Travel time: 01/2012
ATTENTION: Maldivian Rufiyaa can only be converted at the Bank of Maldives at Male but NOT at the exchange booth at the airport or somewhere else.
Maldivian Rufiyaa (local currency) can be drawn on all ATMs with credit or EC card and is the official currency. Dollars or other currency might be accepted but usually change will be returned in Rufiyaa.
Public WiFi is not very common even at Male. Only very few coffee bars and restaurants have WiFi and some of them not every day because of technical or electrical problems. Best to buy a prepay telephone or data card at the airport. The only two companies are wataniya.mv which runs a booth to the right after the arrival hall or www.dhiraagu.com.mv which has a office to the left. WiFi via Dhiraagu is almost at every island available even when the boat is a hundred metres offshore. Both companies struggle a lot with technical problems so connection is not guaranteed at all time.
The airport ferry terminal to Male is around 150 metres to the right side after the arrival hall and across the street. The "slow" ferry costs 10 MVR and takes around 15 minutes, the express ferry costs double and takes only 5 minutes. The ferry terminal at Male is at the north-east corner of the island (jetty 9). Daily service from 07:30 a.m. until midnight. Time table.
A reference for travellers, divers and sailors is the Atlas of the Maldives (ISBN 978-1-876410-43-8). www.atolleditions.com.au.
Cafe Alfresco behind the fish market has good WiFi connection. One hour free access if you consume something.
Raanbaa Restaurant offers free WiFi including mains sockets at some tables and has some lofty floor level. Looks great and good food is available for reasonable prices.
The Royal Garden Cafe has a relaxing small garden area hidden from the street by a wall and offer free WiFi after their reconstruction.
For snorkelling or diving equipment have a look to the Dive Gear shop at corner Orchid Magu - Chandhanee Magu.
Kaani Lodge (www.kaanilodge.com) has small, clean and cheap rooms with own basic bathroom with hot shower. The rooms are equipped with a fan, AC, flat screen and a cupboard without hanger. 60 USD incl. taxes for a single room with semi-hard king-size bed including basic breakfast with egg any style, 2 toast, butter, jam, a small sausage and coffee or tea at the rooftop terrace.
The location is great as it is located in a narrow alley and therefore silent at night and less than 4 walking minutes from the ferry to the airport. Only a WiFi connection is missing. Recommendable.
Dive boat Black Pearl
If you are looking for a dive boat from classical shape, with wooden flooring and furnishing, a partial covered lofty sunroof, a covered chill-out area in front and dining area at the rear end of the boat, the Black Pearl could be your best choice. Download (16 MB) a video of the Black Pearl and their website: www.searchmaldives.com.mv.
Booking was done by the professional and well-advising team of www.maldivesliveaboards.com. Thanks for this perfect liveaboards holidays.
The rooms are located below deck and can house up to 14 guests (map). All rooms are equipped with two large bunks arranged in two levels. The mattresses are semi-hard. Each room has its own small bathroom with toilet and cold shower. The AC can only be switched on or off and the ceiling has a flap to the walkway on the upper deck which might be opened in the hot summer time. One mains socket is also present.
The rooms no. 1 and 7 are next to the engine and generator room and the generator is running 24 hours. Room no. 3 and 5 are much too tiny to be comfortable for two persons. Also the bunks are overlapping and the risk to hit the head is high. Best is room no. 4 as it is at the very front and large enough for two. Room no. 2 and 6 are also well but a bit more noisy.
The living deck has a large living room with a cinema and a library with English and German books. It has enough sockets to charge all guests equipment. Behind the captains bridge is the small bar with chilled soft drinks and beer (2.5 $ each). Long drinks and other alcoholic drinks as well as wine is also available. Free of charge are tea and coffee at self-service, available 24h as well as the table water from the dispatcher.
At the front of the deck is a nice chill-out area with chairs, sofas and small tables covered only by the upper deck. It is mostly blowing a wind which keeps the temperature moderate especially when the boat is moving. Four sun chairs are place in the very front. Two alleys at the side of the boat leading to the rear part and also used to dry the clothes. At the rear is the dining area with a huge table only covered by the upper deck. At the end of the boat is a shallow board for easy access to the water.
The upper deck is a nice area for sun bathing. It is partial covered by a awning, is a good viewpoint for spotting dolphins and wale sharks as well as islands. It is always windy up here and keeps the temperature at bay.
The Black Pearl is accompanied by a smaller dhoni called Dive from were all dives are done. All dive equipment can be rented (price list) and stays at the same spot so everyone has its own place for the complete tour. The only work you have to do is to remove the first stage from the tank after the dive as a sign that the tank was used. For the refill of the tanks the Dive will move a bit away from the Black Pearl so that the noise from the compressor is nearly not audible. The Dive is equipped with a fresh water shower and hanger for the wetsuits.
Overall the boats are in good condition and maintained well in respect to the presents of one of the owner. Only a free internet connection was missing. So stock up your data stick at the airport.
For breakfast fresh fruits, brown toast, butter, jam, warm sausages, beans and two eggs of your choice together with water, tea and coffee are served. Sometimes fresh bread in lovely shapes are served.
For lunch and dinner a wide range of warm meals (veg & non veg) are served together with one or two different salads and a desert as well. None of the guest ever complained about the food. Only the noise from the exhaust pipe of the engine next to the dining area was a bit annoying and kept talks difficult while the boat was moving at the same time as food were served which is the usual schedule.
The crew did a real great job. They served us very well, were present if needed, were always friendly and in good mood. As the captains bridge was within the "living room" he always gave explanation about the route to the next destination or how the surrounding islands are named. The two dive instructors gave always a instruction about the upcoming dive and what rules has to be observed. On the Dive they helped to fit into the BCD, took the fins on return and helped while entering the boat. All together the team play apparent very good.
The Dive Safari
The 7 days dive safari starts by picking the guests up from the airport or jetty no. 5 at Male in the morning and transferring them to the Black Pearl which was anchoring in the harbour of Hulhumale. After getting familiar with the cabins on the Black Pearl and the dive equipment on the Dive, the first dive is in the afternoon at an easy spot to observe the dive condition of the group. At return the Black Pearl takes off to another spot were it anchors for the night. Mostly the wake-up call is around 6:30 a.m. and gives you 30 minutes to get ready for the dive instruction. After the instruction enter the Dive and depart to the dive spot. Seldom the wake-up was more early or more late.
On return and after a shower a nice breakfast is served. The second dive starts mostly around noon after that lunch is served. The last dive starts somewhere in the afternoon. Dinner is served around 7:30 to 8:00 p.m. Only at the second last day a night dive (third dive at that day) started at dusk. The last dive is scheduled that there are at least 24 hours until the next flight. Between the dives the Black Pearl may move to the next spot.
At one late afternoon the Black Pearl will anchor close to a small island were a BBC will be prepared (dependent on the weather conditions), football is up or just relax at the sandy beach and have a drink or two. For the night you will return back to the Black Pearl.
1st day afternoon: Black Faru, half an hour away from the Black Pearl offered turtles, eagle rays and morays. A bit current was also present. All together a good start. Back at the Black Pearl we started moving to Himmafushi where we anchored for the first night.
2nd day: Early morning to the HP Reef were turtles, napoleons and lip fishes could be seen. Second dive at Lankan Manta Point we were looking for mantas but did not find any. Back on the Dive suddenly a manta was just next to the Dive. Quickly we took on the snorkelling gear and followed him. For the third dive the Black Pearl moved to the bay of Gulhi at the South Male Atoll. At Miyaru Faru the first sharks and a strong current were present.
3rd day: The Kuda Giri Wreck offered some thrilling dives through the storage rooms early morning. After that the Black Pearl moved to Guraidhoo bay where the 2nd dive @ Guraidoo Corner offered a very strong current. Holding to the steep outer reef while sharks and big napoleons passing by. 3rd dive near the previous spot but with much less current called Medhu Faru. Unicorns, white tips, turtles. The last minutes of the dive we came back into the strong current of the channel.
4th day: At Kandooma Thila we expected to see a shark "cleaning station" but unfortunately we were too late and too many divers were already waiting for nothing. So we kept drifting along the outer reef and saw some large sharks. Meanwhile the Black Pearl kept moving to Omadhoo at the South Ari Atoll. 2nd dive at Omadhoo Thila was exhausting as a strong current was between the pinnacles. Soft corals, sharks and sting rays. Heading down to Dhangethi for the last dive at that day at Kahanbu Thila which offered millions of fishes, fish schools, morays, turtles, stone and scorpion fishes and a "cleaning station" for mid-size fishes. Very nice dive.
5th day: 5 Rocks in the morning offered many small and medium size fishes and a shark. On the way to the 2nd dive we spotted a whale shark and followed him with snorkelling gear until other boats came close and with them the crowd. At Maamigili Beyru, a steep decent of the island of Ariyadhoo, a lot of cleaner shrimps, morays, big nurse shark and many small fishes were present. After moving to the shallow bay of Rangali Kandu, Rangali Madivaru was the last dive at that day where a few large mantas were hovering close to the shore and came closer than a meter towards us. Very impressive dive. At the late afternoon the Black Pearl anchored close to a small island at the North Ari Atoll where BBC was planned. Unfortunately the weather condition swept us back to the boat after one hour.
6th day: Dhigga Thila is a nice pinnacle with steep walls and overhangs. Very nice table corals on the shallow top. The Black Pearl moved on to the shallow lagoon of Maayyafushi. The second dive @ Mushimasmingilil Thila (called Fish Head) offered larger sharks from far, some bigger fishes, morays and soft corals on the top. The night dive at Maaya Thila was just the best of all: Big sting rays, small white tip sharks, gray sharks, turtles, morays, lots of very nerves fishes all in various numbers.
Last day: An early morning dive at Hafsa Thila with fish swarms at the side of the pinnacle and sleeping baby sharks under table corals (6 under one coral). Very enjoyable dive. Thereafter the Black Pearl moved back to the start where we stayed for the last night with the option to visit Male for two hours before dinner. Next day the guests where shipped to the airport after a short breakfast according to their flight schedule.