Taking the plunge into the deep blue is one of the most exciting things imaginable and the rewards are massive, especially in Maldives, which is rightly known as a world-class scuba-diving destination.
The enormous variety of fish life is amazing, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some of the biggest marine creatures – a close encounter with a giant manta or a whale shark is unforgettable.
However, it’s important to know that a serious coral bleaching incident in 2016 has damaged Maldivian corals massively all over the country, and sadly they will take years to recover.
On a diving safari, a dozen or so divers cruise the atolls in a live-aboard boat fitted out for the purpose. You can stop at your pick of the dive sites, visit uninhabited islands and inhabited islands, find secluded anchorages and sleep in a compact cabin. If you’ve had enough diving, you can fish, snorkel or swim off the boat.
The massive expansion in the market for safari cruises has meant an increasingly sleek approach from the tour companies that run them. A typical, modern boat is air-conditioned and spacious, and serves varied and appetising meals. It should have hot water, a sun deck, fishing and diving gear, a mobile phone, a full bar, a TV room, wireless and cosy, comfortable cabins.
Costs start at around US$150 per person per day, including the US$8 per day per bed tax and all meals, plus roughly US$80 per day for diving trips. There’s usually a minimum daily (or weekly) charge for the whole boat, and the cost per person is lower if there are enough passengers to fill the boat. You’ll be charged extra for drinks, which are priced comparably to most resorts.
Diving is not difficult, but it requires some knowledge and care. It doesn’t require great strength or fitness, although if you can do things with minimum expenditure of energy, your tank of air will last longer.