Guide to Diving in the Maldives
Strung across the equator in the middle of the vastness of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a dream come true for any marine enthusiast. This garland of islands is one of the last unspoilt places on earth–a paradise. It has also been described as an ethereal abstract painting. The treasure that is Maldives unfolds to the visitor as the search continues, through the Maldivian spectrum of blues; be it among other things by diving, taking a leisurely cruise or fishing.
The most spectacular life is to be found underwater where rainbow-hued tropical fish teem amongst the multi coloured coral reefs along with crustaceans turtles shells and fantastic seaweed growths which combine to form a silent spellblinding world.
The Maldives has one of the least exploited marine environments. It is rated among the best diving spots in the world. In the valleys plateaus plains and caves that form the natural landscaping of the coral gardens of the Maldivian atolls, the psychedelic colours captivate the visitor in this underwater environment, visibility can reach as high as sixty metres, with the average being around thirty metres.
The Diving Schools
With a few exceptions, all resorts have a fully equipped diving school. Diving bases may also be found on some larger dive safari boats which cruise through the central atolls. The equipment used are periodically checked to make sure that they conform to the standards of safety required by law.
Each school is headed by a base leader–a fully qualified diving instructor. Many bases have several assistants who may be instructors or dive guides.
Learning to Dive
Beginners usually start with the discovery or introductory dive that is carried out in the waist-depth shallow water of the lagoon. From here it is just one step to experience the wonders of underwater life. An internationally recognised certificate PADI Open Water Diver can be obtained within a week after nine dives and theory lessons. Some schools offer training up to the level of a professional diver. The diving schools may require a certification of physical fitness. Qualified divers should bring their log book and copies of the certificates or cards.
All diving schools in the Maldives are required to follow international standards of safety during diving. Therefore, participants in open water scuba diving will require fins, mask, snorkel, compressed-air cylinder and valve, buoyancy control device with low pressure inflator, backpack, regulator, alternate air source, submersible pressure gauge, weight belt and appropriate exposure protection. These items may be hired from the diving schools.
It is no surprise that with over 99 percent of the total area of the Maldives consisting of water, the country boasts some of the best fishing grounds in the world. The fish stock of the Maldives include over a thousand species, some of which are indigenous to the Maldives such as the Maldives clown fish.
The methods of fishing vary depending on the type of fish and the time of the day. The most popular fishing with visitors is night fishing for groupers, snappers, emperors, jacks, squirrel fish, barracuda and other reef fish. The catch normally ends with an exqulsite barbecue dinner on the beach.
Morning fishing begins by dawn. These fishing trips, In the early hours of the morning by dhoni inside the atoll or just outside the atoll enclosure reef, are for little tuna, dolphin fish, rainbow runner, jack, trevally and barracuda. These too sometimes become as engaging as big game fishing.
Traditionally Maldivians, as masters of the sea, used small dhonis and trawled outside the atoll enclosure reef for big game such as sail-fish, sword-fish, marlin, wahoo, barracuda, yellow-fin tuna and other such fish. However, modem speed boats equipped for western style big game fishing are also available now for hire in many resort islands.
The Maldives practices a strong conservation policy. The use of harpoon guns and hunting of marine mammals such as whales and dolphins and large fishes like the whale shark is strictly prohibited.
Cruising through the islands from atoll to atoll in a yacht or in a yacht-dhonl – specially converted Maldivian vessel can be a most exhilarating holiday experience. In the Maldives, it is not unusual for schools of dolphins to play around your boat or to see hundreds of flying fish taking flight as the boat passes by.
During your voyage of discovery, you are at liberty to choose from a variety of activities including diving, with a cool refreshing kurumba coconut – as the azure sea unfolds more of the islands and coral reefs of the Maldives. Of course, the facilities available will depend on the boat of your choice.
Most off the cruisers will use the central atolls of Fadippolu, North and South Male, Ari and Felidu where services for tourists are more readily available. These atolls also have some of the best diving and surfing spots in the Maldives.
The crew of the boats are generally well-versed in their trade. The resident cook can serve, among other dishes, delicious tuna steaks accompanied by fresh vegetables and tropical fruits. The setting is complemented by the starry sky above and the soft rhythm of gentle waves on the hull of the boat. This is a timeless setting. The Maldives beckons visitors for this delightful journey through time.
A NATION OF ISLANDS
A string of pearls scattered over the deep blue Indian Ocean –
The first glimpse you get of this fascinating atoll- formation confirms two unique aspects of the Republic of Maldives:
Not only does it consist of the most beautiful tropical islands, but 99% of its 90.000 km² is covered by the sea.
1190 islands are spread over 26 atolls, ringlike coral formations
enclosing a lagoon, which gives the Maldives its unique paradise-like appearance. They stretch for about 820 km from North to South, 130 km at the widest point and do not exceed a length of 4.5 miles or an altitude of 6 feet above sea level.
No more than 200 islands are inhabited, the rest includes the 87 tourist resorts and uninhabited islands, some of which are used for drying fish or other agricultural activities.
The capital Malé, the seat of government and the centre of trade, commerce, business, health and education, is located in the middle of the atoll chain, a small island buzzing with the sounds and activities of about 75.000 people which is about one third of the population.
The atolls of the Maldives are formed from coral structures, separated by lagoons. The atolls are in fact part of a greater structure known as the Laccadives-Chagos Ridge, which stretches over 2000 kilometres.
The islands are low lying with the highest point at approximately 8 feet above sea level. ‘Faru’ or ring-shaped reef structures form the atolls and these reefs provide natural defense against wind and wave action, on these delicate islands.