There were thousands of tropical fish, dozens of giant manta rays and more sharks than we could count. This is scuba diving in the Maldives.
We decided to give ourselves a treat after 1 ½ years on the road and booked a trip on a live-aboard dive boat in the Maldives. The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago of almost 1200 islands in 26 atolls in the southern Indian Ocean. Before our dive trip we spent a couple of days in the capital city of Male which is located on an island in the Kaafu Atoll. The island is crammed full of tall, cement high rises, hotels and apartment buildings that take over every square inch of the small island. The airport is even located on a separate island and connected to Male by a bridge. We watched one afternoon as planes took off and landed right along the water’s edge.
Maldives is a Muslim county. We visited two mosques, Old and Grand, Friday Mosques. There is a graveyard with mausoleums and gravestones on the grounds of the 17th century Old Friday Mosque. The mosque itself though, is covered in an overhanging metal roof which hides any architectural details. The only distinguishing feature is a large white and blue minaret at the front entrance. Across the street is the modest President’s residence called ‘The Mulee’aage’ with a beautifully manicured garden. Beside Old Friday Mosque is the large, gold-domed Grand Friday Mosque. It was prayer time when we visited so we weren’t allowed inside.
On our dive boat, Moonima, we spent the week motoring between the different atolls in search of the best dive sites. We cruised by numerous idyllic islands with perfect white sand beaches, turquoise waters and cabana-style hotel rooms on stilts above the water. Some islands were only small sandbars poking up through the ocean. They all looked amazing. During breaks between dives we stopped at a few different islands where we swam in the shallow, warm water. They are the definition of paradise where even the waves are a beautiful shade of turquoise.
At night large nurse sharks swam in the light at the back of our boat. One night the boat crew organized a beach party on an uninhabited island. The staff decorated the beach with Manta Ray sand castles, candles in the sand and even made a table and seats out of sand. It was such a lovely setting and we felt like we were on a reality TV dating show.
Diving in Maldives was like diving in an aquarium full of thousands of schools of tropical fish. Everything from the; pretty Moorish Idols and butterfly fish, funny looking Puffer Fish, and many types of sharks, rays and eels, to the unusual Unicorn Fish, Napoleon Wrasse and large Whale Sharks. The ocean currents are quite strong in the Maldives so a few times we didn’t even have to kick, we just floated, passing the coral reef as the current carried us along. A lot of coral was damaged from bleaching a few years ago, but we still saw a few areas of bright blue, yellow and pink coral.
The highlight was diving and snorkeling with Giant Oceanic Manta Rays. These massive beasts look like alien spaceships as they ‘fly’ though the water with their mouths wide open. They are huge at 5 -7 meters wide, yet are very graceful. The mantas circled around us as we held on to the ocean-bottom and watched in awe.
Another great dive was our night dive where we saw dozens of nurse sharks and stingrays. They swam around us as if we weren’t there, sometimes coming so close, we had to quickly move out of their way. Even though it was dark and these large creatures were swimming very near, it was a very peaceful and beautiful experience.
As we cruised back to the airport after a great week of diving we were accompanied by a large pod of dolphins. We could see them jumping and diving in the water ahead of us and then as we got closer, a few of them swam alongside the boat. It was a lovely ending to a great stay in the Maldives.
Coming up next: The backwaters of Kerala, India
To read about more of our adventures go to Destinations.
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