The Maldives are known as the divers' paradise. Located some 350 kilometers south-west of India, this archipelago is formed by 1200 islands, 80 of them being reserved for tourists (a number to be compared with the 50 in 2002, which clearly shows the growth of tourism in thic country). This increase in the number of resorts also let to a certain democratisation of the Maldives: very affordable hotels are now available, which was not the case 15 years ago. Access to the Maldives is always made through the capital, Male. Going through the customs might lead to problems: indeed, importation of alcohol, pork meat, publications with even slightly undressed women (which is considered as pornography) and in general any material offensive to Muslim is strictly prohibited. And luggages are passed through X-rays scanners. Then, you can reach your island either by dhoni (traditional boat), speed boat or hydroplane, according to the distance.
On the islands, the main occupation is diving... or sunbathing on the beach. Hotels are relatively isolated, and it is rather easy to get bored if you don't dive. Furthermore, diving centers usually limit the dives to 2 per day (with more restrictions on the arrival and departure date, see below). Therefore, if you really wish to enjoy your diving, a cruise is strongly recommended!
Fihalhohi (hotel and diving center)rating : 3 / 4 starscomments :This hotel has three types of accommodation: luxurious (with air conditioning, safe, bathtub and most important fridge), superior (shower with hot water) and standard (shower with cold water). Meals are served as buffet, and although the food was the same during the whole week, a large choice was available.
This island has the advantage of offering shore diving – which is unusual in the Maldives. Therefore, divers can enjoy their favorite sport more often and with more liberty. General organization is well-done, and divers can choose in advance the spots they wish to visit; those are presented with a map and precise sketches.
Other activities are also possible, including water-skiing and sailing. However, they are rather expensive! Note that the majority of the clients in this hotel are Swiss German, and therefore German is spoken a lot there.
Cocoa Corner + Cocoa Thilarating : 4.0depth : 30 mvisibility : low
The dive begins along a wall, following the current. Then, the divers can either swim in the direction of a thila, or decide to enter a canyon. Should the current be strong, it is advisable not to try to reach the thila... around which there is a high probability to see white-tip and grey sharks!
Although the visibility is low, the fauna is very rich: 2 eagle-rays, 2 white-tip sharks, 3 turtles, morays and barracudas.
Vaagali Faru Thilarating : 4.0depth : 30 mvisibility : limited
Dive at 30 meters with several white-tip sharks. We also met, around this thila, 1 eagle-ray, 1 napoleon and bigeye trevally. It is very important to start the dive at the right location, since swimming against the current will exhaust anybody. The dive usually ends on the top of the thila, at a depth of 6 meters.
Biyadoo Kuda Girirating : 3.0depth : 20 mvisibility : 10 m
A large thila, around which divers can swim in about 20 minutes. A couple of small caves, but seldom interesting fish, except perhaps an octopus.
Guraidhoo Channelrating : 3.0depth : 30 mvisibility : 15 m
Rather difficult dive: it is necessary to plunge quickly down to 30 meters, since otherwise you will be driven away from the interesting location by the current. This current is strong indeed, and the best thing to do is to cling to a rock, and hope that some pelagics will come. We saw 2 white-tip sharks, 7 eagle rays and 1 turtle. Lots of fish, but once the current has taken you away from the reef, you can only surface and wait for the boat.
House Reefrating : 3.0depth : 10-17 mvisibility : 10 m
Shore dive, from a sandy beach (the precise location is clearly indicated). The dive starts on a wall, on which unfortunately almost all the coral is dead. The biggest attraction of this site is a pipe through which the trash of the restaurant is expelled in the sea: hundreds of fish are there, waiting for their dinner. The brown substance coming from this pipe lowers the visibility.
The maximum depth of this dive is 17 meters. It is important to pay attention to the currents, as some of them will drag you away from the island. We saw 4 morays, remoras (which sometimes stick to the divers), trumpet-fish, bigeye trevally, a grouper and a huge tuna.
The orientation on this site is easy. Furthermore, a small wreck is located 25 meters in front of the hotel. However, the size of this wreck is small, and usually the dive does not last more than 40 minutes.
House Reef IIrating : 3.0depth : more than 30 mvisibility : 10-15 m
Also a shore dive, but this time form the opposite side of the island. Less artificial (there is no restaurant's pipe), this place is nevertheless a good location to see lots of fish: 1 blue-spotted ray, 1 white-tip shark. Nice dive, but again due to its configuration, there is a maximum dive time of 40 minutes.
Ramm Farurating : 3.0depth : 12 mvisibility : 5-10 m
Dive between 30 and 5 meters. Lots of fish there, with 2 white-tip sharks, a turtle that was seen from very close and no dolphins... that are said to be see sometimes at this spot. Although the visibility is good at shallow depth, it was unfortunately rather bad deeper (it is quite a frequent phenomenon at the end of the winter here). Interesting underwater landscape.
Rannalhi Bodu Girirating : 2.0depth : 30 mvisibility : 10-15 m
Lots of fish in the beginning, but their number diminished during the dive. Almost all the coral is dead, and the only interesting area is between 3-10 meters. We also saw 2 turtles.