Background info about me:
I’m the group specialist for Scuba Travel. When I started at the company, I wanted to get out to the Maldives as soon as possible. Not just because it was the Maldives, although this had a lot to do with it. So that when I visit my Recommended Dive Centres I know 1st hand what one of our most popular trips is like. In this trip report I will be reviewing the 7 night holiday on the Carpe Diem in Maldives May 19-27th 2017.
This was only my 2nd liveaboard. I had recently been to the North Red Sea (2 months ago). I have also dived in Spain and Malta with just under 50 overseas dives. So am still pretty inexperienced. For those not aware, one of the most obvious differences was that the Red Sea liveaboard has the dive deck on board. Where the Maldives boats have a separate boat called a Dhoni. The Dhoni is where the dive gear is located for the whole week. This means that in the Red Sea 50% of your dives are from a Rib. The other half are from the back of the boat. In the Maldives you always dive from the back of the boat and climb the ladder back at the end. Secondly the Maldives boats have so much more space (no dive deck). The rooms are much bigger and the communal spaces are larger too. Personally I prefer climbing the ladder rather than hoisting my self in to the rib, but many prefer the ribs, think it’s personal taste.
Three Things that surprised me:
1 – The amount of fish! I knew there was over 1500 different species out there. To see 350+ in 16 dives, was a real treat! The colours and variety were awesome!
2 – Sightings – I know a lot of sightings are sometimes down to luck. Most are being in the right place at the right time. To see 20 mantas on two dives. To see two Whale sharks in two dives. One BIG tick on my bucket list.
3 – Such good marine life leading in to the wet season. I’ve never seen so much fish on every dive, it was amazing. Especially as we were heading in to the wet season, just didn’t expect it.
Things I was anxious about:
1 – Travelling alone
2 – Currents
3 – Sharks
1 – Travelling alone:
Personally I thought the Maldives trip would be couples and groups. Making me a little anxious about fitting in, but actually there was a great mix. Typically I think the resorts are more geared towards couples. The trip I was on had a huge variety of people. We had couples/groups, friends and single travellers. All from, America, UK, Poland, Switzerland, Germany and Austria and everyone was so nice. It was a really good group dynamic. I felt at home from the off. All of the communal spaces were filled with people telling their diving stories and as we all got in the water at slightly different times we had all seen slightly different things, making for some awesome stories and sightings.
2 – Currents:
So in the Red sea we had a couple of dives with a current but was overall pretty flat. I went to the Maldives when it was turning in to the wet season where most of the dives had some sort of current. If I’m honest, and being a relatively inexperienced diver (under 50 dives), I was worried about the likelihood of currents.
However, I was made to feel completely safe in the water when the currents were there. We dived in small groups, with the guide who was right next to us so we didn’t feel over crowded. They insist on you going guided on every dive which was great because the same dive site can be completely different an hour apart with the changes in currents etc. Some dives we would need to use our reef hooks. You hook on to a rock or dead coral and hang in the water as the marine life swims by. There were also really cool drift dives. We would be dropped off over a reef or wall and let the current take you along. This was actually a pleasant experience. You got to see so much and there wasn’t much effort needed (making my air last a little longer than usual).
3 – Sharks:
Again was a little apprehensive about seeing sharks in the water for the first time, but they are beautiful creatures. We had a talk about not hanging out in the blue, or being isolated on the surface, or antagonise them (or any creature to that matter) before diving. A hand full of dives we hooked in and saw small groups of sharks swimming by. One of the dives was a shark cleaning station, where you hook in at the bottom of this underwater hill and stay close to the bottom. The sharks come to the top to be cleaned by the small fish. It was great to see, and really took the edge off of the scary persona I have over sharks, plus the majority of the sharks we saw were reef sharks or silky sharks and seemed a little inquisitive but not aggressive.
Then there was the Whale Sharks… We snorkelled with one and Dived with another, but more about this lower down… Incredible to dive with! A real bucket list experience.
Fish Fish Fish! Wow and I thought there was a huge variety of marine life in the Red sea, but on this particular week in the Maldives we saw over 350 different types of fish (verified by our marine biologist who was on board for our week). We were really lucky and on the first day we saw over 20 mantas. Later in the week we spent one morning searching for Whale Sharks, and got a tip off by a local fisherman that they were in the area. We managed to snorkel with one 8m long and then later on the afternoon dive we finished with a whale shark coming up to greet us who was around 6m long.
If you’re in to your coral then the Maldives have some of the best I have seen, which were fairly shallow. Some of the most incredible coral gardens lived at 5-12m, usually where we would finish our dives, and do the safety stops along the reef. What a treat. We could literally spend a whole dive in 5m happily, watching the clown fish in the Anemones and the huge schools of yellow snappers like clouds of colour hanging in the water.
The Carpe Diem is part of a fantastic fleet of boats in the Maldives. It’s sister boats are Carpe Novo and Carpe Vita. The Carpe fleet are developing a resort out there too, built for divers, which i’m really looking forward to watching the development of.
The communal areas on the Diem are spacious and perfect for relaxing, briefings and plenty of space for sunbathing. Even the roof of the Dhoni is a sundeck!.
The crew were really helpful, helping you on and off of the Dhoni, taking your weight belt and fins before you climbed up the ladder. They also helped you into your diving gear before every dive.
In the Maldives every dive is guided which is great. On the dives there was always 4 guides in the water. Usually we would dive in 4 small groups which was better for me as it felt less pressured and not too over crowded in the water. You would have the same guide each time you entered the water but they would change the order for each dive so each group took it in turns getting in to the water first/last etc. It was a good way to mix everyone up and space you out in the drift dives.
On board the Maldives liveaboards we eat all of our food outside at the back of the boat, in a buffet style. which is amazing and really good to keep the feel of the Maldives whilst you have the array of foods on offer. If the weather changes they have canvas sides that can enclose the area with comfort and ease, and is a great set up for the entire week
The food was fantastic. Breakfast, we had a mixture of pastries, fresh cut fruit, sausages and bacon, cereal, toast and Maldivian cuisine. Then lunch and dinner was a wide range of foods, with a soup of the day, pasta or rice dishes and then some of the tastiest fish and curried meals. The majority of the food (as you’d expect) was slightly spicey but had alternatives on every meal time. Some of the deserts were amazing too from traditional pudding to ice-cream to Maldivian mouse. I liked the variety and there was always something for everyone on our trip, old to young to experienced travellers and first timers.
Rib Vs Dhoni:
The northern Red sea was about 50% rib diving an 50% from the back of the boat, however the Maldives is diving from the Dhoni. For me diving from the Doni was much easier than climbing into the rib. There are ropes down the side of the boat you could hold on to whilst others got out of the water and up the ladder. The dive Dhoni had loads of space and even had a sun deck, where after a dive in the 30C heat was a perfect.
We flew out to Male with Qatar airways, and I found the flight really comfortable. The flight stopped for an hour or two on the way through and back via Doha airport. It was a lovely airport, very clean tidy and lots of vendors there. The flights we took were 4 hours then 7.5 hours. It had more film and tv choices than I’ve been used to on other flights. The food had a choice of fish, meat and vegetarian for the mains. They offered us drinks throughout the flight so never went thirsty. Overall impressed with the Qatar experience.
Flying in to Male Airport is one of the most beautiful approaches I’ve ever made to an airport, as you fly over the Atols and islands and can see all of the formations in the water and see the resorts. It’s beautiful.
If you’re contemplating a trip a little further afield and want to see a mixture of big stuff and little stuff then I would highly recommend the Maldives. For liveaboards they say 35-50 dives is a good bench mark of ability, but for me it was much more important to be still in the water, be able to hang in the water and control your buoyancy made a huge difference to air consumption and overall comfort on dives. I was much more confident in the water with 50 dives. The diving was incredible even heading in to the wet season. Opting for the Liveaboard instead of resort for me was perfect. We travelled around the various islands every day making up over 300KM in a week. There was rain, but it had passed within two hours. The temperature never dropped below 30C either so was glorious. I was absolutely buzzing when I came back from each and every dive, and would recommend this trip to everyone who’s on the fence! It really was as good as the stories I’d heard.