April 1st, 2014 Comments off

The Maldives: An island nation with about 1200 tiny islands covering an expansive stretch in the middle of the Indian Ocean. As such, it is near impossible to spend time in the Maldives without ever boarding a boat. Visitors either hop aboard to get from place to place or go with the intent to live on board a purpose-built dive yacht. Let’s look at the cheapest, fastest, most luxurious and most authentic ways for water transit and accommodation in the Maldives.

traditional dhoni csjay flickr 600x400 All Aboard! Watercraft of the Maldives

Traditional small dhoni, likely a personal fishing craft. Photo: Christian Steen


Start at the Beginning – The Traditional Dhoni

The Maldivian dhoni is a national symbol. Legends are told of the dhoni’s capabilities that date back to the 15th century. Kalhuoffummi dhoni of the Maldivian hero, Mohammed Thakurufaanu, is said to have regularly escaped from the more equipped boats of the enemy during the Portuguese invasion.

Now, fishing, tourism and transportation are the main functions of dhonis in the Maldives. Dhoni size ranges from small personal fishing crafts to safari boats and luxury dhoni cruisers. By dhoni is the most authentic way to travel – passengers are connected with history – though a transformation and modernization of the dhoni has taken place over time. The materials have changed from the use of local coconut wood and coir to imported woods and copper rivets. The sails have changed from triangular to square in shape and the wind-only power is now accompanied buy a gas-powered motor. The use of the sail allows for energy efficiency by saving precious fuel.

The dhoni has become a model for more modern ships that have maintained many features of the authentic boats. Larger versions, like Dhoni Stella are a cross between a motor yacht and a sailing yacht with its authentic design, 2 guest cabin suites, and living quarters for 2-5 people.

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Male Main Ferry Port. Photo: Mark Fischer


Ferries for Maldives Budget Transportation

Ferries are the main way for Maldivians to travel between local islands as well as to and from the capital. Also modeled after the traditional dhoni, they are large open boats with row seating and a section for baggage. From the Male jettys, ferries have routes within and between the provinces with designated points of call around the atolls.

Island hopping is not a known travel activity in the country, despite fact that the country is teeming with islands, beaches and their lagoons. Tourists can, however, easily hop a ferry to visit local islands and reach guest houses that are found on them.

There is also a regular express shuttle between the airport island of Hulemale and the capital city island of Male. It departs approximately every 15 minutes from 7am though to 2am (except for a period during midday on Friday) and costs 25 MVR per trip (a couple dollars).

The resort industry has held strong as the dominant island accommodation option for international visitors and since they offer private transfers, ferries are still overwhelmingly a local mode of transport. With the opening of local island guest houses, however, these routes may see more and more foreign traffic.

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A speedy speedboat transfer in the Maldives. Photo: Ibrahim Asad


Speedboats for Acceleration

Speedboat transfers are commonly used for resort and guesthouse clientele as a more direct and speedy route to reach their destinations. Where a ferry may take hours, a speed boat would cover the distance in around half the time, though at a disproportionately higher cost. A speed boat can cost as much or more than 10 times the per-person cost of a ferry for the same destination. The convenience and comfort levels are however incomparable between the two options.

If you have a limited time for your holiday and are happy to pay a bit extra for comfort, then a speedboat transfer is the way to go. On the other hand, ferries are a great low-budget option that can really cut down the overall cost of a holiday.


Cruising & Luxury Motor Yachts

Where boats meet recreation and accommodation, that’s where you’ll find the Maldives liveaboard industry. More than just a way to get around, these leisure cruisers and luxury yachts are fine tuned to the needs of both island adventurers and those just looking for some island inspired R&R (rest & relaxation). To best accommodate for diving, liveaboards have a separate dive dhoni for the scuba excursions. There are many types of dive safari boats to choose from.

Safari boats resembling dhonis are used for liveaboard cruises, like the Nautilus One & Two, which are 30-43 m in length and hold 7-12 guest cabins for lush accommodation while at sea. Another liveaboard experience is the 6-cabin, 95-ft sail schooner, called the Dream Catcher, with its two masts and a true yachting experience.

For the opulent experience that the Maldives is known for, but with a focus on sightseeing and adventure, the cabin cruisers and super yachts roaming the Maldives are ideal. These dive safari yachts are equipped with ensuite rooms and dining facilities as standard, many have Jacuzzis, and some even top off their lavish offerings with an onboard spa.

Average ship size is 100-115 feet in length with 7 to 10 cabins. In this category of liveaboard, Maldives Dive Travel has a number of ships on offer, including MV Leo & Virgo, Maldivian Dream, Ocean Divine, Stingray and Theia. MV Orion and Scubaspa Ying are newer ships that are pushing the boundaries of comfort and luxury at sea in the Maldives. Orion is a 130-ft vessel with 11 rooms and Scubaspa, notably with its onboard spa, has 12 rooms and stretches to a massive 164 feet long.
For a great time gallivanting around the Maldives islands and reefs, board a bateau of your taste and budget. Navigate yourself to a great holiday by checking out these deals on some last minute liveaboard packages, click here.

March 27th, 2014 Comments off

From above the Maldives intense rays shine down – but not all Maldives rays are from the sun. From below, rays of another kind fly, swoop, swirl, and creep through the water. Unlike the bright sunshine, you can stare directly at these marine rays that come in different shapes, sizes and each with distinct, intimidating features. Divers and swimmers alike will need to be aware of rays and their characteristics.

What these species of marine rays have in common are the flattened body shape, with more or less rounded, triangular “wings” or pectoral fins stretching from their heads along their bodies, tapering into a thinner tail. On the other hand, the type of ray can be distinguished by its body shape (whether more round, diamond, or triangular), swimming style, tail thickness, and the trait of having a sting or barb. For example, some rays use a wave-like rippling motion while others use an up-and-down flapping motion of the fins to move gracefully around the water, still others use their tail for movement.



Fly Like an Eagle Ray

An expression generally used for airborne flight can easily be transferred to the eagle ray of the Maldives, as the spotted ray does “fly like an eagle” through the water of the tropics. When spotted, you might forget for a moment that you’re floating in the sea. These stingrays are even known to fly out of the water, jumping into the air. They are often seen in group formations, in open tropical waters, and relatively close to the water surface. This puts them in the swimming stingray category.

As for the name “stingray”, their venomous tail spines make them part of this group, though they differ from the bottom feeding stingrays. Eagle rays grow to a range of sizes from 48cm to 9m, with a long thin tail up to 5 meters long. Thanks to their unpleasant skin, they are captured generally for aquariums, rather than for eating.

Eagle rays are particularly interesting when it comes to their eating and breeding habits. They are proficient in separating their food in their mouth after digging it out with their duck-like nose. They are able to separate shell from flesh of the molluscs and crustaceans that they eat so well that shell has not been found in the stomach of any eagle ray. Even humans with their hands, lips and tongue still manage to eat a fish bone from time to time, so pretty this is impressive.

As for breeding, they produce young in up to 6 eggs per cycle, which stay inside the mother until after they’ve hatched and come into the world as live young. It’s how the babies get there that is more unusual. The eagle ray mating ritual involves the pursuit of one female by a number of males at one time, and once caught, up to 4 males will mate with her successively. Each male inserts, for 30-90 seconds, one of a twin pair of claspers (male organ located at the base of the tail on underside of body).

We can learn more about eagle rays by comparing to its relative, the stingray.


eagle ray maldives Tchami 600x400 Rays of Light from Below in the Maldives   Marine Rays

Eagle ray flying around the Maldives. Photo: Tchami


Stealthy Stingrays – Masters of Camouflage

Rays are fish that are similar to sharks with their skeleton of cartilage, not bone. Their skeleton they have in common but otherwise stingrays are quite different in their habits from eagle rays. For example, stingrays are bottom feeders and swimmers that glide among the sand rather than swim in the open water.

Since they become like the invisible man when under the sand, divers and swimmers should be careful where they step – though if they have enough time stingrays will swim off to avoid contact. Shuffling and stirring up some sand while walking on the sea bottom will help avoid any run-ins with the masters of camouflage – so do the runaway-ray-shuffle!

The characteristic barbed stinger on their tail is a defence mechanism and the strike motion is involuntary, rather than a real attack. Their stinger is located away from body, down the tail, in contrast to the eagle ray which has its stinger located more near the base of the body, to help protect vital organs while it’s in the open sea.

Their stinger is the only thing with “bite” on this toothless animal. They hover just above the sea bottom, moving with their wave-like rippling motion. They look a bit like a grey velvet cape, with a rounded diamond shape, different from the more bat-like shape of eagle and mantas roaming the open waters.

Stingrays are also special in their reproduction methods. They produce more young in a cycle than eagle rays, up to 13, but it’s how they produce them that is most interesting. They have a sort of “rainy day sperm insurance” which allows females to keep sperm in storage within their bodies, then put it to use and produce a litter at a later time – in recorded cases up to 2 years later (shown in stingrays in captivity). Like eagle rays, stingray females develop their young inside their bodies, giving birth to live young after the eggs or “yolk sac” diminishes.

Unlike eagle rays, stingrays are eaten widely, mainly in Asia.


stingray maldives Tchami 600x400 Rays of Light from Below in the Maldives   Marine Rays

A stingray gliding over the surface in the Maldives. Photo: Tchami


Massive Manta Rays

The manta ray is to the Maldives as the panda is to China. This gentle giant is a draw for visitors to the Maldives, especially for scuba divers.

Unlike stingrays and eagle rays, mantas are a gentler kind without the tough edge of a stinging tail. They are strangely also referred to as “devil rays”, unbefitting their gentle nature and lack of stinger. Their size, on the other hand, is enough to intimidate. They grow up to 9 meters (25 ft) wide and weigh up 3,000 kg (3 tons) though on average they measure about 6.5 m across.

Instead of a crushing beak like the eagle ray, they have flap-like paddles on each side of the mouth aka “head lobes” that direct food into their mouths. The gaping broad rectangle of a mouth is on the front of the head and acts as a sieve, filtering in plankton as they swoop through the water. This is in contrast to other rays that have mouths on the underbelly.

Manta rays are pelagic in nature. Like eagle rays, they are active swimmers in open water and even breach the water surface at times. They also share their winged shape. Mantas are more solitary swimmers than eagle rays but sometimes swim in loosely defined groups.


MANTA RAY light background Tchami 600x400 Rays of Light from Below in the Maldives   Marine Rays

Manta ray shining in the night. Photo: Tchami


One other type of ray to note is the more rounded shape rays that are less tapered, with thicker tails in proportion to their bodies. These are known as electric rays, which are seemingly less common in the Maldives. They use their tails to swim and have no stinger. Instead they have an organ that gives them their name. On either side of the head they have tissue that can generate an electric shock – 50 to 200 volts – enough to shock or injure a human and take out small prey. No injuries have been reported in the Maldives but divers should be aware of their capabilities.

Many come to the Maldives to catch some rays but divers will have a different perspective. Watch for stingrays, eagle rays and manta rays among the sea creatures in the ocean waters. Divers can even take a ride on a Stingray – the name of one of the liveaboards offered by Maldives Dive Travel. April and May deals are on now for MV Orion, check them out here.

March 17th, 2014 Comments off

We are so excited about the addition of Ocean Divine to our collection that we are following last week’s introduction with a real trip report from a diver who experienced all that the cruiser has to offer:

On a breezy February afternoon, at Male International Airport: 12 guests from all over the world (France, Switzerland, USA, Germany, UK and Austria) get ready to embark on a one-week scuba diving safari on the liveaboard Ocean Divine. Some of the ship’s 13-strong crew and the dive guides Alike and Gabriel (who speak English, German, French and Spanish) welcome us with big smiles. After the introductions, we try (and fail) to remember everyone’s names… It’s useless; we are too tired after the long flight.

Ocean Divine side front view maldives One Week Aboard Ocean Divine   Get Spoiled in Style

A first glimpse at Ocean Divine mooring in the blue green Maldives waters.

Luckily, the boat ride from the airport to the Ocean Divine takes just twenty minutes. We approach the Ocean Divine just before sunset and are excited to see reality matching up with the promotional pictures: she is a beauty! Our hosts David and Gaelle, including daughter Dune, welcome us. Chilled towels and fruity drinks are offered and soon enough, we are checked-in and ready to move into our room.

The cabins are not what Ocean Divine is famous for. Each one comes with a big double bed plus an extra bed, en-suite shower, toilet and an air-conditioning unit that is a bit noisy for our taste. But it is very clean, there are endless fluffy towels and a power shower – all good, but nothing special. Luxury here comes in other ways: like the wake up call, where the crew bring fresh coffee or tea, whatever you like, to your room to help wake you up in time for your early morning dive.

The first evening on board starts with a wonderful dinner and we feel transported into a French restaurant. Chef Razou from Sri Lanka (trained by a French chef) talks us through the menu personally. He appears in a chef’s uniform, complete with a white hat and a very charming smile on his face. Starter: sashimi with a tasty coconut milk sauce; freshly baked bread and toasts; with excellent hot spices like Mas Miru (a Maldivian speciality you must try!) and chilly paste available on request. Main course: a brilliant seared tuna steak, perfectly pink inside and well roasted at the outside; Capris sauce; vegetable-saffron rice and steamed carrots and broccoli. Salads are available from the buffet, you can make your own dressing or try one of Razou’ s creations. Dessert: apple crumble with a bit of ice cream, yum! Hard to believe I’m on a liveaboard in middle of the Indian Ocean…

Ocean Divine lunch maldives One Week Aboard Ocean Divine   Get Spoiled in Style

Lunch is served, at sea.

David explains that all food is brought in from Dubai by plane, a guarantee for the excellent quality of supply. The meals were of a very high standard throughout the week: we had buffets in the mornings and for lunch and served dinners in the evenings; the table was nicely decorated with flowers and candles, very romantic and stylish.

After a short briefing for the next day, some people linger at the bar to enjoy a drink, but the majority needs just one thing: some rest after the long journey!

Diving starts early in the morning. On the ‘dhoni’ – that is what they call the dive boats in the Maldives – everyone has his or her place with a box for dive gear and there are even special diving towels, marked for each guest. Tea and coffee is available, water as well. There are rinsing boxes, separate ones for cameras, masks and wet suits, as well as oxygen for emergencies, a sofa for relaxing and stairs to the upper deck for a sun bath after the dive. The diving leather is the best ever experienced, it`s so easy to get back on the Dhoni after the dive with all the heavy gear. All is very well organized and extremely comfortable for divers.

Ocan Divine BBQ beach dinner maldives One Week Aboard Ocean Divine   Get Spoiled in Style

BBQ dinner on the beach.

One clever trick, for example, is the ‘time difference’ on board the Ocean Divine, which is one hour ahead of regular Maldivian time. This is definitely an advantage when it comes to diving: during the whole week, we have almost all spots exclusively for us, since the other safari boats only come later. Again – an unexpected luxury.

David – who built the Ocean Divine in 2006 here in the Maldives and lives on board with his family all year round – is always good for a surprise. One day, he visits us with his free-diving fins, without dive gear, on Kudarah Thila. He joins us for some moments and then disappears again towards the surface. Another day, he appears suddenly at a dive site, kilometres away from the mother ship, gliding along on a stand-up paddleboard. The next day, he decided to swim home from a dive site: I guess it was almost two kilometres distance to the anchorage. Later on, he told me: ‘I was a bit slow this time, the currents were against me.’ David is a surfing instructor, too, and between May and October, the Ocean Divine is usually booked for surfing safaris.

Ocean Divine back view SUP maldives One Week Aboard Ocean Divine   Get Spoiled in Style

Surfing and other activities are also available from the liveboard.

I won’t talk a lot about the dive sites, as all were all wonderful, interesting and worth to dive. I didn’t miss a single one of the 18 dives of this week. We travelled to Felidhoo Atoll via South Male, went over to Southern Ari Atoll and travelled up to the Northern part of Ari Atoll, with a place called Fish Head as the last dive. Many beautiful islands were on the way and we visited some of them in between the dives.

We saw all kinds of sharks, manta rays, stingrays, Napoleons, lobsters, whale shark and all the interesting small stuff like flat worms, gobis and small crabs. Incredible clouds of fish everywhere. All dive briefings were detailed and safety measures and buddy teams were reconfirmed before every dive. Currents were checked and explained to the group before the jump, the instructors on the Ocean Divine dive by the book. Also, wherever you are on this boat, you get a reminder to drink a lot of water or juices, all free of charge – a very important safety issue for divers.

The spa on board is also really worth a try. The Philippine therapist on board does all kinds of treatments, from Shiatsu and Swedish Massage to meridian energy treatments with special oils, all pretty affordable.

One evening, they organised a barbecue on a desert island, with a big bonfire on the beach, a whale-shark-shaped dinner table made out of sand, candles everywhere. The white sand, the stars, the tiny little desert island, the good company of divers and the boat family with us – I will never forget it.

What I liked about the Ocean Divine is that it is a family-owned and -operated scuba diving/ surfing safari boat, unusual in the Maldives. The big advantage compared to others is its beauty, comfort and exclusivity (14 guests maximum), great service, safe diving and top-notch cuisine. David has packed many years of experience in luxury diving in the Maldives into the way he runs the Ocean Divine, so you can expect to get spoiled in style here.

Astrid, Sweden, AOWD, 234 dives

Sounds like a great time doesn’t it? Now you can hop aboard Ocean Divine with a major last minute offer, for more information click here.

March 11th, 2014 Comments off

Hit the height of luxury at sea on the Ocean Divine 110ft dive cruiser in the Maldives. Introducing a new boat to the Maldives Dive Travel collection, Ocean Divine, for serious divers that want to sail in serious lavishness. The dive experience from the opulent boat includes the best dive sites of the Maldives, from central Manta cleaning stations to flourishing coral gardens in the most secluded parts of the country. Let’s see what adventures there are to be had and what embellishments make this a top luxury dive boat in the Maldives.

ocean divine boats A Dive Cruise with Ocean Divine   Luxury Diving to the Extreme

Ocean Divine and the dive dhoni at its side.


When and Where

The timing of your trip will determine the destinations and sights of your dive holiday on the Ocean Divine. In March the special, 2-week Huvadhoo Atoll trip is open for those divers that want to go to the extreme – the extreme south of the Maldives islands with abundant coral gardens and deserted island experiences. Away from the central tourist hotspot, Huvadhoo is accessed by domestic flight and the scenery is beyond the ordinary Maldives experience. Marvel over aerial views from the plane and seemingly untouched island lagoons that give a sense of just how isolated and spread out these island atolls really are.

For a more central diving trip including some of the Maldives top dive spots for mantas, whale sharks and shipwrecks, the 7- and 10-night Ari and Ari-Meemu tours are offered in April and from November to March. Check itineraries to plan your ideal trip.

From May to October the surfers come out to play. Complementary to being a Maldives diver, the Ocean Divine owner/operator is an avid surfer. During the surf season the cruiser tours are dedicated to hitting the top surf breaks and finding the best spots to catch some Maldives ocean exhilaration.

ocean divine mantas 600x398 A Dive Cruise with Ocean Divine   Luxury Diving to the Extreme

A luxurious swim with manta rays in the Maldives.


Sights and Experiences

One of the guidelines for boat passengers really says it all about the experience you’ll have on this boat: it is suggested that you don’t need to bring any shoes on board since you will be barefoot during the entire trip. No need for those pesky, clunky shoes when you’re at sea in a tropical haven; this will help you achieve that extreme state of relaxation.

Divers will suit up and dive down for 2-3 dives per day with several night dives in the mix, all taken from the separate, well-equipped dive dhoni – a 55ft, custom built dive vessel where dive gear is safely and conveniently stored during the trip. Nitrox is available and decompression dives not necessary since most of the sights are from 1-26 meters. The crew encourages drift diving to avoid damage to reefs.

When divers come up for fresh air they can experience the tropical ambiance of the Maldives. Visits to local islands like “Dhigurah” (the longest island of Ari Atoll) give the tour a glimpse of the real Maldives. After an extended time on the water it is easy to forget exactly where you are, but the local islands will let visitors see island life as Maldivians live it. Another island life experience for the group that the crew will organize is a BBQ dinner held on the beach.

Additionally, without having to set foot on land, the on board spa transports guests to a place of ultimate relaxation and the sun loungers on the top deck let passengers take in the sun, the scenery and the ocean breeze.


Service and Safety

A luxurious feel is really about the extra touches. On Ocean Divine one of those touches is the cuisine. The dinner menus sound like something out of a high-end restaurant, with style and sophistication, and the highly trained Sri Lankan chef makes sure the flavours are just as impressive. There’s a European, French theme sprinkled through the dishes, made from local and international produce and proteins. Exceptional service is a core element for the boat’s crew, not just for cuisine but for every element of the guest experience.

On par with the importance of good service are rigorous safety standards, which are dependably maintained by the crew. Divers have some mandatory requirements for their own safety, including the mandatory bearing of an emergency SMB (safety sausage), Dive alert (personal air horn), and mini-strobe light on all dives.

Open Water Diver certified divers are welcome and to accompany the certification on paper, divers should have practical experience. Diving in the Maldives requires divers to be comfortable in open water and have near perfect buoyancy since the currents often require rapid descents. These same currents also call for drift diving experience. For Nitrox certified divers, the must analyze all fills themselves and log them prior to every dive, with nitrox dive profiles planned and executed with tables or compatible computer. Nitrox certification is also offered on board for those who want to learn.
Purchasing and carrying valid insurance prior to the trip is strongly recommended (DAN, Dive Assure, Dive Safe, or other diver policies offered in your region).
World-class diving from an exquisite vessel is the experience that Ocean Divine seeks to provide to its guests. There are even some last minute deals on for the April, Ari Atoll tour, more details here.

March 4th, 2014 Comments off

Let’s face it, very few of us have unlimited holiday budgets. When we travel we’re looking for the sweet spot between what we can afford and what we see as the ideal vacation. Not only that, but we want value within our budget limitations. Sound tricky? It doesn’t have to be when it comes to the Maldives.

The first step is, knowing what we’re looking for, since each of us is looking for something slightly different in a holiday. Then, it’s finding a value-packed holiday with those elements that matches our cash in hand. Are you looking to go all out and spend tens of thousands on a Maldives getaway, or will your spending be reined in somewhat to a couple thousand or even less?


reethi one and only Sarah Ackerman Finding Holidays to Fit Your Budget in the Maldives

The One & Only Resort Reethi Rah, Maldives


Here’s what various budgets will get you:

Splash Out on Luxury

It’s easy to spend hundreds or even thousands per night on Maldives accommodation. The Maldivian resort industry is still going strong as the original form of tourism in this secluded and exclusive region. When budget is less of a concern or maybe for a special occasion, there are luxury dive cruises and resorts to get that feel of ultimate comfort and luxury. On the other hand, the two can’t really be compared, resorts and cruises, since dive cruises come with excursions and let guests see many islands as they cruise through the palm-fringed islands.

Maldives Resorts start from $275 per night without activities or excursions, at the low end. If you’re looking to splurge but diving is your dream then options like Ocean Divine and Scuba Spa Ying will be a great fit. Get your spa treatments with a different view each day! There’s also Dhoni Stella where diving or just cruising the islands is up to you with the ability to create your own itinerary on your private charter boat.


Reign In the Spending

When your pocketbook isn’t as expansive at the islands of the Maldives archipelago and you are looking for something outside the resort islands, look to guest houses and dive safaris for a mid-range choice. Dive liveaboard packages have a wide price range with mid-range being $150-200 per night with much more than just a room qith the same view day after day, like you would have in a resort.

Guesthouses on the other hand also offer packages with daily excursions from 90 per person per night, transportation costs are a major consideration in price so if not included be sure to ask about transfers to the accommodation.

Dive packages with the ultimate value for keen divers are on MV Leo, MV Virgo and MV Orion, with free nitrox included in the packages. Theia’s expert dive crew combined with the private yacht luxury feel also places it straddling the mid- to high-end categories.

Guesthouses often include daily excursions or offer dive-specific packages and hover around or under US $1000 per person for a whole week. These guest houses are high value holiday packages that provide full board options and that have an extra element of interest since they are located on local islands of the Maldives. There’s Casa Mia, Happy Life, Villa Stella, Assyeri Inn, Kuri Inn and Reveries Diving Village to look into for a guest house stay.


Tight on cash, big on value

You want to fit in that annual vacation but this year’s budget isn’t as free flowing as you’d like. You thought the Maldives would be out of the question but it turns out there are some affordable options, not to mention great deals to scoop up and save.

The Maldives definitely isn’t a backpacker budget destination comparable to Southeast Asia, but there is now a wider range of vacation package options than ever before. Since the guesthouse market opened up in 2009 there are more options to choose from accommodation-wise.

Liveaboards with this fantastic value are Nautilus One & Two, Stingray and Maldivian Dream. The dependable dive crew won’t let you down, nor will the comfy facilities or high safety standards. Depending on dates and itineraries, prices range from $1200-1500 per person for a 7-night dive safari package.

Guesthouses on the popular island of Maafushi, just 30 minutes from Male, are ideal for a budget-friendly trip to the Maldives. One well-known place, called Arena Lodge, offers a full-board package with daily excursions from just $87 per person per night, which is made even more affordable by arriving by public ferry, 1.5 hours to the island, at a real bargain of just $3 per person (included in the package, of course).
If you’re travelling last minute there’s almost always a deal to be found through Maldives Dive Travel that can slash your holiday costs and offer big value. Make sure you’re signed up to the weekly newsletter so you’re the first to know and can take advantage of the limited offers. Check out a new guest house that bridges the gap between guesthouses and resorts, here.

February 26th, 2014 Comments off

A trip to the Maldives would be incomplete without a look into the underwater world that lies just below the surface. From 5 meters to 30 plus meters, the reefs, channels and sea bottom are open to exploration by surface divers and certified scuba divers; it’s the certification that will determine just how deep they can go. Which certifications are absolutely necessary, and which recommended courses will be the most advantageous?

For more than snorkelling and surface diving the PADI Open Water Diver certification is the minimum requirement for scuba diving in the Maldives. For non-divers that want to explore without breathing equipment and stay just near the surface, they may want to consider the Skin Diver course to fully take advantage of snorkelling and surface diving; the course is not required however and the appropriate skills could be learned from an experienced diver.

There are some additional qualifications that PADI recommends for diving in the Maldives. These additional courses can up your game as a Maldives diver but not all are of equal importance according to divers in-the-know. Get the inside scoop on the certifications that can really make your Maldives diving holiday one to remember.


Become a Drift Diver

The Indian Ocean current and its movements carry divers and fish-attracting nutrients along the island chain, making the diving a treat for drift divers. The idea of drift diving is to go with the flow but control is of the upmost importance. A drift diver course teaches the technique, planning and organisation required for effortless dives. When you are confident in your dive abilities you can focus your attention on what matters most – the Maldives underwater sights. To get that feeling of flying while underwater and to cover a longer distance than when there is little to no current, advanced diving skills are required which can be obtained in the Advanced Water Diver course or in the specialty Drift Diver certification.

The Maldives currents are known for their strength, even when the tides change and other regions would have a period of “slack tide”, the Maldives can experience an increase in current strength. These secluded islands fall in the middle of ocean interplay between monsoon, ocean and tidal flow. For safety reasons, constant communication with the surface of the diver location is essential when drift diving.

For drift diving in the Maldives there are dive sites such as Embudhu Express for advanced divers and Kandooma Thila for prolific fish life, a teardrop-shaped thila with outcrops and overhangs. Guridhoo, Fish Head and many dives in the deep south will also satisfy divers dreaming of drifting.

Open Water Diver to the Next Level – Advanced

While the Maldives has diving for all levels, the strong currents make a number of the sites accessible to advanced divers only. That being said, as long as you don’t go below 20m, it’s the experience that counts rather than the certification. The AOW (Advanced Open Water Diver) is only required for diving between 20-30m whereas 10-20m is a very good depth to see the sea life that the Maldives is known for. Also, it’s recommended not to do the OW (Open Water Diver) and the AOW back to back without getting a few OW dives in between.

AOW allows you to go past 20m up to 30m in the Maldives, where 30m is the max. Many say that taking it deeper just isn’t worth it unless you’ve already got tons of dives under your belt and you’re looking for a new experience, a new challenge. Deeper dives are shorter dives as the air consumption goes up drastically. For a short trip to the Maldives you may want to maximize dive time by staying above 20m.

Don’t be tempted to rush through the certifications, unless a really great package deal is being offered. While a certification can make divers feel well-qualified, in actual fact it’s experience that will make for an advanced diver in practice. Be careful not to let that piece of paper misinterpret your true ability.

What divers DO recommend in terms of best value certification is nitrox…

Enriched Air Nitrox

Recreational diving with enriched air nitrox is now common as it reduces sickness, increases safety margins and allows longer dive times. Many report 20% more bottom time and the ability to do more dives in a day without feeling exhausted – also an important factor when you want to enjoy your holiday out of the water. This one element will help scuba divers take advantage of every moment of their stay in the islands. Some dive-dedicated liveaboards are now offering Nitrox free, as standard, included in their packages. This includes the Constellation fleet bookable through Maldives Dive Travel.

Training is required to dive with Nitrox since there are different principles to diving with it. Using the equipment properly is a big consideration, as well as knowing what’s in the scuba tank and setting the dive computer. The PADI Enriched Air Nitrox course will prepare you for these needed skills and comes as a highly recommended course by divers that have been to the Maldives.

nitrox diver Neville Wootton Photography Still Unsure About Which Dive Certifications You Should Have in the Maldives? Your Questions Answered...

Drifting diver on nitrox. Photo: Neville Wootton Photography


Spot It and Shoot It (with a Camera)

The other courses PADI suggests for diving in the Maldives include AWARE – Fish Identification, so you can really feel at home on the reef, and the Digital Underwater Photographer. With dive sites like Kudarah Thila, a protected marine area bursting with life, these courses offer supplementary wisdom that will not go to waste. And the two skills – identification and photography – go hand in hand. If there was just one more course that could enhance your Maldives dive experience it’s the all-important buoyancy control with the Peak Performance Buoyancy course.
With the tens of courses being offered it can be tricky to know which ones are really necessary and which ones best suit the Maldives diving environment. Nitrox comes out on top by far; it’s recommended by scuba divers who have been to the Maldives and have experienced the advantages of enriched air diving. You can get certified on board a liveaboard or at a guest house with a dive school, such as Casa Mia. Read more about Casa Mia’s dive packages and certifications, here.

February 18th, 2014 Comments off

At a glance, the blue-green waters of the ocean and lagoons seem calm and composed. However, once in the water, with just a mask and a tilt of the head, another view appears like being transported into another world. It is astounding what is there, not evident when looking from outside, just below the water surface.

Entering this world doesn’t require any high tech machine or magic portal. To observe the delights taking place below the Maldives Islands, all that is needed is an ABC set – a mask, snorkel and fins. Sure, scuba diving will get you deeper but surface diving is an essential skill to learn, especially in the Maldives when the big pelagic species come out to play.

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Free Diving with Whale Sharks


What is Surface Diving?

If you were to strip a scuba diver down to just the mask, snorkel and fins (and bathing attire of course) he would be ready for surface diving. Its other names give clues to what it involves, labelled as skin diving, free diving, recreational apnea diving, and breath-hold diving, with a close relation to snorkelling.

“Apnea” is a suspension from breathing, where the volume of the lungs stays the same. Essentially, surface diving involves a voluntary apnea as divers hold their breath to reach sights at deeper depths before returning to the surface. Surface diving is not to be confused with basic snorkelling, which doesn’t entail much depth below floating on the surface, nor with the extreme free diving sport which involves competitively staying under water and going to intense depths with on just one breath of air.

Despite the varied nuances of all of these terms, which all essentially involve being in the water without a breathing apparatus, the terms are used somewhat interchangeably in the Maldives; free diving, surface diving and snorkelling are the most popular terms.

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Sights near the surface in the Maldives


Surface Diving Master

While it may not sound like a highly complicated process to make short breath-hold dives down to check out the Maldives exquisite flora and fauna, interacting with the marine environment does require some skill and knowledge. Even floating around on the surface without submerging the snorkel tube has its risks for snorkelers, like the currents and this archipelago’s hot tropical sun.

To take it that next step further, to get up close and personal with the reef and its inhabitants, surface divers should be competent in buoyancy control, equipment usage and the aquatic environment. The better practiced, the more a diver can experience while underwater and the more enjoyable it will be. Getting some surface dives under the belt before arriving in the Maldives will prove extremely beneficial.

Certification is not required for snorkelling and surface diving, or skin diving as PADI refers to it. It is, however, in the person’s best interest to learn some tip and techniques, if not only for personal safety. Certainly, having a dive buddy is imperative; this should not be a solo sport. The course offered by PADI offers participants training on entering the water, checking buoyancy, snorkel clearing, and adjusting equipment – all skills scuba divers will likely be familiar with. Where scuba divers may gain experience is in the act of breath hold skin diving and effortless surface diving; without all the equipment to support them, diving “naked” may be a bit intimidating.

Many snorkel without prior training, however a trip to the Maldives is limited in time. There will only be limited opportunities to snorkel and dive each day; the best way to get the most out of the experience is by staying under longer and being able to adjust the equipment without issue. Dealing with small issues, like clearing the mask and snorkel effectively, are important since the reefs are not clearly visible with bare eyes.
If not from an official dive course, the dive science and breath-hold techniques should be learned from an experienced diver. Find a friend, an instructor or a dive buddy that fits the bill, then practice, practice, practice.


Maldives Surface Diving

Manta rays and whale sharks are two of the top reasons that divers come to the Maldives. Since many encounters take place close to the surface, swimming alongside them will likely involve surface diving. It’s an opportunity not to be missed which makes mastering those breath-hold dive skills all the more essential.

The great thing about the Maldives is that even when there are not any mantas or whale sharks around, surface divers still have so much to explore. Reefs with life swarming around the coral gardens are accessible from the water surface. Schools of fish, turtles, anemones and abundant life can be seen without all the scuba gear on house reefs, while others are accessible by dive dhoni, out in the ocean seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Almost every island has snorkelling spots within the shallow lagoons hiding treasures within.

Don’t forget to master your surface diving before coming to the Maldives. It’s an invaluable skill that will push the levels of enjoyment to their ultimate maximum. Take day trips surface diving from a guest house such as Casa Mia, where they also have a dive school with instructors that know the best spots for diving in the atoll. Click here for more info.

February 11th, 2014 Comments off

The Maldives experience. The actual feeling of diving in the atolls is no comparison to any video or photography. Yet we want to be able to share the experience, relive it, and have it on record for years to come. That’s where the camera comes in and where you’ll want to learn a few tricks of the trade so that your recording doesn’t turn out flat.

One way to capture your experience of Maldives diving is by video. This allows you to really give viewers an insight into the environment and feel the excitement of movement all around. Seeing something living, breathing, and moving about the screen has a totally different effect than looking at photos of static moments in time – though both methods have their advantages. Read about how to take quality videos as well as how to make your photo collection in to a movie montage.



Getting Equipped for Great Video

The first step to great video is great footage. Recording underwater videos is no longer as cumbersome or as expensive as is used to be. Tiny like the islands of the Maldives, compact underwater cameras can get footage at certain depths and the lightweight action cameras that have recently come on the market can reach depths of 40 to 60 meters. Models like Go Pro Hero and the Sony AS100V are made to capture fun and adventure on the go, but their HD quality recording and rugged, sport-specific design are no joke. For underwater filming the flat lens housing is best for avoiding a blurry result.

Sure, having a decent camera with the right accessories will provide quality footage of what you’re shooting; especially in the Maldives where photographic moments are everywhere. However, even the best HD video is ultimately a flop if all you see are the tail ends of fish. Worse, the video can become unwatchable when the scenes are dominated by shaky movement and too quickly panning from fish to fish. This video has some great tips for filming underwater scenes, including varying the types of shots:

Now that you know what to focus your lens on, the next most important skill is your diving. Buoyancy control is crucial to steady shots. So get out there and practice you diving as well as your filming. If possible, don’t make your Maldives dive trip the only thing you film underwater this year. Practice getting the right angles and timings on other dives prior to your trip so that you’re not spending your limited time in the islands brushing up your skills.


From Footage to Film

After you’ve got all that great still or motion footage it will need to be compiled into something watchable. Don’t worry, basic movie making is now accessible to anyone that can open a computer programme, then drag and drop some files. On the other hand, if you want to produce something on the professional end there’s software for that to. One question to ask yourself before getting started is, who will your audience be? Then, keep this in mind when you’re selecting the scenes and theme.

Windows Movie Maker and Mac’s iMovie are easy programmes to use for video and photo compilation; they come standard on most computers nowadays. To step it up a notch, Adobe Premiere Pro is highly rated for quality video editing.

Finally, any great film tells a story. You may want to include shots (photos or video) of the out-of-water experience to put your dive into context. Don’t forget shots on arrival including the first time you see the dhoni, your room and the sea. This will bring back the emotions you felt at those moments when looking back. Also, if you get some of the initial snapshotting out of the way in the beginning, you can relax and enjoy the scenery hands-free later on.


From Snapshot to Picture Show

Don’t let Facebook have all the fun! Make your own montage of your Maldives trip. As Facebook recently proved with their “Look back” personalized videos for their users, a selective montage can be a great video keepsake. If you’ve seen the videos released of people’s Facebook journeys you can notice that they’re essentially made of a few photos with some animations and a bit of music. Yet they made for short, sometimes emotional, viewing. You can do this easily with your Maldives photos to add to your movie scrapbook. The easiest way: pop them into Movie Maker or iMovie, add an audio file of a fitting song, select a transition to introduce each new photo, and write some fun captions. Then, enjoy and share!

Get some great footage while diving with Theia with the great deals on now, click here.

February 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Above water in the Maldives the spectacular views encompass an ocean-infused colour scheme of blue skies, blue-green lagoons and white sandy beaches.  It’s not hard on the eyes by any means, yet not the most diverse of colour schemes.  On the other hand, below the water surface is where more diverse shades stand out.  What gives the underwater world its vibrancy is the colourful kick from the flamboyant flora that grace the scene.

Diving into the blue won’t be a monochromatic experience in the Maldives with fish species named after clowns, parrots and butterflies – and those are only a few of the colourful characters on the scene.  Discover some of the fish with starring roles in the Maldives scuba dive show.

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Pink soft coral in the Maldives


Shades of Red and Orange

A few that stand out with their reddish tones are the velvety, pink soft coral, the spiky Lionfish and the cute clownfish.  The Squirrelfish family are a colourful bunch as well.  Squirrelfish come in various sizes from the tiny crown squirrelfish that swims in schools to the larger Blackfin and Sabre varieties that swim alone or in pairs.  Their size is from 17-45cm, they’re nocturnal, and the spines of the Sabre known to be venomous.  Colour differs within the family, but they generally show reddish hues with a gradient of other colours from orange to yellow.

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Sabre squirrel fish


Shades of Yellow

Popular fish with colourful flair are the butterflyfish & angelfish.  From the yellow long-nose and yellow-head butterflyfish to the yellow mask angelfish, they are part of a family known for their special teeth that are fine and hair-like.  This affords these members of the so-called, bristletooth, family an advantage over other fish.  Elusive coral polyps are part of their diet, as are the Christmas-tree worms.  These hard to reach organisms are no match for the butterflyfish which can move swiftly using pectoral fins for precise, purposeful movement – to reverse, spin, break and sprint.

Other flashes of yellow come from bluestripe snapper, blackeye rabbit fish and the yellowmargin moray eel.

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Blue stripe snapper. Photo: nicoboxethai, Flickr


Patterns & Multicolour

That old song, “Polkadots, check and stripes” could have easily have been written about the Maldives reef inhabitants.  What an impact on the underwater scenery it has when the colours are arranged into eye-catching patterns.

Nudibranchs, aka Sea Slugs, like the Alyta Nudibranch, are small but powerful in colour.  Macro photography reveals how this small, spine-less creature, from 6mm to 31cm long, stands out from the rocky coral surroundings.  They are shell-less molluscs that use muscular contractions or their “hairy feet” to move along the uneven surfaces.  Even the eggs of this creature stand out in different colours depending on the species.  To top of the interesting facts about them, they are carniverous, simultaneous hermaphrodites that not only mate with any member of the species but can make them their meal as well.

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Nudibranch. Photo: Dominic Scaglioni, Flickr

The striped oriental sweet lips, regal angelfish and moorish idol all flash their stripes while the yellow boxfish can be “spotted” on the reef – its square, yellow body with black spots are highly recognizable.

The intricately designed parrotfish, blue-barred parrotfish and bridled parrotfish for example, are identifiable by their toothed beaks. Their colours morph into intricate designs in adulthood and they generally live in harems with a dominant male, though territory is not aggressively sought out.

The colourful light of bioluminescent plankton is an astonishing sight. Lighting up the night, these plankton are known to light up beaches and waters of the Maldives, like Mudhdhoo Island.  The effect borders on magical and has been featured in movies as well as captured by tourists in the Maldives.

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Bridled parrotfish. Photo: edwardcallaghan73


Shades of Blue and Violet

Despite the blue backdrop, there are blue species that stand out, stretching the spectrum of tones on display.  The blue damsel has a neon hue of bright blue and is changeable in colour.  During mating the males are said to turn a shade or two darker accompanied by the active mating dance with females.  Also, the powderblue surgeonfish is a common sight that stands out with its solid blue-violet colour covering most of its body. They are stunning when photographed in schools.


Colourful fauna designs not only make diving in the Maldives an attraction, but they also help identify the thousands of different species.  Sometimes the name gives a clue to the appearance but other times it keeps us guessing.  Sites like whatsthatfish.com are helpful in identifying fish that were spotted during a trip or can be a tool to learn more about what is to come when diving in a certain region.

While free diving or snorkelling can reveal part of the colour palate of the underwater world in the Maldives, scuba diving is the best way to see the broad spectrum.  The Maldives reef – taste the rainbow!  Last minute offers on now, more info here.

January 28th, 2014 Comments off

Safety is a top concern for Maldives Dive Travel and their dive cruise partners.  Part of safety is knowledgeable and experienced instructors as well as quality equipment, another is knowledgeable divers.  Take responsibility for your safety by understanding the challenges of Maldives diving, including water currents.


Understanding Island Formations


Like icebergs, what you seen on top, as the actual island, is just a small portion of the whole formation which also consists of the surrounding submerged reefs and lagoons, seen more clearly as a whole from above.  Underwater intuition and knowledge of the site at hand are essential to a safe dive.

When it comes to dive instruction you can hear everything and its opposite around the Maldives because each atoll varies depending on its configuration and each dive site has different characteristics. Getting to know the location of the atoll and the peculiarities of the sites you’ll visit upon booking a dive trip is a good idea.  It’s also important to listen to the advice of instructors on each visit to the Maldives because conditions differ widely from atoll to atoll and from season to season.


Calculating Currents


It’s the currents that can make for unique diving in particular atolls like Ari and many others in the Maldives.  This element is a determining factor of not only the direction, depth and length of the dives but also the fauna that are apparent at any one time.  This phenomenon of horizontal movement of water is generally influenced by temperature, salinity, tides and agitation from wind. In the Maldives the monsoon winds will also be a factor.

The strength of the current may be surprising, like strong wind during a storm but without the gravity and the solid ground to keep you steady. To understand the currents before entering into their realm, it’s important to collect all the relevant information.  Evaluating the current can be done by watching the movement of schools of fish that swim into the current and by taking a light free dive at just a few metres to verify, then the topography of the site can be considered.  The current hitting the reef splits and is directed according to the shape of the site, which means the starting point should be carefully considered to ensure access the targeted parts of the site.  What will be considered upstream and downstream around the reef is determined by the current.  It’s possible and somewhat common to miss the site and have to try again.  The force of current should not be underestimated but cannot always be so accurately predicted.

Negative buoyancy is often used to avoid stopping during the descent and divers need to follow the guide’s direction.  The ability to use various states of buoyancy and, especially, maintain neutral buoyancy is an important scuba diving skill. It requires mastering breathing rates and weighting as well as use of the buoyancy compensator, all through a process of continuous correction.


divers watching tobze Stay Current with Ocean Currents in the Maldives

Effortlessly watching the close up shark action in the Maldives’ current while hooked in. Photo: tobze, Flickr


Battle of the diver versus the current


The diver’s aim is to access the dive site; the current makes no accommodations.  Divers must learn to manipulate conditions to their benefit or risk challenging dive conditions that threaten their safety.  Stubbornness of the diver and an unwillingness to concede in the face of extreme conditions could mean a messy defeat on the part of the current.

Let intuition guide the way – if the current is strong, stop touring the site.  It may be more enjoyable and safe to simply reach the front of thila, where the reef faces into the current, to watch the show; it is where pelagic performances can be witnessed. 

When it’s time to hit the road back to the surface, some communication is necessary to coordinate the ascent as well as some anticipation of where to leave the parachute, so as to ensure it drifts in open water within sight of the boat. Monitoring the dive computer should help avoid the vertical currents known as the washing machine effect. It’s possible in the combined wrong location, at the wrong time of day and in the wrong currents for surface drift to take divers several miles before the boat can find them, which gets difficult as night falls.

This is why channel sites with outgoing current on the west of atolls such as Ari are avoided in the afternoon because the current then pushes divers out towards the ocean, which would means the diver search would take place at a less than ideal time – at sunset.


Safety comes first for the companies specializing in scuba dive provision in the Maldives.  The liveaboards offered by Maldives dive travel are carefully selected to ensure that that the levels of service and safety exceed customer expectations.  An obligatory check dive is held at the beginning of every tour and experienced guides lead the dives.  Dive dhonis are also equipped with DAN emergency cases, GPS and oxygen.  As additional measures, the Constellation Fleet boats offer safe air analyzers and lost diver tracking systems on their “free nitrox” packages. 

From February through to March 14-night cruises on Theia are at a great discounted rate, click here. Dive safe with Maldives Dive Travel.