A few months ago, in March 2009, my boyfriend James and I went on what I can only describe as the holiday of a lifetime in the Maldives. For the last 10 years, since our first holiday together to the Bay Islands of Honduras, where we got certified as SCUBA divers, we have been keen “holiday-divers”. By this, I mean that we only dive once or twice a year, while on holiday. It’s a great hobby, because it encourages us to travel somewhere different each year. So far, we have been to Egypt, Thailand, Florida, Mexico, Australia and Malaysia, and all of the trips have been amazing. However, our trip to the Maldives eclipsed all other holidays in terms of comfort, service and most importantly, the marine life we saw there.
Travel to the Maldives is expensive, especially if you stay in one of the many gorgeous resorts, some of which are at least US$ 500 per night! As keen divers, when we were looking at the many options, it made sense to choose a liveaboard holiday. Until we started researching, I didn’t realize how very big the Maldives are. They cover an area of about 300 square kilometers, so if you want to visit a good selection of dive sites, staying in a resort is not feasible because you end up spending so much of your time in the dive boat travelling to and from the dive sites and less time actually diving. With the liveaboard option, you simply cruise around the archipelago on the main liveaboard and then jump into the smaller dive Dhoni that travels alongside the main liveaboard for every dive. This is great, because the smaller boat can get to shallower waters – so closer to the actual dive sites – and all the equipment is kept on board the Dhoni so you don’t have to drag it anywhere. Simply get into the Dhoni, put on your gear, and jump in the water. Of all the diving trips we have ever been on, we have never had such an easy experience. One thing’s for sure, the Maldives has definitely spoiled us!
There is a wide variety of liveaboards in the Maldives, all of which offer differing levels of comfort and amenities according to their price. While our budget wasn’t enough to get us one of the fanciest resorts, we were able to get one of the higher end liveaboard boats. So, we chose the Island Safari 2 Royal, mainly because it looks like one of those cool private yachts you see in places like Monaco and Key West. After all, when else are we going to get to spend a week living like kings for a fraction of the cost of renting a yacht like that? So, we booked for a 7-night “Scuba Safari”.
Our trip began with a long 14-hour flight from London to Male International Airport, connecting in Qatar. Long flights are something that we have grown accustomed to since our love affair with scuba diving began. Unfortunately, living in the UK, if you want tropical waters and the best coral reefs in the world, long flights are part and parcel. One good thing about London is that flights out of here are some of the cheapest in the world. Our flight to the Maldives cost just over US$1,000, which we thought was pretty reasonable. Once we arrived in Male, we were met at the airport by a representative from Island Safari 2 Royal, and were taken to the boat, which left from Male. We boarded the boat and waited a short while for all the remaining guests to arrive and then we set off.