Dhoni makes a real difference to the diving experience. It is extremely spacious, enough for twenty and more divers onboard. Rinsing area is at the bow of the boat. Once you are done diving, it is back to the main boat.
- Length 33 m
- Width 10 m
- Cruise speed 11 knots
- Engine Yanmar 480 HP
- 2 desalination plants with 600lt/h capacity
- 2 super-silenced generators, 35 KW each
- 15 m Diving Dhoni
- 5 m dinghy
- Sachika crew 11 people (professional chef + professional pastry chef)
- Dhoni crew 3 people
- Wi-Fi internet access in the restaurant
- Massage room
- Jacuzzi on the spacious sundeck
- Hi-fi system inside and out (separate for all decks)
- Inside coffee bar on restaurant deck
- Open coffee bar on Captain's deck
- Inside restaurant
- All the latest navigation systems
- Air compressors 16mc/h each
- 29 aluminum diving tanks octopus int/din attached 12lt each
- 2 aluminum oxygen tanks mono-attached int/din 5lt each
- Weight belts
- Medical oxygen tank
- Dive gear rental on board
- Fishing equipment on board
One of the first few impressionable dives is Myaru Kandu, located at Vaavu Atoll. It is a typical channel dive. As we descend from the slope and when we reached 30 meters, right in front was the rapid currents running in the channel. We hung on the edge of the cliff and waited, eyes peeled in front. As the currents rushed in, Gray Reef Sharks and Whitetip Reef Sharks started to make their appearance. It was a flurry of action. There are approximately 10-30 sharks in one single group each time, and just a little farther away, schools of Eagle Rays were just leisurely drifting along. We were there taking it all in until we reached our decompression limit. At 12 meters, we did a decompression stay, and then a safety stop at 5 meters, all the while reminiscing about the magical encounter earlier on.
Alimatha Jetty is a highlight night dive spot, which is also located in Vaavu Atoll. The resorts in the area started dumping their food wastage into the waters around the islands, and overtime, it started to attract a large group of Nurse Sharks. We descended upon a sandy and shallow bottom and formed two lines with our torches and just waited. The lights attracted the Nurse Sharks and before we knew it, they were circling us and nudging us in all directions. Before long, huge marble rays joined the gala. These docile creatures are not shy at all. The way they are swimming is much like a swagger, like, “Look at me!” As their white fat bellies caress my head and their tails softly slapping my arms, I just felt really blessed and satisfied.
Fish Head & Batala Kan Thila
Located in the North Ari Atoll, the dive site is a well-known site and it really did not disappoint. The species that are available here and the amount of marine life make it worthy of the title, "Fish Head". There are a lot of Reef Sharks; Blacktip and Whitetip Reef Shark, Turtles, Snappers as well as Angelfish, Butterflyfish. It was also pretty amusing to see the Clownfish flapping their small tiny dorsal fins, trying to swim against the current, as a contrasting sight to the magnificent animals’ graceful movements in the water.
The next day, we came to Rangali Madivaru, a Manta cleaning station in the South Ari Atoll. The currents were very strong. The dive guides brought us down quickly to more than 10 meters in depth, hiding behind rocks and looking out into the deep blue. I was beginning to shiver a little when finally, a huge dark silhouette became clearer and clearer. Manta Rays are a lot more shy than the adorable Nurse Sharks. You gotta be very still when observing them. And in no time, more and more began to hover over our heads, from time to time, deliberately stopping above the head of the divers, getting their tickles from our bubbles. We just stayed there and admired the Manta movie playing right in front of our eyes. When we started ascending, the Manta Rays started making their way into the deep blue. They must be thinking, “I was just out dawdling and wasting my time but hey, I met all these beautiful people with bubbles!”
Here comes the best part of the trip - Maamigili Beyru. Maamigili Beyru, located in the South Ari Atoll, is the dive site with the highest chance for whale shark sightings in the Maldives. Instead of diving straight in, we spent time on the surface to do some snorkeling to spot the Whale Shark. Before I knew it, everyone was already in the water.
They were pretty oblivious to the racket and screams of excitement from the divers.
Once the sighting was confirmed, we got up the Dhoni, geared up and was in the water in lightning speed. This particular dive site, I have to mention, though, really has nothing else except for to catch the Whale Sharks in action. And lucky for us, we saw three of these gentle giants at one time at different spots. And it was an absolutely up-close and personal experience. Frolicking with whale sharks, how many people could say that they have done that?
Located in the North Ari Atoll, another must-go night dive spot, where our favourite protagonist - the Manta Rays, make their appearance again. When night fell, the boat crew put out a high-powered lighting in the stern, attracting a lot of small plankton, in the hope to attract Manta Rays. So these creatures actually come up to the surface of the water. Somehow, perhaps they knew they had an audience, like a well-trained acrobat, they were flipping and turning at the surface. Absolutely out of this world.
If you think that being on a liveaboard is boring, you thought wrong! It’s actually a lot more fun than staying at the resort. Maldives liveaboards are like a floating resort - she has all that you need.
One of the evening would be spent on an uninhabited island for a romantic BBQ dinner. Most of it spent at the lounge bar (duh of course). Or, move the kayak out. Sunbathe, read a book, make yourself a cup of tea, or watch a movie in the dining area. Somersault on deck, if you really find it too chilled for your liking.
Tips for Maldives:
From Singapore to Male, Maldives, you can take Singapore Airlines / Tiger Airways direct
From Malaysia to Male, Maldives, you can take Airasia/ Malaysia Airlines.
Maldives currency is Rufiyaa (Rufiyaa), of course, liveaboards, hotels and shops accept the US Dollar.
Maldives is a Muslim country, so she prohibits all alcohol and pork products, but fret not, there are plenty of it in resorts and liveaboards.
The most enjoyable factor of a trip not only lies with the facilities of the resort or liveaboard, though that is definitely one of the priority, what you see, and finally, who you spend the time with, is the most important. I always feel that diving bonds people together like no other sports or activities ever do.
An already fabulous trip is always made even better with amazing people!