Contrary to my expectations which had been set by many of the on-line reviews, the SriLankan Airways flight out was very good in terms of comfort and time keeping – we left on time and arrived a little early and the plane was only one quarter full which meant there were enough seats to create a bed if you wanted one. The last 30 minutes of the flight took us over some of the Northern Atols and unsurprisingly, they looked just like they were supposed to do.
Male Airport does not seem to be busy and after a 50 metre ride in a bus from the aircraft to immigration, it took only a few minutes to collect another passport stamp and get through Customs. All luggage is X-Rayed on arrival to check for contraband which here includes Alcohol and “Idols for Worship” as well as the usual drugs and pornography. Surprisingly, alcohol is readily available in the hotels and on the boats so I suspect the ban is more to do with economics rather than principles.
The airport takes up a whole island. The capital (below)
is on another island and takes up the whole island. After a very easy arrival, it was a short walk to the airport quayside
and then straight on to the MV Orion’s Dhoni
for the 30 minute trip to the MV Orion. The Dhoni is a sort of general purpose boat which we will be using this week as our dive platform and also our ferry around a atoll once the Orion has got us there.
First impressions of the boat (which has had a repaint from the picture on its web site) are that it does not quite live up to the luxury portrayed on the web but time will tell. It is very different to a Red Sea Liveaboard in that there is no dive deck (you dive from the Dhoni), it is longer and some of the bedrooms are said to be luxurious.
Because this trip’s divers were arriving on three different flights, there was no diving on the first day – not even a check dive much to everyone’s disappointment. This time of year (late May) is the period between the two Monsoons (South Western and North Eastern) and hence there is quite a lot of rain, as this
approaching tropical rain cloud evidences. When it rains, it absolutely pours and having just come from droughty
England it is the first time that we have not seen any real rain for months.
The temperature is 31C and the humidity is very high – something we all find difficult to cope with but experience tells us that within a few days we will have acclimatised.
The actual dive plan for the week seems to be to do three dives a day and two on the last day (17 dives) and to try to find Whale Sharks and Mantas as a priority although both are said to be in short supply and somewhat illusive at the moment.