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Cruising & Diving - The Magnificent Maldives By Linda Cartlidge

Posted Nov. 12, 2016, 2 p.m.

Cruising & Diving -

The Magnificent Maldives

By Linda Cartlidge

 

(This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 30)

 

One of the best and most fascinating destinations in the world for a yachting dive trip, the magnificent Maldives, is growing in popularity year after year. Interspersed amidst an amazing variety of marine life, clear cool waters (26-290C) and stunning barrier reef dive and snorkeling spots are magical luxury resort islands with gorgeous unparalleled anchorages.

The Maldives Archipelago consists of 26 atolls of entirely natural formation that make up the chain of low lying islands and only a few of the islands are inhabited. Formed from coral layers, the islands are flat with the highest point being rarely more than six feet above sea level, protected from monsoon devastation by the reefs that surround them.

Located in the Indian Ocean, 670 km south-west of Sri Lanka and covering an area of 3002km, the Maldives were originally settled by its Dravidian inhabitants from southern India, perhaps as early as the 4th century BC. It is also worth noting that the Maldives became a full member of the Commonwealth in 1985.

In recent years the archipelago of coral islets and deep blue seas has become known for its abundant reefs and rich sea life that offer incredible dive and snorkeling options. Yachtsmen and women have discovered fantastic cruising in weather that’s generally ’picture perfect’ - featuring sunlit days, breezy nights, balmy mornings and iridescent sunsets. Crafting a ‘yachting dive dream’ sample itinerary, Mohamed Hameed and his leading yacht agency team at Asia Pacific Superyachts Maldives invite you to view the following options from which they can craft a personal and unique itinerary.

Maldives Dive Itinerary– Dive & SnorkelingOptions                                                                                                                                       

DAY 1

NORTH MALÉ ATOLL 

Set off on your journey in the early morning and head into the remote jewel like islands of the Maldives that sit amidst the island-chic pleasures of the Malé Atoll, home to one of the world's smallest capitals, Malé city. In the afternoon cruise to a magnificent resort – such as One&Only Reethi Rah, Gili Lankanfushi or the Angsana Ihuru Resort Island.

You can snorkel on a house reef at Angsana Ihuru and find yourself swimming with a multitude of fish, turtles and corals, all bedecked with an amazing array of colours. Later relax as you watch a beautiful sunset followed by your evening meal onboard as you sit at anchor or at the Angsana Ihuru while enjoying a ‘Bodu Beru Night’ of local culture and music.

DAY 2

BAA ATOLL

Your APS agent can arrange for a Dive Guide, to either ‘live aboard’ or to meet you at Baa Atoll. A live aboard Dive Guide can conduct beginner through to advanced scuba classes onboard your vessel or as an alternative you can select to use a dive guide at one of the many resorts.

Baa Atoll – the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is blessed with vibrant inner and outer slopes, wide edges and fascinating terraces and the Maldivian reefs are a destination in themselves with a population of over 1,000 species of fish. The reefs also feature many of the most beautiful corals in the world and pristine white sandy beaches. You can enjoy an early lunch before swimming in the crystal clear waters of the lagoons or dive on the reef and later gaze at the sunset with your favorite cocktail in hand.

The Atoll is also famous for having some of the best restaurants of the Maldives’ resorts. Here you’ll enjoy fantastic marine experiences on the pristine waters offshore and wonderful culinary encounters onshore. Reported as among the ‘Top 10 Best Restaurants’ are: Fresh in the Garden and By the Beach at Soneva Fushi Resort Island; SEA, the amazing undersea restaurant at Anantara Kihavah Island; and Al Barakat at the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru.

DAY 3

BAA ATOLL

The sea surrounding the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru and the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve have consistently warm waters with outstanding visibility. The Four Seasons Resort’s PADI Five-Star IDC Centres offer morning, afternoon, sunrise, night and other specialty dives on request. Here you can immerse yourself in enormous shoals of butterfly fish and oriental sweetlips as you drift the channels with white tips, hammerheads and whale sharks.

As you descend deep sea ridges you’ll swim with eagle rays, giant napoleons and blue marlin; at dawn you can spot turtles and at dusk, dolphins. There’s mass seasonal gatherings of manta rays that inhabit  the vast reef-formations and unique ‘Maldivian Thilas’ (a Thila is a Pinnacle or shallow area in the open ocean; some have natural coral reefs with rich marine life making these exhilarating sites popular dive spots).

DAY 4 - 5

ARI ATOLL

A must visit Atoll and home to some of the best scuba diving spots in the Maldives, many divers consider its sites to be the best in the country.

Topographically, Ari Atoll diving differs from other areas in the Maldives as it does not feature many long stretches of barrier reef. Instead, there are many Thilas where the submerged pinnacles both inside and outside the atoll lagoons act as sites of marine aggregation - making for wonderful diving both in and around the pinnacles and in the kandus (channels).

The Rasdhoo Divers company cover Ari atoll, both north and south, including Hammerhead shark point near Kuramathi Island Resort and this is one of the few places left in the world where you can still see these magnificent animals. Rasdhoo Divers reports: “It’s a spectacular dive as you jump into the 29C water in the soft light of dawn and then descend 30m into the blue and as the surgeonfish accompany us as we hover in the deep waiting for the hammerheads (up to 4 meters long) to appear from the depths, it is quite magical.”

Even though diving at Ari Atoll can be a little dull by comparison to many other dive destinations due to the strong currents the destination is chosen for its reputation of regular encounters with large marine life. Hammerhead sharks, manta rays and other pelagic fish are more commonly encountered around Ari Atoll than elsewhere and even the mighty whale shark regularly puts in appearances, especially in its marine protected areas. Ari Atoll leads the way when it comes to cleaning station hotspots: Donkalo Thila in west Ari; Rangali Madivaru in the south west Ari; and Kudarah Thila in the south east Ari.

Fish Head is an Ari Atoll pinnacle and a favourite site to view packs of grey reef sharks as they buzz past in search of food and the area is also enriched with trains of fusiliers and batfish.

Although there are spots elsewhere for sharks and mantas the most reliable sites are located here. Maamigili's plankton rich waters at the southern tip of the atoll allow scuba divers and snorkellers the opportunity to get up close with a whale shark at Gangehi Maavaru in the northwest.

Maaya Thila – here many different corals and spot turtles, eagle rays, colourful parrotfish and schools of yellow and blue midnight snappers can be viewed. This site is singled out as the number one dive site in the Maldives and features many of the qualities that typify Ari Atoll diving, most notably an inspiring profusion of life.

Characterised by vast coral formations that top out just beneath the surface, colourful crevices and coral-filled overhangs, Thilas are excellent for close encounters with all sorts of marine life, from schooling reef fish and turtles to numerous species of shark, including the elusive guitar shark. A dive most likely begins in dropping down a line from a reef-top mooring, to which you will return if the conditions allow. In little or no current this can be suitable for all diver levels, but the current is very changeable so the experience and discretion of the boat crew are important. All around the shallow section watch for nudibranchs, flatworms, frogfish, honeycomb and zebra morays, as well as the occasional octopus eyeballing any who dare approach. Dropping down further you’ll marvel at the vibrant colours of the soft coral and view almost endless sea life.

DAY 6 – 7

SOUTH MALÉ ATOLL

With many different channels and coral reefs and even a wreck (Kuda Giri Wreck), the marine life of this Atoll is not to be missed. Big pelagic fish, plenty of soft corals, caves, eels and sharks are just a few of the highlights of scuba diving here. With multi-coloured schools of fish in huge numbers as well as one very good dive wreck, South Malé Atoll is considered one of the best stay over diving spots in the area.

Among the most popular and impressive dive spots in the South Malé Atoll for a custom itinerary by Mohamed and his team, are the following:

Cocoa Thila – is a large, deep water pinnacle on the outer edges of the atoll with many ravines and overhangs for shelter from the strong currents that attract a vast variety of fish.

Kandooma Thila - one of the best dive sites and a fairly small pinnacle that reaches its shallowest point at 13m with the sandy bottom at 35-40m. The small channel between the thila and the reef usually creates a strong outgoing current and presents a great show!

Kandu (channel) - diving involves exciting drift dives along the nutrient-rich currents that flow between the Maldives island chains. Sightings include eagle ray and sharks, as well as migrating pelagics such as manta rays and whale sharks.

Embudhoo Kandu - this channel is known for sharks and is a marine protected area as it supports a large population of grey reef sharks and white tips.

Guraidhoo Kandu South - among the most impressive locations for fish life and photography, it is one that is topographically complex with chiefly two channels and a central reef. It covers a large area that can be dived several times in different ways and can be subdivided into several separate sites.

Kuda Giri Wreck - dominated by the small wreck that lies upright on the South Malé seabed between 30 and 15m in depth, the name of the site describes the giri, or pinnacle, which is found nearby, considered a dive in its own right.

Medhu Faru - is at its best when the current is flowing into the atoll. Descending the dive begins from the ledge at around 30m over a sheer drop and then into the inky blue water.

Vadhoo Caves - is an opportunity to explore amazing caves and caverns. It’s said, “Dipping into each cave is like stepping off a conveyor belt into the relative calm of each cavern before re-emerging to be carried to the next.”

It is possible to dive in the Maldives all year round. The wet season with rain, winds and waves that reduce the visibility runs from May to August, but the diving is still good as the rains are usually heavy followed by sunshine. The best visibility and dry weather runs from December to March. The hottest season is from April to June. The high plankton density in May reduces visibility but does attract Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. 

The best season for Scuba Diving is from January to April with very good visibility and excellent sea conditions with most of the dive sites being between 10 to 20m deep.

Mohamed and his team at Asia Pacific Superyachts can create a unique dive cruise for yachts and look forward to assisting yachts interested in a ‘Magnificent Maldives’ dive trip.

Contact:

[email protected]

www.asia-pacific-superyachts.com