Disclaimer: This was a sponsored trip as I was invited to come aboard the Blueforce One for a liveaboard trip in the Maldives.
The Maldives is one of my favorite countries, both for an ultra-luxury lazy beach holiday and scuba diving. Ever since my first trip there a few years ago I was hooked: sharks, mantas, dolphins, huge schools of tropical reef fish, and even my favorite: frogfish. There is something for every scuba taste and most islands, both local and resort, are home to dive centers which will show you the best diving in the area. Mind you, the Maldives are quite vast and conditions can vary depending on the season which is why I think the best way to go is a Maldives liveaboard.
As the name implies, a liveaboard is a ship where you ‘live aboard’ and is a designated dive vessel that will take you to various dive sites. Depending on your taste and budget you can go for a luxury yacht or a simple schooner with dorm-style cabins. What they have in common is their purpose to give you as many diving opportunities as possible throughout your trip. You will get to see the best dive sites in an area or a country as your liveaboard travels in between dives and doesn’t have a base since you sleep and eat aboard. Simply said: it is a cruise for divers.
There are plenty of options for (mainly) luxury Maldives liveaboards and sometimes it can be hard to find the right one for you. Since I already had an amazing dive trip with the Blueforce fleet last year, I was incredibly excited when they invited me back on board this September for a week of cruising and diving the Central Atolls. Read about my adventure below or jump straight to my answers to the questions: Is a liveaboard suitable for solo divers?, The Maldives liveaboard budget, What are the requirements for a Maldives liveaboard? & What I didn’t like during my Maldives liveaboard.
All aboard the Blueforce One
The Blueforce fleet is one of the premier liveaboard operators in the world with boats in the Maldives as well as in the Red Sea of Egypt and Sudan. Their Maldives liveaboard diving operations are divided into the Central Atolls Classic, South Hemisphere, and some specialty routes depending on the season and your interests. The Central Atolls Classic route conveniently starts and ends at Malé airport, which was perfect for me since I was coming straight from Kurumba. We departed directly from the airport with our dhoni and made our way to the Blueforce One.
Read more: Discover Kurumba – Maldives’ Hip Granny.
In the Maldives, liveaboards are always accompanied by a so-called dhoni, named after traditional Maldivian boats, which takes you to the dive sites and houses the diving equipment and tanks.
Honestly, after my first liveaboard experience in Sipadan, I was a bit scared to ever board another (it is just not very reassuring when water is dripping inside your cabin) but Maldives liveaboards are different. Aboard the Blueforce One, you will find various spacious cabins which not only offer dry ceilings but also portholes or windows, comfy beds, aircon, and a spacious bathroom with hot water. The latter is not a given on liveaboards but comes in handy when you are coming from a night dive – even in balmy Maldivean temperatures.
There is plenty of space on the upper decks which include a huge indoor lounge were briefings and nap times are held, an outdoor dining area, a bar and lounge area as well as two sun decks with jacuzzis. My personal favorite? The oversized sunbed in front of the captain’s cabin!
Days onboard started early with a wakeup call at 6 am for the first dive. A quick coffee, dive briefing and we were off to the dhoni which took us to our first dive site. Afterward, it was time for a proper breakfast followed by dive number two and lunch. Depending on the conditions and schedule we would cruise in between dives to get to our next dive sites aka nap time.
Most dives in the Maldives are either at a thila (an underwater pinnacle) or in a channel where currents bring lots of marine life including plenty of sharks if you get lucky. In addition, we did a few dives which took us to specific manta cleaning stations as well as two at the Malé fish factory. Unfortunately, I can’t show you pictures of those since my GoPro had died but you can read all about them here:
Let’s just say that you should beg your cruise director to go there and make sure to bring your camera!
Another highlight of a liveaboard trip with Blueforce One are the night dives. One is done specifically to see nurse sharks, the puppies of the ocean, and one to build your own little manta feeding station. And even though I am usually not the biggest fan of night dives I absolutely loved those!
As far as land-based activities go, we visited a local island, had a Malé tour included at the end of the trip, and a beach BBQ. Leave it up to the divers to gobble down some food, have ice cream, and then play in the water for hours again. Who wants sandy feet after all?
A highlight for many divers was our whale shark safari. While I had seen whale sharks before we got incredibly lucky this time as we saw two. Mind you, since boats inform each other when whale sharks are sighted it can get quite crowded and rough in the water with fins kicking left, right and center.
But still, you might just get lucky, jump in, and a whale shark is coming straight at you. And as Murphy’s Law would have it, if that happens to you too, chances are your camera is dead. I still loved it enough that I am putting swimming with humpback whales in Tonga on my to-do list next!
As it goes with all dives, sightings are never guaranteed but the amazing crew does their utmost to find you a whale shark, mantas or whatever else your diving bucket list may desire. Which for me was an elusive pink frogfish!
Is a liveaboard suitable for solo divers?
It depends on the liveaboard and how dive groups are organized. However, Blueforce organizes small dive groups by skill levels so even if you don’t have a buddy you never dive alone.
Cabins are allocated on a sharing basis and since I was traveling alone I was paired with Miwa from Japan who was also a solo diver. Best of all – you don’t need to pay a single supplement (unless you want a room to yourself of course) and cabins are large enough to house two people as well as two sets of luggage comfortably.
And needless to say, you tend to make friends aboard quickly and won’t have to eat alone!
What about the Maldives liveaboard budget?
You can see the Blueforce schedules and rates here. In general, I would say that diving and cruising with them is very good value for money. Considering that the Maldives is an expensive destination and diving is an expensive sport, you get a lot for your buck here. Included in the rates is accommodation, three meals per day as well as unlimited tea, coffee, and water, 3-4 guided dives per day as well as insurance, and some shore excursions. You will have to pay port- and service tax extra, the latter is the tip for the crew and the dive guides.
And even if you like to have a beer or two after your dives, you will be happy to hear that a) you can (not a given in the Maldives) and b) prices are incredibly low compared to resort prices for alcoholic drinks.
Save for getting into your wetsuit you won’t need to lift a finger throughout your liveaboard trip. The staff to guest ratio on board is almost 1:1 so there is always someone to help you in or out of your gear, hand you a hot chocolate, make your bed or a fresh omelet in the morning. If you ever wanted to experience a 5-star dive service, this is it!
Another bonus: since you are departing from Malé airport you will not need to fork out for extra transportation within the Maldives. A huge saving since domestic flights and seaplanes cost a fortune.
What are the requirements for a Maldives liveaboard?
To join one of the Blueforce liveaboards you need to be at least a certified Open Water Diver. However, it is recommended to have an Advanced Open Water and at least 50 logged dives. You can do both your AOW and Nitrox certification onboard. While I have both I was surprised how reasonably they are priced – usually you will pay a lot more to get certified in a fancy location like the Maldives.
While you will be allocated to a dive group according to your certification, it does pay off to be able to deep dive and have some experience with currents. Equipment can be rented or bought onboard, however I took all of my own Scubapro equipment and was so happy I did. Dive computer, reef hook, and SMB are mandatory. If you don’t know how to use the hook or deploy the SMB ask your dive guide to show you.
Need to know what else to pack for your Maldives liveaboard trip? Find my complete packing list here:
What I didn’t like during my Maldives liveaboard
If you want to get in as many dives as possible during your holidays, there is no better way than to do a liveaboard trip. We were even joined by a honeymooning couple because all they wanted to do on their trip was dive. Luckily the Blueforce One is big enough that you can always find a quiet space if you need it and alternatively have company if you want some. As with any group trip, it will largely depend on the passengers how much fun you will have. Blueforce One usually has an international mix of divers and briefings are given in both English and Spanish.
To be honest, we had quite a few interesting characters on board this time around. It seems to be a liveaboard law that there is always this one person who immediately gives chase after being told to not chase the manta/shark. Urgh. And of course, there is always that one person who has to complain about some nonsense or other. Mind you, this is of course not Blueforce’s fault but if you go on a liveaboard make sure that person is not you and you show some extra love to the amazing crew. With that said, a special thanks to ever-patient Angel, Boukatty for finding me that pink frogfish, Asif for his neverending smile, and Senna for keeping the Pringles coming!
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