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Review: A marvellous time in the Maldives

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Review: A marvellous time in the Maldives

Review: A marvellous time in the Maldives
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One of our guests just returned from an amazing week in the Maldives onboard a dive liveaboard and popped us an email to thank us for the advice and help in booking her trip to the Maldives. “I had an absolutely fantastic time. Some great diving including my first ever encounter with a whale shark, an amazing night dive with the nurse sharks and rays at Alimathaa Jetty, dozens of grey reef sharks at Kan Thila and a very special encounter with mantas at Mahibadhoo cleaning station. The boat was great as well, comfortable, cracking dive guides and crew, excellent food and a nice bunch of fellow divers. Thanks again and I will definitely have Planet Dive in mind next time I’m looking to book a dive trip,” said Caroline Quinn.

Because she loved the trip so much, we wanted to find out more, so here are just some of the highlights from her dive holiday to the Maldives, along with some great videos and photos and tips and tricks for fellow travellers:

Caroline’s top 5 personal highlights from diving the Maldives
1. Spending a whole dive hooked up at 15m next to a manta cleaning station at Mahibadhoo, with several beautiful reef mantas circling back repeatedly to get a good look at us and enjoy our bubbles, sometimes hovering just half a metre over our heads.
 
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2. Watching tawny nurse sharks and blotched fantail rays hunting at night at Alimathaa Jetty – the nurse sharks, in particular, have very little concept of personal space and aren’t shy about bumping you out of the way or suddenly appearing right between your fins!

3. A drift dive at Kan Thila, flying along in the current and then hooking on next to the drop off at about 25m and sitting there as dozens of grey reef sharks and white top reef sharks went by in the blue, often just a few metres away.

4. A beautiful dive at Five Rocks, where the reef was in fantastic health with so many fish, gorgonians and sort corals in every direction that I didn’t know where to look next.
 
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5. My first encounter with a whale shark – snorkelling with it was a slightly crazy experience as dozens of snorkellers piled into the water off day-trip boats and it was a free for all with heedless swimmers happy to kick you in the face or swim over you! But we had the advantage of then being able to gear up, scoot down the reef and drop in ahead of it, having a much more peaceful encounter with it at about 12m as it cruised by, completely unbothered by our presence. Such a magnificent animal, and amazing to think that at around 7-8m the individual we saw was still just a juvenile.

Caroline’s tips for anyone planning a dive holiday to the Maldives

– If you aren’t Nitrox-certified, get your nitrox certification in advance or do it on board. A lot of the dives in the Maldives are at depth and most, if not all, of your fellow divers are likely to be on nitrox, as you’ll want to maximize your no-deco time when you’re hooked on at 25m watching dozens of sharks go by!

– Do keep one eye on the blue during every dive – you never know when a manta, eagle ray or reef shark will cruise by.

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– If you take photos of mantas which show their unique belly markings, do upload them afterwards to the Manta Trust website so researchers can log and track sightings of individual mantas as part of efforts to conserve these incredible animals.

– Pack motion-sickness tablets for when the boat cruises between atolls as the open water can get very choppy. Plenty of sun protection is also necessary for those surface intervals (ideally a biodegradable and therefore more reef-friendly product – I use JASON Natural Products kids sunscreen on dive trips). Also pack your snorkel, even if you don’t usually dive with it, for surface encounters with whale sharks or manta rays. I also find a product like Swim-eze ear drops helps to dry ears out after diving.

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– The Maldivian waters are warm and most people will be fine in a 3mm shorty but if, like me, you get cold easily after repetitive dives and want to make it easier to get into a wet wetsuit several times a day, pack a dive skin or rash guard and surf leggings. I booked onboard the Carpe Diem for my Maldives liveaboard holiday and the spacious and comfortable dive dhoni does have a hot fresh-water shower aboard and the hot water in the en-suite bathrooms aboard the main boat is plentiful, so warming up post-dive isn’t a problem.

– The dive guides, captain and crew work incredibly hard to make sure you have a great time and only have a few hours turn-around between you checking out and welcoming the next group of guests to the boat. Many of them are Sri Lankan and work for months at a time without being able to go home and see family and friends ashore. So do make sure you take enough cash to tip generously when you settle your bill on the last night – if in doubt a minimum of 10% of your cruise price is a good baseline (the crew pool all tips).

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