Think the Maldives is all about couples and honeymoons? Think again! Our accountant Sue took her family off for their annual holiday on board the Orion this August and what a time they all had!
“The Maldives has been on my wish list of places to go for a long time so to say I was excited to be spending a week on board Orion, was a bit of an understatement. My whole family dives and top of my son Rob’s wish list of things to see, since watching Blue Planet at the age of 5, was Manta Rays. As we were going on The Manta Madness Itinerary I confidently bet him £100 if we didn’t see any!
We arrived in The Maldives on the Monday morning after a comfortable direct flight, and taken on a short boat ride to Orion. There is no diving on arrival day which gave us ample time to sort out our equipment and be given a guided tour of the boat before catching up on some much needed sleep! Orion is simply stunning, with beautiful sun decks complete with proper sun loungers, a large lounge/dining area and spacious cabins complete with the best en-suite bathrooms I have ever seen on a liveaboard. There are also two suites available at a supplement and I would definitely recommend one if you want the ultimate cabin.
The next morning it was time to begin the diving for the week. After a briefing on board Orion we all met on the Dive Dhoni for the short transfer to the dive site. All diving while on Orion is carried out from Dive Dhonis, which are essentially self contained Dive boats, which house the compressor and all your dive equipment. I absolutely loved the Dhoni set up. There was plenty of room to kit up and the usual crates to store your kit. Entry and exit to the water was really easy, just a stride off one of the four Dhoni exits and a short ladder climb back after your dive. As soon as you were back on board a member of the helpful crew appeared with fresh coconut and there were always bottles of water plus a plentiful supply of towels available. It was then only a short transfer back to Orion, but should you wish you could go on to the Dhoni upper deck to soak up the sun or admire the views.
Diving on the first day was at Manta Point at North Male Atoll and I am pleased to say we saw four Manta rays, including one swooping right up to us while we we were doing our safety stop. Phew £100 saved and very, very happy son! We travelled overnight up to Baa Atoll where we spent the remainder of the week diving the numerous Reefs and Thilas (Pinnacles) in this area. Most of the time we dived with one of the excellent three dive guides, as they know all the sites so well and seem to spot things I would swim straight over, such as the leaf fish spotted on one dive.
Diving The Thilas normally involved a swim around the Pinnacle and a hang out in the up-current watching all the action, such as hunting Jacks, tuna, huge shoals of siverbacks and the occasional shark or eagle ray. Eyes were always kept open for a Manta ray swooping by overhead. The reef wall dives were equally stunning, one wall having the most amazing pink coral while on the last day Manta rays just kept gliding gracefully past us for the whole of both our dives.
One of the highlights of the trip was the snorkels we had with Manta rays between dives. On one occasion over ten of them kept swimming around us coming so close I thought they were going to bump in to me. Unfortunately the last day came around far to quickly and after another fantastic lunch,we set sail back to Male.
The crossing back was lovely, with a sea like glass and everyone up on the sun-deck relaxing, having fun and swapping stories from the week. Our special thanks to all the crew who looked after us so well, really going the extra mile to make everything just right. The itinerary had to be changed slightly due to weather conditions (It happens with diving) but complimentary wine was put on all the dinner tables.
The food aboard Orion is absolutely delicious, superb curries, fish and the best king prawns ever plus, much to my children’s delight, ice cream. I enjoyed the fresh fruit and proper coffee available on the boat as well.
The whole family thought it was probably the best holiday we have ever had and our children think we are the best parents ever! (Sorry this has changed now we are back home, we are the most miserable parents ever.) We would all definitely like to go back to The Maldives and dive some of the other areas as now I have been to The Maldives I can really appreciate the size of them and the huge diversity of the diving depending on which Atoll you are in.”