We hope you had a fantastic time ringing in the New Year!  It’s about that time when we look back at 2013 to see where we’ve been and get excited about where we’re going in the new year.  Let’s take a look back at the highlights of 2013 both in the water and on our blog.

Year 2013 in review at Maldives Dive Travel

This has been an exciting year for Maldives diving.  In the spring, ScubaSpa Ying was added to the dive boat experiences offered by Maldives Dive Travel. Determined to dive but want to be pampered too?  The combined onboard spa and dive facility make this the ultimate luxury diving experience or holiday for diver/non-diver couples.

Later in the year, MV Leo appeared on the scene, adding an element of luxury and comfort to the dive experience with an onboard jacuzzi.   Tours designed for the best marine life sightings and Nitrox included in the package provide the ultimate all-round Maldives dive experience.

In the last part of the year we launched the Maldives story contest, which conjured up some great memories of Maldives experiences past.  We accepted writing and photo/video submissions from past visitors to the Maldives in our “Magic Memories” competition.  Prizes include a one week liveaboard package, a dive computer, a week stay in a guest house and an ABC set, offered to the top entries that are selected as winners.  Speaking of winners, they will be announced very soon so watch this space! 

 

On the blog

This year our blog has touched on many themes surrounding our favorite topic – the Maldives!  In case you missed any of them on the blog this year, here are the tantalizing topics of 2013 with links to 3 specially selected posts for each theme:

Flora & fauna

We can’t talk about the Maldives without mentioning the marine life.  It’s what many people come here for and what gives the country that extra dimension of tropical wonder.  Don’t miss reading about hammerhead sharks and other elusive species that do a good job at staying hidden from plain sight.  Whether it’s the depths, the sand or their own camouflage abilities that hide them away, divers will have to be very observant and patient to see them.  There are also the weird and wonderful creatures to discover – the fish that seem alien and that we don’t learn about in any school classroom.  So many sights to see under the water.

paper scorpionfish Neville Wootton Paper Scorpionfish resting on a coral formation at Bula Lohi Corner Magic Memories of 2013 at Maldives Dive Travel

A paper scorpionfish doing what it does best – look weirdly like its surroundings in the Maldives. Resting on a coral formation at Bula Lohi Corner. Photo Neville Wootton, Flickr

 

Marine environment

Interdependence and interconnectedness can describe the environment of these isolated islands.  People depend on the sea and the sea depends on them.  Visitors also depend on their hosts for safety and for a great holiday.  Read about reef building and the ways that liveaboards are taking responsibility for safety and their environmental impact. Within the marine environment bonds for survival are also strong.  See just how close marine relationships can get.

 

Strictly diving

Of course it wouldn’t be a dive company blog without posts about diving!  There are many to browse through including a spotlight on night diving and a comparison of liveaboards – helping make the best liveboard choice.  So many choices of liveaboards but also so many choices of dive spots; see what diver style suits which spots.

Peter and shark 2 Magic Memories of 2013 at Maldives Dive Travel

Diver meets whale shark. Peter, Norway, Contest entry

Complementary to diving

Divers can’t stay under water indefinitely, though many might wish they could.  When coming up for air there are many other activities to do in the Maldives.  There are also many regions to explore, like the outer atolls, where the crowds dissipate and visitors are surrounded by just the sea, sand, sun and a few local villages.  Finally, while photo taking is a top activity for everyone, divers should concentrate on their underwater photography skills. 

 

Each week we bring you to the Maldives through articles, photos and videos, not to mention some great deals including this one for Theia 14-night cruises.  So, keep reading and stay in touch!

Magic Memories of 2013 at Maldives Dive Travel is a post from: Maldives Blog

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As we get ready to ring in the new year, many people are planning to spend time with friends, family and loved ones.  During the holidays these relationships are cherished and memories are made during annual celebrations. 

In the spirit of memories and relationships, here’s our final entry for the Magic Memories contest.  Peter of Norway describes the friendships he has made as one of the enduringly memorable parts of his several trips to the Maldives.  Here’s his story:

 

It’s the Relationships that Stick

By Peter from Norway

Right now, it’s about 3 degrees, windy, raining and dark (as usual this time of year) in Stavanger, Norway. Although life is good, and I have nothing to complain about, it’s the “bleak reality” of my everyday existence. It is an existence which is in sharp contrast to the “magic memories” of my visits to the Maldives.

The memories are magical, in part, because they are so strong. You close your eyes, or simply stare out the window, and suddenly you are transported to a “place” where everything is warm, colorful, peaceful, and special. The memories are strong and magical because the first impressions are strong and magical.

 

Whale after Miyaru Faru Its the Relationships that Stick   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Whale after Miyaru Faru. Photo: Peter, Norway

 

The magic began when I looked out the window of the BA flight as we approached Male. The atolls and the colors of the surrounding water are so vivid and so different from any other destination I’ve been to that I knew already this would be a very special place. The final approach and landing over the water, with the strong colors of the buildings on Male was also unique.

While at most destinations you head over to the taxi queue after picking up your luggage, here I was ushered on to the dhony, delivered my shoes (which I did not see again for a week), and the “chill was on”!

When I arrived on Theia (after the welcome drink and cold towel, of course!), I was shown to my stateroom. It was as large as my bedroom at home, and as nice, if not nicer than any I’ve been in. I dumped my stuff and headed right back out to the 2nd deck and the most comfortable outdoor sofa I ever put my behind into! The captain had thoughtfully parked the vessel outside the harbor, outside the flight path, allowing the daydreaming to begin.

Over the course of the week, the diving was, well, I hate to repeat myself, but “magical”. Like magicians, the guides seem to “pull everything out of thin air”. Seeing far beyond mortals, they point out sharks at 30 meters distance when you could swear the viz is 25 meters! And, using what must be superhuman x-ray vision, here’s a leaf fish, frog fish and 6 more weird nudibranches for you macro-maniacs!

 

Peter and shark 2 Its the Relationships that Stick   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Peter and shark.

 

Of course there are always the mantas at Lankan and, if you’re lucky, the whale sharks at Maamigilli. There are hyperactive sharks and jacks at Maya Thilla, and nurse sharks and jacks seemingly on steroids at Alimatha. And, if you’re incredibly lucky a sailfish, a hammerhead, or even a whale surfacing while heading back to Male. What makes the diving in the Maldives so special to me, is that I believe that every dive in the Maldives might be my best dive ever. So far I’ve been right many times!

But, even though these incredible experiences are saved on your internal memory or computer hard drive, they are moments in time. What has become the greatest magic of the Maldives are the relationships I’ve formed, both with the crew and the guests. The Maldivian people are truly special and, in my opinion, unique. They are true islanders, living in a country consisting 99% of water. They are at home on the ocean and welcome all those who want to experience them. They have a respect for their visitor and a hospitality that is so special, it has brought me back 5 times in the past 3 years.
 

 
Two years ago, during my second of three visits to Theia, I noticed that almost all the crew had nicknames. I jokingly said that now, after 2 visits, I should have a nickname as well (and not a “stupid” one!). The next day, on the dhony, they told me they had decided on one: “Khateeb”. I was afraid to ask, but had to: “Ok, what does Khateeb mean?” Their answer: “Island chief”. Ok! Not bad! I can live with that!

Now, when I return to the Maldives, I “causally” mention that I too, have a Maldivian nickname. “Khateeb” always brings a smile to their face, breaks the ice, and from then on, they seem to treat me as one of their own.

Over the past years I have also met several guests on my trips, from all over the world, with whom I still have special relationships These relationships are a source of continuing magical moments and I cherish them all.
 

Peter Mark and Rob Its the Relationships that Stick   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Peter Mark and Rob

 
I have been very lucky and have had the opportunity to travel and visit some of the best dive and tourist destinations on the planet. I can say, hand on heart, that the Maldives are truly unique. If you want to dive and have an opportunity to “do it all”, see incredible scenery as you travel from one atoll to another, meet wonderful people, and feel truly blessed, make your way to the Maldives! You’ll never be the same!

Sincerely!

Peter ,“Khateeb”
 

The Maldives Memories Contest is now closed to new entries. Thanks to all who participated. We’ll be posting the winners later this month so stay tuned to the blog!

In the meantime, we wish you and yours a very Happy New Year! See you in the Maldives in 2014!

It’s the Relationships that Stick – Magic Memories Contest Entry is a post from: Maldives Blog

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The Maldives seems, at first, like a once in a lifetime type of destination.  For many, however, it becomes their holiday destination of choice where they return year after year.  The island atmosphere, the sea side life and the underwater adventures all keep tourists coming back for more.  It’s a tiny island nation with big excitement and the ultimate escape factor. 

This Magic Memories Contest entry tells the story of a couple lads from the UK who liked the country so much that they returned just 4 months later.  Here is their story:

 

To the Maldives and Back Again

By Anjum from the UK

I went to the Maldives in May for the first time with my brother.  He was going for the diving experience and I was going for the resorts and beautiful sandy beaches with the turquoise water.   We stayed in Male for the night, then started our trip to Maafushi, which is a local island were we met lots of very nice locals.

 

 To the Maldives and Back Again   Magic Memories Contest Entry

White sandy beaches of the Maldives. Photo: Anjum, UK

 

I did a different resort everyday while my brother did dives in different areas to see different kinds of fish.  Every evening we would meet and tell each other about our adventures.  I enjoyed the resorts and the beautiful barbecues as well as the snorkeling.  I saw lots of beautiful fish while snorkelling even saw turtles, stingrays and baby sharks.  It was amazing to see all the beautiful sea life.

My brother’s stories were even more exciting so I decided to go for a dive. Wow!  What an experience it was.  I have to thank the scuba team as they were brilliant in how they took care of every aspect from the training to the dives.  My dive was at Kandooma Thila and it was a lovely experience where I saw lots of different kinds of sea life and live coral.

We enjoyed our trip so much but we felt it wasn’t enough and when we left we told the locals we would be back.  When we got back to the UK, my brother and I couldn’t get over the fact that it was such a beautiful place and we decided we wanted to go again.

In August, we went to the Maldives again but this time we stayed for three weeks.  We first went to the North Ari Atoll to the island of Rasdhoo where we stayed a week.  There, my brother was hoping to see the whale sharks and hammerheads, and while he was not able to see the hammerheads, he was not too disappointed as the following week he would be going on the liveaboard trip.

We left Rasdhoo and came to Hulhumale where my brother started his liveaboard trip on the Aria Queen.  I decided to take the ferry to Baa Atoll for a week.  For the final week we would meet in Maafushi back to where we stayed earlier in the year.  We both had experiences that we will never forget and it was one of the most adventurous trips we have ever done.  My brother got to see all the things he was looking forward to, from manta rays to whale sharks, hammerheads and turtles, to dolphins and so many other types of fish.  I got to see lots of beautiful beaches – the Baa Atoll is an amazing place.  It felt like it was untouched with clear blue waters and lovely sea life.

 

 To the Maldives and Back Again   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Maldives untouched island atmosphere. Photo Anjum, UK

 

The main highlight of my trips was the diving that I did.  During my dive near Maafushi there was a shipwreck.  It was one of the most amazing places I saw where there were barracudas, sharks, lion fish and mantas.  I felt very lucky to see as much as I did on that dive trip.  The dives I did inspired me to get qualified as a diver and go back and do a liveaboard trip, which I’m hoping to do next year.  I want to go back and see more of the Maldives and get the liveaboard experience.  I have made many friends that I will be going back to see as well.

 

Anjum is in the running for yet another Maldives adventure as well as for some other great diving prizes to get his diving career off to a great start.  See what prizes are up for grabs and how to enter the Magic Memories contest by clicking here.   Share your story and photos or video to get the chance to reminisce and win – entry deadline extended!  Get your story over to us this week!

To the Maldives and Back Again – Magic Memories Contest Entry is a post from: Maldives Blog

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Everyone loves a good love story from time to time.  This week’s story combines love of diving with a Maldives honeymoon.  A special occasion can’t get any more special than this.  Read about how Brice and his wife enjoyed ScubaSpa Ying’s best amenities and the Maldives’ most amazing sights.

 

An Underwater Honeymoon in the Maldives

By Brice, France

My wife Elise and I were married for only 4 days when we arrived in the Maldives where we had booked an amazing diving package on an even newer boat (4th tour only) on the amazing Scubaspa Ying.

The Maldives are the spot that all of our diving friends here in France were urging us to see and we understood why when our plane was flying over thousands of islands. To tell you the truth, Elise is subject to awful see sickness but learning about the water temperature, the spa on the boat, the look and the size of the boat where enough to convince her.

The dream trip started when we arrived next to the boat, as our first liveaboard we were a bit anxious about how it would feel to actually live on a boat for a week and I was secretly worrying about Elise’s tendency for sea sickness. The crew was very welcoming and they made us forget everything we were frightened about, in less than 10 minutes.

bed heart wohlgemuth Underwater Honeymoon   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Getting settled in to the ScubaSpa suite. Photo: Elise & Brice, France

 

The welcome cocktail started the process of relaxation and we took a tour of our living place for the week to come. Four decks with the cabins at the lower and main deck, where the dining room was also located, the third one dedicated to relaxation and spa treatment and the sundeck where you can relax in the Jacuzzi! We were as excited as children when we entered our room, a huge suite in the front of the boat with a view on the sea – it felt like we could fell asleep while watching dolphins jumping in front of us.

We received a complementary wine bottle for our wedding and our sheets were shaped into a heart. When looking around the cabin, I discovered that the bed was under-lighted by blue LEDs which when all other lights were off was “the most romantic ambiance ever”. We were only there for less than 15 minutes and neither of us wanted to leave the cabin… We were both hungry, so we went to dinner where we met our diving buddies for the week and we tasted the chef’s incredible cuisine (which was excellent all week long).

But why go to the Maldives if not to dive? So, after the usual briefings we went on our first dives. Colors everywhere, a density and a variety of life forms we’ve never experienced before; I was not swimming next to the fishes I was swimming together with them as part of the group… We went to Bandos house reef and after crossing paths with a few turtles one of them decided to take a closer look at my camera.

 

Whaleshark wohlgemuth Underwater Honeymoon   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Baby whale shark raises excitement levels for all. Photo: Elise & Brice, France

 

So now, let’s get serious. Maldives are also known for big marine life: Napoleon fish, sharks, mantas, and whale sharks, and to be honest we were expecting to see some. What we didn’t expect was having a 15-minute swim with a baby whale shark less than a meter from us.  Our diving instructor had made it very clear not to touch the whale sharks as it could be deadly to them. What he didn’t tell us was that the animal may come to us out of curiosity, thinking we were his new play buddies; we all did our best to avoid any contact and still get amazing shots.

At Manta Point, you can guess, a huge manta ray passed over my head while I was looking at the corals.  Elise grabbed my leg so hard that I thought she just got bit by a shark and by the time I turned on the camera the manta was already flying away from us. We also had a brief encounter with 3 eagle rays that were swimming towards us who just raised up, passed over our heads and returned back to the same level, like we were just a speed bump on their road. Unfortunately, no videos of this one since I forgot the camera on the boat, but the memory of it will never be erased. I won’t go into all of the sharks, barracudas, napoleons we saw.  Not that it’s uninteresting, but it would take me years to describe everything.

 

All of the pictures and videos here were taken with my GoPro camera which has a wide angle lens so things appear further than they really are; to get some of those shots I was between 20 to 30 cm from the subjects.

Everything was perfect, from the magnificent boat to the happiness of the crew. We considering getting married a second time just to go back!

 

Brice and Elise may not have to get married again to experience the Maldives another time.  Their entry is now in the running for one of several prizes including a one-week liveaboard trip on one of our boats.  Get contest details and an entry form to submit your experience here.

Book a dive and spa trip on ScubaSpa at a huge 50% discount with this special offer.

Underwater Honeymoon – Magic Memories Contest Entry is a post from: Maldives Blog

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Read this recent submission for the Magic Memories contest.  Maldives Dive Travel has some great prizes up for grabs for the best stories received.  For contest details and entry form, click here.

 

Here’s a take on an exciting Maldives dive trip by Dominique from the Netherlands:

Experience the Diving Rollercoaster the Maldives

Pinpointing the highlight of the trip is hard to do as it was basically one on-going rollercoaster of amazing sights, experiences and people. One of the highlights for me personally was to see the abundance of fish, sharks and mantas, despite the worldwide decline in populations. I was happy to hear from our guides that it seems to be getting a little better with at least the shark populations in the Maldives this year. This was also witnessed by our group of divers as we were able to see lots and lots of baby sharks; white tip reef sharks, nurse sharks and grey reef sharks in particular.

reef shark dominique 600x449 Maldives Dive Rollercoaster   Magic Memories Contest Entry

White tip reef shark and surrounding fish filled waters. Photo: Dominique, Netherlands

 

When talking about real highlights, my thoughts dream back to the very first dive we did, as our ‘discovery dive’, where we were accompanied by a gentle 4 meter little-giant of a Manta Ray. At one point even 6 of his manta buddies joined up with him for a quick body scrub.

 

Highlights 1, 2, 3

The other highlights must be the two night dives we did:

The first one when we thought ‘maybe if we were lucky’ we would see feeding nurse sharks, at not even 4 minutes into our dive we were surrounded by both baby and large adult nurse sharks in a feeding frenzy. These beautiful golden-brown sharks would swim right up to your chest and legs and give them a little brush with their fins. Not to forget the huge giant trevallys which joined the feeding frenzy and which would swim just 10 centimetres in front of your mask while crossing from behind. The glow of the torches was used by them as an extra hunting tool which they seemed quite fond of.

 

 
At the end of the dive, while doing the safety stop on the sandy bottom, one of the Nurse Sharks decided one of the legs of a diver was a nice resting place for a few minutes between feeding frenzies.

The second night dive we joined 5 Manta Rays while they were gorging on plentiful of Plankton just below the back deck of our MV Virgo. For an hour we witnessed the acrobatic somersaulting and waving of the Manta Rays with open mouths. (not literally of course) Cruising at just 10 centimetre over our heads with mouths wide open so you could see the beautiful black and white striping on the inside of the Manta Ray’s mouth. Such amazingly gentle and beautiful creatures they are…you can never get tired of watching them.

The third highlight must be my first live encounter with 2 whale sharks on separate occasions while snorkelling. Seeing these gentle giants has been a dream of mine for many years and it has finally come true!

baby whale shark dominique 600x450 Maldives Dive Rollercoaster   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Baby whale shark smiling for the camera. Photo: Dominique, Netherlands

 

Diverse Dive Spots

Naming a favorite dive site of the trip is impossible as every dive site we went to was so different, although on paper they look a lot alike. Channel dives, followed by reef/wall dives in the drift followed by pinnacle dives with cleaning stations…nothing is the same. Although Maldives is not known for its beautiful corals like in other parts of Asia, there still are beautiful sights of hard corals with a healthy dose of fish living in and around them. The wreck dives give a nice change of scenery from watching all these beautiful graceful Sharks cruise by in the currents. At the wrecks the muck-divers can have some fun and look for the odd leaf fish, nudibranchs, glass shrimps, mantis shrimps and other small fish that inhabit these wrecks.

oriental sweet lips dominique 600x449 Maldives Dive Rollercoaster   Magic Memories Contest Entry

The vibrant reefs made colourful by the abundant marine life. Photo: Dominique, Netherlands

 

Personally I enjoyed (although at times a little scary) the medium-heavy current dives where you just hold on and wait till the Sharks come closer and closer by the dozen.

What made it even better, was that usually we had the dive sight to ourselves. Almost no other divers/boats joined us until the last minutes of our dive, which gave it a very unique experience.

 

Final Thoughts

All in all this Maldivian diving experience was amazing. Not just by the incredible diving only, but particularly the crew aboard the MV Virgo made it very special. Their incredible service-mindedness and friendly attitude made it a super comfortable week. The food was honestly the best food I have ever had aboard a boat. Every day the chef prepared different and delicious dishes from all over the world.

Not to forget the boat itself. The MV Virgo is a very luxurious and comfortable boat that is well appointed. At no point do you feel cramped as even the cabins are spacious. Nice sundeck with loungers, jacuzzi on deck, comfortable smoking area and even a nice deck on the back to enjoy the Manta dance or do some fishing.

The short trip to Malé city is also a nice change of scenery and a pleasant experience. It’s fun to get to know some insider information from locals on what atoll-island life is like.

manta ray cleaning dominique 600x441 Maldives Dive Rollercoaster   Magic Memories Contest Entry

Large pelagic sightings common in the Maldives. Photo: Domnique, Netherlands

 

I visited the Maldives to go diving in a location where I would be able to see some big pelagic fish (manta rays, whale sharks), sharks and the idyllic Atolls from the travel brochures and videos. My goal was to finally catch a glimpse of the elusive Whale Shark for the first time in my life while snorkelling/diving.

Visiting the Maldives in the future would be for the incredible diving. I would love to go back and enjoy more time with the manta rays as well as the sharks. Just can’t get enough of the thrilling big fish life of the Maldives.

Send us your entry today! Tell us your experience visiting the Maldives but submitting the entry form. Click here.

Maldives Dive Rollercoaster – Magic Memories Contest Entry is a post from: Maldives Blog

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It’s that time again.  Reminiscing about Maldives trips past and the emotions they can still conjure up.  This week we bring you a contest entry by Ken from England.  He reminds us that the group you dive with can really make the whole experience.  He also had great sightings on every dive – read about the many sharks he encountered on his liveaboard trip in the Maldives.

 

Shark Mania Relived

By Ken, England

My non-diving wife Karen and I visited the Maldives to experience the wonderful climate, friendly people and unbelievable underwater life in this fantastic corner of the world.

We were met at Male airport by our dive guide for the week and soon transported to Stingray along with our fellow travellers who turned out to be the most friendly and varied bunch of international people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We had Russian, Spanish, American, Czech, German and us Brits along with our local crew and guides all getting along famously both on board and underwater sharing and appreciating the most amazing experiences.

 

black tip reef shark maldives Shayan USA Shark Mania   More Memorable Maldives Moments

Black tip reef shark Maldives. Photo: Shayan (USA) / Flickr

Watching the trip fill up online, anticipating who was going to be aboard, whether the trip would fill up, wondering which sites we would dive were all part of the build up adding to the excitement. We did not need to worry as the crew took us to the action and creatures we wanted to see on EVERY dive. Mantas and sharks on the first dive, manta feeding station with the magnificent creatures an arms length away on the second dive, and so it continued. Whale sharks, guitar sharks, leopard sharks, turtles, reef, black-tip, white-tip sharks galore! The night dive on Maaya Thila was a special moment, as were the evenings watching the Mantas feed off the back of the Stingray boat after another wonderful supper prepared by our super efficient crew.  There was also wondering who the squid, caught by our Russian friend Nick, was going to soak with ink as he hauled them aboard. Two extra special moments stand out.

squid maldives Shark Mania   More Memorable Maldives Moments

Squid in the Maldives. When caught their colour changes and ink released as a protective measure. Photo: Jon Connell / Flickr

 

Firstly, the evening spent on the uninhibited island having a barbecue with our new friends the crew who worked so hard to make the evening memorable with the food and the decorations in the sand. Secondly, the last dive! We had visited Rasdhoo for a dive and to go on the island to visit during the day.  In the morning we were to have a very early dive. As we kitted up everyone was tense with anticipation. We dropped into the perpetually warm waters at dawn and descended to the twilight at 30m. After about 10 minutes, just as predicted by the guides, there, out of the gloom swam not one, not two but three huge Hammerheads 10m below us. We descended to get a better look and they circled back to do the same, before cruising on into the Blue. An absolutely unforgettable moment which will live with me forever !

Our group broke up later that morning with some heading home, others off to resorts and the crew off to meet their next guests (if they had half the fun and saw half as much as we did then they also will have had a great trip ). We have kept in touch and swapped photos and memories since via email etc. I would go back to the Maldives and dive with Deco and his crew in a heartbeat. I am already saving for my next trip in case I don’t win this excellent competition and it will of course be with Maldives dive travel who delivered on everything promised and a heck of a lot more.

 

Creatures of Rasdhoo Atoll – video:

 

The above article puts Ken in the running for one of several prices up for grabs – including a one-week liveaboard trip on one of our boats!  Share your Maldives experience with us, whether it includes diving or not.  Didn’t book with us?  No problem.  We’re passionate about the Maldives and we want to hear from anyone that enjoys it as much as we do.  For contest details and entry form click here.

Shark Mania – More Memorable Maldives Moments is a post from: Maldives Blog

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Dependency and interconnectedness are not unexpected qualities in a secluded island nation such as the Maldives.  With limited access to resources and a limited area in which to live, bonds form within communities for survival and to facilitate daily life.  Some creatures share a stronger bond than others, however, in the marine underworld.

Symbiotic Sustenance

The close and long-term interaction between different species is called symbiosis.  These interrelated species generally demonstrate lifelong connections of a physical and biochemical nature.   That is, they depend on each other for life sustaining routines.  Among the marine life in the Maldives many mutualistic relationships can be seen, in which both organisms benefit from the bond.  These displays of interdependence show us just how connected the web of life can be and may even teach us a thing or two about sharing.  A great lesson for the kids.

 

clown fish anemone You Can Count on Me!  Maldives Symbiotic Marine Relationships

Intertwined lives of the clown fish and the anemone

 

Clown fish for the Symbiotic Photography Prize

Of the most photogenic pairs of symbiotic creatures on the Maldives reef, there is the clown fish and the anemone.  The well-known Finding Nemo fish doesn’t stray far from the usually stinging anemone.  The fish’s immunity to the anemone sting allows it to nestle within, where it feeds off small invertebrates, effectively protecting the anemone while feeding itself.  The anemone also benefits from the nutrients provided to it from the faecal matter of the fish.

At first glance, we don’t see this multifaceted liaison between the pair.  Once it’s apparent though, spotting the fish pop in and out of the anemone while diving becomes a more enlightening experience and the cute photos of fish heads poking out of the anemone, like this one, are more meaningful.

 

An Affair That Sustains the Reef

Of the most important relationships between reef organisms, there is that of coral and algae.  Coral is the heart of the reef on which the rest of the creatures depend for shelter and nutrients, while the coral is fed by them as well.

Within the corals themselves there’s an even more dependent relationship between the coral polyps and the algae that live within their cells.  The algae have the all-important role of producing energy through photosynthesis.  Taking light and converting it into energy is a common process for plants but not all plants so closely support other intertwined forms of life.

A red coral with white plankton catchers all over itself seen in the Maldives 600x449 You Can Count on Me!  Maldives Symbiotic Marine Relationships

Red coral in the Maldives covered with white plankton catchers

 

The colour of corals also comes from the algae.  Coral bleaching, or the process of whitening as coral is on the brink of death, is the result of coral getting rid of dead algae that have not survived a rise in surrounding water temperature.  Without these algae coral lose their colour.  Coral no longer want to provide a home for algae that are not providing the nutrients they need, it’s a survival method for the coral.  If temperatures decrease to hospitable levels for the algae the coral can recover over time.

The Maldives is an example of the recovery that coral can make.  The El Nino in 1998 caused mass bleaching in the region with just a 3 degree rise in water temperature but exponential regrowth has been seen.   In addition coral breeding and regrowth projects have been initiated to offset human impacts that have slowed the comeback.

Without the coral reef the entire ecosystem is threatened so nurturing the symbiotic relationship between coral polyps and algae is essential.

 

 

One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

Symbiosis in the Maldives is often based on one creature cleaning up after another.  Certain types of fish and shrimp have a helpful role cleaning larger fish and rays.  There are nutrients in it for the cleaners and health benefits in it for the larger creatures.

The colours and swimming patterns of the cleaners are known to the larger species so they react by stiffening, ready to be cleaned.  Manta cleaning stations are an attraction in the Maldives where this process happens on a larger scale.  Mantas and two-tone wrasse are seen together, the little fish nibbling on the mantas as they glide by at stations like the Lankan station, Rangali Madivaru, Kudarah Thila and Donkalo Thila, all found in Ari Atoll.  There’s also the North Male Manta Point among many other locations to see this symbiotic relationship play out.

pufferfish cleaner wrasse tentonipete You Can Count on Me!  Maldives Symbiotic Marine Relationships

A puffer fish with a cleaner wrasse. Photo: tentonipete, Flickr

 

There are also blue streak cleaner wrasse that clean other types of fish and clear cleaner shrimp that help coral grouper fish, like in this photo.

These reciprocal relationships, or quid pro quo, show the give and take between organisms - in this case for survival.  The Maldives is full of examples of symbiosis.  When witnessed these interactions can nudge us to remember how important it is, for us too, to share what we have to benefit others.  While what we get in return may not be as immediate or as direct as these symbiotic connections, who knows what the future may hold.

 

Speaking of sharing, have you shared your Maldives experience with us?  You just might get back something big – a one week liveaboard trip!  For contest details and to submit your entry click here.

You Can Count on Me! Maldives Symbiotic Marine Relationships is a post from: Maldives Blog

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Here’s our latest submission for the Magic Memories Contest! Click here for contest details and read this story of manta madness from Andrew of Australia:

Our Adventure in the Maldives
It all started with an email with the latest trip specials from Maldives Travel.

My Wife and I arrived at Male airport to be greeted by a crew member from our home for the next week, MV LEO, of the Constellation Fleet. A short ferry ride out in the Marina and we were ushered aboard and greeted by our Cruise Director, Brett.

Brett ushered us to our Luxurious cabin and followed up with a guided tour of the boat, complete with the rules, regulations and dive procedures and etiquettes. Paperwork was efficiently done, a few more introductions to crew and some of the other guests as they arrived, then off to our cabin to unpack, assemble our dive gear and rest.

Dinner and a good night sleep completed our arrival day in the Maldives.

Day 1 of diving had us in the water at 7.30am for the familiarising dive along Karumba House Reef then a lovely breakfast and the second dive at noon on the Lankan Manta cleaning station, lunch and a rest while we steamed across the water to Rashdoo and the Madivaru Reef where the serious diving began.

On the Madivaru reef we did a night dive, and commenced day 2 with an early morning and late morning dives where we were treated to a plethora of Marine life including hammer head sharks, eagle rays, white tip, black tip and grey reef sharks, turtles, tuna, schooling barracuda and jacks, octopus and fish of every colour and shape imaginable.

Maaya Thila was the next port of call where we did an afternoon and night dive. Both dives were spectacular with the number of sharks and fish all cruising in the currents. The night dive in particular was amazing with the night predators utilising the diver’s torchlight to find their prey easier. White tip reef sharks, red bass, giant trevallies in particular have adapted to divers as a tool in their hunting procedures. Marble rays and eels were also prevalent in the action.

Day 3 commenced with Hafsa Thila turning on a magnificent display of big current action, an hour spent watching the millions of fish hanging in the current with sharks, tuna and trevally cruising through the schools of fish. Eagle rays gracefully hanging in the current above us, sharks to the left, middle and right, tuna darting in and out made it difficult to decide just what to watch first! Fish Head was the next site on our way to Fesdu Lagoon.  A dive on the wreck and a beautiful reef head preceded a night of wonderment watching 14 Manta Rays night feeding in the krill and plankton attracted by the Boats spotlights. Manta Rays are one of the reasons we travelled to the Maldives from Australia, and we were treated to something very special that night.

This YouTube shows just how special this experience was!

 

 

Day 4 commenced with the Fesdu wreck and reef again in beautiful visibility, dives on Dega Thila and Radhdhigga Thila completed the day with more beautiful sharks, turtles, rays, tuna, and nudibranchs, flat worms, crustaceans and schools of fish. A beach BBQ on an uninhabited Island rounded off another perfect day in the MALDIVES!

Angaga Thila, White Sands and Macha Fushi Wreck gave us our last full day of diving with great reef and wreck diving and, between dives we searched for Whale Sharks, but, “Mother Nature” will deliver when she is ready and it seems she wasn’t ready to deliver Whale Sharks for us to see. ANOTHER NIGHT OF Manta action followed with a white Manta this time thrilling us with a solo performance all night long.

Our final day saw more searching for the elusive Whale Sharks with our final dive on Camel Rocks which gave us a big current drift dive to finish off with free swimming Manta Rays and beautiful coral bommies to investigate.

Maldives gave us an experience to be remembered for many years to come with the underwater and overwater beauty second to none.

MV Leo and the Dohni gave us Luxury and first rate service along with lasting friendships with the Guests and Crew alike.

 

This is why I will be planning for us to return to the Maldives:

manta Andrew Hunter 600x400 Our Adventure in the Maldives   Contest Entry

Calling you back to the Maldives. Night feeding mantas. Photo: Andrew, Australia

 
Thanks Andrew for your vivid and detailed submission of your journey around the atolls!

Enjoying reading about the Maldives experience? Have a story of your own? Send it to us today or just answer the questions on our entry form. Get all the details and submit your entry here.

Our Adventure in the Maldives – Contest Entry is a post from: Maldives Blog

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Dream Holidays Come True in the Maldives

As the stories and photos pop into our inbox we’re having the greatest time reading about your experiences in the Maldives.  This week we had a vibrant, inspirational submission from Louise from Singapore. You can read and even watch her fantastic account below in her article and video.  If you have a story of your own that you’d like to share, check out the contest details and entry form here.

 

Magic Manta Moments

Maldives has always been my dream holiday destination ever since I was young and being exposed to the Internet and travel television programs. I am automatically drawn towards the turquoise blue seas, the white sandy soft beach, the villas and water village resorts.

To me, Maldives is THE perfect honeymoon destination for the romantics and the beach lovers! A definite must go! I had always been telling my friends, one day I will be there! The urge to go Maldives grew even strong after I took up scuba diving.

Louise Sim Pretty in Pink2 Dream Holidays Come True in the Maldives

Pretty in Pink Maldives Anemone. Photo: Louise, Singapore

 

Most of the time people will say, when I have the time to travel, I do not have the sufficient money. When I have sufficient money, I do not have the time to travel. Or perhaps, you can’t find common dates to travel with your BFFs.  In Jan 2012, I happened to have both in my favour and I can’t be thankful enough.

When I was randomly browsing online for LiveOnBoard(LOB) in Maldives. I chance upon Maldives Dive Travel and added them on Facebook to get updates should there be any special promotion. The law of attraction did its magic and on the same night while I was lying down getting ready for bed while checking my Facebook on my iPhone. This special promotion for Theia LOB pops up and immediately I sense the adrenaline rush and I jumped straight out of bed, powered on my laptop and got down to “business” to secure a place for this awesome deal as there were only 2 places left when I saw it!

The coordinators in Maldives Dive Travel are very helpful and excellent in following up. They responded within the next 1 to 2 days updating me that I am on the waiting list and they will inform me at their soonest once the holding period is up and if I was in luck. Well, lady luck was definitely smiling at me.

When I arrived at Male airport I was greeted by the helpful Theia crew who assisted me with my luggage while walking towards to the dive boat. I couldn’t believe I was physically in Maldives, I felt like jumping straight into the clear blue water immediately!

 

Louise Sim Manta OMG Moment2 Dream Holidays Come True in the Maldives

Manta OMG Moment. Photo: Louise

 

This was my 1st trip alone all by myself for scuba diving in my dream destination Maldives! I had never seen a Manta before & it swam right in front me of (less than 1 metre away), it was HUGE & so graceful!

My top experiences and favourite dive spots were:

1)   Dhidhoo Outside (South Ari): Lots of activities! Octopus, frog fish, moray eel, turtle, manta, and the list goes on

2) Bodu Miyarughaa: Beautiful color corals I ever seen: pink and purple soft corals BEAUTIFUL!

3) Maaya Thila (night dive): It was so worth it. Sharks swimming all around every few seconds and big fat Stingray posing on the sea bed.

2) Kudhimaa Wreck: It’s a huge complete wreck with the turbines all intact.

Louise Sim MV Kudhi Maa2 Dream Holidays Come True in the Maldives

Kudhi Maa wreck diving. Photo: Louise, Singapore

 

What I miss the most and want to get back to are the beautiful waters, the sea creatures and the lovely Maldives people.   I’m looking forward to meeting new friends with the same passion for water sports. After another dive week I will take a ferry to Naifaru village to visit the kids and host family, where I volunteered as a pre-school teaching assistant for a month.  I miss them =)

What made my liveaboard experience great was definitely the caring crew, the fabulous food and the service. Not forgetting the fun scuba diving and snorkelling with new found friends! It is the people that made the trip such a blast!!! They were so fun and funny to be with!  I miss them all!

In end Feb 2013, I have collected my first Dive Computer, courtesy of ex colleagues and my dive instructor  for contributing to this special gift. It has been sitting there in my drawer since then. I can hear it screaming out for another scuba diving adventure in Maldives!

 

We are looking forward to more great stories – get your entries in now!  Click here for contest entry form and more details.  Looking to head to the Maldives in December or January and like to do things your own way?   Check out the deals on Dhoni Stella private charters.

Dream Holidays Come True in the Maldives is a post from: Maldives Blog

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The excitement is building as we receive more entries for the Magic Memories contest!  We’ve so far been enchanted by the photos and stories we’ve received and look forward to hearing from you too. 

Thanks to those who have participated so far.  Now, let’s reminisce about the magic of the Maldives with this recent submission by Nilesh from India:

niles manta Lingering Memories of Close Encounters with Mantas and Whale Sharks

Manta appears over the reef. Photo: Nilesh, India

 

Lingering Memories of Encounters with Manta Rays and Whale Sharks

Over the last two years, I had been constantly dreaming of visiting Maldives and diving with Mantas, Whale Sharks and the most beautiful underwater world that lies beneath crystal clear water of the magnificent Indian Ocean.

When we landed at Male, the representative Mohammad, who also happened to be one of our dive guides was there to receive us. He took us to our liveaboardDream Catcher II” by speed boat which took about 15 minutes. A very friendly and polite staff welcomed us with refreshing juices. The rooms were quite comfortable, neat and tidy. Overall the vessel was good with facilities for sun deck, bar, nice and clean dining area, sitting area and magazines that would interest divers. The main dive guide Ibu (Ibrahim is the real name I suppose) was very knowledgeable about local diving conditions and the dive sites. The next seven days that we spent on Dream Catcher II satisfactorily fulfilled our dreams of Maldives diving.  I would say – Dream Catcher very much helped us to catch our dreams.

nilesh whale shark Lingering Memories of Close Encounters with Mantas and Whale Sharks

The gentle giants of the Maldives islands. Photo: Nilesh

 

The highlight of the trip was spotting Whale Sharks in South Ari Atoll near Mamagilli. Twice we had the chance to swim with these gentle giants. These were some of the most cherished moments of the journey!

The other highlights were spotting manta rays on three of our dives. The memory of mantas hovering above the divers is an experience I won’t forget.  We were fortunate to spot them on three dives and believe me, they were huge!  We also saw freely swimming moray eels on two sites. They were just amazing!

On almost all of the dives we spotted sharks. On many sites we also found huge Napoleons. It is really difficult to pin point one dive spot as my favorite because most of the dive spots were interesting, but if I had to choose I would say that in South Ari Lily Bey and Dhigura were my favorite, we spotted mantas, a turtle, lion fish there.  In North Ari, Orimas and Fish Head had fantastic fish life. There were just so many fish.  In South Male, Madhod bridge and Lhosfushi were excellent.

nilesh sharks Lingering Memories of Close Encounters with Mantas and Whale Sharks

Sharks grace the scene of many a reef in the Maldives. Photo: Nilesh, India

 

The most impressive part of our diving was the choice of route and the dive sites which were chosen to visit. We went to various dive sites at atolls of North Male, South Male, North Ari and South Ari. The dive sites were selected based on the preferences of the divers. There were 14 divers on the trip and almost all of them wanted to see mantas and whale sharks. Divers were divided into two groups based on their skills and experience.

I discovered the trip when browsing through the net and I came across the Maldives Dive Travel website. It was very well organized and had almost all the information that dive travelers to Maldives seek.  Finally we choose “Dream Catcher II” for our dive safari in August, 2013 – for those 7 memorable days and nights that we spent aboard this comfortable vessel.  If I get to visit the Maldives again I wish to dive with hammer heads and to visit Baa Atoll in the Maldives.

Submission by: Nilesh, India

Niles moray eels edit Lingering Memories of Close Encounters with Mantas and Whale Sharks

Eels appear out of the reef. Photo: Nilesh, India

nilesh dreamcatcher2 Lingering Memories of Close Encounters with Mantas and Whale Sharks

The liveaboard that was the base for great Maldives diving. Photo: Nilesh, India

Lingering Memories of Close Encounters with Mantas and Whale Sharks is a post from: Maldives Blog

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