Click here for the pictures

Click here for the magnificent pictures of Martin Kraus Click here for the wonderful pictures of Michael and Gunhild

The search for a short notice trip to any good dive location in the tropical world, ended in the booking of a trip to the Maldives. This area was long on my wishing list.
click on a picture to enlarge

The Maldives are situated on a volcanic mountain ridge, South West of India and just north of the Equator. The volcanic ridge is rising from the seafloor, 2000-4000m deep . The mountains have been eroded long ago and the reef building corals have formed a 2000 thick layer of limestone over the vulcanic rocks, deep under the surface. On this layer there are about 9 atolls, the largest are oval, about maximum 100 kms long. The atoll is a submerged mountain peak that has many little islands around the edges. In the atoll the water is usually less than 50 meters deep and within the atoll there are usually many islands as well and even more peaks under water that do not reach the surface. These are called thila’s and excellent for diving. The islands are only 1 – 2 m above sea level. So the Maldivians are scared about the stories of climate change and rising sea level
As the tectonic plate of India is moving north, very slowly but surely crashing into the Eurasian main continent, and pushing up the Himalayas it is not unlikely that the area of the Maldives, at the backside of India, was sinking eventually forming the Maldives.
The highest point is 2.4m above sea level, an unnamed location on Wilingili island in the Addu Atoll. Most islands have a reef around it and a beautiful lagoon. There are 1190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls with 200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts. The biggest is 5 sq km and the total land surface is less than 300 sq km. In total 369.031 people living there. So the inhabited islands are really densely populated. Sometimes islands are disappearing and others are forming. Most of the islands are very small.
The Maldives are stretched over 900 kms, north-south, with only a few spots land.This map shows a small part of the middle of the Maldives, showing the trip we made, as drawn on the map by the captain.

The capital is Male. An island of 192 hectares completely and fully build-up up to the edges. About 60.000 people living there. Geographic coordinates: 4 10 N, 73 30 E, so in the tropics. The climate is nice, around 30 C degrees all year. There are distinctive seasons, due to the monsoons. The international airport is located on a separate island Hulhule, 4 kms away from the capital. An very regular ferry service connects the capital with the Airport, for less than a dollar.

The Maldives is an Islamic Republic where –as in all Islamic republics- many important human rights are not recognised. More than 90% of the government revenues come from tourism. The tourists are separated from the population, as the holiday resorts are only on inhabited islands. Tourists are pampered there and there is a trend of developing more and more luxury resorts. If tourists like to visit a populated island, prior approval of the Ministry is required. The population consists of ethnic groups: South Indians, Sinhalese, Arabs. The people are nice and friendly.
The language is Maldivian Dhivehi (dialect of Sinhala, script derived from Arabic), English spoken by most government officials. The Muslims are Sunnis. Other religions are prohibited. Xenophobia rules, so not really a surprise that the Maldives belong to the poorest countries in the world. The tourists however hardly notice any problems.

The Maldives is one of the nicest dive destinations of the world. Divers are required to take their own gear and dive computers and SBM’s (floating beacons) are required. The maximum depths is only 30m but the limits are not at all enforced. The concept of this holiday was a dive safari. The Black Pearl live-on-board dive boat has a capacity of 14 guests. In our trip only 13 booked and I had the luck to get a cabin for my self. The guests were a Slovak, 2 English, one Dutch and the balance German. Most were very experienced divers, and a few has been 20 times on the Maldives.

The boat Black pearl was accompanied by a Dhoni, a local traditional type boat, some 12 meters long, with modern diesel propulsion. On that boat was all the dive equipment stored and all dive took place from the dhoni. The Black Pearl was a very comfortable luxury boat, even with Air conditioning. Lots of space and enough sundecks and sun-protected area’s. A crew of 9 did their utmost to give an unforgettable dive holiday.

The food was excellent. A Sri Lankan cook surprised us with great tasting food in abundant quantities. Even the alcoholics on board could get their favoured drinks.

The atmosphere on board was excellent. Even the smokers on board could not spoil this healthy dive experience.

We were lucky to see the giant manta rays, which may grow up to a span of 6 meters, and even we saw once the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark. That fish may grow up to 18 meters. Though not very rare, few people ever see one, so we were very excited.

But one picture says more than one thousand words, so enjoy the pictures.

One couple was Martin and Petra Kraus, (Click here for the magnificent pictures of Martin Kraus) really professional underwater photographer. They were so friendly to copy lots of pictures for me, so the best pictures are from Martin.
Thanks a lot, Martin and Petra. Please visit their homepage.

The trip was by Emirates to Dubai and from there to Male. Emirates proved to be a first class airline, which managed to get 3 out of 4 trips fully booked. The food and care on board is excellent. Three out of four trips my neighbour was an oversized, fat and sweating male, who spilled over to my seat. To avoid any physical contact I had to lean out so other people passing in the aisle bumped regularly upon me. That seems to be the price for tall people flying economy class. (better called sardine class). Fortunately the last 8 hour trip to Dusseldorf the seat next to me was not occupied.

We were met at the Airport, transferred to the Black Pearl. In the afternoon was the first check dive, to check equipment and fine-tune the required lead weights.

From the next morning the dive operation went in full gear. First dive at dawn, prior breakfast. After breakfast the second dive. After lunch the third dive and once a night dive.
The night dive was on one the best dives in the world, on the Maaya Thila on the Ari Atoll. It was an encounter with many sharks, barracudas, turtles and so on. Unfortunately only the half of us participated. Not everybody seem to like night diving.

The Atols are rising from deep out of the ocean. But even on sailing ion the atoll, the islands are very sparse. You see at the horizon just a few spots, indicated by palm trees. That are the islands. Many islands just reach just the surface, many are just under the surface, only indicated by turquoise coloured sea surface.
The islands are little paradise, with white beaches and palms, usually uninhabited. The islands have a brilliant turquoise lagoon full of fish and corals. Many people consider it the last paradise on earth. And for people having there a holiday tat is definitely true.

A nasty surprise was a heavy storm on the last day, with waves up to 4 m. It effectively did cost us 2 dives. The captain told us his father lost his boat during this storm. It looked like anyone underestimated the storm.
We tried to dive after the storm, but the waves were so high that you had to cling to the boat to prevent being washed in the ocean. So we went back.

The trip back home was uneventful. But as the plane left at 02.30 I had to spend the day at Male, the capital. That was not wrong either. I spend there the day, at first making a stroll around the beach of the island. It could be completed at ease within one and a half hour. Then I roamed about all streets, spending the day there with discovering Male. Back at Hulhule Airport in the evening, at the Taxfree shop in the airport, I snapped up a bargain, I thought, a new highly sophisticated dive computer. Back in Holland, I discovered it was still cheaper there, even with taxes. The prices in the Netherlands are very competitive indeed, as I usually discover when I’m back home. Birgitt informed me that the gold price just peaked, so good opportunity to buy a nice Arabian 22 carat golden necklace for her during the stopover in Dubai.
The last exciting act was smuggling the goods through the customs in Düsseldorf.

It was a wonderful holiday. Enjoy the pictures!

And Martin and Michael, thanks again for your stunning pictures! Click here for the pictures

Click here for the magnificent pictures of Martin Kraus
Click here for the wonderful pictures of Michael and Gunhild

Giant Napoleon wrasse
Me, in an encounter with the giant Napoleon Wrasse
Click here for the wonderful pictures of Michael and Gunhild