Diving in The Maldives

In October 2018, I set off to join The Scuba Place on a dream holiday in The Maldives on MY Sachika, a luxury diving live aboard.
What would be a daunting travel itinerary for some was made easy by John and his team at The Scuba Place as we met at the airport and flew to our destination via Dubai on Emirates. As a 6'1 and rather bulky chap, I normally suffer on planes but not this time!! The space, the service and the in flight entertainment made this a comfortable couple of flights indeed!
On arriving (and after collecting my bags where I nearly took someone else's identical dive bag!!) we were met by the very welcoming dive crew of Sachika, Chiara and Matteo. They organised us all, welcomed us with a smile and had our bags taken away so we could relax and not get sweaty from the beautiful weather!! A short trip then followed on the Sachika dive boat to take us straight to Sachika itself, our beautiful home for the week!!
Now, as far as live aboards go, this is definitely one of the newest and nicest in the Maldives and by gosh could you get used to that kind of luxury!! An on board bar, a seemingly never ending supply of hot water, clean and tidy, spacious rooms and an extremely friendly and welcoming crew!!
Then comes the diving!!! Wow!!! What a check dive!!! It's not often that your check dive is at a Manta cleaning station and on your swim to it, you see a few White Tip Reef Sharks!!! To say I was excited would be a huge understatement but it's just so hard to put it into words........it doesn't matter how many times I see sharks on a dive, it always takes my breath away!! And ok, so this dive was a bit crowded with what can only be described as a group of pay and play divers......but it didn't take anything away from the grace and beauty of the extraordinary Mantas gliding overhead in their very patient queue to have a good clean at the station!!
Now, I can run through each dive individually but I'd be writing forever!! So you'll have to settle for the summarised version of my best bits and things to shout about!!
Mobular Rays, Eagle Rays, White Tips, Black Tips, Nurse Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, Turtles, Harlequin Shrimps, Napoleons, So many species of Morays, Soft Corals, Hard Corals and a plethora of different types of fish, far too many to list!!
My favourite dives were so varied! A night dive where we saw a copious amount of Nurse Sharks barging past us, plenty of Black Tips darting in and out of sight on the hunt, Giant Trevally overhead picking their targets and plenty of Stingrays gliding along the sand in their search for food (one of which really seemed to have it in for me and wanted to push me out of the way whenever I settled down to take pictures!!). Now, you'd think that the best part of that dive was the sheer number of marine life to be seen, but for me it was actually the reactions of my fellow divers who for some, this was a first dive of it's kind. Smiles, cheers and general happiness followed that dive and in particular one person who wasn't overly keen on doing it in the first place, actually came out one of the happiest divers I've ever seen!! A true spectacle of a dive and one that will always be close to my heart!!
Our guide Chiara was looking forward to our dive at Fish Head all week, and as you can expect, if it's a guide's favourite then it will be a good one!! So to set the scene a little, the name 'Fish Head' comes from stories of fishermen never actually catching more than a fish head because every time they got a bite, something bigger would take a bite before the catch made it to the surface!! So as you can imagine, a dive with lots of sharks!! Now, unfortunately for me, my GoPro didn't quite cut it to get the pictures of the abundance of sharks patrolling the reef, but believe me......there were loads!! Grey Reef Sharks and White Tips everywhere!! A huge group of greys seemed to be patrolling the edge of the reef, going backwards and forwards just out of camera range but I did get a couple of snaps where you could make out the silhouettes of them all!! Luckily, the White Tips aren't as shy!! John did seem to have a great habit of shepherding them towards me as they turned away from him and his impressive camera, which ultimately made the world of difference for my little GoPro!! I have a few good snaps of them!! But, back to the dive......a lovely current meant we effortlessly glided over the reef just pointing at all the wonders we could see. The highlight for me though, was the two turtles at the end of the dive.....one of which who was socially swimming around, lapping up the attention......and the other who rather wickedly fooled some of us into thinking he was stuck in the rocks!! Now, anyone that knows me has possibly thought of me as that marine biology geek, and so I had to help because that impression of me is rather accurate!! So, I gently gave the turtle a helping hand and angled him so he could get out......he swam out, looked at me as he did a full circle around me....at this point, my mind was flooded with ideas that I had made a new best friend (you constantly hear of stories of people helping marine life that then stick to them like glue!!)......well, I was wrong!! The turtle simply swam straight back into his hole, shuffled around again and looking like he was stuck once more!! I was then informed by the guide that a lot of turtles do get into tight gaps and shuffle around to scare away the little fish so they can have a nap!! I still maintain I was being a hero though!!
The last dive of the holiday.......WOW!! 'Fish Tank'.......and no, it wasn't an aquarium!! But it may as well have been!! This site was located just next to a Tuna factory.....where they tin the tuna....and throw out the remains!! The waste from the factory wasn't quite wasted though......it was the focal point of an underwater community of which I've never seen one like it before!! Stingrays all over the place not dissimilar from one of my old haunts, Stingray City in Grand Cayman. But, that wasn't it, there was more.....SO much more!! Banner fish, Trumpetfish, Trevally and eels.....so many eels!!! I've seen eels before, and lots of them......but never have I seen hundreds in one place!! Never have I seen five rather large Morays of different species sharing one hole!! There was no putting your hand down here over fears you might accidentally pat one on the head!! Wow, there were so many but what was even more surprising was their calmness over having all us divers swimming around them and shoving cameras in their faces!! So calm, that one of our group actually ended up befriending one and was stroking it!! Granted, he wasn't stroking under his chin or near his mouth!! But, it was incredible!! This eel was enjoying it, you couldn't miss the expression and body language from this eel leaning into the hand of his new friend much like a dog does when he wants a scratch behind the ears!! This was the perfect way to end a fantastic trip!!
I'll spare you with the boring bits......packing, waiting in the airport and the journey home. I won't even go on about the huge regrets I had when I walked out of Gatwick only to realise my shorts and flip flops were definitely not appropriate anymore!!

Instead I'm going to sign off with a recommendation.....GO TO THE MALDIVES!!! Better yet, join us in The Maldives on our next trip!! In the coming weeks, we will be launching a Maldives Dive Holiday for you all and we hope it catches your attention!!

Check out the gallery page in the coming days as I add pictures I've taken (and maybe some belonging to others if they're feeling kind) and get a real idea of the amazing things I've seen and talked about in this blog. I can't even begin to tell you how amazing this trip was and I've been there before!! So whether you're a first timer or a Maldives veteran, get involved and join us for some more amazing Maldivian diving adventures!!