April 22nd, 2014 Comments off

The sounds we associate with the Maldives are usually the crashing waves of the ocean and the sound of underwater bubbles as divers explore the reefs. The Maldives has a serene natural environment in which most of its “wildlife” intimidate not with a roar but with size, stealth and speed. Scuba divers are often engulfed in relative silence when exploring the reefs. So above water, what sounds make the environment lively?

Maldivian music is an element that livens up the land or boat deck atmosphere. There are traditional and more modern forms of music that resonate in the islands. And there are also performances for tourists at some resorts. In such a secluded nation, it’s interesting to see where the musical influences come from and how are they practiced. New international music is also inspires visitors to remember the tranquility of the Maldives.



Musical roots

The most popular form of traditional music in the Maldives is called boduberu. It’s a drum and dance music with lots of energy. A lead singer and 3 percussionists create a visual and audio experience that starts slow and builds up to an intense crescendo. Generally this is performed by male musicians. This music from the country’s northern atolls is said to have its beginnings in the 11th century, with influences from East African origins. The percussion can also include a bell and a bamboo onugandu stick. The drum is the most popular instrument in the Maldives.

More modern popular music links the Maldives to its Asian neighbour, India. The 60s and 70s in the Maldives was an era influenced musically by Hindi songs. The Maldivian language is similar to northern India dialects so people connected with this music and it was played over the radio in the Maldives. Nowadays, popular music is based on Hindi songs, and influences can be heard in some songs.

Some instruments have been adapted into Maldivian music from India as well, including something called the bubul tarang, for bulbul music.

The surrounding continents have left their mark on Maldivian music, including Africa, Asia and Arab regions. What is going on within the nation also influences music. Like all other forms of music, daily life works its way into music as a form of expression. It is used to express political views and religious devotion. Also, music is used for celebration and to mark special events.

In the past there was music performed to celebrate the sultan and mark the end of work. Some performances are by men and others by women and there is usually a format to the way they arrange themselves. It can be in a line or two lines facing each other. It can take on various forms but usually has a form or structure that is followed by the performers.


Modern musicians

The unique language and secluded nature of the country makes modern music of the Maldives a more localised affair. There are Maldivian artists who have released albums but they have not achieved great popularity on the world stage.

One of the most popular in the region is the Dhivehi band called Zero Degree Atoll. The lead singer, Ahmed Nasheed, now also makes his own music, his album is called Dhaalu Raa.

Music inspired by the Maldives

From a different perspective, there is also music that is inspired by the Maldives, though cannot be said to be Maldivian in nature. The isolated tranquility of the island atmosphere inspires sentiments in those who visit the country from abroad. Coming from busy, fast-paced urban environments, foreigners yearn for sounds of relaxation and sounds that awaken the senses.

Music can allow people to relive moments through music, to create memories and even to travel without leaving home. To capture the Maldives in music from an outsider’s perspective, that is what music like this seems to:

If you’re inspired to listen to more of the music Maldivians listen to you can access some of the Maldives radio broadcasts online. Or just relax to sounds that allude to the idyllic essence of the oceanic islands. Music is part of the culture and is a lively part of the above water experience in the Maldives. On the other hand, the near silence that can be heard when standing on a lone sandbank or when diving around the reefs is perfect contrast and escape for urban-dwellers that visit the Maldives.

Experience the musical and silent atmospheres first hand this May on MV Orion or MV Virgo on one of their last minute deals. Then, let the sights and sounds of the Maldives resonate with you for months to come.

April 15th, 2014 Comments off

The Maldives has many photogenic qualities, from landscape to marine life and even the people and culture. Some photographers have the ability to capture the essence of this archipelago in a way that stands out from the average photograph taken by holiday makers. Their photographs not only show us a picture but somehow bring us inside the scene and let us escape to the islands for a moment in time.


tree swing maldives Maldives Photographer of the Month   Lucie Mohelnikova

Island life perfection. Photo: Lucie Mohelnikova


Here we highlight the photographs of Lucie Mohelnikova, who was inspired to take up photography professionally after a random trip to the Maldives.

We asked Lucie about her experiences:

  1. Q: What inspired you to get into photography?
    A: It all started after my first visit random to the Maldives in 2009. It was also my first touch with DSLR Camera Olympus E-500, with two set lenses, and it was a really very big. Since I was going on vacation to the best destination in the world, my friends told me take a DSLR and not to use a compact camera. They said: maybe you will never visit Maldives once again, so keep your memories in good quality. So, I took it. I shot on Auto Mode all the time. I did not know what to do with this camera. LOL.

    One beautiful female friend was with me on this trip and we just had fun taking some photos on the beach. When I came back to Europe, my friend saw my photos – landscape, portraits, street snapshots from Male’ etc – and he told me I was good, that I have good eye for photography. He suggested that I go to try it professionally. I took his advice and I went back to Maldives after one year where met amazing people and started my friendship and business in the Maldives. The truth is, travel to Maldives, especially tickets from Europe, can be expensive. I could not do that as often as I do without my friends that I have in the Maldives.


  3. Q: Tell us about your style of photography.
    A: My photography style? Hmmm, I like snapshoots, landscape, street photography, ordinary life. All my portraits of Maldivians and people from Maldives are snapshoots. I do not like stylized photos. Post-process is basic, I like colors and contrast on landscape photos and on the portraits like black & white post-process but does matter which kind of portrait etc.

    the next generation of maldivians Maldives Photographer of the Month   Lucie Mohelnikova

    The next generation of Maldivians growing up in the islands. Photo: Lucie Mohelnikova


  5. Q: How did you end up in the Maldives and what got you hooked on Maldives photography?
    A: As I mentioned, it was random. Now, I travel between Europe and Maldives a few times per year and usually stay around one or two months there. What hooked me? I do not know – the landscape, nature, and the people are really amazing in the Maldives and I want to show it to people who cannot go to Maldives because they do not have money etc. Unfortunatley, I lost friends which I knew for many years when I started to travel to Maldives (people are jealous, but they do not know what does mean this profession. Everyone thinks it is dream work but…) but I found new ones, better ones. Everything has two sides. icon smile Maldives Photographer of the Month   Lucie Mohelnikova

  7. Q: What is it like to live in the Maldives? Tell us about your average day.
    A: Ordinary life in the Maldives is the same as everywhere in the world. In Male’ and Hulhumale’ is common life like everywhere in cities. Same traffic. People wake up, go to work (shops, restaurants, taxi…) after work they go for dinner with friends and sleep. Next day, still the same. On the islands is life is similar but more lazy. LOL. When I am in the Maldives I still travel between islands because we also have travel agency specialized for local travel in the Maldives and we manage own guest house. So I have to check all places if they are working good etc. When I’m not travelling, I try to relax but I am a very active person and after one day on the beach I am very tired and bored. Always wanting to do something.

  9. Q: What islands and attractions should visitors make sure they see in the Maldives?
    A: The best attractions for me are sand banks. They are the most amazing things that I have ever seen. Also, of course, the underwater life, fish, mantas, dolphins, turtles etc., To go fishing, sunset fishing, is the best. You can see the amazing sunset and after dark millions of amazing stars. I never saw such an amazing sky like in the Maldives. Island hopping is also interesting and visiting the capital city, Male’, for example National Museum, is very interesting. There is also Jumuhooree Maidhaan (Republic Square), Friday Mosque, Fish Market, shopping etc. You can do whatever you want to do in the Maldives. If you like real pearls, buy them in the Maldives, real pearls are very cheap there.

    Island Feydhoo Finolhu Maldives Maldives Photographer of the Month   Lucie Mohelnikova

    Island Feydhoo Finolhu Maldives. Photo: Lucie Mohelnikova


  11. Q: What equipment do you use to capture your stunning tropical scenes?
    A: Equipment:
    Camera: Canon EOS 60 D
    Lens: Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM
    Lens: Canon EF 35 mm f/2
    Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
    Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
    Flash:Canon Speedlite 430EX IICamera: Olympus E-620
    Lens: Olympus Zuiko Digital 25mm f/2,8 Pancake
    Flash:Olympus FS-FL36R

  13. Q: What are some tips for visitors who are photographing their moments in the Maldives?
    A: Take your camera with you every time and everywhere. You never know what you will see or experience.

  15. Q: What projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to seeing?
    A: Projects? Hmmm, I am trying to finish a black and white photo series, street life photography from Maldives. Some photos have been and are on the exhibition in Prague.


lone swimmer in the maldives Maldives Photographer of the Month   Lucie Mohelnikova

Sand banks drop off into clear blue pools in the sea, in the Maldives. Photo: Lucie Mohelnikova

Who is Lucie?
Born in Czechoslovakia, Lucie Mohelnikova lives in Prague when she is not in the Maldives. She specializes in budget travel in the Maldives and runs a guest house. Lucie’s work has been featured in international publications, including Tiger Tales Magazine of Singapore, as well as in public photography exhibitions. More of her photography can be found at: www.luciemphotography.com.
How interesting it is to see how these beautiful photographs are created! If you’re a photographer that highlights the Maldives in your work, we would love to feature you as the Maldives photographer of the month. Get in touch here: raki@maldivesdivetravel.com.

A marvellous way to take your own amateur or professional photos of the Maldives is from a liveaboard. As you cruise through the islands there will be nothing but inspiration for beautiful photography. Check out the deals now on for the Maldivian Dream, here.

April 9th, 2014 Comments off

The Maldives is a year-round adventure destination. There’s a distinct high season from about November to February, but labelling the best season to travel there is a bit more difficult. It will depend on the planned activities that define which season will be ideal to plan a trip among this Indian Ocean archipelago.

Diving with high visibility, diving with big pelagic creatures, and surfing each have different known seasons that produce the best conditions for each activity. Each of these tropical island pursuits requires certain conditions for top performance. On the other hand, all of these adventures can be experienced throughout the year in different atolls and at different dive spots.

Here’s when leisure lovers will be on top of the world while in the middle of the ocean:

Maldives Underwater Oriental Sweetlips Reef 580x380 Adventures by Season in the Maldives

Oriental sweetlips school together in the clear Maldives waters.


Best of Maldives Scuba Season

Typically, the high season attracts the most tourists with more consistent, hot, dry weather in Maldives and contrasting temperatures to holiday makers in Europe and elsewhere. The skies are clear for resort goers as well as for scuba divers, as ocean currents allow for great underwater visibility through these less rainy months.

It’s the North-East monsoon that brings continuous flow and clears the waters for divers to delight in discovering the depths more easily. Pushing in from the north-east, currents also attract sharks and an abundance of marine life that like to frolic in the rushing water, especially at the channel entrances. Divers can swim with several types of reef sharks, schools of silver jack fish and eagle rays just to name a few. Even hammerheads enjoy this “Iruvai” season, as it’s called, and can be found around Fotteyo Kandu during early morning dives.

Of course, like any weather and climate prediction, it’s not an exact science. Maldivians who live off of the fruits of the sea and who are heavily affected by the weather conditions will notice the slight changes in season as the winds and currents move through the region. The seasons are even divided into periods called “Nakaiy” around which locals plan their agricultural and fishing labours. Liveaboard tour operators also build flexibility into their itineraries so that tours can be adapted to marine conditions of any particular day or week.

manta feeding season 600x450 Adventures by Season in the Maldives

Feeding manta ray in the Maldives. Photo: bjoern, Flickr


Off Season Pelagics

While some visitors prefer to visit in the dry season to have a better chance of drier weather and clear visibility, others realize that seasonality affects the marine life. Big fish follow an abundant food source, like the plankton rich waters that are churned up during the opposite South-West Monsoon season. Pelagic species are particularly popular in July to October in the Maldives’ islands.

It is considered the off-season by the travel industry, but for divers this is an ideal time to see some fantastic displays of mass feeding aggregations. Manta rays flock to the green, nutrient-rich waters with sightings numbering upwards of 1000 in just a one-month period. More feeding leads to more active behaviour and as a result the mantas have shown higher reproduction productivity. It’s hopeful after a vibrant year in 2013 that the population will be regenerated and we will be able to swim with many more generations of manta rays.

This wet season, from March to October, called Hulhangu, is known for its strong winds and heavy rain so sun seekers tend to shy away from this period. However, it’s rare that wet conditions last for more than a few days at a time in these sunny isles. If a chance to visit the Maldives presents itself during this period, don’t miss the occasion of a lifetime to experience it – especially if you’re a scuba diver. Some liveaboards, such as MV Orion, offer special pelagic tours in July to October to take advantage of the favourable conditions for mantas and whale sharks.



Surf Season

As the winds and currents of the monsoon seasons make their way through the atolls, surfing becomes the ideal activity from mid-February to November. That being said, surfing can also be done during the Iruvai, North-West monsoon season but swells are not as consistent or significant.

Different months are characterized by the types of swells, but it may depend on the atoll as to the local conditions at any time. For bigger swells, June to August is recommended, September and October sees dissipating storms and more consistent swells and March to May generally has clean swell conditions. The overall intensity isn’t a match for Indonesia’s surf conditions, for example, but respectable six-foot breaks still make for great intermediate and advance surfing in the Maldives.

If good swell consistency combined with promising weather conditions is the ultimate goal, then February to May in North Male atoll is a great choice, as well as the centrally located atolls of Meemu, Thaa and Laamu atolls. The best surf conditions in the Maldives are said to be in Huvadhoo Atoll at the beginning and the end of the southwest monsoon season. The islands around this atoll’s fringes are rife with waves including different types of walls and playful waves.

Ocean Divine is one liveaboard that adapts to the seasonal conditions by offering diving during the Iruvai season and surfing packages during the Hulhangu season.
The weather and climate in the Maldives has the element of temperature consistency that is common in the tropics, along with the dry and wet season contrasts. These changes create conditions for different adventure activities in the Maldives, depending on the month and the atoll location.

Trips can be planned around your preferred activity or another solution is to book a liveaboard cruiser with alternative itineraries such as spa treatments on board. In that way, you will have an activity to enjoy no matter the weather. Scubaspa Ying has deals on now for all of their package types, click here.

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.

male ferries fischerfotos flickr 450x600 All Aboard! Watercraft of the Maldives

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.

speedboat thundi flickr 600x398 All Aboard! Watercraft of the Maldives

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.

turtle near surface FamilyRalph Take a Deep Breath   Surface Diving in the Maldives

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.