Check out Naz's account of his first ever trip to the Maldives.
It was spectacular, it was breath taking it was serene,
it was so much better than what I ever could have expected..
After a 6 hour flight from Manchester to Dubai and then another short hop of about 3 and half hours, we heard the words "Please return to your seats and prepare for landing".. The view from the window was one of glorious turquoise waters peppered with a plethora of atolls, we knew we had arrived somewhere special!
The airport is on a small atoll with the (only) runway spanning its entire length and it’s quite remarkable how they manage to land such big planes on such a small runway, but they always do, thankfully! The transition through the airport was quick, and we soon emerged from the arrivals area, to be rewarded by lush green palm trees and the warm, clear waters of the Indian Ocean.
We jumped onto the Dhoni (small boat with a low deck. It holds the compressor and all your dive kit and is used for most of the dives during your trip), and took the short ride to Emperor Atoll, which was to be our home for the next 2 weeks. Once on board we enjoyed a welcome drink as we were introduced to the crew and our dive guides, then unpack and got our your dive kit setup, that’s all the hard work done now, time to relax and just enjoy the rest of the day.
Our first day was at a relaxed pace, woke up around 6.30am (that’s practically a lie-in!), had a quick coffee and biscuit or three, and listen to the dive brief. Before we knew it we were changed into our budgie-smugglers (or beach shorts, if you’re posh!), jumping into the dhoni, kitted up and traveling to the dive site.
Kit on, buddy checks done.. ready?.. let’s go! This was not an ordinary check dive, grey reef sharks, turtles and sometimes even a ray or two and it’s just our first dive in the Maldives!
After the dive, the dhoni took us back to the main boat where breakfast was waiting and while we consume said breakfast, the dhoni travelled a short distance away to start the compressors and re-fill the tanks, leaving us in blissful serenity. After breakfast, we simply relaxed on the sundeck until the next dive. The second dive was just before lunch, followed by a late afternoon dive. Dive-Eat-Sleep, that will generally be your routine for the week! This was our first day,
also the easiest day, for all other days, wake up time was anything between 5 and 5.30am! however, the sun was above the horizon by the time we got to the dive site so it’s not too bad!
Channel Diving – woop-woop!. This is where the excitement really begins! Channel diving is where all the action is, where all the big critters hang out and one of the most thrilling types of diving you will ever do!. The diving takes place at the mouth of a channel where two currents meet. You have the normal oceanic current and then a secondary channel current that is caused by water flowing into the channel mouth from the ocean.
At the start of the dive, you get dropped off a short distance away from the channel mouth, giving you time to compose yourself before things go up a notch!. On approach to the channel mouth,
the current begins to pick up and gets very strong, very quickly as it draws you into the channel. Find a place to hook on and then simply watch the life around you.
You don’t have to go looking for sea-life on a channel dive, it’s there within arm’s reach and in great multitudes. It is not uncommon to find grey reef sharks in numbers of 30 or more, just cruising bye or hanging in the water a few meters away from you, accompanied by sting rays, big groups of mobula /devil rays and so much besides.
When the dive ends, you release your reef hook and just let the current take you further into the channel, it’s like a drift dive, but on steroids!. As you travel further into the channel, the current drops off and things slow down to a more leisurely pace. Now you can just pootle around until the dhoni comes to pick you up.
And that is just the start!.. The night dives are out of this world and then there’s the manta cleaning stations when you sit still and watch anything from 5-10 manta rays just circle around you/over you and next to you as they are being cleaned, that is an experience that cannot be fully expressed in words.
The day before we left we travelled back to Male, here we were offered an opportunity to go to the main island of Male. It’s a great afternoon, giving you the opportunity to find your ‘land-legs’ again and to get a glimpse into the daily lives of everyday Maldivians. Have a walk through the fruit and veg market and if you have a strong stomach, visit the fish market. But if the noise gets a little too much, there is a fairly large park within walking distance from the harbour, where you can surround yourself in bird song and lush green vegetation, a chance to reflect on the week’s diving before the flight home the following day…
Those are the memories of my first dive trip to the Maldives. It was spectacular, it was breath taking it was serene and it was so much better than what I expected..
’It can’t have been *that* good!’.. I hear you say.. well, before that first trip we (dive buddy and myself) decided that the Maldives would be looked upon as a rare treat and something we should plan to do once every 3-4 years…this year will be our 5th consecutive year for a visit to the Maldives… It’s too good to be used as a ‘rare’ treat!, we just can’t get enough of the place!