Departing from London Heathrow on Saturday at 21:45 the Sri Lankan airlines flight was comfortable with enough legroom for someone over 6ft in height. Entertainment was limited with no on-demand TV but as it was a night flight this was not too much of an issue.
8 Nights London to London flying with Sri Lankan Air (app 10 hours flying time)
2/10/10 – 10/10/10
Estimated cost £2200pp
Number of dives: 18-22 depending on travel and weather conditions
Arriving in Male Sunday lunchtime it was hot and sunny despite the weather forecast for a week of rain. The passport control process is a bit more complex than normal as all bags are x-rayed due to not being allowed to bring any alcohol into the country. If you do, it will be confiscated until you depart. If you want anything other than beer and wine on-board the Aggressor boat, let us know and we will arrange this for you before you depart (costs are much higher than normal due to local import tax). Once through passport control you will be able to get a soft drink and snacks and wait for the Aggressor rep and cruise manager (Kris) who will be donning a captain’s uniform and a smile.
You will be taken to a dhoni (local name for a small boat) which will then transfer you to the Aggressor yacht. One passenger was delayed due to a late flight and we waited for him so should you be delayed don’t worry this is something they are used to dealing with and will manage around it effectively. On the flip side of this we did all have to hang around and wait for them to arrive.
Once aboard the yacht you will be checked into your cabin and advised to get your gear ready before the sun goes down for diving the next day. There is also a dedicated camera equipment area with ample storage and charging facilities. Prior to dinner the captain’s briefing will take place when Kris will go over all the normal items such as dive card check and emergency contacts. They also introduce all crew members who are all locals and very friendly and attentive. Then it is time for dinner which is served as a 3 course meal with wine and beer.From day 2 to day 7 it is as the Aggressor slogan describes “Eat, Sleep, Dive”, with up to 4 dives a day on offer depending on travel between dive sites. This is due to no boats moving in the night due to sandbanks changing shape and new ones appearing. The risk is too high and much of the travel is by eye and not GPS as you may have experienced on other trips.
The week’s diving
We spent the first day around the Male Atoll area due to bad weather and because one of the guest’s bags got lost and ending up in Sri Lanka. The diving was average in my experience of visiting many of our locations across the globe. Something to note is that the Maldives suffered El Niño a few years back so don’t expect beautiful coral like Ras Mohammed in Sharm for instance. A lot of the coral is dead or bleached.
The fish life, even around the Male region, is plentiful with schools of fish such as Blue Triggerfish, Moorish Idols and various other common reef fishes. We specifically timed our trip to coincide with Manta and Whaleshark season as we have already seen nice corals in the Red Sea and we were specifically tracking these behemoths of the ocean.
Day 2 started at 6:30 (like most mornings!) with the promise of Manta activity at a cleaning station (of course no guarantee was given). We made our giant stride into the water and visibility was about 5-8m. At about 7m deep we saw 2 giant Manta Rays gliding through the water towards the cleaning station where there were even more of these beautiful creatures. We counted 7 in total ranging from 2.5m to 4.5m wing to wing. We dropped to the cleaning station at 17m and got a seat for the show. We were the first boat there so we had them all to ourselves for about 25 minutes. It was simply awe inspiring seeing these creatures swimming around with the cleaner fish chasing them. They did not mind us being in the water one bit and they flew within touching distance above our heads.
I was in heaven as I was tasked with putting a video together for the website and the film just kept rolling on. After watching my no deco time dwindle away I was forced to leave the action behind for the others divers arriving at the site. My dive buddy (Dave) who was a Manta virgin was somewhat excited about having just seen his first Manta. Back on the boat there were smiles from every diver and the divemasters too. They said this was a very good sighting and we had been lucky! Day 3 we did a few more dives around the area which were interesting but in comparison they seemed a bit boring as we had been so excited with the Manta dive. That evening Kris said we would be looking to tick the Whaleshark box on the following day. We all went to bed hopeful for good weather so we could travel to Ari Atoll, but realistic we may not see them even if we did get across to the atoll.
Day 4 we were lucky enough to get a gap in the weather and make a dash for Ari Atoll in the south where they believed we could get the Whaleshark action everyone on the boat was hankering for. We did a few dives after the 6 hour crossing and saw lots of Moray’s, Clown Triggerfish and much more.
Day 5 started early and we did a recce for about an hour without seeing anything sowe went for a dive which was again interestingly average. We headed back to the Aggressor yacht for our breakfast and Kris formulated a plan for our Whaleshark searching so they packed drinks and snacks for a 4-5 hour mini-cruise aboard the dhoni. After about 30 mins of cruising around we were signalled by another boat that there had been a sighting and the engine roared into action and we took off. Within minutes the divemasters were shouting at us all to get our fins and masks on and banging on the roof of the dhoni as they made a confirmed sighting. We all sat ready to jump in the water and then were given the signal to go!
We all piled into the water and swam towards the Whaleshark to get our chance to swim alongside this majestic animal. Lucky for us the Whaleshark was more than happy for us to buddy up with it for a swim. It was about 4.5m in length and a juvenile as its markings were not fully developed. We swam with it for about 15 minutes. It was cruising along in the shallows in no more than 6m of water so I was able to catch a good few minutes of video, up close and personal. What a fantastic experience! We then found another and again we got a good swim. Two of the guests who were older were struggling a bit to get up close due to the 1.5m swell in the sea so after the second swim everyone agreed they should get a private Whaleshark tour with one of the divemasters so we caught up with it again and the two who had not got a good view got their chance, which I thought was very good of the Aggressor team and other customers aboard. Then, just to top it off, we were told to don our dive gear as we would next be jumping near to the Whaleshark to get the opportunity to dive with it. My buddy and I were quick off the mark and managed to catch it up and have a private swim for about 20 minutes. It is hard work against current and the swell in the sea. I can honestly say it is the first time I have sweated inside my mask and I managed to break one of my open toe fins in the process. It was well worth it though. Ensure tip top fitness for the best experience as an animal of that size, even when making no effort to swim, is quite difficult to keep up with. We only managed just over 20 minutes before we were simply out of energy and managed to use 120bar of air at a max depth of 7m which takes some doing, considering we normally run out of deco time before air or nitrox in Dave’s case. The day ended with a very happy group of divers sharing their experience of seeing such a rare animal.
Day 6 was shaping up to be an exciting day as Kris said we would be doing 3 of the 5 best dives sites in the Maldives. As I had not been blown away by the general diving quality I thought his would be a good opportunity to test the limits of the destination. These were called “Thila” dives which basically means diving round a pinnacle in a channel to the open ocean, not for the faint hearted as there would be lots of current but with a careful plan even novice divers were able to circumnavigate the protected side of the pinnacle and for those who chose to go on the ocean side there would be some pelagic action with Sharks and Barracudas. We were given a choice to do some more drift dives or head back to the Manta cleaning station for the last 2 dives on Saturday morning. It was a simple choice for the group! Everyone wanted to see more Mantas. Day 7 we dived at Manta Point but they were not there for our viewing pleasure. A slight shame but we had seen quite a few already so we were not too disappointed. There were lots of different fish to see so we had a great last dive. This proves there are no guarantees when diving at the same site twice! All the dives were done as drift dives due to the constant current in the area. A point to note is all diving is done from a dhoni which does give this a bit of a feel of being on a resort based holiday as you spend a fair amount of time away from the Aggressor yacht. This is due to rough seas and pickups in multiple locations as divers can be somewhat spread out after a dive, again, due to the strong currents persisting in the region. All in all a fantastic trip and something I would highly recommend. Based on the cost and inclusive food and drink, this is the cheapest way to experience diving in the Maldives, across a number of Atolls.
Tips for this trip:
To book call us today on 0208 655 6452 or Fill your details in here
- Check-in online to reduce check in time to 2 hours (dependant on carrier)
- Reserve your seats online 48 hours before to get seats with better leg room. Look for the area at the back of the plane in the middle row where the row of 4 seats changes to 3 as this affords additional leg room (dependant on carrier)
- Bring sea sickness tablets as there will probably be some choppy seas even if you don’t normally get sea sick
- Expect medium to strong current when diving – always dive with a SMB
- Bring what you need as in the Maldives almost everything is imported and is very expensive to buy (that’s if you can find what you’re looking for!). Also worth noting, the airport is not on Male Island and requires a 10 min boat ride to get to Male city so when going on this trip you will not even get to the mainland thus making it even more difficult to get any last minute items. Landing at 12:10 and not being collected until 16:00 does give you time should you wish to go to the mainland
- Take some USD as drinks etc at the airport are expensive (4 USD for a coffee / 2USD for a small bottle of water) and are even more expensive if using GBP as you will get around 1.3 USD to the GBP
- If you want to have some time to rest before boarding, arrive a day earlier and stay at our luxury airport resort at Male airport
- Take home any batteries etc you bring as this helps the local environment