June 4th, 2014 Comments off

The dream has come true and your dive package and flights to the Maldives are confirmed! Now, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and forget about the essentials. Don’t worry, we’ve been there and done that so we can recommend the items to make your holiday top notch.

In secluded tourist-focused destinations such as this, especially when you will stay on an island or liveaboard away from the capital, you want to make sure you have the supplies you need. Imported tourist products are likely to be priced higher as they’re brought in specifically for tourists, and the options are limited.

Even if you’re a seasoned dive traveller, there are a few items specific to the Maldives that you will want to ensure are to tick off your packing list.

 


 
Don’t get left high and dry on a Maldives sandbank without these items:
 

Underwater camera

 
For a one-off trip some people may be satisfied with a disposable underwater camera. However, if you’re a diver or plan to film underwater regularly you might want to invest in a digital underwater camera. A popular option these days is the GoPro Hero camera range for action and sports. It’s not only a really compact unit, but it also has lots of scuba accessories like underwater housings, specialty mounts, lens filters, and battery extension packs. There is even a specialty scuba mask that mounts the GoPro, which could be a cool hands free option.

If you do go that route, research the best filters and ways to make the most of the GoPro features before going on your trip. Certain resources like this guide to GoPro filters will help you take the best photos.
 

Dive gear

 
Your wet suit serves as temperature control and protection and it will depend on your personal preference whether you bring a 3mm or a 5mm.

Other than tanks and weights (and sometimes nitrox) which may be included in your package, dive equipment may be rented to divers. To avoid these extra costs, don’t for get to pack your own ABC set, dive computer and other dive essentials. Remember that dive light for those night dives when you might come across manta rays or nurse sharks and other “night life.”

Don’t forget your dive certification, log book, and travel/dive insurance. Insurance may be compulsory for your dive package.
 

maldive divers nadia and massimo 600x450 Dont Leave Home Without these Essential Items for your Maldives Dive Trip

Make sure you bring all of your diving kit. Photo nadia & massimo, Flickr


 

Sun block

 
You may think this is obvious. However, not all sunscreens are made equal. For long term sun exposure when you want to protect your skin from sun damage and burn, you can try Riemann P20 sunscreen. This is not your average sun protection. Once applied, wait 15 minutes for it to soak in fully – then you have a shield for all day waterproof swimming. It’s less like cream and more like oil, but it protects for 10 hours against the sun and is waterproof too. It’s perfect for long days out swimming, snorkelling and enjoying the Maldives sun. It’s also ideal for fair-skinned people that are especially sensitive to the sun. It can be found online or in some pharmacies.

No matter what type of sunscreen you opt for one thing holds true, these products are fairly expensive. Try to buy them at a time of year in your home country when they are reduced in price, and don’t wait to buy it abroad where it will likely be even more expensive. Also, go for a higher SPF than you usually use at home; the sun is intense in the tropics and equatorial region.

One last sunscreen-related tip: Don’t forget to put it on! In the excitement of the arrival it’s easy to forget, especially on the first day.
 

Other “fun in the sun” essentials

 
Don’t forget the usual sun hat and sun glasses, of course. And you probably won’t even be wearing shoes most of the time on a liveaboard, but bring sandals. A larger beach towel is a must for sun bathing (your accommodation or liveaboard will likely provide shower towels).

Include some loose fitting clothing, including some t-shirts or knee-length shorts for local island visits.

There are no dress codes on the liveaboards, but if you’re staying a guest house or making local island visits, you should bring some light clothes to go over your swimwear for local public areas. When visiting local islands, for women the goal is to cover shoulders to knees and for men waist to knees, approximately. Check in advance if your guest house has a private beach where bikinis are acceptable.
 

USD

 
When preparing the funds for your trip, you’ll want to get your funds exchanged into USD. The Maldives has its own currency, the Rufiyaa, however tourists pay hotels, souvenirs, tips, etc, all in dollars. Payment with USD is widely accepted; in fact you can’t pay in Maldivian Rufiyaa at accommodation outside Male. If you must do so, there will be an extra charge.

Also, bringing an extra amount for tips is suggested, this is a tip-based economy whether on the liveaboards or on the local islands.
 


 

Additional tip

 
If you haven’t used your equipment recently, remember to test it well before departure.

Check for leaks, chips, and anything that needs to be updated or replaced prior to departure. Dealing with those issues are not something you want overshadowing your dive or relaxation time. You don’t want to miss a moment since you never know when a whale shark is going to saunter through the group of feeding mantas that you are watching (like in the video above).

If you haven’t booked your dive trip yet, check out the deals for Dream Voyager on this summer.

 
May 26th, 2014 Comments off

Photography is one of those things that, from time to time, you can get it right if you take enough shots. If you go back to the Maldives every year, you are bound to come back with a few great photographs. Underwater photography, however, has its own set of tricks and challenges.

The sign of a talented photographer is one who can get it right from the beginning, just like our photographer of the month! We were impressed by Jacob’s photos initially, and after finding out that he had visited the Maldives only once, we were even more impressed by his collection.

 

tchami wreck 600x400 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Jacob Nielsen

Capturing the mystery and intrigue of a Maldives wreck. Photo: Jacob Nielsen


 
Jacob has been selected as our photographer of the month and you can read the exclusive interview with his Maldives’ experience below:
 
1. Q: What made you get into underwater photography and photography in general?
A: I love to travel, and as for most people that involves taking pictures to preserve the memories. That grew into a love for photography, and especially underwater photography.

2. Q: How would you describe your style of photography?
A: I am a hobby photographer, so I take pictures of places and events I go to, but I definitely prefer nature and travel photography.

3. Q: When did you first go to the Maldives and what attracted you to go there? Was photography a motivation or an afterthought?
A: I went for the first time in October 2013. I have wanted to go ever since I was a kid, after a friend of the family showed me pictures and video from diving in the Maldives. The sole purpose of the trip was to go diving, and I always bring a camera when diving.
 

tchami whale shark 600x400 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Jacob Nielsen

Front view of the much-loved Maldives whale shark. Photo: Jacob Nielsen


 
4. Q: What are some of the challenges of underwater photography and how do you overcome them? What are some of the most challenging things you have photographed?
A: For about 4-5 years, I have been doing underwater photography with a simple compact camera, with no external lighting other than the sun, but last year I “graduated” to a DSLR setup with external lighting. I’ve been using a DLSR for years above the water, but taking it under the water and adding external lighting is hard – no matter how many books or articles you’ve read on the subject. A lot of the shots will be bad, either because of technical problems or because the marine life just doesn’t care about staying still icon wink Maldives Photographer of the Month   Jacob Nielsen However, practice makes perfect, and it’s fun to see how you constantly improve.

Macro subjects are definitely the hardest to shoot. Taking a picture of a Manta Ray or a Whale shark is easy – of course, the picture is not automatically great, but it’s hard to miss the subject in the viewfinder. Small critters hiding in corals, or just being so small that they’re hard to see with the naked eye, that’s really hard though – especially when you add elements such as currents and poor visibility.
 

tchami anemone 600x400 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Jacob Nielsen

Getting up close and personal. Photo: Jacob Nielsen


 
5. Q: Where are your favourite spots, above and below the surface, to take photographs in the Maldives? What makes them ideal?
A: I’ve only ever been to the Maldives once, but I had an amazing night dive with Manta Rays near Fesdu Island. Other than that I had many fantastic dives, seeing e.g. rays, turtles, sharks and schools of fishes, owing to the nutrient rich waters caused by the (sometimes strong) currents.

6. Q: What equipment do you use to capture your stunning tropical scenes?
A: Canon 7D in a Hugyfot housing with an Inon Z-240 strobe.
 

tchami manta night 600x400 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Jacob Nielsen

Night manta. Photo: Jacob Nielsen


 
7. Q: What is it like to stay in the Maldives? Tell us about your average day when you’re there.
A: I didn’t have the chance to live on any of the islands, instead I stayed on a liveaboard; MV Virgo. On a typical day, we were woken up, served a light breakfast, followed by dive #1, then a breakfast followed by a few hours to relax, and then dive #2, lunch, then some hours to relax and then dive #3 after which dinner was served.

8. Q: What islands, dive spots and/or attractions do you highly recommend in the Maldives?
A: Diving, diving and more diving.

9. Q: Do you have any tips for visitors who are try to capture their moments on camera in the Maldives?
A: Make sure to bring extra memory cards!

10. Q: What projects (photography or Maldives related) do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to seeing?
A: Nothing set in stone yet, but most likely I’ll be going to Australia and hopefully see some big white sharks.

tchami 300x300 Maldives Photographer of the Month   Jacob Nielsen

Jacob Nielsen, Amateur photographer

Thanks to Jacob for taking the time to answer our questions, and also for sharing his photography with the world. You can find more of his photography here on his photostream on Flickr.

Jacob went diving with MV Virgo, one of boats in the constellation fleet. Recently, we’re excited to announce that the fleet was awarded Best liveaboard brand in Maldives in the Maldives Boating Awards 2014. Read more on that Maldives liveboard news.

 
May 20th, 2014 Comments off

Certain travel destinations and activities are called cliché for a reason – they’re popular. Why are they popular? Because they are unique and worth a visit.

Despite the clichés that some people may associate with the Maldives, it remains a definite “must-see”, “bucket-list” destination (to use come cliché adjectives). In any case, we’re giving you some ways to make your island holiday original.

 

dhoni bungalows cocoa maldives 600x399 The 6 Most Cliche Things to Do in the Maldives

Not your typical water bungalows, these have a Maldives dhoni twist. Photo: Chi King, Flickr


 

1. Soak up the sun on the beach or poolside

 
Probably the most predictable of activities in the Maldives, achieving that sun kissed look is the goal of many a tourist who dips their toes in this region. And who can blame them? When they’re coming from colder climates where the sun doesn’t come out for months at a time, it’s no wonder.

To mix it up though, a day away from the sun loungers will do you good. Head over to a local island to see what life is really like for Maldivians.
 

2. Clichéd photos ops

 
There is no shortage of photos taken in the Maldives each year, though some pictures are more common than others.

You could go for a typical beach sunset or palm-fringed seashore pose. Then there’s the characteristic water bungalows that stretch around the island lagoons, a seaplane on the water and aerial views of the islands, all photos that you can find in almost any Maldives visitor’s photo album.

To accompany these idyllic scenes in your album why not add some originals like daily life photos of Maldivians or a sunset photo with a unique silhouette, or get creative and try to capture a “sense of place” in the photo. That means, include a Maldives-specific element in the scene so people can tell where the photo was taken at a glance and to set it apart from similar photos of other tropical destinations.

Some of the typical photos taken in the Maldives are the same as the ones taken in other island vacation spots so a feature like a flag, a dhoni or a sign in Maldivian can make sure the photo doesn’t blend in with those from other dive vacations.
 

maldives couple romantic 600x450 The 6 Most Cliche Things to Do in the Maldives

The Maldives is ideal for couples… hence the Maldives honeymoon cliché. Photo: Ahmed Zahid, Flickr


 

3. Honeymoon for the unimaginative?

 
A Maldives honeymoon is an international travel cliché. Yet, the essence of a dream honeymoon is synonymous with what the Maldives is all about – luxury, relaxation, seclusion and privacy. Couples can escape to a place where they feel they are the only couple on earth – what a fantastic way to reinforce the bond and share a special memory together as newlyweds.

This match is just too perfect to suggest an alternative. A Maldives honeymoon will never get old. One way to tweak the experience for your tastes would be to focus the accommodation or activities on your specific tastes – take a diving holiday honeymoon, for example, or even a surfing holiday package. Have a photo shoot underwater with a whale shark or on the reef.

You could even get creative: Bring outfits that you can wear underwater for unique photographs in wedding attire.
 

4. Swim with a whale shark

 
Cliché? Who cares?! Just being in the presence of a whale shark is an experience of a lifetime.

So, if you’re going to take part in the whale shark experience, make sure you get a great photo. Take a look at the various photos on Flickr of people with whale sharks and notice how the best shots are taken. What position is the diver in and where is he/she looking? Where are the diver, the whale shark and the photographer in relation to each other? Find what looks most impressive and try to do the same. Because if you’re going to travel all that way and follow your dream of swimming with a whale shark, having a great photo of it is the real icing on the cake.

That being said, don’t be so caught up in getting a photo that you forget to live in the moment and feel what it’s like to be with the big creature – that’s something that can’t be captured in a photograph.
 

swim with whale shark maldives 450x600 The 6 Most Cliche Things to Do in the Maldives

A great shot – swimming alongside, showing the massive size of the whale shark and still enjoying the experience. Photo: Christian Jensen, Flickr


 

5. Track down a manta ray

 
Whether it’s at feeding or cleaning stations or just around the open water, wherever mantas go, people follow.

Like with whale sharks, swimming with manta rays is a stereotype of the Maldives. Also as with whale sharks – who cares?! This is a stereotype that you want to be part of. To be next to the gentle giants is a humbling moment that will live on for years to come.
The same advice goes for the manta ray as for the whale shark in regards to taking photos and taking in the moment.

Additionally, seeing the manta rays in great number during the feeding frenzy is a way to make you manta moment a bit more original.
 

6. Snorkel around the house reef or dive with a liveaboard

 
As a fairly effortless activity, and with all of the reefs around, snorkelers are as common as crabs scurrying across the sand on the beaches.

Rather than stick around the resort house reef and where the fish the aggregate around the underwater structures, the jetty and the bungalows, venture out to a pinnacle in the middle of the sea for some more adventure.

Scuba divers can take snorkelling to the next level with free diving down rather than just staying at the surface.

Speaking of scuba divers, for them the liveaboard experience could be considered a cliché. For divers visiting the Maldives the liveaboard option is commonplace – or is it? If you’ve seen some of the luxury liveaboards that cruise the Maldives waters then you’ll see that a liveaboard holiday is anything but ordinary. Jacuzzis and gourmet meals have become the standard. Take ScubaSpa Ying for example, the on-board spa caters to divers who don’t want to deny themselves the pampering that the country’s resorts are known for.

Not only that, but guest houses are opening up dive centres on local islands for a completely different experience. Casa Mia is one example of a guest house focused on scuba diving.
 


 
We do realize that a “Top (insert number here)” list is a cliché in itself, but we enjoy irony almost as much as we enjoy the Maldives. However, instead of making it a Top 10, it’s a “Top 6” list. Are we not just, so original?

Don’t let common perceptions of the Maldives influence your dream Maldives holiday. If it’s your dream, go for it and make it your own with a few personalized adjustments. Click to find out about and book a stay with ScubaSpa Ying or Casa Mia while their promotions last!

 
May 14th, 2014 Comments off

The Maldivian island chain of the Indian Ocean may be secluded, but that doesn’t prevent the dive industry from keeping up with the latest scuba dive technology.

In recent years, new technologies have “surfaced” which are taking scuba diving to the next level. Recreational rebreathers, like the Explorer from Hollis, at first glance look like a futuristic jet pack. One guest house with onsite dive centre is jumping at the chance to get divers into the water wearing them and seeing the Maldives with a whole new perspective.

 


 

Comparing scuba circuit systems

 
Technological advances are generally developed to facilitate activities or solve problems. In the scuba diving realm, one of the biggest limitations is dive time. Other smaller issues include inconveniences with bulkiness and disturbing the marine life with noise and air bubbles.

These are all issues addressed with the new rebreather from Hollis, called the Explorer. It’s a nitrox-only, hybrid circuit system that can function as an open or closed circuit.
Regular, open circuit nitrox diving continues to grow in popularity. This standard type of nitrox diving involves tweaking the air within the diver’s tank to create a mixture that allows for several advantages over non-nitrox scuba air tanks. While it’s still not required or prevalent, some dive boats in the Maldives are now offering nitrox diving as standard, included in their dive packages, like the Constellation Fleet for example.

To further understand the differences, regular non-nitrox scuba has a very specific ratio of nitrogen to oxygen, as it tries to mimic the air found on the surface of the Earth as closely as possible. Nitrox diving, on the other hand, tweaks this mixture; it uses a lower percentage of oxygen than regular air. This takes less of a toll on the body and therefore allows longer dives and shorter wait time between dives while the body readjusts.

Compared to the current commonly used open-circuit scuba systems, the closed-circuit, or hybrid rebreather systems not only look sleek but make the experience of diving more smooth and comfortable. The main advantages of the system is more efficient gas usage (even longer dive times of up to 2 hours), decompression optimization, no visible bubble or sound during operation underwater.
 

hollis rebreather ascent New Rebreather Technology Surfaces in the Maldives

The Explorer rebreather in action


 

Scuba dive technology at its finest

 
Don’t let your precious oxygen escape in bubbles that just float to the surface and disturb the marine life. With a closed circuit or hybrid system the air is recycled and warmer than with open-circuits. Hence the term RE-breather. Compared to the air mixes in other scuba systems, the Explorer uses Nitrox only.

Rebreathers are not new but the Explorer is different because it’s actually a hybrid that can switch between open and closed circuit easily, while underwater, with a small turn from the diver and monitoring via the computer.

It is electronically controlled which allows the unit and the diver to maintain an optimal balance of PPO2 and maximize dive time. Additional features include: Plug and Play absorbent cartridges, easy guided setup with go or no go, optional CO2 tracking as well as its compact and user-friendly design.

The futuristic unit boasts a convenient jacket-style BCD and the smart electronics guide the user through setup, sensed the negative loop test, analyses the gas and performs a positive loop test, making setup a 10- to 15-minute process.

To buy a new model, divers will need to make an investment of around $5000. Training courses cost around $150, or more for advanced levels (in which you get to use the rebreather).
 

hollis rebreather computer New Rebreather Technology Surfaces in the Maldives

Hollis Rebreather computer monitor


 

Rebreathers in the Maldives

 
Explorer has reached the Maldives and Casa Mia is a guest house that will start offering the training course in 2014.

Their Hollis Explorer Rebreather Courses will be available from August 2014. Currently, their instructors are building up their hours and experience in preparation for teaching the use of the rebreather. Excitingly, they already have the units on site, which will allow clients to dive Nitrox 32 – 40% extending bottom times and removing bubbles, a great plus for photographers.

Not only that but Nitrox available at Casa Mia from the 1st of June 2014. It is currently being tested and installed.

As for liveboards, MV Leo & MV Orion of the constellation fleet offer free nitrox and are fully rebreather friendly, supporting a range of units from Poseidon MKVI to AP vision, and others depending on the boat. They have the booster pump, stage tanks, sofnolime and all the gear required to carry out your rebreather diving adventures.

This new technology is really at the forefront of scuba diving. For avid divers it could be the next level of exciting diving adventure! Get to Casa Mia for the release of their standard nitrox by taking them up on their offer of 20% off packages from May to July. More info on the discount here.

 
May 7th, 2014 Comments off

Some island destinations are known for their parties. Ibiza and Ios are two party islands that immediately come to mind. In the Maldives, the liveliest gatherings are around the coral reefs, which is a scuba diver’s idea of a real happening place to be.

The fringe of islands known as the Maldives is a tranquil, ocean retreat above the water surface. The many resorts and local islands are, for the most part, a place where people relax in quiet beach or pool-side settings. Locals go about their daily tasks and seek a shady lounging area when the sun’s rays are at their peak. Tourists awe at the blue-green lagoons and soak in those rays that they don’t get enough of during the rest of the year.
 

party on the reef CK Tse Flickr2 Join the party that never stops in the Maldives

The reef is where the party is at, in the Maldives. Photo: C.K. Tse, Flickr


 
A quick peek below the surface, however, reveals that the country is much more than meets the eye. The water is aflutter with activity around the many reefs, channels and thilas scattered between the islands. Whether the sun is shining or not, the underwater world keeps on moving. By day and by night, see what makes the reefs “the place to be” in the Maldives.
 

The venue & the guest list

 
For any great party you need the ideal location and freely flowing refreshments. The thilas provide a hub for the fish and crustaceans that make up the marine environment. The coral of the thilas are also an essential source of nutrients. The corals are literally the life of the party.

Then there is the parade of colourful characters around the place, cheery clown fish and angel fish, bright butterfly fish, schools of stripped oriental sweetlips and multi-colour parrotfish. Eagle rays survey the scene as they glide around. There are the cliques and groups from the wrasse to the snapper and the triggerfish to the fusilier. Sometimes you can see them in distinct groupings, doing their own dance, and other times they mingle.

Another type of venue that attracts crowds in the Maldives is the submerged shipwreck. The old metal frame comes to life with the vivid coral and other creatures, like sea slugs, that attach themselves to the wreckage. That living base then attracts fish and scuba divers alike.
 

anemone clown fish flickr Join the party that never stops in the Maldives

Clown fish dance around the anemone. Photo: Jon Connell


 

Special guests

 
When the stars are out on the town it attracts a crowd from far and wide. There are some VIPs that attract lots of attention from divers and even other fish. Manta rays and whale sharks are the VIPs of the Maldives marine community. When a manta ray or a whale shark graces the scene, the cameras come out for the photo ops. Divers want their photos taken with them and if it were possible they would surely ask for their autograph. There are even the dedicated cleaner fish that are quick to grab the opportunity to provide the important pelagic with their services.

Celebrities are not something you see every day at home but the Maldives is teeming with stars and celebrities both above and below the water surface.

Where whale sharks go, people will follow. Their massive size is seen not as intimidating but as part of their allure. The same can’t be said for the underwater kingpins.
 


 

Kingpin intimidation

 
With a sly, cunning demeanour the slick shark rules the reef. When these guys move in your direction – all are on edge. Both sharks and barracudas play the role of kingpins of the marine environment. With just a look or a sudden move they can disperse a crowd, though their main weapon is not a gun, but their razor sharp teeth.

That’s from the fish point of view. On the other hand, divers need not be intimidated but rather should show a level of respect. The reputation of sharks as flesh-hungry man eaters just doesn’t play out like in the movies, within the calm waters of the Maldives.
 

buzzing reef Jon Connell flickr Join the party that never stops in the Maldives

In the dark and in the light the Maldives reef is a beautiful sight. Swim through on the Ibura Tila. Photo: Jon Connell


 
The buzz of movement doesn’t stop from day to night on the reef either. When some hide away, others come out to play. Nurse sharks, zebra sharks coral polyps and many others are the night hawks of the sea. Mantas like to play in the dark too. There is always someone to keep the festivities going. In that way, the reef is like a vibrant city.

If you’re ready to join the party you can find some great deals on Maldives Dive Travel, like the last minute May deals on MVs Orion and Virgo. Join the party, click here.

 
April 29th, 2014 Comments off

When it comes to Maldives scuba diving, the experience of a dive cruise cannot be beat. Not only that, but the dive quality in the Maldives has made this destination into one of the most noteworthy in the world for diving holidays. Dive cruisers like Blue Force One – aka MV Leo – are leading the way in unique diving tours of the atolls that really show off the best of the region.

About to embark on their 18th consecutive season in the Maldives, the long-running status and continued customer satisfaction are what make Blueforce a top operator in the region. For their 2014-2015 season, they have a varied program of weekly diving cruises ready to go, led by their trusted team of guides. Their team’s extensive experience has helped them select the most appropriate route for each week of the season, which will help ensure that every cruise is an unforgettable trip.

Just a few of the attractions they have planned for are mantas, whale sharks, and many types of sharks such as gray, tiger, reef and hammerhead. Not to mention the thilas with their multicolored marine life and wrecks that divers can enjoy during the trip.
 

 

The Boat

 
Blueforce’s MV Leo is a 42-meter ship with all the amenities a dive traveler could ask for, and more. It is accompanied by a dive dhoni where the diving equipment and compressors of nitrox are kept.

Each of its 10 cabins has full ensuite bathroom, hairdryer, convenient remote control lighting and a/c, 32’ satellite TV, WiFi, safe, bathrobes and towels. There are hot water showers, room service and towel service. Of these 10 cabins there are 3 extra-special rooms with extra features such as seaviews, bathtub or Jacuzzi tub.

On the Lower deck are 6 standard cabins and 1 master cabin. On the main deck are the common areas such as the comfy living area with 65’ TV, satellite and theatre sound and equipment, massage arm chairs, kitchen, dining area, as well as one of the suites. On the upper, 2nd deck there is the 3rd suite and 1 additional standard cabin with twin beds. There is also the spa massage room, sauna and shower, 2 outdoor Jacuzzis accompanied with lounge chairs and a solarium with mattresses. On the 3rd upper deck is a large solarium with sun beds.
 
blueforce boat1 Feel the Force of Diving with BlueForce Leo
 

2014-2015 Routes

 
Blue force has tailored routes depending on the season. The main ones are:
• 5 Atolls Classical and South
• South Hemisphere
• 6 Atolls Classical and North
• Big south Up or Down
 
5 Atolls Classical and South
This is the most famous route in Maldives. Leo has been taking this route for last 16 seasons and the team is experienced in the best dive spots. They know the details of the reef and atolls and the best time for diving each spot. The Classical and South route goes through South Male atoll and Felidhoo where divers experience channels and pelagic fish at spots such as Devana Kandhu Miyaru. There’s also the spectacular night diving for nurse sharks. The cruise wraps up in Ari Atoll where divers swim around thilas, manta cleaning stations and are on the lookout for the whale shark.

Duration: 7 nights and 7 days diving. Departure and arrival in Male.
Itinerary: North Male, South Male, Felidhoo, Ari and Rasdhoo
Marine life: Whale sharks in the south; Mantas, thila reefs, whale sharks & wrecks in Ari.

6 Atolls Classical and North
The route 5 Atolls Classical & South is extended with the addition of Baa Atoll at the beginning or end of the cruise. First South Male Atolls and Felidhoo are visited for diving in the channels and great spots such as Miyaru or Kandhu Devana, then a night dive to look for the nurse sharks of Alimatha. Then off to see manta cleaning stations and looking for whale sharks in Ari Atoll. Top off an already jam-packed-with-excitement cruise by visiting Baa Atoll and Hanifaru Bay for snorkelling around concentrations of mantas in the world-famous lagoon, when the conditions are right (moon, current, tide, plankton). Besides snorkeling at Hanifaru dive the thilas at Dharavandhoo and others where a myriad of colorful fish delight the eyes and camera lens.

Duration: 7 nights and 7 days diving. Departure and arrival Male then Dharavandhoo or vice versa.
Itinerary: North Male, South Male, Felidhoo, Ari, Rasdhoo & Baa Atoll takes one week, then the boat returns to do the reverse Baa to North Male during the following week.
Marine life: Whale sharks in the south; Mantas, thila reefs, whale sharks & wrecks in Ari. Plus mantas in Baa Atoll’s famous Hanifaru Bay
 

shower and sauna blueforce Feel the Force of Diving with BlueForce Leo

Steam room and sauna on the upper deck.


 

South Hemisphere Tour
With the success and experience gained from 10 expeditions into the Maldives’ south atolls, Blue force developed one of the largest southern hemisphere tours in the Maldives. Planned for the months with optimal conditions, these tours take place during a 12-week period from February to April, 2015.

The Blue Force Leo bases its operations in the equatorial region in the south of the Maldives archipelago for 8 weeks, providing divers with a unique southern circuit. The quality of marine live and reefs in this region is spectacular and undoubtedly an experience not to be missed by an avid diver.

The route to and from the southern region is great for a dive tour too. In fact, divers can combine a week in the south with a week dive trip down or back up to the south from Male. To make the most of the southern sights it is highly recommended to book 2 weeks by combining the Big south down followed by a week in the Southern hemisphere or (the other way around) a week in the southern hemisphere followed by the Big South up.

Duration: 7 night cruise on the southern atolls
Itinerary: Gaaf Alif, Foamulah, Addu Atolls (either direction). Cruise starts or ends in Gan or Kooddoo.
Marine life: See thilas and corals like the Maldives of 25 years ago. Discover channels, whale sharks, mantas and the largest wreck in Maldives, the British Royalty.

Big South up/down
During the months of February and March in the Maldives islands, it’s likely to find the ideal conditions for a cruise on the central atolls. Mantas and whale sharks in Ari, as well as night dives with dancing mantas. Channels of the more southern atolls will excite as will the pelagic life of Vaavu and Meemu atolls. It’s a tour that goes deeper into the south than most traditional tours. You can also connect with the unique southern hemisphere tour before or after the Big South up or down tour.

Duration: 7 night cruise on the atolls heading north or south through the southern atolls
Itinerary: North Male, South Male, Ari, Vaavu, Meemu, Thaa and Laamu (either direction). Starts/ends in Male or Laamu.
Marine life: Nurse sharks, mantas, whale sharks, hammerheads
 
beach massage blueforce Feel the Force of Diving with BlueForce Leo
 

Tailored to divers

 
MV Leo is Rebreather Friendly. If you want to take your CCR, the Leo is prepared with oxygen and booster pump, which is available on board for a surcharge.

Not only that but Nitrox is free. The advantages of nitrox are many and we have found the incorporating it into our dive packages makes for a more enjoyable trip overall. Divers get the possibility to extend up to 20% dive time without decompression. It’s ideal for dives like Donkalo Thila, where manta rays dance around. The reduced worry about multiple safety stops has radically changed the way our diving cruises can operate.  Our Nitrox Membrane system NRC along with our compressors and L&W, allow us to load the required bottles for the multiple daily dives.

In addition to the increased safety factor of nitrox, the fatigue that is often experienced after 3 dives is reduced and passengers can therefore enjoy after-dive activities, such as island visits. This allows the trip to have an extra element, beyond diving, eating and sleeping, to include the discovery of a country by meeting its people and its culture.
 
 
The boat facilities, combined with the tailored itineraries and supercharged extras, like nitrox, make Leo Blue Force a real force to be reckoned with when it comes to dive cruises. See more photos and specific itinerary dates on the liveaboard page here.

If your travel dates are within the next month, check out the last minute deals on some great liveaboard packages here.

 
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.

  2.  

  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.
  4.  

    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
  6.  

  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.
  8.  

  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.
  10.  

    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
  12.  

  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.
  14.  

  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.