We went to Maldives for a holiday of sun, sea, and plenty of fun in the beginning of October 2013. This was the second dive trip of the year, the first was Anilao at the Philippines in January.
Two international trips in the same year, I can’t really ask for more. Anilao was mainly for macro (small creatures), while Maldives is famous for its’ awesome big marine animals. Perfect.
This post is about being on the cruise and the entire trip, there will be other entries with underwater photos detailing the dive sites and diving experiences.
For those who aren’t familiar with this paradise of a country, Maldives is located in the Indian ocean, about 400 kilometers south-west of India.
We took the Malaysian Airline flight that goes straight from KLIA to MLE. The airfare cost a little over RM 1,000 all inclusive. This was a promotional price, usual fare goes for around RM 1.6k.
Luggage weight limit is 30kg, but showing your dive card gets you another 10kg if you’re traveling to a dive destination. Air Asia also flies to Maldives now (via Columbo).
the airport at Male, Maldives
The flight to MALE took about 4 hours and we touched down just passed 10pm.
The airport is built on Hulhulé Island and while you can see the capital of Maldives – Male, the two islands are not connected to each other.
crystal clear water right outside the airport
Hence, instead of lines of buses and cabs, you have ferries and plenty of private boats picking up travellers.
Right from the get go, we were already impressed. By the airport there were crystal clear water, coconut trees, and gentle cool breeze. We knew that it was going to be a good holiday.
Before getting off the airport, we bought a local SIM card for data services. 22 USD gets you the “unlimited” data package that lasts a month, though unlimited really means 5 gigabytes worth of data before you get throttled.
Data coverage is surprisingly good, albeit the relatively slow speed.
plenty of liveaboard cruise ships parked near Male
We were transferred to Handy Cruise via a Dhoni, a multipurpose sailboat that’s equipped with a motor used in Maldvies. The Dhoni also serves as the boat that we used for diving, as well as a rescue boat in emergency situations.
Having a separate boat for diving ensures that the main boat that we spend most of our time in is always dry and clean.
aboard on Handy Cruise, where we spent the next 6 nights
The Handy Cruise is a pretty fine liveaboard boat, there’s a sun deck on top, followed by 5 cabins on first floor (two of which has built in jacuzzi), with access to front and rear of the boat. The entertainment area (with TV and sound system), dining room, kitchen, and the bar is on the main deck. There are five more cabins on the lower deck as well.
There’s a charging station for cameras & phones on the common area, and each room is also equipped with air conditioning with attached bathroom and hot shower. I’d say it is equivalent to a 3-4 star hotel.
light attracts planktons, which attract the beautiful manta rays
We logged 17 dives in 6 days, with the seventh day spent clearing nitrogen out of our body before flying home. As mentioned earlier, posts on diving will follow.
For two nights, the crews set up strong halogen lights at the rear of the boat. This attracts planktons and small fishes, which in turn attracts manta rays that feeds on planktons.
There was a single manta ray on the 2nd night of the trip, and two more that visited us on the 4th night. These magnificent creatures were some 6-8 feet across their wingspan, gracefully gliding through the water and doing back flips just beneath the surface as they feed.
Beautiful beautiful fish, and no, you can’t have it for ikan bakar.
on the ocean, you get beautiful sunset everyday
The cool thing about living on the ocean, or really anywhere around Maldvies is that you get beautiful sunsets every single day. There are no tall buildings or hills obstructing the view. It was magical.
Of course, if you’re an early riser, there’s sunrise as well, but who can wake up for that?
we parked near Machchafushi island on the 4th night
We cruised passed many small islands with beautiful resorts on them. The views are worthy of wallpapers and postcards. The photo above shows the Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa on the Machchafushi island, South Ari Atoll. Spending a night there cost something like RM 1,700.
We paid less than half of that per day, including, diving, food, board, and tips.
dolphins came by and played a bit in front of our boat
We were also extremely lucky. On the way crossing from South Ari Atoll to Maadhoo, we spotted a pod of dolphins. A few of them actually came and ride the wake of our boat for a couple minutes, it was the closets I’ve been to wild dolphins. You gotta be there to appreciate the moment.
food on board was not bad, we had sashimi for a few days after they caught this sailfish
Food on Handy Cruise is pretty good too.
While we’re diving, the boatmen sometimes go fishing (at non-reserve areas, of course), and they actually managed to net a 7 foot long sailfish on the 4th day of the trip. We dined on delicious sailfish sashimi for the next 3 days, cooked sailfish filet wasn’t nearly as tasty though.
Maldivian food is not very different from Indian cuisine, their dal is creamier, there’s plenty of seafood, and the meat of choice is usually chicken and the occasional beef. Since it is an Islamic country, everything is halal too.
Oh, the papaya from Maldives is also a lot juicier and sweeter than our Malaysian counterpart.
we stopped by Maadhoo island, beautiful place
On the penultimate night of our stay, we stopped by Maadhoo Finolhu, also known as the picnic island.
The long and slender island with white sandy beach on boat sides is used for nothing but to host picnics and bbq parties. This was the first time we got off the ocean after 5 days. You do get a little bit of “land sick” after spending so much time getting used to gently rocking on the boat.
BBQ party at Maadhoo island on the 5th night of the trip
The BBQ party was awesome, instead of a sand castle, we had a sand whale shark. The crew even set up disco lights and sound system. Good food, great company, and we danced through the night.
Stepping on the beach along the water line excites the bio-luminescent creatures to generate lights, it was like tiny dots of stars on the beach. I’ve never seen anything like it.
I think Michael Jackson must have gotten his inspiration for the Billy Jean music video from this.
On the last day, we spent a few hours on Male, the most populated island
On the last day of the trip, we got to spend a few hours on Male, the most populated island in Maldives with some 100k inhabitants.
The island is less than 6 square kilometers, with majority of traffic comprises of motorcycles traveling at maybe 15-20 KM/h. We visited the fish market and witness a master carving up a huge yellow fin tuna in just some 5 minutes, bought some souvenirs from the local gift shops, and spent some time at the fruits and vegetable market too.
By nightfall on the 7th and the last day of the trip, it was time to go. We reluctantly bid goodbye to the excellent crews on the Handy Cruise and left for the airport on the Dhoni.
It was an excellent trip and one that I hope I’ll be able to repeat in due time.