May 30th, 2015 Comments off

Manta, Whaleshark & Wrecks – North (outward trip)

Join Emperor Atoll for these awesome special trips to the North of Maldives:

10 300x200 Special Itineraries 1; Manta, Whaleshark & Wrecks   North

Atolls Visited

These special itineraries have been chosen to run when the manta are most prolific between August and October.

Boarding your liveaboard in Male, you head north to begin your safari ending in Baa Atoll (Hanifaru Bay) where you catch a flight back to Male.

Your journey begins with wreck diving at Gaafaru Atoll, continuing on to the northern atolls of Lhaviyani and Noonu with an abundance of grey reef sharks, exciting channel diving, beautiful coral formations and pinnacles brimming with life.

Baa Atoll is home to Hanifaru Lagoon where you can snorkel with the manta and whalesharks that come to feed on the plankton in this shallow lagoon. Of course, sightings can’t be guaranteed but joining us at this time of year means your chances are really high! Baa Atoll is also home to many pinnacles, overhangs and alternative manta sites.

You can combine this itinerary with the Manta, Whaleshark & Reefs – South itinerary, which is the return trip but calling at different sites, making an exciting two week safari covering eight atolls. Contact us for details and prices.

Please note: This itinerary is at the Cruise Director’s discretion based on the weather and current conditions to ensure you get the most possible interactions with manta and whaleshark.

You don’t need a minimum number of dives but you should be comfortable with drift dives. Currents can be strong. All your diving is made from dhonis or zodiacs to give precise entry and exits points. Experienced divers can dive in a buddy pair unguided.
 
April 21st, 2015 Comments off

10 things every scuba diver needs to know 1050x741 300x211 10 things a diver should know

10 things a diver should know:

  1. Don’t touch: Even if it feels tempting to touch the turtle’s back or the corals. Don’t. You have no idea how big damage you can cause
    You should read more about becoming a more sustainable diver.
  1. Buoyancy skills: This is one of the most important skills a diver can master. Breathe in to go up, out to go down. Only use the BCD to compensate for depth changes.
    If you want to master your buoyancy all you have to do is practice and practice on very dive. Here are a few buoyancy tips to help you on the way.
  1. Watch your fins: If you don’t have control of your fins, you have no idea what they are breaking or who you are kicking in the face. If you hit something: Stop, look and if necessary take a stroke with the hands.
    It’s all about your finning techniques and knowing where you are in the water. Spend some time training your possession and finning techniques. Preferably on a sandy bottom.
  1. Watch your air: Stating the obvious. Still remember to monitor your air, as often as you can.
    Managing your air is never a waste of time, in the long run you’ll get more dive time.
  1. Never exceed your limits: Even if there the best reason to goo that deep or do that dive. Don’t ever exceed what you feel you can dive, or what you are trained to dive.
    The only thing that can really result form this is DCI. This is the extreme, I know, but is it really worth risking, just to get a bit deeper. And if it’s that cool down there, why not get the proper training for that depth?
  1. Don’t follow peer pressure: This goes with point 5, don’t dive if you are not confident it’s the right dive plan for YOU. Don’t let anyone else say what is right for you. Always hold the right to call a dive.
  1. Keep blowing bubbles: It’s the most important rule in scuba diving, so by now you should already know it. There are plenty of other ways to extend your dive time, so don’t waste time holding your breath. It doesn’t give you more dive time and it can be very dangerous.
  1. Dive gear: take care of your dive gear, and your gear will take care of you. Don’t slack on the dive equipment maintains. If it has been a while since your last equipment checkup, here’s a great guide to getting your dive gear ready for the first dive.
  1. Listen to the briefing: There’s nothing worse than a diver who didn’t pay attention to the dive guides briefing, and ends up getting lost or spoiling the dive, because he didn’t know what to do. So just pay attention.
  1. Don’t touch: Yes we covered this already, but I don’t mind repeating. Don’t touching anything underwater. Take only pictures leave only bubbles.
    It’s really that important that I had to mention it twice. If all divers keep touching just one thing a dive, we’ll end up having nothing left.

What did we miss?

What is your top 10 list of important scuba knowledge? Did we miss any points? Tell us your best scuba advice in the comments below. All the other divers want to know as well.

Read more: http://www.dive.in/articles/10-things/#ixzz3XuwfhN98

 
March 19th, 2015 Comments off

Dive the Maldives. Experience mantas like never before and take part
in key conservation research

Hanifaru Manta 27 300x199 Experience Maldives Manta Rays

Manta feeding frenzy in Maldives

Constellation Fleet Maldives has teamed up with Manta Trust to bring guests the chance to dive with manta experts, Niv Froman and Guy Stevens. Not only will guests dive with the best, but there will be the chance to experience and take part in cutting-edge conservation research to protect these most majestic of animals as well as name new mantas.

MV Orion Port Side 300x199 Experience Maldives Manta Rays

Orion on the way to a new diving cruise in Baa, Rhasdhoo and Ari Atoll

30th August – 6th September 2015
Manta Madness, Male, Baa Atoll and Ari Atoll
Trip leader: Niv Froman

Join Constellation Fleet’s MV Orion and the Manta Trust’s Niv Froman on this trip dedicated to sightings and interactions with manta rays, focusing on the Central Atolls of North Malé Atoll, Baa Atoll and North Ari Atoll.

27th February – 7th March 2016
Southern & Central Atolls Sharks & Mantas
Huvadhoo, Laamu, Thaa, Meemu, South Ari Atoll
Trip Leader: Guy Stevens

Join Constellation Fleet’s MV Orion and the Manta Trust’s Guy Stevens. Dedicated to sightings and interactions with manta rays, focusing on the Southern & Central Atolls with the chance to really understand the magnificent manta.

Manta Trust scientists will be collecting photographic identification images of all mantas encountered throughout the expedition, a task that guests are welcome and encouraged to take part in. Sightings of all the manta rays encountered will be added to the Maldives database and guests will be invited to name any new individuals. Every manta sighting, whether it’s a new manta or a re-sighting of an individual which is already known, is an important piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle, allowing the manta team to better understand the population size, composition, migratory routes, reproductive output, native ranges and areas of critical habitats; all of which is crucial information in developing effective management and conservation strategies for these increasingly vulnerable animals.

About The Manta Trust
Manta rays are among the most charismatic creatures that inhabit our oceans. With the largest brain of all fish their intelligence and curiosity make encounters with these creatures a truly amazing experience. However, despite their popularity with divers and snorkelers many aspects of these creatures’ lives remain a mystery, with only snippets of their life history understood. More worryingly, in recent years, a fishery for these animals has developed with devastating effects on populations of these animals globally.

The Manta Trust was formed in 2011 to co-ordinate global research and conservation efforts for these animals, their close relatives and their habitat. As charismatic megafauna, manta rays act as the flagship species helping to promote and engage the general public in the wider message of marine ecosystem conservation. Through this top down approach to conservation the manta ray becomes the catalyst for change, engaging and motivating the general public, governments and local communities alike. As a UK Registered Charity, the Trust brings together a number of projects from around the globe, both new and long-standing, including the Republic of Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Indonesia. By conducting long-term, robust studies into manta populations in these locations the Trust aims to build solid foundations upon which Governments, NGOs and conservationists can make informed and effective decisions to ensure the long term survival of these animals and their habitat.

Niv Photo 2013 300x320 Experience Maldives Manta Rays

Trip Leader, Niv Froman
Join Niv’s entertaining talks on the highlights of manta lives and cutting edge research, and gain an insight into the life of a manta researcher.

Niv has been passionate about nature for as long as he can remember; his dream has always been living in close contact to the wilderness and to try to understand its fascinating mysteries.

After graduating summa cum laude in Natural Sciences at the University of Milan, Niv completed a Masters degree in Environmental Management focusing primarily on animal behaviour and evolution.

In 2010 he began work as a marine biologist in the Maldives, an experience that brought him closer to marine life and developed his passion for the underwater domain.

The complex and still poorly understood behaviour of manta rays particularly intrigued him from his first encounter. It was the desire to better understand their biology and help the conservation effort that introduced him to the Manta Trust. Since 2013, Niv has worked full time as Project Leader of the Maldivian Manta Ray Project, managing and coordinating the conservation and research of these majestic creatures.

Guy Stevens portrait 300x443 Experience Maldives Manta Rays

Trip Leader, Guy Stevens
In 2005 Guy founded the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP) with the aim of helping to conserve the Maldives’ manta population through active research and education.  In 2011, Guy formed The Manta Trust along with a collaboration of scientists, conservationists, photographers, filmmakers and communicators. His work with manta rays now takes him to other corners of the world, but the Maldives for him will always be the best place to see and study these amazing animals.

The research that Guy has conducted on the manta rays of the Maldives, especially in the famous Hanifaru Bay, has been featured in dozens of articles including a National Geographic Magazine feature and numerous television documentaries (BBC, ITV, National Geographic, Animal Planet, ABC, etc). Guy’s research at Hanifaru and his work with The Manta Trust contributed to the declaration of the Maldives’ Baa Atoll as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011. In March 2013 Guy and the rest of the Manta Trust team were key players in a coalition of NGOs which were instrumental in the successful campaign resulting in manta rays being listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), greatly improving the global protection for these vulnerable species.

Guy is now working towards the completion of his PhD focusing on manta rays at the University of York in the United Kingdom. Throughout the expedition, Guy will be providing lectures and informal talks on manta ray and whale shark research and conservation, general marine biology and highlighting the diverse and productive marine ecosystems of the Maldives.

 
March 12th, 2015 Comments off

The Maldives is blessed to be one of the few places in the world where you have a permanent resident population of Manta Rays which move around the Maldives following the their food, the plankton around.  There are believed to be around 5,000 Manta Rays living in Maldivian waters, with the Maldives Manta Ray Project having already identified over 3,000 individuals, constantly increasing with new sightings from their team of Marine Biologists, volunteers and many ordinary tourists such as yourselves. If you would like to assist the Manta Trust and the Maldives Manta Ray Project with their research you can log on to http://www.mantatrust.org/make-a-difference/id-the-manta/ and upload your pictures. Its a great way to find out more about the Manta Rays you have seen, as well as help a worthy cause to help us all better understand the habits of Manta Rays, which should help with their continued protection.

Hanifaru Manta 27 300x199 Manta Rays Where and When in Maldives?

Manta feeding frenzy in Maldives

So where will you find our beloved Manta Rays in the Maldives you might ask? Well the simple answer is it depends on what time of year it is. As mentioned previously, the Manta Rays migrate following their food. Plankton is moved around by the winds and the currents, so its position is determined by the Monsoons that affect the Maldives each year. The Maldives has 2 Monsoons, the South-west monsoon from May to October, and the North-east monsoon from December to March. April and November act as transitional months where the predominant winds can be pushing from either direction.

So what does this mean for your Holiday in the Maldives?

Liveaboards:
Well if you are wanting to stay on a Liveaboard it usually does not matter as they will alsways try to find you as many Manta Rays & Whalesharks as possible. However as a rule of thumb if you want to see Manta Rays, June to November look for cruises that take you to North Male, Baa Atoll, or South-west Ari Atoll.

If you are looking for Manta Rays December to May, then your best best is to find cruises that will take you to Ari Atoll, which has Manta cleaning and feeding sites year round, which are however most active in the North East Monsoon.

Guesthouses:

South West Monsoon May – October
Aveyla Manta Village
 Baa Atoll is one of the best value for money / budget land based options for finding Manta Rays in the South West Monsoon, with its close proximity to Hanifaru Bay, and surrounding Manta cleaning stations. A brand new establishment with an experienced dive team and fun friendly atmosphere.

North East Monsoon December – March
Casa Mia @ Mathiveri Dive Retreat in North Ari Atoll is a great year round diving destination, and is perfectly situated on the West coast of the Maldives during the North-east monsoon from December – March. In this period Mantas can be seen outside the harbour feeding, and there are numerous great Manta dive sites where you can sit with the Manta Rays for up to an hour while the cleaning wrasse clean then. Like a Manta car wash!

IMG 4968 300x194 Manta Rays Where and When in Maldives?

Manta Cleaning @ Lankan Manta Point, North Male

 
January 27th, 2015 Comments off

Once you dive abroad, there’s no other way to travel. Ordinary cruises or beach holidays no longer seem to cut it after taking a scuba diving vacation.

One way to dive abroad is to book a liveaboard or dive safari package, in which divers stay on a custom cruiser, whose itinerary revolves around hitting selected dive sites in the region. Liveaboards combine the benefits of a cruise and the facilities of a scuba dive centre all in one. In the Maldives there are also guesthouses that offer dive centres, as well as resorts, but here we will focus on the Maldives liveaboard option.

 

liveaboards What to Expect During a Liveaboard Scuba Diving Trip in the Maldives

Left to right: Scubaspa cabin, Maldivian Dream cruiser, MV Orion Jacuzzi


 

Arrival and meet & greet in Male
Well, it will actually be at the airport in Hulemale, but the main arrival port of the Maldives is referred to as Male International Airport, where almost all visitors to the Maldives will arrive and depart from. Some may hop onto a connecting domestic flight to start liveaboard tours in a more remote atoll, but majority of itineraries start from this transport hub.

Most liveaboards will arrange for a representative to meet guests at the arrivals area, from where they will be guided and transported to the liveaboard cruiser at the designated time. Once aboard, guests are welcomed and are encouraged to settle in.

An obligatory check dive is carried out at the first dive site to check gear, skill levels of the group and get a refresher on dive essentials.

 

Multiple daily dives
Depending on the day and dive boat, this will range from 2-3 dives per day. This count doesn’t generally include the arrival and departure days, when no dives take place for safety reasons. There needs to be an adjustment period for the body between flying high and diving deep.

Night dives and/or early morning dives will be mixed in for certain dive sites that are best seen at those times.

 

Flexible diving
In the disclaimer of many dive boat itineraries you may see a notation that exact sites could vary depending on local conditions, and even diver experience. Liveaboards have the flexibility to choose a different dive site if the conditions are not favourable at the planned site. Fortunately, this means divers can still hit the water when weather doesn’t cooperate at one particular site. The dive guides know the areas well, and can make the best decisions to ensure divers get a great experience.

 

Focus on safety
The impeccable safety records of liveaboard companies in the Maldives have come thanks to diligence of crew, guides and guests themselves. In addition to accompaniment by professionally trained and highly experienced dive guides, every ship is fully equipped with emergency equipment as required – oxygen, first aid, fire alarms and extinguishers, and life preservers. Additional safety equipment available can include safe air analysers and lost diver tracking systems.

 


 

Geared towards diving
In the Maldives the traditional boat is called a dhoni. There are smaller and larger versions, and a custom equipped dive dhoni is used by the liveaboards to get divers up to dive site entry points and to store dive gear and compressors. The liveaboard itself is usually a cabin cruiser yacht with 2-12 cabins, chartering 14-24 guests at a time.

All the conveniences for divers will be there, and all is tailored to ensure maximum dive time. Divers unpack gear only once and a dedicated dive dhoni transports the eager group to the selected dive locations where conditions are at their best. There are camera rinse stations and battery charging stations on board, as well as wet and dry storage areas and staff available to refill tanks.

 

Diverse dive sites
One of the best and adventurous elements of liveaboard diving has to be the access to dive sites across several atolls within just one trip. It’s not uncommon for itineraries to hop from North and South Ari to North and South Male and to others like Vaavu and Rasdhoo all in a 7-day trip. The same experience can’t be achieved when staying at one island base location.

Some dive boats will also start in an outer atoll working its way back to Male, or vice versa, making for an even more unique and varied itinerary.

 

Constant temperatures in the air and water.
While air temperatures average around 27 degrees Celsius, the water moves around the 28-29 degree mark. There are wet and dry seasons but, so close to the equator, it stays within a narrow temperature range throughout the year.  Not to mention, the sunrise and sunset take place at about the same time year-round, keeping the number daylight hours remaining constant too.

 


 

A range of other activities
More than diving is on the menu for liveaboard tours. While scuba addicts would like to stay submersed all day long, it’s just not possible. Fortunately, guests of liveaboards are given facilities and activities to keep themselves active (or not so active depending on their wishes). Lounge chairs and jacuzzis are now a staple of most liveaboards in this region. As for activities, guests can enjoy evening and daytime excursions, such as a beach BBQ dinner or picnic on an uninhabited island, a guided Male visit, a local island visit and fishing. These activities are often included in the package price.

 

Luxury
Air-conditioning and ensuite bathrooms are standard for Maldives’ liveaboard safari boats. Depending on the cruiser, spa facilities and fitness classes like yoga and pilates may also be on offer.

 

This is the liveaboard holiday in a nutshell, in the Maldives. But of course, to put into words the real experience is impossible. Get yourself into the warm waters of the Maldives this year. A spring holiday is in the cards for you, as Theia’s April deal is now on – Click for more info here

 
January 21st, 2015 Comments off

Maldives’ marine life is blissfully unaware of the popularity contest among species in their community. Sure, the angelfish are colourful and the clownfish are cute, but would a scuba diver come to the Maldives just to see them? Likely not. But there are, indeed, creatures that bring divers in droves.

What is it about the manta ray that mesmerizes onlookers and leaves them awestruck? What makes our hearts stop for a moment and brings a smile to our face just getting a glimpse of these birds of the deep sea? The reasons can be hard to put a finger on.

Let’s look at why mantas are winning all the popularity contests in the Maldives, and getting all the attention.

 

manta Henrik Winther Andersen 600x413 Mantas Win the Popularity Contest in the Maldives   But Why?

Manta glider and its front fins


 

Why the Maldives?

It’s not secret that manta rays are not native to the Maldives. The pelagic species grace the open waters and near-reef habitats of tropical and sub-tropical regions all over the world, from the Caribbean to the Red and Arabian Seas and the Indo-Pacific. Swimming with mantas is a popular activity in Hawaii, Great Barrier Reef, Galapagos, Micronesia, Bali, Costa Rica, Fiji, Indonesia and Thailand.

In the Maldives there exists the conditions for unique manta ray encounters. During the Southwest monsoon season, at Hanifaru Bay, manta rays come out in droves to feed on the influx of krill brought in by the currents. Up to 200 mantas at a time have been witnessed in this location, which is now a protected site with boat and scuba diver access restrictions. The active Hanifaru period covers about July to early October when this so-called feeding frenzy can occur. As it’s not a daily occurrence, those divers that are in the Maldives specifically to see this phenomenon may want to plan several days of diving there in Baa Atoll.

Yet this is not the only place to see manta rays in the Maldives. Manta Point (aka Lankanfinolhu Faru) of North Male Atoll, as well as sites in Ari Atoll and Vaavu Atoll are all known for manta sightings. Generally, the Maldives dry season from December to May attracts mantas to the western side of the atolls, while the rest of the year they stay more to the east – all dependent on the flow of currents and the plankton flow that follows.

 

 
 

Size and stature

Size gets one noticed. The larger species are often the most popular in any environment – elephants, giraffes, moose, and bears all seem to draw attention. A manta ray’s larger-than-human size is part of their attraction. Their winged shape may also remind people of birds which, for the most part, are non-threatening to humans. Their wing span can get up to 9 metres, but average at about 6.7 metres.
 

Demeanour

Filter feeding lets the manta ray feed calmly and unaggressively. They glide and swoop through the water using the two cephalic fins around their mouths to direct some of the oceans smallest creatures into its mouth – krill, shrimp and planktonic crabs. The spiralling manta displays of Hanifaru, when the currents are right, are the most dramatic example of this awesome spectacle.

This filtering while swimming practice makes their movements graceful and pleasing to watch. While we would be equally mesmerized by a tiger, for example, fulfilling its role in the food chain, the toothy hunter’s methods of feeding are much more graphic. Not to mention that the tiny plankton and other miniscule creatures, which mantas feed on, can hardly be seen with the naked eye. Certainly, one way is not more important or better than the other, but in terms of human perspectives mantas give us a more relaxing show.

Their calm gliding is not an indication that mantas are not capable of moving fast, however; They can accelerate at the blink of an eye if needed.

manta asands 600x450 Mantas Win the Popularity Contest in the Maldives   But Why?

Distinctive marking on each manta. Photo asands, Flickr


 

Habits

Another practice that brings the manta many onlookers is their cleaning ritual. Manta rays live in symbiosis with smaller “cleaner fish” that remove parasites from their bodies. As the manta swims along the fish nibble at its flesh, and the fish obtain their own nutrients from this meal. Scuba divers visit cleaning stations around the Maldives to watch this harmonic relationship in action, evidence of the interdependent nature of the marine and reef environments.

 

Their image as gentle giants comes from all of these elements – size, demeanour, etc. Manta rays are known to come close to divers in the Maldives, but divers should be cautious to come in direct contact with them as it could cause removal of the protective mucous layer on the skin and cause lesions on the manta as a result.

Manta rays win the popularity contest in the Maldives then for good reason – they encompass the laidback, beautiful atmosphere of these islands. Photographers make sure you bring your wide-angle and fish-eye lenses to capture the massive manta. For all who get to experience it, a manta encounter will surely make your dive holiday.

 
January 15th, 2015 Comments off

Now that January is in full swing, we start making goals and plans for the year ahead. Especially as the chilly winter weather hits, it’s travel plans to warmer places that fill our thoughts.

Here are some great reasons to make the Maldives your destination of choice this year:

Find an octopus and watch it transform and camouflage
You may have already seen an octopus without even knowing it. These creatures can change colour to match their environment, and even seem to mimic texture.  On top of that, they are fascinating creatures with an unusual anatomy – they have no spine and their brain is spread around the body. They even have problem solving abilities, like finding objects in which to hide.

Witness the symbiotic relationships of Maldives marine creatures
There are many examples of interdependence among the Maldives marine community.  Cleaner wrasse and manta rays, and clown fish and the anemone are two of the most common. This can be witnessed in places like the Lankan Station, Rangali Madivaru, Kudarah Thila and Donkalo Thila, all found in Ari Atoll. There’s also the North Male Manta Point among many other locations to see this symbiotic relationship play out.

 

nudibranch Dominic Scaglioni 600x450 15 Things to Do in 2015 in the Maldives

Nudibranch. Photo: Dominic Scaglioni, Flickr

 

Spot a nudibranch
A case of when the tiny things of the world are disproportionately impressive, nudibranchs are small but colourful. You can find them on shipwrecks, but you’ll need to look closely. Your macro photography skills and steady buoyancy will come in handy to capture them on film.

See coral polyps come out of their hard coral exterior
By day, the reef is more of a background to the more lively and colourful show of life going on around it. By night, however, the seemingly inanimate coral comes alive as the living polyps or inner bodies come out to feed. This is when you can witness a sight not seen by all divers, only those who are patient and in the right place at the right time.

Watch the sea bottom come to life
As the octopus and coral demonstrate, things are not always as they seem in the marine environment. In the same way, the sand is a hiding place for sneaky creatures like sting rays. Even nurse sharks like to stay in the sand sea floor bottom during the day when resting. Don’t look too quickly past the sand or you may miss spotting those sandy looking creatures that lie within.

Get up early and spot a hammerhead shark in Rasdhoo Atoll
Since they don’t come up to recreational dive depths and they are particular about their schedule, spotting hammerhead sharks is no easy feat. That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause – on the contrary it’s a great endeavour that offers a rewarding outcome. Spotting species that are elusive is that much more exciting.

 

turtle high 5 malcolm browne 600x400 15 Things to Do in 2015 in the Maldives

This dude is ready for a high five. Photo: Malcolm Browne

Pretend to high-five a turtle
Spotting a turtle is always a treat. A photo at the right angle can make for a Finding Nemo-style image.

Get an onboard massage or spa treatment
Luxury, onboard spa experiences are now offered by ScubaSpa, which can be combined with scuba itineraries.  This is great for diver/non-diver couples or for a papered yet active vacation.

Revel in the seclusion
On the flight in, be sure to notice the distance between islands and the location of this nation in the middle of the ocean. Then, once out on the ocean, soak up the feeling of being truly away from it all.

Swim with a whale shark
Getting up close and personal with these gentle giants is an activity for which many come to the Maldives.  They can be seen by scuba or snorkelling in the right spots, know to dive instructors.

Drift dive a Maldivian Kandu or Channel
Strong currents are characteristic of this mid-ocean nation and drift diving is a perfect way to enjoy them.

Explore a shipwreck
Several submerged ships attract divers and vibrant marine life in this distant archipelago. Fesdhoo Wreck and Maldives Victory Wreck are two well-known sites worth exploring.

Black out during a night dive
That is, turn off your lights to witness the underwater world in peaceful, eerie darkness. Only when it is safe to do so and as you feel comfortable.

Visit a local community, inhabited island or even book a stay there
Exempt from the incoming Green Tax, and with comparably basic facilities to private resort islands, guesthouses are an alternative accommodation option in the Maldives. Facilities and activities at many guesthouses are provided at a very high level, and the experience of staying on a locally inhabited island is a great way to experience the culture of the Maldives.

 

 

Discover an outer atoll of the Maldives
Hanimaadhoo in the north, and Laamu atoll, from where some Southern dive safari itineraries start, as well as Addu Atoll in the south are all accessible by domestic flight and beyond the reach of the typical visitor to the Maldives. If those seem a bit far, try discovering an atoll you haven’t visited that still remains within reach. Break the mould with Meemu, Vaavu or other outer-central atolls that liveaboards include in their regular itineraries.


Divers have endless reasons to visit this reef-filled destination. One final one could be the liveaboard dive safari deals that pop up throughout the year. There are several offers on the table now, including a last-minute, limited space deal on MV Orion.
Read the details on this Constellation Fleet special – click here.

 
January 6th, 2015 Comments off

The game of catch-up may finally be won in the Maldives, as tax dollars will be aimed at waste management systems that match demand.

After several years of discussion, the Maldives will be introducing their new “Green Tax”. From November 2015, tourists will be charged $6 USD per bed, per night for safari boat (liveaboard) and resort stays. The funds collected from this tax are intended for improvement of waste management issues that have been an on-going problem for the water-logged, tourist-filled nation.

Tourists are being referred to as “Champions of the Environment” in the Maldives for their contribution to the Green Tax, but how will this affect you as a tourist in the Maldives and how did this tax come about?

 

maldive aerial Badr Naseem 600x450 Become a Champion of the Maldivian Environment

A nation of water and little land. Photo: Badr Naseem

 

SCOPE OF THE SITUATION

To give you some background on the amount of waste and where it’s going, here is some background information.

Tourists in the Maldives outnumber residents 3:1 annually. That is to say, each year the population of the Maldives more than triples, with visitor numbers surpassing 1 million in 2014, and residents accounting for around 350,000.

With not much land area for the waste to go, councils and businesses in the Maldives must be diligent and creative in their disposal of solid waste. Up until now waste management practices, especially around the greater Male region, have been severely lacking. Almost all tourists come through the Male region, and many of them stay there.

While some resorts aim for self-sufficient waste management practices, the combination of the business and government facilities cannot keep up with the constant garbage disposal requirements – amounting to 860 metric tons of solid waste per day, in the nation as a whole.

On a more individual scale, one resort produces about 1.3 metric tons per day of solid waste, together amounting to 134 mt per day for all 101 resorts. On the other hand, the over 150 safari boats generated a total of about 8 mt per day. A large percentage of the resort waste is said to be from organic waste – food and landscaping. Safari boats obviously do not have any landscaping waste.

One thing to note is that, by bed count, resorts make up over 80% of the visitor accommodation in the Maldives.

With private enterprises making individual efforts to deal with tourist wastes and the rest of the volume heading to local landfills, the responsibility lies with every party involved as each generates a portion of the waste total.


 

CURRENT PRACTICES

While private enterprises make certain efforts to avoid contributing to local landfills, the council waste practices are in need of an overhaul. There is much talk and controversy over the current landfill at Thilafushi, aka “Rubbish Island”.

This eye-sore of the otherwise picturesque islands takes on over 300 tonnes of rubbish daily, where some of it is burned. Many are concerned about the island’s generation of air pollution and seeping toxins from hazardous waste into the sea via the soil. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it seems that responsibility for, and management of, this main dumping site has been unclear. This has led to ineffective practices for several years. Hopefully this new focus on the issue will mean getting a grip on this unfortunate issue.

Current practices for dealing with waste vary depending on the type of waste. Food waste is often dealt with by sending it out to sea, while some resorts place it in compost for their gardens. Some waste is incinerated (paper, cardboard), and glass is crushed and transformed for construction materials. Even resorts that have extensive waste management plans often send a portion of waste that cannot be treated to local landfills.

Some airlines and organizations are suggesting that tourists try to collect and take their rubbish with them from the country, leaving it at a connection location or at their outside destination.
 

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Keeping beaches pristine takes some landscaping and maintenance. Photo: MattJP, Flickr


 

DIRECT EFFECTS ON TOURISTS

What tourists can expect in 2015 are some changes in how their holidays are taxed in the Maldives, though this does not necessarily amount to an overall increase.

Here’s the scoop: The bed tax of $8 per night has been abolished from Nov 2014 and the Green Tax will begin from Nov 2015 ($6 per night). The T-GST (Tourism Goods and Services Tax) has increased from 8 to 12%, currently in effect. Tourists are effectively paying less nightly tax but more Services tax, and the nightly tax is now allocated to environmental efforts, specifically waste management to start.

Visitors can have a certain satisfaction of knowing tax dollars are being contributed directly to resolution of environmental issues.

All in all, the Green Tax can give Maldives enthusiasts an optimistic outlook on the state of the environment in this isolated island nation. The new tax will apply to stays from November 2015.

If you’re keen to get to the Maldives earlier in the year, there are deals to be taken advantage of. Emperor Atoll’s February, Sharktastic cruises, with Nitrox included, are specially priced from 994 euros per person per week – Get more details here.

 
December 29th, 2014 Comments off

As another year comes to a close, many of us take time to ponder what our own year had in store for us. It’s a great practice to see how far we have come, when the time just flew by. We wanted to make sure that no great tip or news bit got lost in the sea of information we all have to absorb every day.

In case you missed them, here are our top tips, tidbits and news from 2014. Make the most of 2015 with these tips!

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Curious turtle. Photo: Mathias Apitz (München)

 

DIVE TIPS

  • Reef drop offs and in steady currents is where divers should look to find the most abundant marine life
  • Staying hydrated through fruit, vegetables, non-caffeinated drinks, and of course, water, will keep your body in top condition for diving and help avoid the risks of dehydration.
  • Top two diving skills to master this year are buoyancy control and nitrox diving, the benefits to your dive experience and overall holiday will be immeasurable
  • Top dive sites: Baa Atoll’s Muthafushi Thila for its colour, and Hanifaru Bay in the right conditions for unfathomable displays of manta rays and whale sharks. Recommended by photographer, Christian Loader
  • Top ways to relax in the Maldives are yoga and Pilates classes, star gazing, spa treatments, and of course watching the underwater world go by while diving or snorkelling.
  • First time divers were reminded to always have a buddy and to double check each other’s equipment, to breathe efficiently, swim horizontally and hands-free, and to plan sufficient time between diving and flying.
  • Dive buddies were reminded to communicate actively, mastering the proper hand signals, not take risks with skill and training level, and know how to respond to an emergency.
  • Honeymooners saw that leisurely beach bum trips are not the only option for an exceptional celebration following tying the knot. Active honeymoons, on liveaboards or from dive- and surf-focused guesthouses, can make for a couple’s holiday like no other in these special islands.
  • Local islands, rather than resorts, are the place to go to escape the feeling of mass tourism and have a more exciting “adventure” holiday. Recommended by: Alexander Brown
  • Deals on dive packages pop up somewhat frequently – and if you can travel last minute or are flexible with dates you can wind up with mega value diving in the Maldives. Staying current with our Facebook Page and newsletters will make sure you don’t miss and potentially awesome promotions.

 

 

ABOUT THE MALDIVES

  • A land of sea, the Maldives is less than 1% landmass. The rest is either water, covered in water or living in water.
  • These are not islands for bird watching, yet creatures like eagle rays and manta rays may trick divers into thinking they are watching birds fly through the sky. Dolphins also take to the air as they playfully jump the waves in the Maldives’ sea.
  • Sandbanks are a sight to see and experience. Just tiny patches of sand appearing out of nowhere in the ocean depths. Recommended by: photographer, Lucie Mohelnikova

 

FOR BETTER PHOTOGRAPHY IN 2015

Here are some of the top tips for great underwater photography from our blog and from our talented, featured photographers.

  • Check seasonal events ahead of time such as planktonic blooms bringing mantas & whale sharks, and time your visit to be able to witness them. Recommended by photographer, Hamid Rad
  • Using red camera filters can give your photos more colour by widening the spectrum when light diminishes at deeper depths.
  • We looked at many common photo-taking mistakes, such as blurry photos, running out of storage or battery and only shooting the obvious. We advised mastering buoyancy, bringing backup batteries and storage cards as well as taking on the challenge of looking a bit closer and taking more time when exploring the reef.

 

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Clown fish on red. Photo: Mathias Apitz (München), Flickr

 

MALDIVES DIVE NEWS

Scuba diving is synonymous with the Maldives and the industry is constantly evolving.

There were new liveaboards on the scene in 2014. All shined up and ready to sail, these new ships are great picks for a liveaboard tour in 2015:

  • ScubaSpa Yang, sister ship of the ScubaSpa Ying, was brought to the seas and began its Far North itineraries in December with a splash. As their name suggests, they offer more than just diving – spa treatments are given in the onboard spa for a bit of pampering at sea. Their super introductory offer stretches into January 2015 and includes up to 17 dives and one spa treatment.
  • Newly refurbished in 2014, the Emperor Voyager caters for comfort and relaxation, with sofas, hammocks, deck chairs, a sea view lounge and a jacuzzi. Not to mention, all the diving you can dream of. Snorkellers and non-divers welcome.

New to the Maldives Dive Travel roster, these are established boats that became part of the Maldives Dive Travel website:

  • In sailed the MV Emperor Atoll, boasting Sharktastic and Pelagic Magic tours for great dive sightings. Breath easy with free nitrox for the best dive experience.
  • The decked-out-for-luxury, Leo Blueforce continued to wow divers with their Big South and Classical South tours. Spa-like facilities are also available on board this vessel, with a sauna, steam bath and, not one – but two – jacuzzis. The quality diving has not been forgotten either as nitrox and rebreathers are available.
  • Ocean Divine also came aboard, so to speak, early in the year. Owned and operated by an avid diver and surfer, this boat caters to both water adventure sports, depending on the Maldives’ season.

In other dive news, rebreather technology popped up in the Maldives. This sleek technology allows for more efficient gas usage with closed circuit scuba systems, with recycling of a diver’s air. The air in rebreathers is warmer and dive times are stretched even further than with nitrox. Now, many Maldives’ guest houses and liveaboards are rebreather-friendly or cater to make rebreathers available.

 

That covers the highlights of Maldives dive news and our tips for great diving and marine photography. Let us take this moment to wish you a happy, dive-filled New Year!

The New Year already has some great itineraries planned. Book your first dive trip of the New Year using one of the great promotions now on Emperor Atoll – click here for more information.

 
December 24th, 2014 Comments off

A commute to work that is but a short boat ride to the “office”. Combining passion with bringing awareness to environmental conservation. This month’s selected Photographer of the Month is a great example of how following your passion in life can lead to great things.

Check out these picture perfect scenes by photographer and marine conservationist, Hamid Rad, and read his tips and techniques for great underwater photography.

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Interview with Hamid Rad – Maldives Photographer of the Month

Q1. What made you get into underwater photography and photography in general?

Hamid: I got hooked by photography through my passion for nature & wildlife, more specifically the world that lies beneath the surface.

 

Q2. How would you describe your style of photography and what you want to “say” with your photographs?

Hamid: I am trying to aim towards a minimalist approach of photography by trying to keep compositions simple, using natural light rather than strobes and strong contrasts. I really enjoy silhouette shots as they emphasize all these points.

 

Q3. When did you first go to the Maldives and what attracted you to go there? Was photography a motivation or an afterthought?

Hamid: I come from a marine conservation background and always wanted to wonder the abundance & diversity of Maldivian waters. As a photographer, to work in such a place offers unique opportunities and a chance to witness some of the most unique natural events such as the seasonal manta ray gatherings in Hanifaru Bay, in Baa atoll which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Hamid Rad

 

Q4. What are some of the challenges of underwater photography and how do you overcome them? What are some of the most challenging things you have photographed?

Hamid: The main challenges of shooting underwater are colour loss & lack of light, especially if you intend not to use artificial light (strobes). The deeper you go, the less light penetrates and warm colours are less visible. Most underwater photographers use strobes in order to compensate for the lack of natural light & have vibrant colours.

Amongst the most challenging creatures to photographer in the Maldives, sharks can be tricky subjects, and not because of their reputation of fearsome reputation. On the contrary, their natural wariness can make it difficult to get close enough for a good shot.

 

Q5. Where are your favourite spots, above and below the surface, to take photographs in the Maldives? What makes them stand out?

Hamid: Ari atoll holds a special place for me as it is where I first started working in the Maldives and offers an incredible array of marine life and types of diving. Some sites such as Hafsa Thila or Fish Head in north Ari atoll or Cocoa Thila in south Male boast with life, from small critters to grey reef sharks, napoleon wrasses & schools of jackfish & fusilliers.

Some other sites such as Hanifaru Bay in Baa atoll or Gangehi in north Ari atoll, with seasonal planktonic blooms, see large gatherings of manta rays & whale sharks.

 

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Q6. What is it like to stay in the Maldives? Tell us about your average day when you’re there.

Hamid: “Another long day at the office”, something I keep telling myself every day, ‘commuting’ to work with a short boat ride, thinking my life working in a cold, crowded city was just a dream.

 

Q7. What is one thing you wish you knew before you started taking photographs in the Maldives (or in general)? Do you have any tips for visitors trying to capture their moments in the region?

Hamid: I can say that the Maldives met my expectations in terms of photography. For underwater photographers, I believe the Maldives is a place where you have to come back to and get a chance to explore different areas, offering a variety of photographic opportunities. Check seasonal events ahead of time such as planktonic blooms bringing mantas & whale sharks and time your visit to be able to witness them.

 

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Q8. What technology/software/camera gear do you use to capture and process your stunning tropical & underwater scenes?

Hamid: I use a Canon 600D SLR & mostly shoot using a wide angle Tokina 10-17 lens in a Nauticam housing.

 

Q9. If your camera was to get stuck in one mode or setting, what one would you hope it would be? Why?

Hamid: Automatic I guess, necessary adjustments can then be made in post processing.

 

Q10. What projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to seeing?

I try to show my work as much as possible and plan to do a photo show of large prints sometime in 2015.

 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Hamid Rad

 

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About Hamid Rad: Before focusing on underwater photography, Hamid had been involved in different aspects of tropical marine conservation in Mexico, Honduras, the Seychelles & the Maldives, from daily data gathering on coral reefs to working with communities on local environment management policies. Being in the water day after day gave him the opportunity to develop a passion for underwater photography. Establishing his own style, he refined his work to a minimalistic approach, working mostly with natural light, on basic composition & tones.

People care about what they know. Through photography, Hamid found a way to reach people and raise their awareness about the fragility & vanishing beauty of our oceans.  View more of his impressive work here on, Flickr, Facebook and his website.

Make the Maldives your destination of choice for 2015, and kick off the year with some great deals on liveaboard tours.  So far, both Theia and Emperor Atoll are showing their excitement for the New Year with January and February deals.  Find the deal that caters to your Maldivian Dive Holiday Dream, here on our News Page.