September 30th, 2014 Comments off

At first glance, the Maldives islands may seem like a uniform atmosphere with the tropical lagoons, palm-fringed shorelines, and flat scattered islands popping up to the surface.

Actually, the topography of the Maldives, especially below water level, varies from atoll to atoll. This variation makes for great diving adventures that surprise divers with drop offs from 300-2000m depths, unique pinnacles, caves, overhangs, ledges and barrier reefs broken up by numerous channels.

Male and Ari Atolls are both central and quite large such that they are divided into North and South atolls for administrative reasons and even by physical barriers like a channel, in the case of Male Atoll. Ari Atoll lies on the western side of the country while Male runs along the east.

In Ari Atoll as a whole, only about 1 in 4 islands are inhabited by the local population. More than 1 in 3 are resort islands, leaving the rest as deserted, uninhabited islands of all different sizes. There is a total of about 70 islands in North and South Ari atolls.

whale shark south ari atoll laika ac 600x337 Ari vs Male   Which is Better for Reef Diving in the Maldives?

A whale shark in South Ari Atoll. Photo: laika ac, Flickr

 

North Ari Atoll
North Ari is famous for its thilas or pinnacle reefs with the west side having developed hard corals as a result of the turbulent sea activity and the east side with more fragile formations. This atoll boasts some of the world’s top dive sites, such as Fish Head, aka Mushi Mas Mingilli. As a protected marine area this sought-after site has an abundance of marine life for divers to interact with, since sustainability of the ecosystem has been prioritized over fishing.

Rasdhoo, a popular diving destination, is the capital of Ari and is connected by a submerged plateau at an average of 200m deep.

Maaya Thila is another renowned North Ari hot spot. The star of the show at Maaya Thila are the white-tip reef sharks that comb the strong currents along with some grey reef sharks and great barracuda. That is just the “tip of the fin” though when it comes to fish divers will encounter at this place teeming with life. Day and night, Maaya Thila will impress. Night dives are the best time to explore the caves and crevices where turtles, cleaner shrimp, ghost pipe fish and moray eels like to hide. Octopus can be seen if you take your time and watch as their camouflage skills could trick you into swimming right by without realizing.

 

South Ari Atoll
South Ari is known for sharks but one famous site doesn’t fit this stereotype. Rengali Madivaru in the north east monsoon season is manta ray central. It becomes a manta ray cleaning station that mesmerizes divers and shows the symbiotic relationships between marine creatures.

When it comes to reef formations, Kudarah Thila dive site has some cool features on its northern fringe – numerous sea fans that together make for an awesome sight. Gatherings of sea fans are a rare and awe-inspiring sight, found here, tucked away on a reef in South Ari Atoll of the Maldives.

Advanced divers have the opportunity to experience another of South Ari’s top dive sites, known as Broken Rock. This site boasts a beautiful canyon and soft corals, along with tiny invertebrates like leaf fish and nudibranchs that prefer the hard coral of the top reef.

All of these superb sites, and the many others unmentioned, are a great argument for Ari Atoll as the best reef diving in the Maldives. However, Male Atoll is famous for more than holding the island capital – it has diving to compete with Ari, as we will see.

 

north male atoll school of neon fusillier malcolm browne 600x398 Ari vs Male   Which is Better for Reef Diving in the Maldives?

North Male Atoll school of neon fusilier. Photo: Malcolm Browne

 

North Male Atoll
Comparable in number of islands to South Ari Atoll, North Male atoll is much denser in population with the capital, Male, the most densely populated of all the islands. There are less deserted islands as well with 80% of the atoll’s islands either used as resorts or privately leased. Only 8 of the islands are home to the local population.

Increased boat traffic is a deterrent for many divers on the southern edge of North Male atoll. In the north of North Male atoll is where more isolated stretches of islands and reefs can be found.

Think tropical fruit when you think great diving in North Male Atoll. Banana Reef is one of the longest known dive sites with some of the most stunning underwater topography – soft coral and marine life fill the caves, gutters and overhangs. Brilliant table coral and sponges make this reef a sight to see, along with the sharks that enjoy the currents around the ledges. The massive humphead wrasse are known to this dive site, which is also known as Gaathugiri.

If all that wasn’t enough, there are Nassimo Thila’s elusive caves where nurse sharks like to stay hidden. Scattered around this site are random pinnacles as well as massive porite corals, some grown to a whopping 5 meters in diameter.

Another advanced dive can be found at Kuda Haa where steep ledges attract schools of fish and a cave that holds beautiful coral displays.

 

South Male Atoll
Separated from North Male Atoll by the Vaadhoo kandu channel, South Male boasts The capital of South Male Atoll is the well-known Maafushi, where several guesthouses have popped up in recent years that have attracted tourists to see another side to the Maldives. Only 3 of the 30 islands in the atoll are inhabited with the majority being resort islands.

Many of the dive sites in the atoll are for advanced divers due to the strong currents pushing through the region. Embudhoo and Guraidhoo dive sites are suitable for novice divers when the currents are right.
Again, caves, sponges and soft coral make the dive sites of the South Male region a sight to see. The sharks, eagle rays, and other pelagic species that enjoy the strong currents keep divers on their toes with wide eyes and cameras in position.

 

All in all, it’s difficult to compare the two regions because each has such well-known dive sites. Taking a liveaboard tour that covers both atolls is ideal so that as many of the top attractions can be visited in one tour. Then, you can really judge from first-hand experience which atoll takes the prize.

Liveaboards such as Emperor Atoll try to touch on the best of these atolls in their custom itineraries. Check out the introductory offer from Emperor Atoll on this fall: click here to get your offer.

 
September 25th, 2014 Comments off

Divers don’t really need a reason to get in the water but liveaboards like Emperor Atoll make for great excuses to scuba. A wide range of dive cruisers take divers hopping around from reef to reef and choosing the ideal package for your Maldives dive vacation can be difficult.

The Maldives is well-known for megafauna like sharks, mantas, whale sharks and other large fish. Manta cleaning stations and feeding frenzies are features that attract tourists from all over the world. Booking a trip to the archipelago for a dive excursion is a no-brainer.

 

emperor atoll boat1 600x398 Top 5 Reasons to Book a Dive Trip with Emperor Atoll

 

Here are some of the reasons to book the king of the atolls – Emperor Atoll:

No.1 Awesome Itineraries
Making the most of a visit to the Maldives for divers means hitting up as many of the best dive spots as possible. Emperor Atoll offers different cruises for divers to experience the sights most sought out by scuba enthusiasts in the Maldives.

From reef fish to mantas, wrecks to rays, the channels, drifts and pinnacles on the “Best of Maldives” itinerary are sure to excite. Best of all, the cruise is flexible and adapted to the conditions of the day and season. The 17 dives per week included in the package usually venture around central atolls – Rasdhoo, North and South Ari, North and South Male, and Vaavu atolls. Highlights of the trip are the awesome marine mix of sharks, whalesharks, cleaning stations and wrecks. These tours run from October to the first week of January.

Then, during the rest of the high season, from January to April, things get seriously “Sharktastic”! This tour stays more to the south to take advantage of the flow of currents through the island nation. In South Ari and South Male as well as Vaavu and Meemu atolls sharks and other pelagics lurke around reefs and channels for divers to discover an exhilarating side of the Maldives.

 

emperor atoll whale shark 600x246 Top 5 Reasons to Book a Dive Trip with Emperor Atoll

 

No.2 Diver’s delight
Liveaboards are by nature tailored to divers, though not all boats make all of the extra special accommodations that keen divers look for. Things like nitrox are key and make for a great reason to book a dive week on Emperor Atoll.

The scuba diving experience is made longer and arguably better when you give it a little air – nitrox air, that is. Nitrox diving allows for longer dive times and faster recovery times, making it an essential skill for avid divers. This means that boats that offer nitrox also become a necessity. Emperor Atoll not only has nitrox available but offers it free as part of their dive packages. Of course, tanks, weights and the dive guide are also available as part of the package.

While underwater fun is the priority, divers do have to come up for air sometime. Trips to deserted islands and tours around Male as well as cozy facilities on the ship are extras that make the Maldives experience more real and more exciting.

 

No.3 Ideal for individuals
It’s not always possible to find someone that can go on holiday at the same time or that shares the same borderline obsession with scuba. On Emperor Atoll, not a problem! They offer a single traveler’s guarantee to ensure same sex cabin sharing when booking a bed in shared accommodation. In the case that they don’t have a person to share the room that meets the same gender criteria, you will not share the room and not have to pay the single room supplement required for booking a single bed cabin. Have a blast with like-minded divers and don’t worry about traveling alone.

 

emperor atoll room 600x401 Top 5 Reasons to Book a Dive Trip with Emperor Atoll

 

No.4 Taster size
There are many expressions about size: “bigger is better”, “good things come in small packages”. Which one holds true will depend on your needs and preference. The 6 cabins of Emperor Atoll’s ship hold 12 passengers, making this a smaller size liveaboard. The petit size is great for many reasons. Liveaboard novices can get experience on this smaller vessel as a “taster”. Also, it can be hired out as a private charter for dive groups.

 

No. 5 Introductory offer!
Price is a mega motivator to book a dive trip. If you like getting good deals, and are looking for a trip in the next couple months, now is the time to book Emperor Atoll. Get a big discount on the regular rate of 177 euros per night with the Maldives Dive Travel introductory offer; it’s a really sweet deal. Save about 250 euros on a 7-night package by scooping up the limited time discount rate of just 994 euros per person per week for tours October to December.

This package offers great value with a fully packed week. All the meals, transfers, 17 dives per week, dive tanks, weights and nitrox, unlimited water, tea and coffee, a BBQ night, city tour of Male. For all of the package details see the full introductory offer here.

 
September 18th, 2014 Comments off

A Maldives’ native with a great perspective on his homeland. This month you will meet photographer, Nattu Adnan, who captures unique scenes around the islands. You’ll see how he dazzles you with simplicity in his stunning photos that make for amazing screensavers!

Get some tips from our photographer of the month, Nattu, and read about his experience being a photographer in the Maldives, here in our exclusive interview with him:

 

nattu sunset 600x399 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Nattu Adnan

Enchanting sunsets captured by Nattu

 

Q1. What made you get into Maldives photography and photography in general?
Nattu: Since I come from a very remote island in the Maldives, my surroundings were extremely beautiful and unique. You can see the incredible beach and the waves and it gives you a sense of creativity of its own. I think that is how I got into photography in general, I wanted to capture the beauty of my surroundings and show it to the whole world.

 

Q2. How would you describe your style of photography and what you want to “say” with your photographs?
Nattu: I try to express the lifestyle and the natural beauty of these islands in a vivid and simplistic way. Simplicity is the key note in my photographs.

 

Q3. What are some of the challenges of Maldives photography? 
Nattu: The country itself is like pearls scattered into the Indian Ocean in the most random yet beautiful way, crossing one island to the other is definitely a challenge. The other problem is getting the right equipment, like cameras and lenses, here in Male’ the capital of Maldives.

 

nattu sunset silouette 600x400 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Nattu Adnan

Sunset silouettes by Nattu

 

Q4. Where are your favourite spots, above and below the surface, to take photographs in the Maldives? What makes them ideal?
Nattu: That would have to be silhouette photographs of any beach with coconut palm trees ( which you would find in almost all the beaches here) at sunset and sunrise time. It is a truly breath taking scene.

 

Q5. What is it like to live in the Maldives? Tell us about your average day when you’re there.
Nattu: Life in Maldives is very predictable. Work, eat, sleep, cycle repeating on. But of course with the occasional trips to the islands where I just relax and experiment with my camera.

 

Q6. What is one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photographs in the Maldives? Do you have any tips for visitors trying to capture their moments in the region?
Nattu:  It was hard to find good inspirations and the critiques to them, since we were not that open to the world. But as times have changed, you can see photographers everywhere. Thus Maldives has a very active photographer community and tons of photos pop up on online social medias everyday. Try looking for inspirations before you come here, that way you can see familiar scenes and how people capture them.

 

Nattu Male Maldives 600x375 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Nattu Adnan

Male Maldives by Nattu

 

Q7. What technology/software/camera gear do you use to capture and process your stunning tropical & underwater scenes?
Nattu: I usually use my Gopro these days but I am a very old school Nikon fan. since I have started experimenting with aerial photography now, I use a DJI Phanthom Vision. And one must not forget the mainstream Apple iPhone. For processing I use Adobe LIghtroom.

 

Q8. If your camera was to get stuck in one mode or setting, what one would you hope it would be?  Why?

Nattu: P as in programmed. Because I love to point and shoot, the moment what ever it takes. I don’t want to loose the moment by trying to figure out the exposure. But if I have time, I would use the Manual.

 

Q9. What projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to seeing?
Nattu: Aerial photography! I want to capture these tiny islands from up above that would show all its glory in a new perspective.

Nattu bio photo 150x150 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Nattu Adnan
Nattu Adnan (pictured, left) is a traveller, photographer, mobile and web app developer from the very beautiful islands of the Maldives. See more from Nattu on Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr.

 

Bring these amazing scenes to life by taking a trip to the Maldives.  The MV Emperor Atoll is new to the Maldives Dive Travel group and you’ll love their introductory offer!  Click here for more info.

 

 
September 11th, 2014 Comments off

Be a crustacean or eat a crustacean.  The species of the Maldives mostly fall mostly into one of these two camps. And some into both. These inside out arthropods, as they are called, are a core piece of the Maldives marine life puzzle.

The ubiquitous creature of the aquatic world, crustaceans are found throughout the lakes and seas of the world. Oceans, like the warm Indian Ocean, is where the Maldives calls home along with many types of crab, shrimp and lobster.

crabs colorful badr naseem 600x450 Meet the Maldives Crustacean Sensations

Colorful crabs on the shores of the Maldives’ islands. Photo: badr naseem

 

Curious crustacean

The defining feature of a crustacean is its exoskeleton, hard outer “shell” as it is often termed.  Soft and squishy on the inside and hard on the outside, they’re the opposite of spine-supported mammals.  Many crustaceans shed their outer layer to grow.  While most call the water home, some stick to land or a combination of both environments.  The ghost crab that is seen scurrying across the white sands of the Maldives lives in the intertidal zone and digs deep burrows along open sandy beaches.  If they are still you might miss them, as they camouflage with the color of the sand.

Lobsters, shrimp and prawns are commonly fished for human consumption but they are not as important as some other types in the overall food chain.  Krill and a similar creature called a copepod, despite their small size, make up a significant part of the world’s biomass and a core base of the food chain.

lobster KAZ2.0 600x450 Meet the Maldives Crustacean Sensations

Lobster hiding within the reef. Photo: KAZ2.0, flickr

 

Crustacean creatures

Leggy lobsters are known the world over as a seafood delicacy. They come out at night and may be seen by divers on a night dive using their tail to skuttle backwards out of the light. Their big front claws keep divers at a distance. If you were close enough to shake a claw though it would be noticeable that the “left-handed crab” has a larger left hand claw.

Stripe-legged spiny lobsters are known in the Maldives as are the painted rock lobsters.  Caves and crevices of the reef are where they hide during the day and they prefer the sandy bottoms of reefs to feed on other hard shell creatures like molluscs.

Crabs frolic between worlds – the underwater world and the terrestrial world. There are crabs a plenty in the Maldives, characterized by the hidden tail as compared to the long muscular tails of lobsters.

Hermit crabs can surprise beach goers by suddenly becoming a walking seashell, then quickly retracting their legs and bodies back inside when approached.  This role as crab habitat is one reason tourists are discouraged from collecting seashells in sensitive marine environments like the Maldives.  The Maldives is known for several types of hermit crab, including the red hermit crab and the dark glove hermit crab.

While hermit crabs are considered “false crabs”, with shorter back legs and a longer abdomen, “true crabs” have 4 walking legs in addition to their clawed arms at the front.  In the Maldives, these are the flat rock crabs, tropical land crabs and red spotted crabs to name a few.  In that space where the tide rises and falls, where the marine and terrestrial meet is where you’ll find flat rock crabs and ghost crabs.  The tropical land crab goes through water to land transformation.  Once it has acquired its final outer shell, it stays on land and goes back to the shores edge just to lay its eggs. On the other hand the red spotted crab is found under water hiding among the corals, one to watch out for when scuba diving.

 

Crustacean displays

Apart from the recognizable hardbacks of the sea, there are colorful crustaceans that inadvertently put on exciting displays.  Previously thought to be phytoplankton that light up the beaches at night with their bioluminescence, the cause of this phenomenon has now been identified as a type of crustacean. Due to a different type and duration of glow, the surreal neon blue beach effect actually comes from tiny ostracod crustaceans. At 1 millimetre to 1 inch in size, these small creatures are like stars shining brighter than would seem possible.  Photos of the dream-like beach have previously circulated on the internet explained as phytoplankton but are now being corrected as ostracod crustaceans, according to Cornell biology professor James Morin.

Another creature that adds colour to a diver’s experience, if spotted, is the multicolored mantis shrimp.  These spindly creatures also have an otherworldly, science-fiction vibe to them.  You can see one in this awesome video along with the huge variety of other marine creatures to be seen in the Maldives.  This video really shows how much there is to see in just one trip!

How the tables turn

On the other hand, crustaceans are also a meal for Maldives creatures other than for human consumption.  From smaller fish like snapper, wrasse and puffers to sharks and moray eels, crustaceans have the role of prey in many of their relationships.  Some hermit crabs even feed on each other.

Without crustaceans on the reef, many fish would be without food and cleaners. The building blocks for a healthy marine ecosystem include crustaceans, in the Maldives and beyond.

Dive with these amazing creatures on a liveaboard safari in the Maldives this fall!  Special deals on some of the best boats in the Maldives including this last minute offer from Stingray!

 
September 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Summer is wedding season. It’s the warm sunny season during which people choose to tie the knot, perfect for outdoor celebrations and wedding photos in outdoor scenes. The best way to celebrate the occasion is a honeymoon in the tropics that extends the feel of summer and ignites the fires of love under the hot sun. There are many ways to get the honeymoon of your dreams in the Maldives.

As summer comes to a close in the northern hemisphere, and the wedding season winds down, couples can start getting excited for their winter escape honeymoons. Which type of honeymoon will depend on the couple and there are many different options in the Maldives.

 

maldives couple nattu 600x398 After Summer Weddings Come Tropical Winter Honeymoons

Romance blossoms in the Maldives. Photo: Nattu, Flickr

Active honeymoons

If you’re reading this blog for dive cruises in the Maldives likely you fall into the “active” category. You are probably among those who like to do more than sunbathe on your vacation. That doesn’t mean you can’t opt for luxury or a more laidback approach though, as you will see in a moment.

What’s more romantic than holding hands under the sea with colourful fish swimming all around? For scuba dive enthusiasts there is perhaps nothing better. Exclusive dive boats, such as the Constellation Fleet, Nautilus, Theia and Stingray cruise around the atolls from spot to spot for fantastic diving. If you’re looking to add an extra touch of luxury then there are boats to suit your desires too. More on those below.

A dive-focused holiday is not restricted to cruises as guest houses also offer dive & stay packages. Asseyri Inn, Kuri Inn and Happy Life all offer diving as part of their activities. Casa Mia’s even has a dedicated dive centre for those who want to center their visit on scuba.
Diving is not the only activity in the Maldives. Surfing and other water sports are available depending on where you go and the time of year.

 

Leisure honeymoons

Sure you like to be active most of the time, but for your honeymoon you have decided to truly put your feet up. A leisure vaction where you hang by the beach and pool is just what you need to recharge and spend some quality time as newlyweds. The Maldives has no shortage of properties where you can do just that.

Guest houses are a great option for an alternative honeymoon. Priced lower than the resorts but with the same beautiful scenery, guest houses are increasing in popularity and in quality on the local inhabited islands. Guesthouses are a relatively new concept since their official beginning in 2009. Visitors have been enjoying the real Maldives ever since. Aveyla Manta Village, Casa Mia, and Kuri Inn all offer a lovely setting for a romantic getaway. Private beach access and a pool are offered in some locations. You can relax in the sun or shade, take a trip to a deserted island – just the two of you, or snorkel leisurely around some awesome reefs.

World-renowned for the ultimate honeymoon experience, resorts have been responsible for majority of the newlywed vacations because they have been around since the beginning of tourism in this dreamy location.

For the idyllic relaxation holiday, the manicured resort beaches definitely have their place. The postcard-perfect beach bungalows are also part of the honeymoon vision of couples the world over. Resorts are located on private islands owned and maintained entirely by the resort itself.

 

resort Sarah Ackerman 600x450 After Summer Weddings Come Tropical Winter Honeymoons

Lagoon landscapes. Photo: Sarah Ackerman, Flickr

Luxury honeymoons

If you have decided to go all out for the special occasion and its luxury you seek, there is no doubt that the Maldives is the right place to go. But how will you tailor the special occasion to your own dream holiday?

Maldives resorts are world renowned for offering luxury in exclusive surroundings. From palm-fringed, white-sand beaches to sultry spa resorts accessible only by seaplane, there is literally no limit to the lavishness. A resort stay will mean staying in the same place but for some that’s ideal.

To see more of the Maldives and keep up the luxury, there are mobile options like cruises for a bit of adventure. Or a combination of both to get the best of both worlds.

Integrated scuba and splendor are available on the elegant ships called ScubaSpa Ying and Ocean Divine, among a few others. These boats make sure divers experience the impressive underworld and are pampered while at the surface. ScubaSpa offers dive-spa combo packages and all the extra special add-ons and Ocean Divine’s boat is built for extravagance. If your dream is a real private getaway a private charter on Dhoni Stella will fulfill your fantasies. You can book the boat and design your own cruise for you and your partner.

Now you can see why so many honeymooners love the Maldives. The tiny islands offer massive enjoyment on so many levels – for so many different types of holidays. It’s a sure thing that a Maldives honeymoon will be remembered fondly for years after.

Get a great deal on ScubaSpa in our most recent deal, click here.

 
August 27th, 2014 Comments off

Over 1000 islands spread out in the Indian Ocean.  The tiny land masses of the Maldives are so small and far from land that it’s a wonder how people inhabit these islands.  But they do, and it is not just within the confines of resorts.  Living communities above and below the water surface are part of the real Maldives that you can experience if you choose to see what is beyond the resorts. 

There is so much to see in the Maldives that you won’t hear about from the resorts.  Why? Because if you knew all there was to see you wouldn’t want to stay in just one place!  Here’s what the resorts don’t want you to know, and what you’re missing if you limit yourself to staying in a resort in the Maldives.
 

casa mia poolside massage 600x400 What Maldives Resorts Wont Tell You about Holidays in the Maldives

Casa Mia Guest House Poolside Massage

 
There is life beyond the resort, both above and below water.  In the Maldives, like in many other tropical holiday destinations, resorts are not an accurate representation of what life in the country is like.  And in the Maldives resorts are even more isolated from local communities because of the privatized islands on which they are situated.  Unless you take boat tour, you will not interact with real people of the Maldives in their daily lives.  Not to mention, the limited view of the diverse marine life on the multitude of reefs spread throughout the archipelago.

All-inclusive luxury holidays are not limited to resorts. Package deals with huge value are available from dive cruises and guest houses, that include meals, activities and even spa treatments. Dive companies and guest houses know that in this secluded location that keeping guests entertained and taken care of is all the more important.

You can have a spa holiday while cruising the islands. If you thought dive cruises were limited to divers then think again.  Spa luxury available at top resorts is also available on dive cruise boats like ScubaSpa Ying. Their on-board spa caters to non-divers as well as avid divers that want some pampering throughout their stay. Their services range from massages to body treatment rituals and can be accompanied with yoga and pilates classes.  And let’s not forget the other amenities like the jacuzzi pool next to which you can sunbathe, the all-you-could-ask-for bedrooms and, of course, the awesome diving.
 

scubaspa treatment room2 What Maldives Resorts Wont Tell You about Holidays in the Maldives

ScubaSpa Onboard Treatment Room


 
Resorts islands and beaches are manicured for tourists.  A controlled, artificial experience is what some tourists want when they book a tropical getaway. If you want a bit of culture and a more authentic experience, you can’t get this by staying at a resort in the Maldives.  You can visit local islands, but it won’t be for more than a short stop over and you’ll be part of a tour group.  To stay among locals on their islands you can book a guest house.

Resorts are not the only place to get a resort experience.  Maldives guest houses now offer high-end holiday experiences at a fraction of the price of resorts.  Swimming pools, private beaches, dive centres and brand new fully-equipped bungalows are just a few of the amenities specially built on local islands as part of guest house facilities. Dive cruise boats also cater to those seeking relaxation and comfort on their holiday, with jacuzzis, sun beds, lounge areas and fine dining that will rival many resorts.

There are intriguing and stunning scenes all over the country. Each region, island and dive site has its unique characteristics so staying in one spot could limit the things you will see during your Maldives holiday.  Mantas, sharks and whale sharks frequent certain areas like Rasdhoo, Manta Point, Hanifaru and others.  By taking a dive safari, you can see more of what the country has to offer and really take advantage of the limited time you have to visit.

 


 
You don’t need a seaplane to discover remote locations and get aerial views of the Maldives. Domestic flights are available to remote atolls in the north and south and local ferries service many of the islands in the central region and beyond. Flights from Male all the way to the extreme end of the country are available at prices similar to a short transfer to a resort by seaplane. No matter how far you venture from Male, the scattered nature of the islands makes you feel as though you have reached the edge of the earth. But, getting out of the central atolls means you won’t come in contact with as many other tourists.
 
Certainly, we’re a bit biased when it comes to our definition of the “best way” to experience the Maldives. Yet, there are clear advantages to alternative holidays outside of the dominant resort-oriented tourism industry.  Best of all, you don’t have to give up luxury and comfort when you go for a more adventurous option on a local island or a dive cruiser.

Book your luxury stay on ScubaSpa Ying at an even bigger value with the special promotion on now!  Click here.

 
August 20th, 2014 Comments off

This month we got in touch with a photography-inspired scuba diver, Malcolm Browne, who initially took up scuba diving to feed his passion for photography. Read about his adventures in the Maldives and check out some of his cool images.

 

malcolm browne hawksbill 600x398 Photographer of the Month   Malcolm Browne

Diver meets Turtle. Hawksbill turtle in the Maldives. Photo: Malcolm Browne

Interview with Maldives photographer Malcolm Browne

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

Photography has always been a hobby of mine since I was a teenager, its rooted in desire to capture a scene, not just as a record but an attempt to covey the feeling it evokes at the time. Underwater photography is simply a natural extension from landscapes, it was my main reason for taking up diving.

 

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

I prefer to take natural wide scenes and concentrate on framing the image I want at the point of exposure. I try not to spend lots of time on post production, avoiding the use of layers and software techniques to produce an image.

 

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

The main attraction is the marine life, with or without a camera it’s a fantastic place to dive. For me diving without a camera is never the preferred option.

 

4. 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?

The big issue with underwater photography from my perspective is available light and colour balance.
In the main I use available light and adjust the white balance as I change depth during the dive. Using behind the lens filters from http://www.magic-filters.com, and a camera that produces RAW images delivers good results with minimal processing.

I guess most people think of challenges and associate danger or risk, for me it’s always the environment and getting the right light. We lived in Japan for a few years dealing with high humidity or snow in the mountains and protecting your equipment on long treks was a big issue.

 

5. Where are your favourite spots, above and below the surface, to take photographs in the Maldives? What makes them ideal?
I don’t have a favourite, but do prefer to be below the surface.

 

malcolm browne clam 600x411 Photographer of the Month   Malcolm Browne

Giant Clam (Tridacna gigas). Photo: Malcolm Browne

 

6. What is it like to stay in the Maldives? Tell us about your average day when you’re there.
I’m quite an active person so my preference is to be up and in the water early, break lunch and back in the water. I would quite happily spend all my time in or under the sea if I could.

 

7. What is one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photographs in the Maldives? Do you have any tips for visitors trying to capture their moments in the region?

A better understanding of the seasons and their impact on the wildlife. If you are looking to photograph a particular aspect of marine life you have to plan well to be in the right place at the right time.

 

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

I currently use Sony NEX 5n and Sony lens in a 10bar housing, for post production I use Adobe Paint shop to fix any remaining colour balance issues. Any quality 4/3 camera that shoots raw images should get good results for most people.

 

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

Manual, simply because I started out with a manual camera and still use this approach when taking most of my photos.

 

10. What projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to seeing?
Just back from a few days diving in Gozo, and I’m hoping to be in Oman before Christmas.

 

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Drift diving in the strong currents of the Maldives. Photo: Malcolm Browne

 

Bio
Malcolm Browne is based in the UK and over the last 30 years he has worked for several for Global IT companies around the world managing and negotiating contracts and has been lucky enough to record some of the more memorable moments in his life through photos. Check out more of his amazing photography on his Flickr account here.

 

How can you look at photos like this and not want to head to the Maldives? Check out our super last minute deal for Stingray’s August 25th cruise here NOW!

 
August 13th, 2014 Comments off

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … a manta ray? In the Maldives there are a limited number of actual bird species. This is not a country to which birdwatchers flock. Under water there are, however, many species that can make divers do a double take and wonder whether they are indeed many meters below the water surface.

Here are a few creatures that seem to soar like birds through the water as if it were air:


 

Manta rays

Not only is the swimming style of the manta ray similar to a bird in flight but it can actually leap into the air. The manta ray is a creature of the open sea that doesn’t dip below 40 meters. That’s why the harmless creature is accessible even to snorkelers. With just a pair of fins, a mask and a snorkel Maldives’ divers can fly with manta rays.

There are about 600 species of ray, of which the manta ray is the largest. The Latin name of the manta ray is Manta birostris and it takes its name from the word “manta”, which in Spanish means “cover”, a name that describes the flat, expansive body shape. In the up to 20 years that it lives a manta ray’s wing span can reach up to 8 meters, corresponding to 2.2 times the length of its body, without the tail. Unlike the sting ray’s long stinging tail, the manta ray’s appendage is short and harmless. Its colouring is black or dark blue on the back and white on the belly.

The Maldives is the perfect environment as manta rays like the areas the coast and coral reefs in tropical seas and temperate waters. Though it doesn’t frequent the Caribbean Sea. The manta ray is ovoviviparous (eggs hatch inside of the uterus before birth). The gestation period is 13 months, after which the mother gives birth to one or two cubs. They can be around 1 meter wide and weigh approximately 50kg, feeding mainly on plankton and small crustaceans.

You may not know but the manta rays can leap into the air. Indeed, it springs out and hydro planes for seconds of air time out of the water. These jumps can reach 3 meters. Scientists do not yet know for sure the significance of this practice, but it could be part of the courtship rituals of the male.

This harmless giant, 3 to 5 meters wide, feeds on plankton. In the Maldives, it is observed similar to the whale shark with the migration of plankton. Both massive creatures are present in Ari Atoll South from November to April, manta rays move to the north of the archipelago in the atolls of North Male, South Male and Vaavu the rest of the year. To observe their habits, locate manta “cleaning stations”. These are places where mantas are cleaned of their parasites by smaller fish called wrasses. If you are able to see mantas feeding you can witness a beautiful water ballet.

Diving with Manta Rays may go something like this: On a trip through Ari Atoll, stopping at “Manta Point” (Madivaru), divers are down in the deep when the instructor points at what seems like a blob approaches them. Divers try to stay below the approaching creature to attract it with bubbles and to avoid scaring it away by putting themselves in the manta ray’s direct path. As the majestic flying creature gets closer divers can make out the distinguishable features from the white underbelly and wingspan of serveral meters to the front mouth lobes and wide gaping mouth.

The key to prolonged and close up manta encounters is to watch from a certain distance. When startled or blocked from passage they might be scared away.

 

Spotted Eagle Ray

Another bird-ressembling marine species that prefers gliding through the open water is the eagle ray. With a shape similar to the manta ray they seem to flap their wings to move through the water but their size and characteristics are distinct.

The much smaller eagle ray is heavily spotted with white spots all over its surface-facing, top side and has a long thin tail. They have even been known to fly into to air when jumping out above the water surface. Eagle rays are less likely to swim around divers as they are more shy than their larger cousins.

Just like the manta ray, these rays swim as individuals or in large groups though they do not feed in the same way. Eagle rays can eat creatures larger than plankton such as squids and crustateans thanks to their strong teeth and shovel-shaped mouth.

 

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Dolphins jump in the Maldives. Photo: you_only_live_twice


 

Dolphins

It’s always exciting to see dolphins as they seem to appear out of nowhere when you least expect it. Playing in the wake of boats, that’s when visitors can often see them in action. They jump into the air and actually fly for just a moment.
 
Hopefully you will also fly in the Maldives, via international or domestic flight, or even by seaplane. Now is the time because it’s manta season and there are some great deals on dive cruises that let you fly with the manta rays. Check out our awesome dive cruise deals.

 
August 4th, 2014 Comments off

Did you ever put yourself in the place of Jack, climbing up the giant beanstalk and finding himself among giants? The magic of being among giants is a very real feeling when you swim with mantas and whale sharks in the Maldives. Fortunately these are gentle giants – they won’t be grinding any bones for their bread.

Pelagic season is now and this is the time to visit the Maldives.  Many know the Maldives for its turquoise blue lagoons surrounding white sands and palm-fringed isles. They say that the crisp summery breeze is all you need for a great vacation while you dip your toes in the ever-warm seas and soak up the tropical sun.  Divers know differently of course.

The Maldives has immense natural beauty, and a great deal of it is under the surface of the sea! The colorful gardens of corals are a mesmerizing sight with the vivid colors of the exotic marine life buzzing all around. The sight goes from beautiful to stunning and humbling when the whale shark graces the scene.

 

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Small, yet still big, whale shark. Photo: nicoboxethai, Flickr


 

Gentle Giants of the Sea

 
According to research done in 1994 based on the sexual maturity in whale sharks, which is roughly around 30 years, the Whale Shark may be one of the longest living fish in the world. A century could pass by as it ages gracefully, without much thought for the human race that drags on across the continents.

Its name is a misnomer: While it is called a ‘Whale’ Shark, they are classified as fish due to similarities in their skeleton, which is exclusively cartilaginous, just like sharks. They are referred to as whales simply because of their massive size that averages around 17 to 21 feet, with the largest ever recorded being at 41 feet in length. Although they have vestigial teeth, these gentle giants feed on small fish, fish eggs, plankton and other larvae that abound in the seas and pose little danger to snorkelers and divers.

Rhincodon typus, the species of Whale Shark common to the Maldivian seas, can be seen around south Ari Atoll which is a marine protected area, as well as around Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll, a biosphere reserve area. These juvenile sharks are usually 15 to 25 feet in length, a bit smaller than those found elsewhere but no less a giant compared to tiny divers.

Although now is the time when dive cruises focus on whale shark sightings, which increase in frequency during the south-west monsoon season, the creatures can be spotted all year round.
 

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Little divers, big fish. Photo: Christian Jensen


 

Swimming with Whale Sharks

 
Here in the Maldives, some dive safaris offer the chance to swim with whale sharks. Your dive safari captain or the water sports center in the guest house or resort will be able to guide you to the best possible areas for seeing whale sharks.

As you will seen in many photos of whale shark sightings, divers need only their snorkeling gear rather than the full scuba gear in order to swim with whale sharks.   Whale sharks often swim up at the surface where they can filter feed on the phytoplankton.  Divers will be at an advantage over the average snorkeler with the ability to use dive skills to free dive down to get close to the animal while others are stuck at the water surface.

However, if you are indeed amongst the lucky few scuba divers who have had a whale shark venture into where you’re diving, then you’re in for a real treat! With your dive gear you will be prepped to comfortably stay longer alongside the gentle giant.

While most Whale Sharks are a bit on the shy side and just pass through, some of them do stop by to play with divers and snorkelers, letting them get a photo like meeting a celebrity in the ocean. Most scientists and environmentalists urge adventurous folk to refrain from touching the sharks because it can cause lesions on the shark, and lead to infection.

Your dive guides will inform you the best practice for respecting the whale shark’s habits and making the most of the experience.

 


 
 

Hanifaru Bay

 
Up north in Baa Atoll, the Hanifaru Bay is a peculiarly shaped lagoon which has the tendency to accumulate a large amount of plankton. A large number of manta rays and whale sharks stop here to have a filling meal.

Divers in large numbers are no longer allowed to enter into Hanifaru for scuba diving to prevent scaring away the marine fauna and to reduce the impact made on the fragile area. Smaller groups are still allowed to observe from a safe distance while snorkelers can enjoy the view from the surface.

Certain dive safaris operate to Baa Atoll, while there are quite a few resorts in the area that will be more than happy to arrange a trip to Hanifaru Bay.

 

In the Maldives you have a special opportunity to feel in awe being next to massive creatures that roam the waters of the earth. Now through September, Pelagic Magic cruises, offered by MV Orion of the Constellation Fleet, take divers to ideal destinations for pelagic species.  And these special tours now have a special price! Check out the massive discounts on MV Orion and the rest of the Constellation Fleet, here.

 
July 29th, 2014 Comments off

The Maldives is more than high end resorts. Beyond the masses it is easy to hide among the islands and even have an adventure or two. Our Photographer of the Month, Alexander Brown, stayed many months in the Maldives and has some great photos and videos to prove it.

Even adventure sport enthusiasts like Alexander – British photographer, filmmaker, and former kite surfer – can get their fill by exploring local islands. We asked Alexander about his photography and about being in the Maldives so that his experience can inspire your travels.

Here’s a video from his team at Basement Vision:

Interview with Maldives photographer/filmmaker Alexander Brown

Q1: What made you get into underwater photography and photography in general?
Alexander: I was travelling the world in my teens as a professional kite surfer (and making promo films) where I found myself on a trip to the Maldives in 2007 for a video shoot. Long story short, I had a pretty bad accident (which led to the end of my pro career) and started snorkelling while on the trip to get some fitness back. This was the first time I saw a coral reef in real life and I was amazed.

Over the next 3-4 years I became passionate about this new marine world and ended up wanting to do my bit to raise awareness and help the conservation efforts. It was during my university degree where I wrote and directed my first documentary film, which I ended up shooting in the Maldives. I did my open water diving course right before flying out for the production phase!
But everything was totally un-planned for. My Dad was a Navy bomb disposal diver and had spent years training and becoming a real expert. Diving had never appealed to me despite my Dad as a role model (with a really crazy job) bringing home all sorts of diving stories. It really was those first times I snorkelled after my accident when I realised I had to find out more about the underwater world.

 

Q2: How would you describe your style of photography and what you want to “say” with your photographs?
Alexander: I admire the style and natural style of the type of material that National Geographic and the BBC produce, so that was always my benchmark for producing the perfect picture “in-camera” as opposed to manipulating a shot in post.

Being more focused on the filming side of things, I always aimed to create sequences that educate the viewer or tell a story. My Maldives work was really conservational based, even though I worked with a handful of resorts for commercial purpose too. But most of all what I want to say through all my work, both under water and above, is how one should chase whatever it is that they really want.

After leaving the Maldives mid last year for Australia, I have pursued my other passion for outdoor adventure, travelling the country in a self-built campervan and documenting the travel. I really love to explore and capture it all on camera, and I try to make that happen by any way I can.

 

Q3: When did you first go to the Maldives and what attracted you to go there? Was photography a motivation or an afterthought?
Alexander: As I mentioned, my first trip to the Maldives was for the kite surfing film shoot. In fact, I was producing the shoot and we were filming a new kite model that my key sponsor was about to release. I chose the Maldives as the location not because it was a world-class kite surf spot, but because it represented total escape with its perfect tropical coral islands, clear turquoise water and innocent nature.

I guess I didn’t know it back then, but the whole kite surfing approach as a natural wind driven sport, really supports the need for greater awareness of climate change impacts that’s having effect on such fragile paradises.

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Luxury water bungalows built on what was once a natural and beautiful coral reef. The destroyed reef now needs human help to re-grow at this luxury resort.

 

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?
Alexander: Well I went straight from the training pool back in England to the tropics of the Indian Ocean, so I was really lucky that my first open water dives I could enjoy in such warm waters with magnificent views. What I did have though is the pressure of having a camera in my hand from that very first OW dive and the need to shoot perfect shots from the start.

My photography theory was easy to transfer after I got used to operating my camera through the housing, and luckily enough I never had a problem with my buoyancy etc. The hardest thing I actually shot was a half/half shot of water bungalows built over a dead coral reef – there was a super strong current and I only had an hour to get the shot. It got some attention on the National Geographic “your shot” web site which was great.

 

Q5: Where are your favourite spots, above and below the surface, to take photographs in the Maldives? What makes them ideal?
Alexander: I really cannot get enough of shooting the Maldives from the air. I had some great flights in the seaplanes for various jobs, some days had fantastic views while overs the visibility was terrible. Just like underwater. In the Baa Atoll, there was one reef that I visited frequently called Hatta Giri and it was just an endless landscape of the most perfect hard corals. That was really great to see.

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A beautiful piece of Indian Ocean coral reef. Hatta Giri, a submerged Thila in Baa Atoll, Maldives. Photo: Alexander Brown

 

Q6:  What is it like to stay in the Maldives?
Alexander: Tell us about your average day when you’re there. I lived on an island called Velidhoo for over a year. The owners of Palm Villa, a guesthouse there, really supported the work I was doing and invited me back to stay after my documentary film trip. Thanks to them, my partner and I had a base within the country. This allowed us to work on our projects and travel the country to explore the real Maldives, outside of the resorts. It’s a fascinating place when you get living alongside with the locals.

 

Q7: What is one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photographs in the Maldives? Do you have any tips for visitors trying to capture their moments in the region?
Alexander: If only I had known how much more was outside the resort I first stayed on. If you want a high-class vacation, cocktails, great food; then book a resort. If you want adventure in a place that has no schedule nor is tainted by mass tourism; then get yourself to some local islands!

 

Q8: What technology/software/camera gear do you use to capture and process your stunning tropical & underwater scenes?
Alexander: I use Canon DSLRs and run Mac computer systems. Its industry standard really. I don’t look into the newest camera gear, simply because I cannot afford it. My 7D/5D setups are good enough for print magazine and indie cinema – so they are more than sufficient for my needs. Video editing is actually my favourite part of the process. It is so creative and you can completely craft a story or emotion through choices like music or colour grading.

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A group of tourists snorkel alongside giant manta ray swimming in Hanifaru Bay, Maldives Baa Atoll. Photo: Alexander Brown

 

Q9: If your camera was to get stuck in one mode or setting, what one would you hope it would be? Why?
Alexander: My last shoot in the Maldives was actually with countless manta ray at Hanifaru Bay, with the Manta Trust team from the Four Seasons. My camera did get stuck and wouldn’t focus which was such a bummer. But I slowed the shutter speed a little and gave the animals motion in my images. I thought it highlighted their movement with a softer image, as they are actually really fast swimmers! All the other pictures I had seen before just showed the ray in super crisp detail, almost motionless.

 

Q10: What projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to seeing?
Alexander:I actually just quit a really rubbish office job in Brisbane, and bought a Lonely Planet Guide to New Zealand today. I really want to get in the ocean there to go find penguins, orca whales and other amazing marine life. Along with living life from my campervan of course.

 

Alexander Brown is an aspiring British outdoor photographer and filmmaker. Now in year 10 of living from a suitcase, he continues to share his appreciation for natural world through various adventures and ramblings. You can read more from him on his blog here and see more videos and photos.

Thanks to Alexander for his time and his team at Basement Vision for their talent and expertise.  We look forward to seeing more of what they produce about the Maldives and Beyond.

Get yourself to the Maldives where the mantas are waiting! Nautilus Two has all inclusive packages on for a great price this August during Manta season. Check out the dive cruise special price here.