Over the past few years I have been on four liveaboards in the Red Sea but this year I am going on a liveaboard booked through Tony Backhurst Scuba Travel, one of the most reliable agencies specialising in trips for divers I have travelled with.
Situated off the southwest coast of Sri Lanka, the Maldives is an archipelago consisting of a
group of 1190 coral islands in 26 Atolls which emerge from the Indian Ocean. Stretching over 820km from north to south and reaching 128km at its widest point, the Maldives has around 90 resorts, 200 inhabited and 900 uninhabited islands. Apart from being famous for the fact that the highest point on any of the atolls is only a metre or so above sea level (and therefore the whole country is at risk from the effects of global warming), they are also famous of the quality and variety of the sub sea level life.
In May, the air temperature and water temperature are both said to be around 28C and it might be around the end of the dry season.
Tides (and therefore current flow, something for which Male is notorious) are strongest at the full moon but I am going there about 7 days after a full moon so I am hoping not to have to use my reef hook too often.
The official Tony Backhurst “Best of the Maldives” itinerary (offering around 18 dives) for the week concentrates on the middle section of the Maldives and is described as:
After arriving in Male, you will transferring to your liveaboard for the week. Set up the kit and complete the necessary pre dive paperwork. The check dive is made at Maagiri and then the boat sets sail.
Is made for Thila diving with stops at Bathalaa Maagaakan Thila, Hafushia Thila and a night dive on Maaya Thila. This is a must do night dive with loads to see.
Carry on in South Male atol with dives at Dhnkalo Thila before a wreck stop at Fesdu, The day finishes at Meru Fanfushi.
Carry on the week with some classic dives at some of the Maldives' most famous dive sites. Splash in at Fish Head, followed by Emas Thila and Dega Thila.
Dives at Madivaru which is famous for the possible shark encounters you can have. The boat will then spend some time in a great area for finding whale sharks. If found, there will be a chance to snorkel with them. The final dive of the day is at Dhigurah Arches.
The boat will move off to South Male atoll. Here you can dive so many places but Kandhoo Maa Thila, the Kudagiri Wreck or Vadoo Caves. There is a great range of drift dives and pinnacles to explore here.
The final day offers 3 dives in and around North Male and will visit sites such as Mariu Faru, Banana Giri or Paradise.
Return transfers to Male airport are made on the final day.
The airline I am flying with to Male is SriLankan Airlines which is not known as one of the worlds great airlines and also has a variable reputation for punctuality – never the less one hopes that my two flights with them will be different to the norm. Their often erratic time keeping record means that I am having to drive to Heathrow because if the return flight were to be late, I would miss the last train home and have to spend a night on the airport floor.
Divers always travel with heavy bags despite the fact that they need few clothes during the week. My dive gear weighs in at about 22 kg and my clothes a massive further 3 kg! Helpfully Scuba Travel have negotiated a free increased weight allowance for their divers (to a maximum of 37kg) and so exceeding it when I check in at the SriLankan Airlines desk at Heathrow is not a worry since I cannot physically carry 37kg !
My boat for the week is the MV Orion which makes a lot of claims about its luxury, its facilities and comfort. How true
this is will emerge during the coming week. Outside of the experience of the dive guide and the quality of the dive briefings, the attentiveness of the deck crew before, during and after a dive and a good buddy, my priorities are usually restricted to reasonable food, an air conditioned cabin, fresh showers, a comfortable bed and the occasional beer.
To find out how much of this will be delivered – read on!