On the 16th April 2019, 11 divers from Hidden Depths Dive Club set off to the Maldives from Heathrow airport, via Sri Lanka. Our overnight flight was the start of an amazing ten day ‘Simply the Best’ trip that would see us touring around this magical country, enjoying some superb diving in real luxury onboard Blue O Two’s M/Y Blue Voyager. Read on to find out how we got on, as well as our trip highlights, and what you can expect from a Maldives liveaboard trip.
When we arrived in the Maldives and collected our bags the Blue O Two team met us and transferred us to the main boat using the dive dhoni, which would be the base for our diving operation. In the short time, it took us to reach the main boat we had our gear set up and ready for the check dive the following morning. A boat safety briefing and familiarisation then took place, before dinner and an early night to bed!
Our check dive on our first morning was a wall dive a short journey from our base in Male. Although a simple dive site without much current we still spotted reef sharks, puffer fish, many different moray eels and even some dolphins on the surface after the dive. This was a great start to the trip, and as well as allowing everyone to check their weighing and to make sure that dive kit arrived unscathed from the flight, we all enjoyed the dive site too.
After the check dive, we completed a second dive in Male Atoll, and although I don’t intend to write about each dive site we visited, this one certainly deserves a mention! Locally it’s known as “Fish Tank”, and takes place at the front of a tuna processing factory. The factory workers discard the fish heads and bones over the side into the sea, and this creates a huge concentration of wildlife in a small area. There are huge moray eels and squadrons of pink whip rays which take up most of your attention, but also smaller creatures like pipefish and banded coral shrimp. I’ve certainly not dived a site like this before, and it got people talking on the boat that evening!
Those of you who may have dived from a liveaboard before will be familiar with the ‘dive, eat, sleep, repeat’ process. This trip was no different, and we all quickly adjusted to this rhythm which would be the base of our next nine days on the Blue Voyager. Each day we had a schedule posted on the board with a wake-up time and our planned dive times, and with only a few minor delays, the crew were excellent at having the boat in the right place and the cylinders refilled ready for each dive.
Our second full day on the boat was our only four dive day of the trip, ending with a manta ray night dive in Fesdhoo Lagoon, Ari Atoll. Each of our dives was superbly briefed by Albert or Sophie, the onboard Cruise Directors, who made the briefings interesting and informative. For this dive we were to head in as a group, descending underneath the lights at the back of the boat, which had been on during dinner to attract plankton. In turn, this plankton attracts feeding manta rays, and on the day we dived we had two manta rays circling above our torchlight and feeding for the full dive! It was simply incredible, and when the dive was over we could extend the experience by snorkelling in the same area – we were even joined by some nurse sharks too!
The diving is the main focus for a liveaboard dive trip, however, a lot of your time is spent on the main boat, so it helps to have plenty of space for you and the other guests and crew. Blue Voyager certainly has this! The boat has four main decks, with seating areas on each. Starting from the top there is the sun deck (which also hosts the onboard jacuzzi!), and the next deck down has an outdoor sitting area as well as an inside lounge fitted out with sofas, a large TV and the bar. Moving down again you come to the large dining room, with an outdoor shaded sofa and coffee table, perfect for writing up your log book next to the dive site board. Finally, on the back deck, you come to another seating area right by the sea, which is a super spot for sitting and watching out over the wonderful expanse of blue water.
As our week progressed, and we moved further South, we enjoyed many superb dives, with one particular highlight being Moofushi, Ari Atoll. For anyone that has watched my highlights video, this is where the majority of my manta ray footage was taken. From the moment we arrived at the cleaning station there were manta rays circling around us, and they stayed for the duration of the dive. At one point we had seven mantas around us, and you really didn’t know where to look. These incredible creatures are so graceful and peaceful to watch, it was a real pleasure to be able to spend time in their company.
The Maldives offers a wide variety of dive sites, and although wreck dives aren’t very common we did manage one dive on the Kuda Giri wreck during our trip. This wreck was purpose sunk for divers next to a small thila. One thing that is common in the Maldives is that all the dives involve some current, which can vary from a gentle drift through to a much stronger current. Reef hooks are the norm for dealing with current, which is something I’ve not used in any other destination. Our reef hooks were deployed on plenty of dives, with our shark dive at Miyaru Kandu, Vaavu Atoll, being one of the best examples. Here we descended to a 30m ledge with a strong incoming current and hooked onto the rocky edge. Once all the divers had arrived and settled in, the grey reef and white tip sharks cruised along in the blue in big numbers. At that depth we didn’t have too long to stay and watch before we had to head shallower and drift along the reef, but the time to relax and watch the sharks swimming by was quite awesome.
Other dive highlights include spotting turtles eating, watching nurse sharks at night, seeing a pod of dolphins underwater and even getting a fleeting glimpse of a whale shark at Lux Beyru, Ari Atoll. Not all of the trip highlights took place in the water though, as the food served on board certainly deserves a mention! Each day we were treated to excellent quality breakfast, lunch and dinner, but no meal would top the outdoor BBQ dinner towards the end of our trip. The crew on the boat cooked up a real feast, and it was topped off by an incredible spread of desserts to finish. The boat and dive crew play such a vital part of the trip, so this special meal gives everyone a chance to say thank you for everything done for us.
The superb diving, amazing wildlife, top quality food and luxury dive boat all play a part in delivering a super dive holiday, but one thing I have yet to mention is having great dive buddies to share your experiences with. I was very lucky to take a group of awesome divers on this trip with me, who are not only my dive buddies but my friends too! Sitting around each evening after the day of diving, chatting over what you’ve seen with a cold beer is a really great feeling, and that’s one of the things that will stay with me for a very long time. Diving is such a great activity that attracts like-minded people, and spending ten days on a boat with them was a real pleasure.
Thank you to everyone who came on the trip for making it one of the best dive holidays I’ve been on!
WRITTEN BY GREG PARKER, FOUNDER AND PROFESSIONAL SCUBA DIVING INSTRUCTOR
Written by Greg Parker,
Founder and Professional Scuba Diving Instructor
I’m Greg, the founder and professional Scuba Diving Instructor at Hidden Depths Scuba School. The school was established in 2012, and along with my fantastic team of staff, we offer high-quality training courses to everyone from total beginner through to your first steps as a dive professional. As well as a busy training centre we also run an active dive club, allowing students and fellow divers to continue diving and explore the amazing dive sites we have in the UK and abroad! I look forward to hearing from you, and sharing a dive together soon!”