Underwater Adventures in the Maldives for Eco-Mermaids
My first trip to the Maldives last year changed my life a little. Despite being in a relationship, I decided to go on a solomoon to one of the most romantic destinations in the world because I felt the need to just get away from things and clear my head. My only plan was to fall in love again with diving after finishing my divemaster training which had left me less than inspired. I returned minus one boyfriend but in love with sharks, mantas, and an overall sense of adventure in general.
Still, the time that followed wasn’t an easy one because breakups, even the necessary ones, are never fun and even scuba diving can only mend a broken heart so far. But my refound love for the ocean remained and I was incredibly excited to return to the Maldives for a week of diving with the Blue Force One liveaboard. A week of hanging out with some of my favorite animals underwater while making new friends above the surface is always a good idea in my books especially since I was in desperate need of some time away from my laptop.
If you are new to diving let me explain the concept of a liveaboard to you: a liveaboard is a designated dive boat or yacht that will take you to some of the best dive sites a country has to offer and has not only regular crew but also divemasters and instructors as well as equipment and tank filling facilities on board or on a separate dive dhoni. These liveaboards can be basic or extremely luxurious but whatever floats your boat (pun fully intended) it is one of the best ways to explore the underwater world of a given area. Diving with a liveaboard not only means that you get to do about 3-5 dives per day but also that you cover a lot of ground since the boat travels at night which allows you to see a bigger variety of dive sites than simply taking boat dives from a shore location.
The Blue Force fleet operates in Egypt, Sudan, and the Maldives. Depending on the season they offer various routes through to some of the most exciting dive sites in the Maldives. Mine at the end of November was the Central Atolls Classical route which was covering some of the best sites in the North and South Male Atolls, Vaavu and Ari.
The operators of Blue Force are Spanish which means that the majority of the guests are from Spain. This turned out to be a great chance for me to brush up on my Spanish as well as learn some new words. After all, a diver should know the word for shark in as many languages as possible. Dive briefings and talks are given in both in Spanish and English and I was assigned my own international English speaking group led by our amazing dive guide, Shamil.
Different cabin categories offer something for different budgets but as far as dive boats go the rooms onboard the Blue Force are incredibly spacious, especially the bathrooms – a huge relief when you need to find a home for wet bikinis, rash guards and GoPro accessories after a dive.
While solo travelers usually have to share a room, I got lucky as there was no other female traveler so I got two beds, the closet and control of the AC remote all to myself. Mind you, as far as life on a liveaboard goes you spend very little time in your cabin so sharing is usually not a problem. There is plenty of space to hang out and chill as they have a comfy lounge, shaded dining area, outdoor lounge with bar, sundeck with jacuzzi, and my favorite – an oversized daybed at the bow of the boat.
While many guests aboard a liveaboard can be seen as hardcore divers there are people from all walks of (diving)life who choose this option for their diving holiday. Depending on the operation and area the liveaboard may require you to have a minimum of dives under your belt but many will also offer advanced courses while you are on board (mind you, they tend to be a lot more expensive than doing the same course on land) and put you in an appropriate dive group depending on the level of your experience. Onboard the Blue Force One, divers usually have the chance to do between 3 to 4 dives per day but needless to say, you can (and should) sit out a dive in case you need a rest and not succumb to diving FOMO like I usually do.
Yours truly in her element – photos by Marcel Gubern/ Blue Force
A regular day starts with coffee and a snack followed by an early morning dive and breakfast, a second dive and lunch and another dive in the afternoon. In between, you have plenty of time to nap, tan and relax. All dives are conducted from the Blue Force dive dhoni which is home to the tank refilling station, all the equipment and is a small enough so it can take you directly to the dive sites. Diving in the Maldives is spectacular, to say the least, and to this day one of my favorite areas for underwater adventures. There is a huge variety of marine life offering something for everyone from exciting channel dives with lots of sharks, tunas and barracudas to manta cleaning stations and beautiful thilas (pinnacles) with abundant coral life and colorful fish.
For me, the most exciting was seeing a resident frogfish (frogfish are quite rare as well as super cute and weird looking) as well as diving surrounded by huge groups of bannerfish and our night dives. I have never been a big fan of night dives, to be honest. Even for experienced divers, it can be quite unnerving about jumping in the pitch black ocean and relying on a small torch to guide you the way. I also tend to get a bit night blind which doesn’t help matters. However, many animals which are usually hidden during the day come out to play and hunt at night which makes night dives so exciting. A highlight onboard the Blue Force are night dives with nurse sharks and mantas, allowing you to get incredibly close to these majestic creatures which makes even the eeriness of jumping in the dark ocean worth it. As does the hot chocolate or wine you can enjoy afterward.
Photo by Marcel Gubern/ Blue Force
In addition to daily dives, there are plenty of other activities while cruising through the Maldives including a visit to a local island, a guided tour through Male, the capital of the Maldives, an island barbeque, SUP-ing and snorkeling with whale sharks (if you get lucky that is!).
Photo by Marcel Gubern/ Blue Force
A big part of diving with Blue Force is also marine conservation. This not only entails refillable water bottles and detailed dive briefings with do’s and don’ts as to not harm the animals and the ocean but also talks about sharks, mantas, whale sharks and coral reefs and the dangers they face.
While it should be a no-brainer that we should all live and travel a little greener, this especially holds true for mermaids – after all, the fun in diving depends on clean oceans, healthy reefs, and abundant marine life. Need some tips on what you can do when diving with a liveaboard?
Choose an operator like Blue Force that puts a focus on conservation not only below the surface but also above.
Listen to your dive guides. When someone tells you not to chase/touch the mantas/sharks they usually have a good reason for telling you so, so keep your fingers to yourself – you are a guest in the ocean.
Collecting trash underwater is often necessary even in a dreamy destination like the Maldives. If you do collect some trash during your dives make sure that no animals have made a home in the pieces you are picking up (often the case with bottles or cans).
Use the water bottles on board or even better bring your own filter water bottle. There is no need for plastic bottles anymore regardless of where you travel!
Use reef-friendly products for sunscreen, lotion, and conditioner like Stream2Sea and shampoo bars to save on extra plastic packaging.
Bringing your own equipment makes any liveaboard trip so much more comfortable. I adore the new Scubapro Everflex wetsuit, the first truly green wetsuit made out of recycled materials. If you use accessories like reef hooks make sure you know how to use them correctly – unlike its name a reef hook should only be hooked onto stones or dead coral.
This goes for all hotel stays actually but also applies for a liveaboard: reuse your towels! You will usually get a towel for personal use and one for diving – make sure to hang them up after each use so the staff can save on water and detergent.
And last but not least dive by the old saying: Take only pictures, leave only bubbles.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Blue Force & their amazing Maldives team for hosting me for an amazing week underwater and my second ever whale shark sighting!