After finishing my divemaster training in Koh Tao I wasn't a happy diver. I have written about my experience there at length and some rightfully pointed out that I and my expectations were probably part of the problem. I get that now, in hindsight, as so many other things. But regardless of what and how it went wrong, I left Koh Tao not feeling very confident in my diving skills. What was worse I felt a bit … meh ...about something that I used to love so much.
I needed a way to rekindle the flame and diving in the Maldives seemed to be the cure for my rocky relationship (with the underwater world that is). August is definitely not the best time to travel to the Maldives. But offseason not only means bad visibility but also meant cheap flights and all of a sudden I had pressed 'book' and gotten myself a oneway Condor ticket to Male.
I packed my scuba diving equipment, my brand new regulator that Scubapro had sent me after completing my divemaster, and got yet another scuba certification, Nitrox, on a rainy afternoon in Hamburg. Then I was off.
I was headed to Hadahaa deep in the south where you will find some of the best resorts in the Maldives. The Park Hyatt Hadahaa in the Gaafu Alifu Atoll is one of them and they had invited me for a much needed Solomoon and to take my first Maldivian underwater steps.
I arrived at lunch time (after losing an hour thanks to their island time, something I am still grumpy about) and was literally thrown in the deep end. Could I do my intro dive in the afternoon? By then I was itching to get underwater and so I didn't think too much and just packed my equipment. If the baby reef sharks in the shallow water were any indication of what was to come, I had no time to waste.
Diving in the Maldives
Even certified divers have to do an intro dive when they want to go diving in the Maldives. This is used to assess divers' abilities and have them practice or repeat skills if necessary. I told my instructor what I had been doing for the last two months and that I was happy to wash my own equipment once more but would not do any skills. He was happy to just take me for a fun dive at Hadahaa's house reef.
I ended up practicing mask clearing skills nonstop though as my new mask that didn't fit well (thank you person who stole my brand new Scubapro!) and kept fogging up. Still, I was in underwater heaven. Or as I kept on saying to myself – Toto, we ain't in Kansas anymore! It seemed fitting that the first fish I saw was a beautiful bluespine unicornfish because it didn't feel very real.
The next day it got only better because I got to experience the true meaning of 5-star diving at a 5-star resort.
Now let's be real here – I don't mind carrying, setting up and washing my own equipment, but I don't like it very much either. With that said, it was incredibly nice to not have to do anything but squeeze into my wetsuit and roll into the water.
Our first dive at Dhandhoo Kandu was quite something. I had not experienced such a strong current before and am ashamed to admit that at some point I was straddling a coral in order not to get swept away. It would have been funny if not for the poor coral and the fact that I was quite a bit scared and very aware of my own shortcomings as a diver.
Luckily I had an amazing instructor by my side who not only got me through the dive safely but made sure that eventually, I enjoyed the show as well.
Surface interval brought big fluffy towels, a bento box full of snacks and hot tea in a real cup. Mind you, while that was a nice addition it is not a luxury I need when diving. And no matter how luxurious what happens on the surface, the real luxury happens underwater in the Maldives. These dives were only the beginning.
A few days later I boarded the Floating Resort by Scubaspa, an ultra-luxurious liveaboard. And yes, I remember what I just said about luxury and diving. But after my first liveaboard experience in Sipadan that I could call basic at best, I wanted something more. Not even fancy but some creature comforts for the time I wasn't spending underwater. I did not want to see the crew's underwear drying in the wind, not have enough hot water to last a shower, and not a bed that was directly underneath a leaking ceiling. In fact, I didn't want to see or know about any leaks at all. You know, little things...
Luckily Scubaspa seemed happy to oblige and topped it off with one of the most impressive wine fridges I had seen in a while and the best dive crew ever. While I mainly saw the contents of the wine fridge from the outside it was nice to know it was there.
What followed was a week of adventure and fun. Some may call it a holiday, an unusual feeling for yours truly. I voluntarily got up every morning by 6 am (a novelty for this night owl), gulped down a coffee and was ready to jump into the water an hour later.
I developed a case of massive diving FOMO - what if I missed a dive which would turn out to be THE dive?
Shumi, my dive guide kept on promising better and better dives, and I don't know how but he managed to deliver (except when we went looking for whale sharks. I am starting to think I have jinxed that one...).
The week cumulated in a night dive with nurse sharks and stingrays. A lot of nurse sharks and stingrays. One tried to make out with me, well, sort of. It became the highlight of my year even though I was slightly terrified, Steve Irwin and all. Mind you, my stingray was kinder as were the nurse sharks.
What struck me the most during our dive was the respect of our dive guides Mox and Jah Vid. They stood, sometimes sat amongst the sharks, just observing, being still. The sharks were allowed to touch (or cuddle up in their case) but they didn't touch in return. And I liked this. Just because you can touch certain wild animals doesn't mean you should. Not only for your own benefit (also nurse sharks can hurt you) but mainly for theirs. I get very irritated when I see hotels and dive centers that endorse the touching of any marine life so I was happy to see that there are other ways to enjoy encounters with these beautiful creatures that are no less thrilling.
My two week Maldives holidays passed way too quickly. And luckily they came at just the right time for me personally. To help me get over my diving apathy after my divemaster training and to help me get through of what was to come in my personal life. Because looking back at those times I can still remember the ultimate happiness whenever I took a breath of compressed air. I think all the lifestyle gurus are right - all you need sometimes is to take a deep breath.
Tips for Scuba Diving Maldives
- I came to the conclusion that there is no best time to visit the Maldives and in fact, even offseason can show off impeccable sunshine. While the Maldives weather in August can be a mixed bag, I think it's worth taking the risk as a lot of resorts and tour operators will offer better prices.
- Liveaboards in the Maldives will simply take you to the best dive spots depending on the weather and conditions.
- All divers need to do an intro dive and the maximum depth for everyone is 30m regardless of certification. That is important to observe while you are diving because most insurances will not cover you should you dip deeper by mistake and there is an issue afterward.
- Get Nitrox certified beforehand to get the most out of your dives. Many resorts and liveaboards offer free Nitrox diving once you got your certification.
- Take enough bikinis but generally don't overpack. Most Maldives resorts including the Park Hyatt Hadahaa and the Scubaspa are a shoe free zone. After all, champagne tastes better when drunk barefoot.
- For a post full of information about planning a trip to the Maldives and the costs involved check out this awesome post by Janet.
Have you dived in the Maldives before? Where did you like it best?