Big fish, wrecks, currents, and epic underwater landscapes are all pretty much guaranteed on a Maldives liveaboard. Here’s a rundown of what we saw on our April 2023 Maldives trip.
Pook in the yellow snapper, Kuda Rah Thila © firstname.lastname@example.org
The last time I dived the Maldives before this trip was 10 years ago. I remembered April was always a good time of year to dive the Maldives, and so it proved to be in April 2023. Fantastic visibility most of the time, abundant fish life, calm seas and good weather.
Manta Ray, Rangali Madivaru © email@example.com
We were on the Emperor Leo liveaboard, which had a somewhat dated interior and struggling aircon but was a decent enough boat. Maldives liveaboards are usually built in a larger cruiser style than the yacht-like Indonesian phinisis or the converted fishing boats you see in Thailand.
That means there’s a lot more room in general and it’s a bit more pleasant for non-divers. Leo holds 24 divers. There’s a large dining room / lounge area, a big sundeck up top and a couple of pleasant outside areas in the front of the boat to enjoy sundowners. As is typical for Maldives liveaboards, all the scuba gear and compressor equipment travel behind the liveaboard in a separate boat, the dhoni. This is the boat which heads to the dive sites to drop and pick up divers.
Turtle, Rangali Madivaru © firstname.lastname@example.org
The trip followed the classic Maldives loop over the course of a week: departing from Male, heading to South Male and further south to Vaavu atoll, then across to Ari atoll and cruising south to north on Ari before making the run back into Male harbour.
Maldives Liveaboard Day 1
Bannerfish, Fish Factory (Kandu Oiy Giri) © email@example.com
After a check out dive at Kurumba house reef, we moved on to Kanduoiy Giri, aka the fish factory. There is a lot of fish here feeding on the discarded fish waste from the factory on the island – big schools of banner fish hang out in the shallows along with some sizeable rays
Kuda Giri Wreck Bow © firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kuda Giri wreck I remembered from my previous trip here 10 years ago and the wreck looks pretty much the same – still intact and with even more coral life. The wreck is quite small so it can be a bit of a challenge with 20 plus divers on it, but the nearby reef is where divers head after checking it out so by hanging back you can get the wreck almost to yourself.
Kuda Giri Wreck © email@example.com
Maldives Liveaboard Day 2
After a bracing start in ripping currents at Kandooma Thila which required divers to hook in to the reef for the chance to see eagle rays and sharks, the boat moved on from South Male atoll to Miyaru Kandu, “Shark Channel” on Vaavu atoll. It does what it says on the tin – hook in and watch the sharks passing back and forth.
3 Stingrays, Alimatha Jetty © firstname.lastname@example.org
For me, the third dive at Alimanth Jetty was the highlight of the day – a gentle bob along a wide sandy channel with spectacular visibility and some amazing wildlife encounters – three big rays huddled together (it was five until I spooked them with my not as stealthy as I thought approach), a turtle imperiously posing for snaps, nurse sharks sleeping in their coral hideyholes and some big schools of sweetlips. We didn’t actually make it to the jetty, which is also famous for having nurse sharks in residence.
Maldives Liveaboard Day 3
Having crossed over to south Ari atoll yesterday evening, day 3 saw us dive did two legendary Maldives sites – Kuda Rah Thila and Rangali Madivaru. Kuda Rah Thila is famous for its archway and for the vast schools of yellow snapper that hang out here – literally thousands of them, so many you can’t see the reef. It’s an amazing feeling to swim in amongst the snapper as they part around you and then close behind – a real life fishbowl.
Archway, Kuda Rah Thila © email@example.com
We had an unsuccessful attempt at spotting a whale shark, hoping to jump in and snorkel with them, although we would have been dealing with several other boats with the same idea in mind. No whale shark showed up, and we did a consolation dive at Bodu Finohlu Beyru, which had a heartening amount of healthy hard coral but was otherwise quiet.
Pook in the yellow snapper, Kuda Rah Thila © firstname.lastname@example.org
Not so with Rangali Madivaru, another dive site etched on my memory from 10 years ago because it’s where I had some spectacular up-close manta ray encounters.
Fish over hard corals, Rangali Madivaru © email@example.com
Our afternoon dive there was quite dark as the light was beginning to fade even in mid afternoon, and while there was only a glimpse of a manta doing a flyby, Rangali’s amazing carpet of hard coral and huge schools of fish were wonderful to see.
Maldives Liveaboard Day 4
Manta Rays, Rangali Madivaru © firstname.lastname@example.org
Back in the water to Rengali Madivaru for the second time for the morning dive, and what a difference – the sun was streaming down and the manta rays arrived. There were at least two mantas, possibly a third, all circling around the hard corals and seemingly unbothered by the large amount of divers in the water.
Shark, Moofushi Kandu © email@example.com
Moofushi Kandu was memorable for some curious white tip sharks coming quite close as we wandered along the reef, and we ended the day at Fish Head, another famous Maldives site. Some big overhangs for fish schools to gather and sharks cruising out in the blue.
Fesdu Wreck © firstname.lastname@example.org
Maldives Liveaboard Day 5
Back in on Fish Head for a second dive in the morning, and then a visit to Maya Thila, which used to be famous for night diving but now seems very quiet. Fesdu Wreck was a bit more interesting, but the real highlight of the day came with the night dive in Fesdu Lagoon.
Manta Ray at night, Fesdu Lagoon © email@example.com
The dive crew had set up lights on the shallow bottom of the lagoon – the lights attract plankton which in turn attract manta rays. We had at least two, maybe three mantas repeatedly circling over the light, looping out beyond our group of divers kneeling in the sand and then coming back in for another pass.
It was also possible to see the mantas without even getting in the water – they also came to the surface to the boat’s lights, barrel-rolling to continually feast on more plankton.
Manta Ray at night on the surface, Fesdu Lagoon © firstname.lastname@example.org
Maldives Liveaboard Day 6
There was a final dive at Bathala Thila before we began the journey from northern Ari atoll back to Male harbour. That gave everyone time to dry out their scuba gear, pack up and relax before arriving back into harbour around 4pm. Everyone stayed on the boat that evening until disembarking early the next morning.
In conclusion, it was a solid fun trip that delivered most of the Maldives’ Greatest Hits, although no luck seeing a whale shark. The manta night dive was a highlight for me as I’d never done that before, and there is something undeniably magical about Maldivian sunrises and sunsets. It’s renewed my interest to explore more of the Maldives, such as the tiger sharks at Fuvahmulah in the south.
Complete List Of Dives for Emperor Leo April 2023 Maldives Liveaboard trip
Day 1 – north and south Male
Kurumba House Reef – north Male
Kanduoiy Giri – south Male
Kudagiri Wreck – south Male
Day 2 – Vaavu
Kandooma Thila – south Male
Miyaru Kandu – Vaavu
Alimatha Jetty – Vaavu
Day 3 – South Ari atoll
Kuda Rah Thila
Bodu Finohlu Beyru (looking for whale sharks)
Day 4 – South Ari atoll
Rangali Madivaru (2nd dive)
Fish Head – North Ari
Day 5 – North Ari
Fish Head (2nd dive)
Fesdu Lagoon (manta night dive)
Day 6 – North Ari
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