Ari atoll cruise
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 you will probably get bored if you don't dive. Furthermore, diving centers usually limit the dives at 2 per day (with even more restrictions on the arrival and departure date, see below). Therefore, if you really wish to enjoy your diving, a cruise is strongly recommended!
Iruvai (liveaboard)telephone : 0032 3 227 27 19fax : 0032 3 232 98 87address : Organised by:
GSA South Asian Charter
Van Breestraat 9
2018 Antwerp - Belgiumemail : firstname.lastname@example.org : www.sacharter.comrating : 4 / 4 starscomments :The quality of the staff is extremely important on a cruise. Iruvai has a skipper, Yann (former instructor at the French school of Glénans, very experienced: couple of years of navigation in the Maldives), a divemaster, Kuday (more than 3000 dives in the Maldives: knows the best sites and when to go there), and a cook, Kaka (who prepared, sometimes with the help of the skipper, original and excellent food). Thanks to this staff, we could enjoy the cruise in the best possible conditions.
Only a handful of guests are on board (maximum 8). It is therefore possible to take everybody's wishes into consideration for the planning of the cruise. Whether you want to dive, sail or only explore remote locations of the Maldives, this cruise is the best solution.
As all cruise boats, Iruvai can reach remote diving sites that are seldom visited. Although the El Niño phenomenon has touched the Maldives, killing lots of corals at shallow depths, you can still enjoy this archipelago at its best, since a cruise can bring you to the healthiest sites.
We really want to underline the high quality of service provided by the Iruvai staff, making your stay both interesting and highly pleasant. Isn't it nice to wake up in the morning and find the breakfast ready on the deck, just before going diving?"
Maaya Thilarating : 5.0depth : more than 30 mvisibility : 5-10 m
One of the most famous sites of the Maldives... This thila, which has a diameter of 80 meters and is located in a protected area, is the capital of white-tip s sharks. But some grey sharks can also be observed there. Sharks can be seen at all depths, from 8 to 30 meters. The current is rather weak, leading to a moderate visibility (lots of particles in suspension). We saw – apart from the sharks – 2 turtles, a small school of barracudas in deep waters, 1 lion-fish, numerous tuna, snappers, soldier-fish and box-fish. Lots of anemones.
Of course, this terrific site for sharks is visited by lots of divers. Try to be there when few boats only are present.
Fish Headrating : 4.0depth : more than 30 mvisibility : 15-20 m
This typical thila is located on a relatively deep bottom (40-50 meters), and at a fair distance of the closest island. Before the area was protected, in 1995, local fishermen used to hunt sharks on this site. With a diameter of about 80 meters, this thila hosts a large number of grey sharks (dagsit): it is common to see half a dozen of them on this site, which also features an interesting landscape: lots of caves and overhangs.
We also saw white-tip sharks, as well as a huge ray-shark (3 meters long, laying on the sandy bottom at 35 meters and accompanied by several remoras). Two grey sharks and a huge napoleon were swimming around the divers – coming very close to them. A second napoleon used to be present on this site, but he died recently, probably because of the food he received from divers. Nowadays, it is strictly forbidden to feed the animals: but since they still remember receiving food for years, it is recommended to be rather careful when approaching them, especially the morays.
On the top of this thila, the current is a little bit stronger. Lots of schools of fish (lutjans, etc). A yellow-head moray and a Maldives shrimp (dangerous species) were also spotted. A great site, where diving should be made early in the morning, before the crowd arrives.
Hudhookuda Thilarating : 4.0depth : 30 mvisibility : 15 m
Middle-sized thila, cut by canyons drawing a cross on its center. At 35 meters, a white-tip shark was seen on the sandy bottom. Again, lots of schools of fish were observed, as well as 4 puffer fish, 1 moray, 1 barracuda, groupers, gaterins, trumpet-fish, 2 nudibranchs, anemones (and of course their usual clown-fish). Perfect location for the first dive of the day (weaker current), lots of schools of soldier-fish can be seen. Marvelous hard corals.
Kalhahandhi Huraa (Panettone)rating : 4.0depth : more than 30 mvisibility : 10-15 m
This site is located around a desert island (150 meters long, 75 meters wide), on which there is no vegetation. The diving takes place on the North-West of the island, first on a gentle slope going from the surface to a sandy area at 35 meters. Several caves are created by overhangs, thus offering a refuge for pelagic animals. On the sandy bottom, white tip sharks and grey ones. Lots of tuna fish and bigeye trevally (kalhahandhi means bigeye trevally in the local language).
Then, one reaches a flat area at 15-20 meters, on which a large number of soft green corals create an underwater wood; lots of fish and mollusks, 2 turtles, 1 dog's teeth tuna, 1 huge octopus, 1 scorpion-fish and last but not least, in an area known by the divemasters, 2 mantas (3 meters wide, coming to see us a couple of times).
Speaking about mantas, it is important not to chase them when you see them; these animals are coming back to see the divers again – even if it can take some time – if they were not afraid during the first contact. You therefore should wait patiently.
Madivaru (Manta Point)rating : 4.0depth : 10-20 mvisibility : 10 m
One of the best spots to observe mantas. But be aware that they are not visible all year long: it depends on the direction of the current! It is therefore better to inform yourself before diving...
A flat area (10 meters depth), followed by a steep slope (down to 25 meters), with lots of balconies and large caves, in which, at a depth of about 20 meters, few fish, but 3 lobsters and a white tip sharks were observed. But the attraction takes place on the flat shallow area, were 4 huge mantas (4 meters wide) swam regularly around us. They definitely were not afraid of divers (they are much more impressive than we are, I guess). This encounter lasted 20 minutes, and there was no need to chase them. One of the mantas was flying above us, only a couple of meters away.
Rangali Outsiderating : 4.0depth : 12 mvisibility : 5-10 m
Very close to the Hilton hotel, this site offers a shallow dive (10-12 meters), on a flat bottom. At the mooring, a blue-spotted ray (1 meter diameter) was observed. Inspection of the caves can lead to nice discoveries: thus, we found a nurse shark (3 meters) sleeping under some corals! The rest of the dive was nice, too, with 2 turtles (definitely not afraid of us), a white-tip shark, a second ray, some morays, one lion-fish, nudibranchs, colored corals and sea stars. But most impressive was probably the packed schools of fish (bigeye trevally, snappers, and so on). This dive is really entertaining, as there is always something to see!
Unfortunately, visibility can be low, and the current strong.
Orimas Thilarating : 3.0depth : 25 mvisibility : 15 m
Thila located outside the Ari atoll, whose size is rather small (50/30 meters). Gentle slope on the West and North side, but steeper on the East . This thila is cut in the middle by a 12-15 meters deep canyon; however, swimming through it is not so appealing, since everything in it is dead because of the current. Indeed, the dive can turn difficult because of it.
Some caves are large enough to be visited (some tunnels); lots of fish, 2 scorpion-fish and morays. Especially impressive is the large amount of reef fish; beautiful corals are also present on the top of the thila. Sometimes, pelagics can be observed.
Thundufushi Thilarating : 3.0depth : 25 mvisibility : 10 m
This thila has a diameter of 1 km, and is one of the best diving sites on the North part of the Ari atoll. At the mooring, 3 blue-spotted stingrays were waiting under the boat. We found there lots of white-tip sharks. In the blue, a small spotted eagle-ray. At least 10 morays, anemones and some turtles. On the wall, overhangs create caves inhabited by schools of fish. Finally, a manta was observed at the end of the dive.
Uthuru Athafarurating : 3.0depth : 20 mvisibility : 10 m
Located on the external reef, this wall falls at about 30 meters (sand is present afterwards). The beginning of the dive is difficult, mainly because of the current (about 3 knots). Divers are flying (it is too quick to call that swimming) in front of the wall, and it is definitely not possible to stop to admire the fauna. Finally, the current becomes weaker, bringing the divers to an area where visibility is lower... and all corals are dead. The fauna is however interesting: a couple of tunas, 2 turtles, 5 giant morays(1 of which, yellow, 1 lion-fish and sea cucumber.
Velagali Thilarating : 3.0depth : 30 mvisibility : 10-15 m
Huge pinnacle with a diameter of 60 meters; some caves through which divers can swim. Nurse shark at 35 meters, sleeping on the sand. Schools of butterfly fish, batfish: the reef is full of life. Two octopuses, box-fish, filefish, parrots, one moray, one scorpion-fish and one trumpet-fish. But invertebrates are also appealing: lots of sea stars (small and big ones), nudibranchs, anemones.
On the top of the thila, the current is really strong: no way to swim against it!
Groupers Paradiserating : 2.0depth : 20 mvisibility : 10 m
This outer reef is located 25 minutes by dhoni from the White Sands Beach hotel. Due to a strong current, divers are able to follow the wall on a large distance. Unfortunately, all corals are dead and, although some pelagic animals were seen, we could observe any small reef fish. One eagle-ray, 2 turtles and 2 morays, and a huge napoleon of 1.5 meter.
Rangali Southrating : 2.0depth : 20 mvisibility : 10 m
Site on the South of Rangali... as the name suggests! The dive starts on a vertical wall, with lots of overhangs and caves that are full of fish (especially soldier-fish). Four lion-fish, morays, lots of box-fish, 2 eagle-rays in the blue. After a sandy area, the dive continues on a shallow wall (5 to 15 meters). A couple of anemones with clown-fish.
Maavaru Thilarating : 1.0depth : 10 m
Night dive along a wall falling to about 20 meters. Few fish: some soldier-fish and lion-fish. Lots of dead corals, the observation of the fauna was therefore rather difficult. Disappointing site…